There are many, many songs about food in popular music.
Very few of them are actually about food, though. Instead, most use food metaphorically; in other words, food represents something else (hint: it’s usually something to do with the opposite sex).
In this song list, we will include our favorites and give you a little taste of what each song is about.
Let’s get to it then.
Table of Contents
- ‘Banana Pancakes’ by Jack Johnson
- ‘American Pie’ by Don McLean
- ‘Brown Sugar’ by The Rolling Stones
- ‘Cinnamon Girl’ by Neil Young
- ‘Custard Pie’ by Led Zeppelin
- ‘One More Cup of Coffee (Valley Below)’ by Bob Dylan
- ‘Strawberry Swing’ by Coldplay
- ‘My Bacon Roll’ by Mark Knopfler
- ‘Poundcake’ by Van Halen
- ‘Sugar’ by Maroon 5
- ‘Meat Is Murder’ by The Smiths
- ‘Red Red Wine’ by UB40
- ‘Pour Some Sugar On Me’ by Def Leppard
- ‘Peaches ‘n’ Cream’ by Snoop Dogg
- ‘Honey’ by Moby
- ‘Egg Man’ by The Beastie Boys
- ‘Rock Lobster’ by The B-52’s
- ‘Cherry Pie’ by Warrant
- ‘Bacon’ by Nick Jonas ft. Ty Dolla $ign
- ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’ by The Beatles
- ‘Tutti Frutti’ by Little Richard
- ‘Tangerine’ by Led Zeppelin
- ‘Ice Cream Man’ by Blur
- ‘Mother Popcorn’ by James Brown
- ‘Ham ‘n’ Eggs’ by A Tribe Called Quest
- ‘Mayonaise’ by The Smashing Pumpkins
- ‘The Onion Song’ by Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell
- ‘Fried Chicken’ by Zac Brown Band
- ‘Cheeseburger in Paradise’ by Jimmy Buffet
- So, Which Was Your Favorite Song about Food?
‘Banana Pancakes’ by Jack Johnson
Here’s a song about that favorite of those with a sweet tooth, pancakes!
This laid back song is from Jack Johnson’s second LP, 2005’s ‘In Between Dreams’.
In it, he’s trying to get his wife’s attention to come to chill out with him. He wants to ‘make banana pancakes’ instead of dealing with the day….’this song is meant to keep you, doin’ what you’re supposed to’.
It also includes the catchy line ‘hala ka ukulele, momma made a baby’, an old Hawaiian saying, similar to ‘Jennie and Jack, sitting in a tree.
‘American Pie’ by Don McLean
The classic track ‘American Pie” was a huge success for a young Don McLean, who broke into the limelight with it at the age of 26.
The lyrics are full of cultural references, and the song is a sort of monologue about the declining state of America at the time, and how things are heading in the wrong direction.
The ‘Jester’ is thought to be a reference to Bob Dylan, with ‘a voice that came from you and me.’
‘The flames climbed high into the night’ is believed to be about the Altamont Speedway concert in 1969 (where someone was stabbed to death by a Hells Angel while the Stones played their set).
‘I met a girl who sang the blues and I asked her for some happy news, but she just smiled and turned away’ is thought to be about Janis Joplin.
The lyric ‘the day the music died’ refers to the tragic plane crash in 1959, which took the lives of Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and The Big Bopper. McLean was a 13-year-old paperboy in New York when he read the story on his paper round, which profoundly affected the young man.
‘Brown Sugar’ by The Rolling Stones
One of the Stones’ most popular rockers from their ‘Sticky Fingers’ album, ‘Brown Sugar’ is about the slave trade.
Alternative interpretations of the lyrics suggest it’s drugs related.
In Tony Sanchez’s biography ‘Up And Down With The Rolling Stones’, it’s suggested slavery and whipping is actually a reference to being hooked on Heroin, which is brown when cooked up (hence “Brown Sugar”).
The one thing this song definitely isn’t about is sugar!
‘Cinnamon Girl’ by Neil Young
The opener on Young’s landmark ’60s album ‘Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere’ (which featured both ‘Down by the River’ and ‘Cowgirl in the Sand’) “Cinnamon Girl” grabs you with its gorgeous overdriven guitars and the signature Crazy Horse “dum-dum-tis” stomp that they’d grace audiences with for the next few decades.
Cinnamon here isn’t a reference to the spice. Like all lyrics, its open to interpretation, but my guess is it’s a certain substance… “You see us together, chasing the moonlight”.
