3 Great American groups to listen to and learn English

A few weeks ago we posted 3 Great British groups to listen to and learn English with. This week it’s the turn of the United States of America. Whether you think that the USA is a force for good in the world or not right now, you cannot deny that some of the greatest music ever made has come from America. Rock n Roll, Blues, Country, R ‘n’ B, and hip hop are all predominantly American music genres. Today we will look at some of the classics; and, as always, they will be chosen with an aim of using them to listen to the lyrics and improve your English.


The Beach Boys

What is more American that Surfin’ USA? What a song. My family used to play the beach boys as we drove to the seaside when I was a kid. The Beach Boys are both a lot of fun, and also beautifully melodic at times. Brian Wilson eventually became mentally ill as his doctor was drugging him to steal his money. A sad story, but he played at Primavera Sound festival here in Barcelona just two years ago. There is an amazing beautiful and sad film portraying his life called Love and Mercy and you should all check it out.

Beautiful vocals, oddly sung, so it is not always easy to discern the words, make the beach boys good listening practice. And the beautiful lyrics about love and relationships tell heartfelt stories that have lasted the test of time. The Beach Boys are America’s Beatles and deserve your time.

Check out: God Only Knows, Then I Kissed Her, You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away, and the whole Pet Sounds album, which is a classic.


Michael Jackson

This list could not not include MJ. His career and life is a strange story, but his voice is timeless. What do I need to say about Michael Jackson? He is easy to understand, and his songs tell stories or have meanings that are enjoyable to follow. Very lyrically driven, they are good practice at an intermediate to upper-intermediate level.

Listen to: Man in the Mirror, Earth Song, Black or White, Come Together (A Beatles cover!), etc.


Bob Dylan

Bob Dylan won the mother f***in’ Nobel Prize for Literature. The only musician to have ever done so. He is a lyrical genius without a doubt. A poet. And that is why he won. Just because he makes music with a guitar does not mean that he is not a poet.

His drawl and accent are quite hard to discern at times and this could be a challenge for some of the higher level students above upper-intermediate. However, reading lyrics at the same time will increase your vocabulary and show you just how flexible and creative you can be with the English language.

My faves: The Times they are A-changing, All Along the Watchtower, Hurricane, and more.

Next in the music series: modern classics.

Written by James R. McCance for Aston School

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