It is one of our greatest strengths and weakness as people; our propensity to constantly be searching for something. It has led to some of the greatest discoveries.
However, it has also led to frustration, with some people leading their entire lives looking for their better half or for answers that seem to evade even the best minds.
The following, in my opinion, are the best songs about searching I have encountered. They put vivid, precise words behind the whirlwind of thoughts and emotions one goes through while searching for different things in life.
1. Searchin’ For My Baby by Bobby Moore & The Rhythm Aces
Album: Beach Music Anthology | Released: 1992
This song would definitely make it to my playlist when I feel lonely. Not to be corny, but the playlist would probably be called “Oldie songs about searching for love.”
Searching for my baby is not just about looking for love but being desperate enough to know that you will never let it go when you find it.
Bobby formed this band while in training for the army and later regrouped to include his son Larry. It would be the only song by the band that would make it to the Hot 100 chart.
2. Cortez The Killer by Neil Young & Crazy Horse
Album: Zuma | Released: 1975
It is not just the heavy message in this song that gets me thinking. The guitar melody in the song’s first half also gets me in a reflective mood. This guitar work would later be ranked in the top fifty in Guitar World’s 100 Greatest Guitar Solos.
Neil Young was inspired by Hernán Cortés, who went to Aztec, now Mexico, to search for treasure and advanced cities. Although he did find what he was searching for, whether this search justified the end remains debatable.
3. Search Party by Sam Bruno
Soundtrack: Paper Towns | Released: 2015
When a search party is out looking for you, you should want to be found. Well, that’s how it goes in all the movies I have watched.
Search Party is a song about searching for an escape to a place where no one can find you. Sam Bruno wants to go to the Eiffel Tower and Jamaica, and she hopes that all her troubles will melt away and she’ll be living her best life.
Interestingly, one of the reasons the song gained popularity was because it was used in the soundtrack of the movie Paper Towns.
4. Searchin’ For A Rainbow by Marshall Tucker Band
Album: Searchin’ for a Rainbow | Released: 1975
This song was written at a time when the band was trying to transition from their distinctive jazz sound to a more country and rock feel, which was receiving a lot of airplay at the time.
Penned down in a few minutes by the group’s songwriter, Toy Caldwell, this song inspired other country musicians.
Listening to it reminds me not to settle for anything when searching for answers, “I said, Lord, I’d like to stay, Something inside me said, boy, move on.”
5. Tangled Up In Blue by Bob Dylan
Album: Real Live | Released: 1984
This is a song about searching for closure. During the period when Dylan was composing the song, he was going through a lot of personal struggles.
On top of trying to deal with a collapsing marriage, he was also struggling with substance abuse. In the song, he can’t shake thoughts about his wife no matter what he does.
Before release, Bob made a lot of changes to the song. Sometimes when performing, he goes back and forth between the versions, changing lyrics here and there.
6. Search & Destroy by Iggy Pop & The Stooges
Album: Raw Power | Released: 1973
I am not the greatest fan of punk rock, but the Stooges are my go-to every time I am in the mood.
This song has a double entendre; it is a song about searching for truth and justice about the Vietnam war and a song about searching for yourself.
When creating this song, the band synergy was volatile, leading to a switch in the lead guitarist. James Williamson took the lead guitarist role to create a sound that would make the song a favorite of many greats, including Kurt Cobain.
7. Hello By Adele
Album: 25 | Released: 2015
Although it has had many interpretations, Adele wrote Hello as a song about searching for healing from a broken heart. She also wrote it as a song about seeking forgiveness from herself and those around her.
Before it became the record breaker that it is, it was a lot of other things. It had a country-sounding chorus, and the opening line was “Hello, misery.”
When complete, it broke several records, including the most Shazamed and most viewed in 24 hours. Ironically, Adele’s team had to play Labrinth’s Jealous to get her in a somber headspace.
8. Heart Of Gold by Neil Young
Album: Harvest | Released: 1972
Neil Young recorded this song in just two takes. Although one of the reasons for this was that it was expensive to keep re-recording back then, it was also because of the great chemistry between Neil and the artists accompanying him in the studio.
The song is about the search for true love; Neil wants someone with a heart that will resonate with him and with whom he can grow old. I particularly love the harmonica melodies that add that romantic blues touch.
9. Searchin’ by Sly & The Family Stone
Album: Sly And The Family Stone | Released: 1975
Written by Mike Stoller and Jerry Leiber, the lyrics to searchin’ are an accurate portrayal of searching for love that there could be. You can feel the desperation when he questions himself as to whether he is good enough and reassures himself that he’s not fearful; he just needs some love.
This song ranks highly on my list of songs about searching for someone to love because although the words make me do some reflection, the funk and soul in it keep the mood light.
10. Searching (For Someone Like You) by Kitty Wells
Singles | Released: 1956
Kitty was a country music pioneer who inspired the likes of Dolly Parton by recording music at a time when women didn’t make a lot of music. Even though Kitty was well known for standing up for women, most forget her penchant for writing some of the most romantic lyrics.
This song was about searching for your soulmate, the only person who knows how to love you right. The song was among Kitty’s best-performing songs, spending thirty-four weeks in the charts.
11. In Your Eyes by Peter Gabriel
Album: So | Released: 1986
This is one of my favorite songs to karaoke with a loved one because of how intimate it is. It is a song about finding fulfillment in a relationship.