It’s also autobiographical. Young had ventured to the west coast in a black hearse called “Mortimer” (which is now the stuff of music folklore) from sleepy Winnipeg, Canada to find fame and fortune…
“‘pa sent me money now, I’m gonna make it somehow, I need another chance, you see your baby loves to dance”.
Well he did ok for himself, didn’t he!
‘Custard Pie’ by Led Zeppelin
Custard pies are found at the circus flung by overzealous clowns. You also find them, rather curiously, in blues music and in this case, Led Zep.
The use of ‘the pie analogy’ is quite commonplace in the blues tradition. For example, ‘I Want Some Of Your Pie’ by Blind Boy Fuller, Brown McGhee’s ‘Custard Pie Blues’ and even The Beatles’ ‘Wild Honey Pie’.
‘One More Cup of Coffee (Valley Below)’ by Bob Dylan
From his return-to-form 1975 album ‘Hurricane’, ‘One More Cup of Coffee (Valley Below)’ came about from a bizarre experience Dylan had in Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer, France at a gypsy celebration, where he witnessed a man playing Russian roulette with five bullets in the chamber.
When it was time to leave, Dylan asked for a cup of coffee for the road, and was struck by the view of the ocean in front of him, and the valley.
Of course, this isn’t a song about coffee or valleys; it’s about the unknown. Dylan’s marriage with Sara Lowndes was on shaky ground at the time, and some critics think it’s about that.
But in this usual, cryptic way, Dylan said in an interview with Paul Zollo “the verses came from someplace else, ‘valley below’ could mean anything”.
‘Strawberry Swing’ by Coldplay
A strawberry swing sounds like it should be a cocktail, but alas, it’s not. The strawberry swing here is an actual swing – you know, the sort you kids like to swing on.
This is an upbeat, nostalgic song where we see the singer looking back to childhood, to innocent times when ‘everyday was so precious’.
He then comes back to the current day and observes the franticness and blind conformism he sees around him: ‘people moving all the time, inside a perfectly straight line.’
He then asks the question ‘don’t you wanna curve away?”
The distinctive afro-pop guitars and staccato drumming add an interesting sound to the song. Singer and writer Chris Martin cites his upbringing in Zimbabwe, Africa, as inspiration. He told the Rolling Stone magazine, “I used to work in a studio where people played that.”
‘My Bacon Roll’ by Mark Knopfler
A bacon roll (roll = sandwich) is a typical working man’s breakfast or lunch and the inspiration for this great song by one of the finest rock guitarists and songwriters, Mark Knopfler.
The inspiration for the song supposedly came about when Knopfler overheard a petulant customer in a cafe ask the waitress “have you got my roll? My bacon roll”.
It had a lasting effect, and it ended up in this curious song about leaving a job.
The words are about choosing a life away from corporate life. Jacking in a job, so to speak. He sings, ‘I slung it in, had it up to here.’ All the fake team-building exercises led by some ‘know-it-all.’
But here’s the important thing: he chose to go, he wasn’t pushed. He never ‘got the elbow (to ‘get the elbow’ means to be given the sack).
‘I never got the elbow, just telling you, before you go’
Who is the ‘you’ in this line? His soon-to-be ex-colleagues? Or is it his wife who is about to leave him?
I’ll let you decide.
‘Poundcake’ by Van Halen
From Van Halen’s ’91 album ‘For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge,’ Poundcake is perhaps most famous for its use of a power drill at the beginning of the song. Yes, a power drill!
Poundcake is a type of cake, but you guessed it, here we ain’t talking cake. We’re talking women or a certain type of woman.
The ‘poundcake type’ is homegrown and down-home, and ‘she’s gotta have soul’. The singer Sammy Hagar is a rock star and has been around the block. He doesn’t want lust, he wants something real.
‘Sugar’ by Maroon 5
With a chorus reminscent of Michael Jackson’s ‘Beat It,’ this track by pop maestros Maroon 5 is a feel-good summer classic that celebrates that sweetest of ingredients, sugar.
Or rather, women.
He’s hooked on this type of sugar too. ‘When I’m without you, I’m so insecure, You are the one thing, one thing I’m living for’
‘Meat Is Murder’ by The Smiths
Wordsmith and strict vegetarian Morrissey is known for not mincing (pardon the pun) his words. Here is no exception.
He says eating meat is murder, plain and simple.
