Wherever we are in the world, music always has the ability to whisk us away. The city of London has produced some of the best musicians in the world, from The Clash to Stormzy. In a time when most of us would love to be anywhere but our houses, let the tunes of these born-and-bred Londoners transport you from your sofa to the streets. We’ve compiled some of the best songs about the culture and city of London into this list, so you can plug in and switch off. Scroll down for the full playlist on Spotify!
JOY CROOKES – London Mine (2019)
Inspired by her experiences of growing up in south London, Joy Crookes penned London Mine in honor of London migrant communities. This soaring R&B tune asserts that the streets of London belong to no one and everyone, celebrating the city’s multiculturalism. The lyrics mention Brick Lane, Old Kent Road, and Kennington Road.
JIMI HENDRIX – All Along The Watchtower (1968)
Guitar legend Jimi Hendrix lived in London briefly during the late 1960s. Recorded with his band The Jimi Hendrix Experience at Olympic Studios, All Along The Watchtower is one of Hendrix’s most well-known songs. Hendrix’s former apartment on Brook Street is now a small museum.
TOM MISCH – South of the River (2017)
This funky track is a love song to south London. Producer and multi-instrumentalist Tom Misch mixes soul and classical musical elements to create a groovy tune about staying south of the River Thames, which runs through London city.
AMY WINEHOUSE – Tears Dry On Their Own (2006)
Born and raised in north London, the great Amy Winehouse was famous for her wide range of musical styles, from jazz to R&B, in addition to her signature beehive updo. Tears Dry On Their Own samples Marvin Gaye’s Ain’t No Mountain and was featured in the 2015 documentary Amy.
ADELE – Hometown Glory (2008)
One of many musicians influenced by Amy Winehouse is Adele. Brought up in West Norwood near Brixton, Hometown Glory is a tribute to her hometown. After fighting with her mother who wanted her to leave London and attend university in Liverpool, Adele wrote Hometown Glory in 15 minutes.
LILY ALLEN – LDN (2006)
Lily Allen’s LDN references many aspects of everyday life in the city both positive and negative, including Tesco grocery stores, the ‘filth’ (police), pickpockets, and riding a bike around the city. In classic British irony, the cheerful melody and upbeat hook contrasts with many of the song’s observations.
THE CLASH – The Guns of Brixton (1979)
Having grown up in the neighborhood of Brixton, The Clash’s bassist Paul Simonon wrote this song about local feelings of unease around the police, as well as the unstable economic situation for youth in the UK. The song’s reggae influence reflects the strong Afro-Caribbean culture in Brixton while lyrics reference the reggae gangster film The Harder They Come.
STORMZY – Vossi Bop (2019)
One of London’s most well-known rappers, Stormzy is also a political activist for social issues in Britain. He has been vocal about issues such as knife crime, racism, and the Conservative UK government. Stormzy grew up in Croydon, South London.
GIRLI – Hot Mess (2017)
Originally from north London, GIRLI’s penchant for hot pink tracksuits and her feminist pop/rap songs strike a chord for young people around the UK. The music video for Hot Mess, a song about rising above everyday sexism, features GIRLI and friends skating around London, confronting a sexist record executive, and wearing more hot pink than you’ve ever seen in your life.
SIOUXSIE AND THE BANSHEES – Dear Prudence (1983)
Originally by The Beatles, Siouxsie and the Banshees give Dear Prudence a post-punk makeover. Formed in London in the mid 70s, Siouxsie and the Banshees’ unique look and sound influenced future music genres like goth rock and new wave. Their version of Dear Prudence takes the classic sound of The Beatles to a darker, more psychedelic 80s vibe.
DAVID BOWIE – Rebel Rebel (1974)
David Bowie’s ensemble of colorful stage personas and fluidity between musical genres has made him one of the most influential musicians of all time. Born in Brixton, Bowie lived in several areas of south London during his youth. Rebel Rebel is one of the last songs from David Bowie’s glam era.
THE KINKS – Sunny Afternoon (1966)
One of the main English bands to make up the ‘British Invasion’ of the 1960s and 70s, the Kinks originally formed in Muswell Hill in north London. Sunny Afternoon, a satirical critique of aristocrats affected by the progressive tax, became one of the Kinks’ biggest hits. The song also lends its name to a West End musical about the band.