Retirement Songs

Jim Probasco
Happy retired couple dancing

Are you looking for a list of songs for a retirement dinner or celebration? Whether you need songs for a retiree celebration or you just want to have fun, the following list of retirement themed music, arranged by genre, may prove helpful.

Blues/R&B

  • Can't Take it With You - Allman Brothers Band: This song can have dual meaning, referring both to the idea that it's time to get out and enjoy life and (humorously) an admonition not to walk off with a company stapler, pencils, or cherished laptop.
  • Celebration - Kool and The Gang: Here's a well-known party tune, sure to inspire a spontaneous sing-a-long moment at the party.
  • Hit the Road Jack - Ray Charles: Everyone at the event will "get" this gentle, good-natured, push out the door for the departing co-worker.
  • I Got You (I Feel Good) - James Brown: This R&B anthem helps set an uplifting mood at a time of life when mixed emotions reign supreme.
  • I'll Always Remember You - Robert Cray: Authentic blues by one of the genre's masters will have aficionados' heads nodding in affirmation.
  • I'm Ready to Go - Dion: This song provides a rare combination of blues and an up-tempo rhythm that will leave no doubt about the retiree's state of mind.
  • Rockin' Chair - Eric Clapton: Simple blues with a forward-looking message highlight the message of this gem from one of the distinguished masters of the craft.
  • Soul Man - Blues Brothers: Another R&B classic, known to everyone. This version, from the Blues Brothers movie, could be used to introduce the honoree.
  • Work is Overrated - Chicago Skinny: The title says it all. This one could serve as a blues version of 9 to 5 if Dolly Parton is not your retiree's cup of tea.
  • You Should Stay I Should Go - Joanne Shaw Taylor: The repetition of the title lyrics in this contemporary relationship song will speak volumes on behalf of the guest of honor.

Country

  • 9 to 5 - Dolly Parton: Speaking of Dolly, this song may be a cliché, but it resonates with everyone and will do so with the crowd at your gala.
  • Blue Skies - Willie Nelson: For a slightly more laid-back approach to the retiree's future, this timeless classic is perfect for a "slow dance" change of pace.
  • Get a Haircut and Get a Real Job - George Thorogood: This country rock anthem could serve as a parting shot or a look back at days long past.
  • Happy Trails - Roy Rogers: As background music for a closing slideshow, this childhood favorite could provide the perfect ending to a perfect evening.
  • Hard Workin' Man - Brooks and Dunn: Here's another hard rocking personal testimony to remind partygoers that the honoree did more than just show up and collect a paycheck.
  • I Hope You Dance - Lee Ann Womack: This beautiful and popular call to action will remind everyone, including the retiree, to continue to embrace life.
  • It's Five O'clock Somewhere - Alan Jackson & Jimmy Buffet: Most people can relate to the humorous title and lyrics of this up-tempo tribute to cocktail hour.
  • Take This Job and Shove It - Johnny Paycheck: Like 9 to 5 this one finds itself on most retirement celebration playlists for a reason.
  • Will You Miss Me When I'm Gone - June Carter Cash: For fans of the Carter Family, this spiritual/ballad will be both reminiscent and thought provoking.
  • Working Man Blues - Merle Haggard: This simple story of a hard working life makes a perfect tribute to anyone who has punched a clock.

Easy Listening/Jazz

  • Cry Me a River - Nina Simone: The lyrics to this jazz standard, as with many songs listed here, can provide a bit of humorous sarcasm from the point of view of the retiree. It's all in good fun and a beautiful song to boot.
  • Gone Gone Gone - Uptown Vocal Jazz Quartet: This song really has nothing to do with retirement, but it is smartly done and frequent repetition of the title in the lyrics will leave a subtle, but lasting impression.
  • I've Got the World on a String - Michael Buble': What soon-to-be retiree doesn't feel he or she is "sittin' on a rainbow?" This is a wonderful mood lifter for any retirement celebration.
  • My Way - Frank Sinatra: This big band standard could be a theme for anyone leaving the workplace for the next place. This is another one that is perfect for a slideshow presentation.
  • Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin' - Bing Crosby: The lyrics to this opening tune from the Broadway musical Oklahoma, paint a superb word picture for anyone about to experience the freedom of sitting on the porch and enjoying the start of a new day.
  • Thanks for the Memories - Bob Hope: Bob Hope's venerable theme makes a fitting salute from the person being honored to all those gathered to do the honoring.
  • The Best Is Yet to Come - Frank Sinatra: Cy Coleman was a master songwriter and this lyrical gaze into the future will serve as a musical exclamation point for any celebration.
  • Unforgettable - Nat King Cole & Natalie Cole: Another standard, this one electronically updated to include both father and daughter, will provide a wonderful nostalgic moment for your party.
  • What a Wonderful World - Louis Armstrong: For a retiring co-worker nothing will bring on tears (of joy) like the combination of pictures and the simple musical message this well-known classic will provide.
  • You Better Go Now - Billie Holiday: For retirees of a 'certain age' this recording will recall pleasant memories while invoking a message with which they will gladly agree.