Morrissey was especially proud of the recording, bringing to light a subject that has seldom (if ever) been addressed in pop music. In his brilliant autobiography, he writes, “I relish to the point of tears this chance to give voice to the millions of beings that are butchered every single day.”
‘Red Red Wine’ by UB40
Written and recorded by Neil Diamond in 1967, ‘Red Red Wine’ was a massive hit for British band UB40 in the ’80s.
The band (and particularly this song) helped to popularise reggae in the UK, as the band were a mix of both black and white musicians.
UB40 started selling their own blend of red wine many years later. A bordeaux they say has a ‘long, elegant finish’.
‘Pour Some Sugar On Me’ by Def Leppard
Another mention of sugar here, a euphemism for you know what.
British Def Leppard were one of the biggest bands of the ’80s, serving up a blend of radio friendly classic rock.
From their best selling album ‘Hysteria’, ‘Pour Some Sugar On Me’ has one of those memorable choruses you will have heard at some point but didn’t know who it was by.
Well, know you know. It was Def Leppard.
‘Peaches ‘n’ Cream’ by Snoop Dogg
From Snoop Dogg’s 2015 album ‘Bush’, this funky number is straight out of the George Clinton P-funk songbook.
It’s actually pop prodigy Pharrell Williams twisting the dials, with Charlie Wilson on backing vocals. It’s got bags of groove.
‘Honey’ by Moby
There are so many songs with honey in the title.
This one is from Moby’s landmark album Play (1999); the song ‘Honey’ uses a sample of “Sometimes” by the blues artist Bessie Jones from the ’30s. Her song was, in turn, inspired by an old African-American ring game called “Way Down Yonder, Sometimes.”
The song consists of just six lines repeated over and over again.
‘Egg Man’ by The Beastie Boys
One of the funniest songs about food here.
With the opening bit from Curtis Mayfield’s ‘Superfly’, bits from the Lightnin’ Rod’s funky ‘Sport,’ and samples from Jaws and Psycho towards the end, ‘Egg Man’ is the Beasties at their zany best.
The origins of ‘Egg Man’ are simple enough: as a band, they used to like throwing eggs at people from their hotel rooms (well, it’s cheaper and less dangerous than throwing TVs out the window, which was a favorite pastime of Keith Richards).
‘I looked out the window seen his bald head, ran to the fridge and pulled out an egg’
‘Rock Lobster’ by The B-52’s
We all love a bit of the B-52s, who has a penchant for songs with food in the title (‘cake’ was another example)
‘Rock Lobster’ is them at their whimsical, wacky best.
It’s a throwback to the ’60s, with surf guitars and Farfisa organ.
The song’s premise is a beach party when someone encounters a rock lobster (or a crayfish), and chaos ensues. It’s a pretty good beach song.
‘Cherry Pie’ by Warrant
Another pie reference here, this time of the cherry variety.
Warrant were known as the kings of ‘hair metal’, a genre which to many was a low point for pop music in general.
Lyrics-wise, nothing too high brow here. It’s a simple song about a girl who’s as sweet as cherry pie. She ‘tastes so good, makes a grown man cry’.
‘Bacon’ by Nick Jonas ft. Ty Dolla $ign
This song is about a a guy who wants out a relationship and is really a song about freedom.
His girl is perfect ‘Oh my, my God, when he made you, he did a fine job’.
She’s maybe too perfect. He really wants ‘late nights, doing what I wanna do’ and wants ‘no ties, no drama in my life’.
Jonas wants to do what he wants without her making him feel worthless. ‘You’re perfect, but I’m not’ he sings.
‘Strawberry Fields Forever’ by The Beatles
Strawberry Fields was the name of an orphanage in Liverpool that a young John Lennon would sometimes visit in his youth.
‘Strawberry Fields Forever’ is his love song to it, which he wrote while working on a movie in south east Spain (Almeria). As Lennon had lost both parents at a young age (he lived with his grandparents), it was thought he found solace in hanging out with the other kids there.
Featuring some truly staggering feats of post-production by the great George Martin – it’s actually made up of two versions of the song in different tempo and key, and spliced together as one – it’s one of the high points of The Beatles’ late period, and Lennon at his psychedelic best.
‘Tutti Frutti’ by Little Richard
A “Tutti Frutti” is a popular flavor of ice cream and is Italian for ‘All Fruits’.
