This post-disco, upbeat dance song was Kool & the Gang's only American #1. It is commonly played at weddings, parties, sporting events and just about anywhere there is something to be celebrated.
The song is appropriate at everything from a bar mitzvah to a graduation because the lyrics are so generic, referring to a "party," "good times" and a "celebration."
Kool & the Gang's sax player Ronald Bell, also known as Khalis Bayyan, told Billboard that the song came out of a time of religious study. "The initial idea came from reading the Q'uran," he explained. "I was reading the passage where God was creating Adam, and the angels were celebrating and singing praises. That inspired me to write the basic chords and the line, Everyone around the world, come on, let's celebrate."
This song was foreshadowed in the hit "Ladies Night
" with the lyrics "Come on, let's all celebrate" near the end. According to Ronald Bell, that was "the key to finishing 'Celebration.'"
No one close to the band was surprised by the song's enduring popularity as a celebratory anthem. In fact, lead singer J.T. Taylor's mother predicted it. Taylor told Billboard: "My mother told me when she heard it, 'You're gonna play this song for the rest of your life - so get ready!"
This song was played to help welcome home the 52 freed American hostages from Iran in 1981. Three years later in 1984 it was played to hail presidential candidate Walter Mondale's nomination at the Democratic convention.
Wondering how this got in the "Songs with names of cities in the title" category? There is a city in Florida called Celebration. It's associated with Disney and is a bucolic tourist destination.
This has been featured on the TV shows WKRP in Cincinnati ("An Explosive Affair: Part 2"), The Nanny ("Val's Apartment"), Buffy the Vampire Slayer ("The Prom"), The West Wing ("In the Shadow of Two Gunmen: Part II"), Gilmore Girls ("Bon Voyage"), The Simpsons ("Grampa vs. Sexual Inadequacy", "You Kent Always Say What You Want"), Everybody Hates Chris ("Everybody Hates Tattaglia"), South Park ("About Last Night"), and Parks and Recreation ("The Bubble").
This was also used in the 2010 movie Eat Pray Love, starring Julia Roberts.
In 1992 a cover by Kylie Minogue reached #20 in the UK.
Like "Ladies Night," this features backing vocals from the female group Something Sweet.
In the Friends episode "The One With Joey's New Brain" (2001), Ross attempts to play this on the bagpipes.
In 2021, "Celebration" made the Library of Congress National Recording Registry, chosen for works of "cultural, historical or aesthetic importance in the nation's recorded sound heritage."