Pop/Rock

  • Already Gone - The Eagles: It's really about a breakup, but the sentiment relates just as well to someone leaving the workplace. It is classic Eagles and will be a hit.
  • Bang the Drum All Day - Todd Rundgren: "I don't want to work I want to bang on the drum all day." Prepare for some tabletop drumming if you add this one to the playlist.
  • Days - The Kinks: As more and more Boomers hang up their cleats, songs like this, expressing gratitude for "the days" will say more than most retirement speeches.
  • Gold Watch Blues - Donovan: Like much folk-rock from the sixties, this one carries a thoughtful message, one that will resonate with retirees and guests alike.
  • Good Riddance (Time of Your Life) - Green Day: With a little deeper meaning than most "retirement" tunes, this one suggests that when all is said and done, attitude is the most important thing of all.
  • Happy Together - The Turtles: This joyous nostalgic 60's classic is appropriate for any retirement celebration, especially one that includes a moment to recognize a spouse.
  • I Don't Like Mondays - Boomtown Rats [Note to Valorie - Please remove this song from the list. The lyrics don't make it clear, but the song was actually written from the point of view of a 16 year old girl who went to school (on a Monday) and shot some of her classmates. I chose the song, based on the lyrics, without realizing the history.
  • I'm Free - Rolling Stones: Retirement celebrations featuring the music of the Rolling Stones are becoming more frequent. The lyrics are simple and direct, sure to invoke laughter and congratulations.
  • I've Had the Time of My Life - Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes: Slow dance or slideshow, this beautiful ballad should have a prominent place at almost any retirement
  • celebration.
  • Lean on Me - Bill Withers: There are several recorded versions of this oldie but goodie, but the original 1972 Bill Withers arrangement carries the timeless message best of all.
  • Manic Monday - The Bangles: Because it is sung by a female rock group and from a female perspective, this recording, like 9 to 5, is particularly appropriate for a retirement celebration for a woman.
  • Old Days - Chicago: The words speak with particular resonance to retirees who grew up going to Drive-in movies and watching Howdy Doody.
  • Seasons in the Sun - Terry Jacks: This pop tune from the early 70's is nostalgic to many people of retirement age, but since it's ultimately a story about death, it may not be appropriate for every situation.
  • These Are the Days - Van Morrison: For pure nostalgia, nothing beats this wistful walk down memory lane by this famous Northern Irish singer.
  • Time Has Come Today - The Chambers Brothers: Anyone who grew up in the 60s will hear the words "Now the time has come" with a completely new meaning as they end their working years.
  • Time to Say Goodbye - Andrea Bocelli: With lyrics that alternate between Italian and English, this serves as a wonderful tribute, especially if your celebration honors or includes someone with an Italian heritage.
  • Too Much Time on My Hands - Styx: This song provides a great opportunity to chide the retiree about the dangers of an unstructured day.
  • Watching the Wheels - John Lennon: The retiree gets the last word with lyrics like, "No longer riding on the merry-go-round."
  • When I'm 64 - Beatles: This timeless classic will almost certainly inspire a sing-along. Have the lyrics sheets ready.
  • Work is a Four-Letter Word - The Smiths: This work-related tune gives a musical nod to younger guests at your party who may not know about much about classic rock, but will certainly know this band.

Where to Get the Songs

Now that you have some ideas for retirement songs, the next step is to find them. There are ways to do this without buying the entire album just to play one song.

Download Options

  • Amazon has many of the above retirement songs available for you to download as an mp3. You can play the files on your iPod or mp3 player or burn a CD disc and play it on a compatible stereo.
  • Apple iTunes also has individual songs you can download. There is actual iTunes software (free download) that will manage your songs on your computer, iPod, or mp3 player and even let you create a playlist. With both the iPod and mp3 player, it is not necessary to burn a CD. All you need is a cable to connect your player to your stereo for playback.
  • eBay is an option if you would like to buy the albums but need a low cost alternative to the music store.
  • Rhapsody and eMusic.com are two online music stores that can be useful for songs that may not be available elsewhere.

Offline Options

  • Your local public library has a large collection of CDs available for lending.
  • Other free options include co-workers, friends, and family.
  • Disc Jockeys (DJs), who typically provide music for weddings and dances, have huge libraries of recorded music. If funding permits, hire the DJ to come to the party and play music from the list above, or, alternatively, request a CD with your selected songs (for a price).

Happy Trails

Music for a retirement dinner or party - whether it's one with co-workers, friends, or family - needs to convey two moods. One mood is about laughter and joy as the retiree moves to the next stage of his or her life. The second is about nostalgia, wonderful memories, and the opportunity to honor and be honored. Choosing the right balance of music for this dual-mood occasion is very important and well worth the time spent on the selection process.

Retirement Songs