When Gabriel looks into his love’s eyes, he feels complete and at peace. The popularized version is actually a shortened version because it was adopted from a performance where Gabriel rearranged the parts.
However, it still features a verse sung in Wolof by Youssou N’Dour, whom he performed with when he joined the Rock Hall of Fame.
12. Whole Wide World by Wreckless Eric
Album: A Bunch of Stiff Records | Released: 1977
This song reminds me that mothers everywhere are all the same. Eric wrote this song after his mother’s advice when he was trying to find love: “One day you’ll find a girl in the world who is just for you.” The words came to him while he was in the bar, and he hurriedly wrote them on the back of an envelope.
The song has been covered by bands like Mental As Anything, Cage the Elephant, and artists like Green Day’s lead vocalist, Billie Joe Armstrong. It is also the song that fans of Stranger Than Fiction remember as the love song of Will and Maggie.
13. El Cerrito Place by Kenny Chesney
Album: Welcome to the Fishbowl | Released: 2012
To quote Kenny, El Cerrito Place is a song about searching for something to fill a void inside you, whether it is someone special, lust, or purpose in life.
I like Kenny’s ability to bring out my emotions. His voice has that Nashville-like honesty and rawness that immediately disarms me, especially when the harmony with Grace Potter shines through.
The song also has a rich record in Nashville; it was initially written by Keith Gattis and covered by Charlie Robinson, from whom Kenny heard the song.
14. Searching by Roy Ayers
Album: Vibrations | Released: 1976
Whatever you are looking for, I believe that you can find it in this song. The song is about searching for answers, searching for love, moral direction, and searching how to live an honest life.
Listening to it makes me feel peaceful like all the answers are hidden in that smooth voice, those jazzy piano licks, or that horn solo that begs you to close your eyes and take a breather. Amerie also sampled the horn solo in her song Rollin’ Down My Face.
15. Searching by Liv Dawson
Album: Searching | Released: 2017
I must admit that I always forget the somber meaning of this song. I somehow always find myself dancing to it. The sound and house vibes leave you forgetting that it is a song about searching for answers from a lover who one day decided to up and leave the relationship.
The story behind the song mirrors the effortlessness of the vibe. Liv was working on different ideas in the studio when her team came up with the beats to the song, and they decided to try it out.
16. Love Is Looking for You by Miranda Lambert
Album: Kerosene | Released: 2005
Although this one is not on Miranda’s more famous songs, it holds the same level of sincerity and vulnerability that is the highlight of her career and performances.
It is poetically written, displaying vivid imagery of a misfit looking for their skin so they can fit in, to a person who swore to love someone forever, but time has already run out.
However, unlike other songs about searching for love, Miranda reminds us to take a pause and let love try to find us instead.
17. Somewhere Over the Rainbow by Israel Kamakawiwo’ole
Album: Ka ‘Ano’i | Released: 1990
This one is a song about searching for hope. This is a medley of two popular classic songs “Over the Rainbow” and “What a Wonderful World”.
Israel’s version became so popular that now people associate the song with him. He wasn’t on the recording schedule the first time Israel recorded the song in the studio. He asked for a time late one night and did the entire song in one take.
So iconic was Israel, and the impact of this song, that he was cremated with the ukulele that he played in this song.
18. In Search Of by Miike Snow
Album: Miike Snow | Released: 2009
Most people don’t know that although Mike Snow is the name of an actual person, he is not the guy behind this Swedish indie pop band. The band comprises three artists: Pontus, Andrew, and Christian.
The band is known for its cryptic lyrics that leave their listeners coming back for seconds. I, for one, know from the first line that this is a song about seeking redemption. However, when they sing, “Father put his foot down on my games,” I start to wonder if I am wrong.
19. The Search Is Over by Survivor
Album: Vital Signs | Released: 1984
Jim Peterik had a knack for engaging-sounding song titles and hooks. He used to carry a notebook everywhere to write any titles that came to him.
This song has taken many different meanings to different people, including being a song about searching for someone to love everywhere but right in front of you, where they have been all along.
This meaning only came to be when Peterik told his co-writer, Frankie Sullivan, about the song title idea he had, and they worked backward, from the title to the lyrics.
20. Lookin’ for a Love by The Valentinos
Singles | Released: 1962
Don’t crucify me yet because of yet another song about searching for love. This song’s melody was borrowed from a gospel song at a time when the band was looking to transition from gospel music to pop songs, where they hoped to make more money.
When the J. Geils Band covered the song in 1971, and it became a chart-topper for them, Bobby Womack released his own version to respond to people responding to his songs only after being covered by a “white band.”
21. I Found My Best Friend at the Dog Pound by Burl Ives
Singles | Released: 1963
Although we often dwell on romantic love, I think that one of the most overlooked relationships is between a human and his pet. Burl Ives captured this in his heartfelt country song about finding happiness and companionship in a pet.
He draws comparisons to the struggles he is facing in his life, including feeling like he is caged, to what the dog is going through by being locked up in the dog pound.
If I ever get a dog, I picture singing this to him every night.
22. I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For by U2
Album: The Joshua Tree | Released: 1987
There’s no better way to conclude this list than this song about searching for meaning. Bono is often quoted saying that the song is “an anthem of the doubt more than faith.”
The song is a reminder not to dwell on the end result of the search but, instead, on what you learn while you are searching. Before getting its final title, the song was titled “Under The Weather” and had Jamaican undertones.