Life Lessons from Top Happy Songs of All Time

Music can be powerful. Inspiring songs not only perk us up when we’re down, but lyrics can also contain empowering life lessons.

Happy Songs

Some songs remind us to appreciate all the beauty in the world. Others provide motivation to overcome challenges to accomplish our dreams. 

For example, the profound lyrics of Nickelback’s famous song,  If Today was Your Last Day:

My best friend gave me the best advice.

He said each day’s a gift and not a given right

Leave no stone unturned, leave your fears behind.

I love these words that teach us never to take life for granted and overcome our fears to live life to its fullest.

Or the lyrics in Beautiful by Christina Aguilera that reminds us to see the beauty within ourselves and not allow others to define us:

I am beautiful

No matter what they say

Words can’t bring me down

Sing it strong, girl!

Since my blog is about happiness, that got me to thinking. What are the most popular happy songs of all time and what can we learn from the lyrics? 

Here are five songs that made the top 20 happy songs of all time according to the Billboard charts (you’ll notice they all have the word “happy” in them) along with their key messages. By all means, if you need a pick-me-up, click on any of the links to hear the songs. 


Interestingly, a lot of songs with the word “happy” in them came from the 50s and 60s. Pharrell William’s song Happy was the last song to hit the charts with the cheerful word “happy” and came in at #17 on the Billboard charts. However, the song was an exception to the rule in recent times. Perhaps, the world was a more lighthearted place back in the day.

An oldie but a goodie, Paul Evans wisely reminds us to quit chasing the almighty dollar and take time to enjoy the simple things in life. The song was released in 1960 – which just happens to be the year I was born – and came in at Number 18 assuring us all that “life is sweet, whooa, sweet as honey.”

I can laugh

When things ain’t funny

Happy go lucky me

Yer, I can smile

When I aint got no money

Happy go lucky me

It may sound silly but I don’t care

I got the moonlight, I got the sun, I’ve got the stars above.

Want to take Paul’s advice? Click here if you want to read my blog listing five ways to become a happy-go-lucky person.

Happy Together

Everyone knows this familiar song by The Turtles, also from the 1960s, that emphasizes the importance of love. The song was the winner, coming in at Number 1 on the Billboard charts. Quite a few of the songs in the top 20 were based on love including the classic Connie Francis’ song, My Happiness which came in at Number 4. These simple, romantic lyrics remind us of the importance of nurturing the relationships with our significant others.

I think about you day and night

It’s only right

To think about the girl you love

And hold her tight

So happy together

Don’t Worry, Be Happy

Bobby McFerron wrote this classic happy song that everyone knows to help all of us tap our feet, relax, and join him in his oh-so-contagiously-happy-mood. It came in at Number 2.

Don’t worry, be happy

In every life we have some trouble

But when you worry, you make it double

Amen, brother!

Shiny Happy People

One of the more puzzling songs on the list, coming in at Number 18, is the 1991 R.E.M. hit that had everyone searching for the mysterious meaning. What did the “shiny happy people laughing” represent? 

Everyone around, love them, love them

Put it in your hands, take it, take it

There’s no time to cry, happy, happy

Put it in your heart where tomorrow shines

Gold and silver shine

Some say that the title and chorus are based on a Chinese propaganda poster. They claim that the words “shiny happy people holding hands” are used ironically. After all, the song was released two years after the Tiananmen Square uprising when the Chinese government clamped down on student demonstrators, killing hundreds of them.

On the other hand, according to a blog on’s website although the “vague vocalizing and intriguing lyrics tended to leave fans in search of meaning and definition,” they claim the song “proved to be a rather atypical R.E.M. track in its unironic projection of celebration and good cheer. It’s a sensibility that is fully captured in the song’s sunshiny video.”

Then there’s this one blogger’s opinion: “It’s this relentlessly cheery vision of utopia where everyone is in love, all of the time. Whether you laugh at it, cringe, swoon, cry, or sing along, it’s revealing something about your outlook on life.”

I’ll let you make up your own mind on this one and move on to the next song, a much lighter and simple-to-understand happy song:

If You Wanna Be Happy 

So I’ll end this article with this silly song meant to simply make you smile. It came in at Number 5. Get ready to tap your feet and have a giggle with Jimmy Soul’s advice:

If you wanna be happy

For the rest of your life,

Never make a pretty woman your wife,

So from my personal point of view,

Get an ugly girl to marry you.

Who knows, there could be some profound wisdom in those words. Mwahahaha! If you’d like to see the complete list, you can check it out on Billboard’s website.

So, what are your favorite songs with the word “happy” in them and why? Please share in the comments below.

Image courtesy of stockimages at



Julie A. Gorges is the author of two young adult novels, Just Call Me Goody Two Shoes and Time to Cast Away and co-author of Residential Steel Design and Construction published by McGraw Hill. In addition, hundreds of her articles and short stories have been published in national and regional magazines, and she received three journalism awards from the Washington Newspaper Publishers Association while working as a newspaper reporter. Julie currently lives in southern California with her husband, Scott, and has two grown children and three grandchildren.

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12 Responses

  1. I really like “You Make Me Happy” by Lindsey Ray

    It’s a girl saying why she love’s her guy, listing all the sweet things he does and how he makes her feel, and this is the chorus:

    And just when I thought
    It couldn’t get any better
    There you go and do it all again
    Hope this feeling never ends

    ‘Cause you
    You make me happy

  2. Cat Michaels says:

    Julie, I am by no means an expert on pop music, but I love Bobbie McFerron’s work. Disney also snags a place in my heart with the Lion King’s “Hakuna Matata.” Thanks for the extra-happy, breezy blog this week!

  3. Summer says:

    Music is such a powerful tool. It can most definitely shape and mold our moods and actions whether we realize it or not. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Coming from a music business performing background in the 70s, I believe that music reflects the world around us and what the sentiments and attitudes are of the day. It’s interesting to see that many of the songs with “happy” in their title or lyrics came from a more optimistic time in the 50s and 60s. No surprise for me about the 60s, as we were experiencing a cultural revolution and music led the way. The world we have created seems to be one where we are searching for happiness and the search always starts within. Thanks for sharing all these songs, as it was fun to look back and see how the times and the messages shared through music have changed!

    • juliegorges says:

      I wasn’t around for the 50s, but my Mom loved that decade. I was a kid in the 60s and remember a lot of the songs. It’s true, people seemed to be happier, and more naturally optimistic and positive in those days. Today, people are constantly searching for happiness and probably less likely to find it. As you said, it comes from within. Happy you stopped by and shared your insightful thoughts, Beverley!

  5. Suzie Cheel says:

    Love this and the songs- music is such a healer, thank you

  6. Lazar Brock says:

    Can’t wait to hear again “You Make Me Happy” by Lindsey Ray after reading the entirety of the post! I am in agreement with you that song is very powerful option to get out stress and something like that. Happy and happy to came on your post Julie. Have a good day! 🙂

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