10 Best Bread Songs

Bread struck AM gold in the early 1970s, with a sentimental string of soft-rock hits written by David Gates. David Gates had contributed to the rich tapestry of 1960s music – he wrote The Murmaids’ #3 hit ‘Popsicles and Icicles’ and produced Captain Beefheart’s first two singles. But it wasn’t until he teamed up with Jimmy Griffin in Bread that he became a successful performer.

Bread released their debut album in 1969, but it was Gates’ single ‘Make It With You’ from 1970’s On The Waters that broke them into the mainstream. The band peaked with their fourth album, 1972’s Baby I’m-a Want You, which hit #3 on the US charts. Bread broke up after 1972’s Guitar Man, but reunited briefly for 1977’s Lost Without Your Love.

With their string of melodic hits, Bread are a candidate for the title of the sappiest band in the history of popular music. But Gates, married to his high school sweetheart since 1959, might just be the love guru whom we should all be looking to for advice.

10 Best Bread Songs

#10 Just Like Yesterday

from Baby, I’m-a Want You, 1972
David Gates penned the soft-rock romantic ballads that the band are remembered for, while the team of Jimmy Griffin and Robb Royer wrote bluesy rockers for the sake of balance. Perversely, the band’s best rocker was written by Gates (see #3 on this list), while Griffin’s best song for Bread is a soft romantic ballad, ‘Just Like Yesterday’. Griffin and Royer also wrote The Carpenters’ hit ‘For All We Know’.

#9 The Guitar Man

from Guitar Man, 1972
Larry Knechtel was a member of the Wrecking Crew, the LA studio musicians of the 1960s, best known for his piano part on Simon and Garfunkel’s ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water’. Knechtel joined Bread in 1971, largely on keyboards and bass. It’s his lead guitar playing that’s featured on the 1972 single ‘The Guitar Man’

#8 If

from Manna, 1971
The shimmering, romantic ‘If’ was drawn from Bread’s third album Manna. The band had a surprising affinity for Biblical album titles – their second album, On The Waters, was an obscure reference to a verse in Ecclesiastes. ‘If’ was the shortest song title to make the US top ten, until it was surpassed by Prince’s ‘7’ in 1993.

#7 Aubrey

from Guitar Man, 1972
Gates was inspired to write ‘Aubrey’ after watching Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast At Tiffany’s. He wrote the impressionistic song despite admitting to not fully understanding the movie. The song had a surprising cultural impact – it transformed Aubrey from a boy’s name to a girl’s name, and Parks and Recreation‘s Aubrey Plaza is named after it. I’d like to hear the song without the overbearing strings – there’s enough happening with the nice guitar picking – but it’s a beautiful composition anyway.

#6 Lost Without Your Love

from Lost Without Your Love, 1977
Bread’s reunion album, 1977’s Lost Without Your Love, was considered disappointing, but Gates’ title track was a highlight. It’s a pretty, tuneful piano ballad. It takes an unexpected twist with a surprisingly sharp guitar solo that takes the whole song up a notch.

#5 Baby I’m-a Want You

from Baby, I’m-a Want You, 1972
Gates bought ‘Baby I’m-a Want You’ into rehearsal, but it felt flat. The next day he raised it a key and had a #1 adult contemporary hit. The high notes highlight Gates’ pure vocals.

#4 Clouds (David Gates)

from First, 1973
It’s from David Gates’ first solo album, but apart from Russ Kunkel on drums, the backing on ‘Clouds’ is all provided by Bread members – Knechtel on bass, and Gates on keyboards. ‘Clouds’ is a truncated version of the nine-minute suite ‘Suite: Clouds, Rain’. Gates’ Moog synthesizer playing, which squiggles all over the song and launches it into its first chorus, is beautiful.

#3 Mother Freedom

from Baby, I’m-a Want You, 1972
Gates is remembered for his romantic ballads, so it may be surprising to learn that he once wrote an invigorating riff-rocker. Drummer Mike Botts presumably enjoyed the chance to bash his kit after a string of love songs.

Since we’re already discussing Parks and Recreation, does anyone else get Ron Swanson vibes from Gates on the cover art?*

#2 It Don’t Matter To Me

non-album single, 1970
‘It Don’t Matter To Me’ was originally included on Bread’s 1969 debut. In the wake of Bread’s commercial breakthrough with 1970’s ‘Make It With You’, the song was re-recorded in a more streamlined version. It’s a creative piece of songwriting – reaching the middle-eight within the first minute of a song is unusual.

