In the ’80s, you had the Moonwalk, the Running Man, the Cabbage Patch, the Roger Rabbit, the Kid n Play kick-step, the Robot, the Worm, the Wave and all sorts of break-dancing among others hitting the dancefloor. You had great dancing in the movies as evidenced by our popular Top Dance Scenes from ’80s Movies list. You also had plenty of dancing on our radios and on our MTV. Music and dancing go hand in hand. Music can certainly inspire you to dance and, conversely, dance can inspire music. This was apparent in the ’80s (as well as other decades) with many songs even including dance or dancing in the title.
Many other songs were about dancing like “Footloose”, “Into the Groove” or “Bust a Move”, but this list will focus on songs with the actual word represented specifically in the title. Songs qualify for this list if they were released between 1980-1989 and have the word “dance” or “dancing” in the title. Per usual, my rankings will be based on a combination of perceived quality of work and pop culture significance, but mostly just my personal taste level both then and now (which admittedly can change daily). So here are my TOP 25 SONGS OF THE ’80s WITH DANCE/DANCING IN THE TITLE :
25. “Land of a Thousand Dances” (1985) by the WWF Superstars – This song was first recorded in 1962 and the Wilson Pickett version from 1966 is probably the most recognized version. It was featured on our Dance Scenes from ’80s Movies list from the end of The Great Outdoors. This 1985 version was featured on The Wrestling Album and is pretty fun, so I am including the music video for this one…
24. “She Won’t Dance With Me” (1980) by Rod Stewart – Interesting fact, this was the third ever music video to be played on MTV.
23. “Dancing in the Street” (1985) by David Bowie & Mick Jagger – Originally released by Martha and the Vandellas in 1964, Van Halen also did a version in 1982.
22. “Your Mama Don’t Dance” (1989) by Poison – Originally recorded by Loggins and Messina in 1972, the Poison version reached #10 on the Hot 100.
21. “Batdance” (1989) by Prince – Featured on the soundtrack to the Tim Burton film Batman released the same year.
20. “No Parking (On the Dance Floor)” (1984) by Midnight Star – This song’s melody was sampled by the Bar-Kays in their 1984 single “Freakshow on the Dance Floor” which was featured in the film Breakin’.
19. “Could I Have This Dance” (1980) by Anne Murray – Featured on the film soundtrack for Urban Cowboy.
18. “Come Dancing” (1982) by The Kinks – The song was inspired by Ray Davies’ memories of his older sister who died of a heart attack while dancing at a dance hall. They also had “Don’t Forget to Dance” on that same album.
17. “She Wants to Dance With Me” (1988) by Rick Astley
16. “Private Dancer” (1984) by Tina Turner – Written by Mark Knopfler and originally intended to be a Dire Straits song.
15. “Dancing in the Sheets” (1984) by Shalamar – From the Footloose soundtrack and discussed briefly in my interview with the song’s co-writer Dean Pitchford.
14. “Flashdance… What a Feeling” (1983) by Irene Cara
13. “The Humpty Dance” (1989) by Digital Underground – It was actually released in June of 1989 as the group’s second single even though their first album would not be released until March 1990. So the song, which also peaked on the Hot 100 in April of 1990, is usually considered from the ’90s even though it really made the cut for the ’80s.
12. “Dancing on the Ceiling” (1986) by Lionel Richie
11. “Neutron Dance” (1984) by Pointer Sisters – From the Beverly Hills Cop soundtrack and discussed in my interview with the song’s co-writer Allee Willis.
10. “Dancing in Heaven (Orbital Be-Bop)” (1982) by Q-Feel – Discussed in my interview with Martin Page.
9. “I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me)” (1987) by Whitney Houston – Discussed in my interview with the song’s co-writers Shannon Rubicam and George Merrill and also in my interview with the music video director Brian Grant.
8. “All She Wants to Do is Dance” (1985) by Don Henley
7. “And We Danced” (1985) by The Hooters – Discussed in my interview with Eric Bazilian of The Hooters.
6. “The Politics of Dancing” (1983) by Re-Flex – Discussed in my interview with Paul Fishman of Re-Flex.
5. “Dance Hall Days” (1984) by Wang Chung – Discussed in my interview with Jack Hues of Wang Chung.
4. “Dancing With Myself” (1981) by Billy Idol – It was inspired by the sight of the young crowd in a Tokyo discotheque dancing with their own reflections in walled mirrors rather than with one another.
3. “Dancing in the Dark” (1984) by Bruce Springsteen – The music video, which featured Courtney Cox before she became well known, was Springsteen’s first to get heavy airplay on MTV, and it introduced him to a new, mostly younger audience.
2. “Let’s Dance” (1983) by David Bowie – Producer Nile Rodgers said: “When David wrote those lyrics, he was talking about the dance that people do in life; the conceptual dance of not being honest. He sings, ‘put on your red shoes and dance the blues.’ Like you’re pretending to be happy but you’re sad.”
1. “The Safety Dance” (1983) by Men Without Hats – It’s actually a protest against bouncers prohibiting “pogo” dancing to ’80s new wave music in clubs when disco was declining and new wave was coming in. Clubgoers were told to stop doing the pogo dance or be kicked out of the club since it was perceived as posing a danger to disco dancers on the dance floor. Thus, the song is a protest and really a call for freedom of expression.
“We can dance if we want to. We can leave your friends behind. Because your friends don’t dance and if they don’t dance, well, they’re no friends of mine.”
There’s my list. As usual and as I mentioned earlier, these are based on my personal preferences and the order could very well change a little depending on my mood or nostalgia on a given day. Interesting that Michael Jackson, who was so identified by his dancing in the ’80s, didn’t have any hit songs with dance in its title. One that just missed qualifying for the list was Van Halen’s “Dance the Night Away” since it was actually released in 1979. Are there any songs from the ’80s with dance/dancing in the title that you feel I have overlooked? If you have others or if you’d rank any differently, please leave them in the comments section below. There is an appropriate Japanese proverb that I have always liked and that loosely translates to: “We’re fools whether we dance or not, so we might as well dance.” In the ’80s, we had lots of reasons to dance and these songs represent just a small portion of that inspiration.