Yacht rock, originally known as the West Coast sound or adult-oriented rock, is a broad music style and aesthetic that is commonly associated with soft rock. It was one of the most commercially successful genres from the mid-1970s to the mid-1980s. The style draws inspiration from sources such as smooth soul, smooth jazz, R&B, and disco. Common stylistic traits include high-quality production, clean vocals, and a focus on light, catchy melodies.
What Is Yacht Rock?
Yacht rock is the soft rock that dominated FM radio airwaves in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Yacht rock is characterized by glossy production, breezy vocals, and bouncy rhythms—all elements that evoke relaxing bay cruises in Southern California, where the genre originated. Some artists commonly included in the yacht rock genre are The Doobie Brothers, The Eagles, Christopher Cross, Robbie Dupree, Daryl Hall & John Oates, Fleetwood Mac, Michael McDonald, Rupert Holmes, Toto, and Steely Dan.
A Brief History of Yacht Rock
Yacht Rock music was prevalent in the 1970s and 1980s, far before the term “yacht rock” originated. Artists like Loggins & Messina, Hall & Oates, Steely Dan, Toto, and more dominated the airwaves with glossy soft rock that stood in contrast to disco, punk, hip hop, and heavy metal. Hits include: “Escape (The Piña Colada Song)” by Rupert Holmes, “I Can’t Go For That (No Can Do)” by Hall & Oates, “Brandy (You’re A Fine Girl)” by Looking Glass, “Baby Come Back” by Player, “Africa” by Toto, and “The Boys of Summer” by Don Henley.
The yacht rock name comes from the comedy web series Yacht Rock that the popular LA-based website Channel 101 ran in 2005. Creators JD Ryznar, Hunter Stair, and Lane Farnham wrote a fictional take on the life of real yacht rock stars—like Michael McDonald, Kenny Loggins, The Doobie Brothers, Hall & Oates, and Kenny Loggins—imagining them as a group of friends and rivals lounging and recording in Los Angeles’s Marina del Rey. While the events in the Yacht Rock series were fictionalized, the show represents the smooth music that dominated the soft rock scene during the time period. The show enjoyed cult hit status, and its extended word of mouth helped revive interest in many of the artists it covered.
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