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Campfire Songs, from Popular to Timeless

Campfire Songs, Peter Paul and Mary, Van Morrison

I went from Tiger Cubs, to Cub Scouts, to Webelos, to being a Boy Scout. I’ve heard and sung a lot of campfire songs. What makes a good campfire song, not to mention one of the Top 10 Campfire Songs? A campfire song should be amusing, easy to learn, and easy to sing. Some will be able to be sung in a round, or be about young love. Links will point to lyrics or YouTube videos.

In the Jungle

This song tops my list because you can stay up all night singing this song in 4 or 5 parts, and never grow tired of it. The recording of this song has a sketchy past, and I encourage you to do some research on it. Currently made truly popular by The Lion King, both the movie and the musical. If you would like to learn more about this song’s recording history, here is a very enlightening article about the music industry.

Brown Eyed Girl – Van Morrison

Ahhh, young love. Why else are we sitting around a campfire, singing songs, playing guitar? This song is what put Van Morrison on the map, and will sure to be a hit when you pick up a guitar and begin plinking out the intro.

Leaving on a Jet Plane

This is the song to play at the end of the night (or at sunrise, whenever you go to sleep). It is a bittersweet song about love, leaving, and missing those you love. Whether you like John Denver, Peter Paul and Mary, or any number of covers, it is a ‘classic’ song that will live on.

See also  The Top Ten Songs by John Denver

My Ding A Ling – Chuck Berry

This song is only naughty if you have a dirty mind. It is a fun song, though not necessarily appropriate for all audiences. This song will keep you laughing all night, and it is just about a young boy and a toy that his grandmother gave him. This song can be a free for all, or led by a brave (and cheeky) guitar player.

And now on to more classic campfire songs. Many people (or States) will claim these particular songs, but truly they are pretty nationally accepted and performed.

The Ants Go Marching…

If your campers refuse to take shelter after it starts raining, this may be an appropriate song to sing, though I would recommend covering up the guitar. This song is fun because it incorporates actions (if you want), and as you can see by the video, the ‘cute factor’ alone makes this a great choice. Perhaps a little more children friendly than my previous suggestion.

Home on the Range

Though this is Kansas’ state song, it is a song whose origins are difficult, if not impossible to trace. It spread through the United States ‘like wildfire’ with several versions, many dependant on the geographical region in which it is sung. Regardless of its unknown origins, it is a nice, slow song to help lull your campers to sleep.

The Animal Fair

I did not know there were multiple versions of this song until I was randomly singing it at my in-laws house. They seemed appalled at the idea that the Monkey would *gasp* get drunk! Their version, and my recommendation, is a lot more kid friendly where the monkey is just amusing instead of a lush. Regardless, it is a family favorite and very memorable.

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Row, Row, Row Your Boat

This is a great song to be sung in a round. It is short, has a catchy tune, and most people in the U.S. know it by the time they are out of kindergarten. I prefer an ‘alternate’ version. “Row, row, row your boat, underneath the stream. Ha, ha, fooled ya, I’m a submarine.” If you want to mix it up a ‘bit, throw this verse into your lineup, and watch the little ones giggle.

The Hokey Pokey

Get those campers up, and shake out some of that energy! Though be cautious of the campfire, and where you are ‘putting your hands in’, otherwise you really will be ‘shaking them all about’. The actions are simple, and will keep your campers moving. Encourage them to really be energetic in their actions, and they will tire themselves out fast, depending on how many times you sing the song!


This song deserves honorable mention as the traditional campfire song. Pronounced Koom Bye Yah, this song’s title, according to Wikipedia, is probably a folk pronunciation of “Come By Here”, making the song a request for the Lord’s presence. Regardless of the song’s origins, or what Kumbayah actually means, it will forever remain on one of the Top Ten Campfire Songs of all time!