At position 43 on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 500 Greatest Songs, Tutti Frutti is one of the most famous songs of all time.
Elvis Presley recorded it, as did The Beatles and Queen. It was the first song David Bowie heard, who is reported as saying “I had heard God” when he first listened to it.
‘Tangerine’ by Led Zeppelin
Led Zep has a couple of fruit inspired songs. The first was ‘The Lemon Song’, and then came ‘Tangerine’.
It’s a song Jimmy Page had written and recorded while he was with the Yardbirds which he dusted off for Led Zep a few years later.
Appearing on the album Led Zeppelin 3, the track see Page playing a pedal steel guitar. There’s some gorgeous wah too.
The lyrics are about the passing of time ‘the hours, they bring me pain’ and unrequited love ‘does she still remember times like these? To think of us again? And I do’.
‘Ice Cream Man’ by Blur
Songs about ice cream crop up quite a bit in pop music, from Tom Waits to Van Halen. Blur’s ‘Ice Cream Man’ seems pretty jovial at first, but has a slightly more serious subject matter on closer inspection.
One minute he’s talking about the ice cream man ‘parked at the end of the road’, the next he’s commenting on something he saw when he was 21. The ‘thing’ he alludes to is the massacre in Tiananmen Square.
Damon Albarn was traveling through China at the time of writing it. In an interview about the song, Albarn says the ice cream man represents “a policeman, and the whip is the state control”.
‘Mother Popcorn’ by James Brown
James Brown was another musician who liked to throw food into his songs.
The Popcorn was actually the name of one of his hallmark dances, hence he had a few popcorn-themed tracks such as “The Popcorn,” “Low Down Popcorn” and “Let a Man Come in and Do the Popcorn.”
Prince’s ‘Gett Off’ includes some of the lyrics from this song e.g. ‘you gotta have a mother for me’
‘Ham ‘n’ Eggs’ by A Tribe Called Quest
Ham ‘N’ Eggs appeared on A Tribe Called Quest’s debut album, ‘People’s Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm’.
It’s not often that ham and eggs are sung about, but it appears the band aren’t keen ’cause they’re high in cholesterol’.
Oh well, can’t win them all.
‘Mayonaise’ by The Smashing Pumpkins
Mayonnaise, or ‘Mayo’, is a sauce made from olive oil and egg yolks that was invented in France in 1756.
This song appears to have absolutely nothing to do with the sauce!
There may be some hidden meanings in there somewhere, but I sure as heck couldn’t spot them. Great song though.
‘The Onion Song’ by Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell
Onions come up a fair amount in popular music too. Another great example is ‘Glass Onion’ from The Beatles’ White Album.
If you’ve ever peeled an onion you’ll know how it makes you cry. Here, the song uses an onion as a metaphor for the world (it makes you cry).
The solution? ‘To plant love seeds until it dies’. Well, with voices like theirs, anything is possible.
‘Fried Chicken’ by Zac Brown Band
One of the best country songs about food here.
This upbeat number from country music star Zac Brown is a celebration of a rural life and reminds us to enjoy the simple things in life. He shares all the simple things that make his life worth living.
‘I like my chicken fried, cold beer on a Friday night’.
It’s ‘not where you live, what you drive or the price tag on your clothes’, rather it’s seeing the sunrise, feeling the touch of your child, or seeing ‘the love in my woman’s eyes’. So it’s a great song about the importance of family too.
Oh, and ‘pecan pie and homemade wine’ of course 🙂
‘Cheeseburger in Paradise’ by Jimmy Buffet
This cheesy song (pardon the pun) has a great origin story.
The fun-loving Buffett – who plays a style of music he calls ‘drunken Caribbean rock ‘n’ roll’ – was allegedly crossing the Mona Passage in the Caribbean (between Hispanola and Puerto Rico) when his boat packed up.
He resorted to eating canned food. When he finally limped into harbour, the marina bar was serving cheeseburgers and piña coladas. Nice bit of luck there!
The line ‘medium rare with mustard’ is actually ‘medium rare with muenster’ referring to the the type of cheese (muenster cheese).
Sorta picky, considering the predicament he was in!
So, Which Was Your Favorite Song about Food?
So which was your favorite? I hope you found some new songs that made you smile.
If you’re a songwriter, remember nothing is off-limits when it comes to songs about food.
You can sing about a hot dog, birthday cake, chocolate milk, peanut butter, or even – as in the case of the funny Jimmy Buffet – cheeseburgers.