#1 Everything I Own

from Baby, I’m-a Want You, 1972)
Gates’ tribute to his late father has been covered by a vast array of artists, including Shirley Bassey, *NSYNC, and Chrissie Hynde. Bread’s version didn’t crack the UK top 30, but the song has since hit #1 twice in reggae form; a 1974 version from Ken Boothe and a 1987 cover from Boy George.

Did I include your favourite Bread song? Do you enjoy their mellow soft-rock?

*David Gates and Ron Swanson—these spooky similarities will shock you….

Ron SwansonDavid Gates
Slaughtered his two pet calves with his bare hands on his sixth birthday.After Bread broke up, Gates concentrated on operating his cattle ranch in Northern California.
Duke Silver’s fanbase mostly consists of middle-aged women.Bread’s fanbase mostly consists of middle-aged women.
Has an impressive moustache.Has an impressive moustache.
Hired April Ludgate (played by Aubrey Plaza) as his personal assistant.Aubrey Plaza was named after the Bread song ‘Aubrey’.
Despite working for the government, Swanson often expresses his libertarian views: “I think the entire government should be privatized.”“You break your backs just to pay your tax/Then you don’t like the way that it’s spent.”
Bread – This Isn’t What the Govern-meant
Looks after Pawnee’s trees in his role with the Parks and Recreation Department of Pawnee.Found your diary under a tree.

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  1. If there’s a Bread song that name-checks Ron, that would be my favourite!
    Nice comparisons, the Swanson ‘stache really is one for the books.
    Neat trivia too about Aubrey!

  2. When I was a teen I had a phase where I was heavily into soft music and would compile MC after MC with “softies.” These tapes included various songs by Bread.
    Since that time, I essentially had not listen to them except for the occasional tune on the radio like “Everything I Own”, “Baby, I’m A Want You” and “Guitar Man.” I never explored Bread in greater detail and don’t think I’m going to so now.
    These guys definitely wrote catchy ballads. Listening to their music now, the key issue that motivates me from going through entire albums is the lack of variety in their songs. Plus, their music tends to be pretty lush, which after a while I find becomes a bit overwhelming.
    Still, it’s nice music to listen to – one or two songs at a time.

  3. Well, given your track record, this one comes as a surprise. Um, err, I don’t know how else to say this – these guys are totally lame. I’ll throw them a bone and say they are marginally better than Dan Hill

    • You’re thinking of syphilis. Syphilis is marginally better than Dan Hill.
      I found I missed Bread from classic hits radio when I stopped listening, so I bought a 2CD Bread Anthology. I like most of it, although Gates’ post-1977 stuff is pretty dire.

      • Heh! Good point. My bad. I like that ‘Mother Freedom’ tune. A little more of that and a little less sappiness – your word – and I might have dug them more. The silver lining is that I started singing ‘Baby I’m a Want You’ around the house and then my wife picked up on it and ‘thanked’ me for getting it stuck in her head. Mission accomplished.

  4. I consider them my guilty pleasure. I was well versed in Bread by my older sister. Gates could write catchy pop songs and they were right for the time…My favorite is Everything I Own. When you grow up with songs whether they are “cool” or not… they stick with you.
    The melodies are good…some don’t like the delivery but they are solid.

  5. I saw the Plasmatics back in the day. Much loud discordance. People walked out in disgust. I was fascinated by the whole thing. I don’t even know why we want. Like watching a train wreck.

  6. Now, here’s something I wasn’t expecting to see. A ten best Bread songs, eh? My parents had a Bread LP among their collection when I was younger. I couldn’t remember much about it, but when I started discovering music a fair few years later I thought I would dig into that stuff. After all, my old man had Sparks and Rod Stewart records that I ended up enjoying a whole lot. Bread, though… I never did like them.
    I used to call them Mother’s Pride on account of Mother’s Pride being the ‘plain loaf’ and me not being a fan of the plain loaf. I’m now quite partial to a slice of Mother’s Pride, but not Bread. Bread are like mouldy bread (though that might be a bit harsh). Maybe just bread with some horrible cheese or something.

  7. It Don’t Matter to Me
    Make It With You
    Baby I’m-a Want You
    Guitar Man
    Everything I Own
    Let Your Love Go

  8. I didn’t know that he wrote Popsicles and Icicles. I love that record. It was like a late entry in 1950s doo wop. It was more The Chordettes than 60s girl group. It was like a decade out of date, but it’s fantastic.

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