Some of the first songs that we ever learned taught us how to spell. Whether it was the ABCs, Bingo, a solid portion of Sesame Street’s programming, or The Mickey Mouse Club, music and spelling are tools that are mutually beneficial. Through song, the letters of a word (or in the ABCs’ case, the letters of the alphabet) can be ingrained in the mind, while the punchiness of spelling to music helps create a lasting memory of a tune. In one of the most iconic examples, the letters Y-M-C-A were spelled out with accompanying hand motions, creating the trifecta of song/spelling/dance that might never be matched.
And it’s a songwriting tool that doesn’t appear to be going away anytime soon. Rap lends itself particularly well to this style while pop music also uses this easy tool to make cheerleading camp choruses all the more memorable. But with the likes of John Cougar Mellencamp teaching us about “R-O-C-K in the U-S-A” and Bay City Rollers getting us amped for a “S-A-T-U-R-D-A-Y” night, rock certainly has placed its stamp on the history of spelling songs.
But what are the best of the spelling songs? Below we’ve curated 10 favorites that hit on all these genres, dating from the ’60s to the present, teaching us less about how actual words are spelled and more about the power and purpose behind spelling something out.