Boney M's 10 greatest songs, ranked

15 November 2023, 16:39

Boney M were one of the biggest-selling groups of the 1970s. (Photo by Echoes/Redferns)
Boney M were one of the biggest-selling groups of the 1970s. (Photo by Echoes/Redferns). Picture: Getty

By Thomas Edward

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They were a disco and funk powerhouse.

Though Boney M's mainstream popularity was relatively short-lived, their countless hits have endured through the ages.

Unfairly underrated, the group are consistently considered a guilty pleasure more so these days. But their multi-national make-up and calypso-inspired pop beats mean they're no doubt more influential than perhaps given credit for.

The German vocal group's golden age lineup of Liz Mitchell, Marcia Barrett, Maizie Williams, and Bobby Farrell only existed for seven years, still, Boney M were one of the biggest-selling acts of the 1970s.

Between 1976 and 1981, the group scored a total of nine UK top ten hits - two of which were number one - selling over 100 million records worldwide in the process.

A unique blend of biblical themes, tropical rhythms, and disco hedonism solidified Boney M as one of the era's standout groups.

After their breakthrough and subsequent phenomenal success, the group was mired by lineup changes, legal issues, and waning popularity, never quite recapturing their former glories.

But their discography lives on at every disco party or Christmas playlist even still, so here are Boney M's greatest ten songs, ranked:

  1. 'We Kill The World (Don’t Kill The World)'

    Boney M. - We Kill The World (Boney M. - Ein Sound geht um die Welt 12.12.1981)

    'We Kill The World (Don’t Kill The World)' saw Boney M channel latter days ABBA for their final ever Top 40 UK charting single.

    Whilst it didn't quite hit the mark like their previous disco-indebted songs, it still hit number one in South Africa and Spain.

    Trying to shake things up, it was the first Boney M single to feature lead vocals from Marcia Barrett, and feature any genuine vocals at all from male dancer Bobby Farrell, whose parts were frequently recorded for him.

  2. 'Love For Sale'

    Love For Sale

    'Love For Sale' is Boney M in their pomp, complete with infectiously funky bass and epic string arrangements.

    The title track from their 1977 album of the same name wasn't released as a single, but encapsulates the reason why they were such a sensation.

    That's despite the slightly dodgy album cover, which would no doubt slide today without any commotion.

  3. 'Brown Girl In The Ring'

    Boney M. - Brown Girl in the Ring (Sopot Festival 1979)

    A traditional children's song from the West Indies - where Liz Mitchell and Marcia Barnett originated from - 'Brown Girl In The Ring' was also a huge hit for Boney M.

    Initially released as the B-side to 'Rivers Of Babylon', it received so much airplay on its own that propelled it to number two in the UK charts.

    Boney M's founder and principal songwriter Frank Farian was accused of stealing the arrangement, with the eventual lawsuit rumbling on for almost twenty years.

  4. 'Belfast'

    Boney M. - Belfast (ZDF Silvester-Tanzparty 31.12.1977)

    Arguably the most danceable song ever written about the politically-charged city of Belfast, given it was then stricken with "The Troubles".

    Not that the songwriters were overly aware of what was happening - they wanted to call the song 'Londonderry' instead but the syllables didn't quite fit.

    It reached number eight in the UK, with singer Marcia Barnett later revealing: "It is strictly non-political and is certainly not provocative in any way. And if you listen to it, you'll know it's not a protest song."

    "Over in Germany, we've even had soldiers come up to us and, because of their experiences in Belfast, thanked us for giving them the song."

  5. 'Mary's Boy Child'

    Boney M. - Mary's Boy Child (Officical Video)

    A perennial Christmas favourite - released as a double A-side with 'Oh My Lord' - and one of Boney M's biggest-selling singles.

    'Mary's Boy Child' reached the top of the UK charts after its 1978 release, staying there for a total of four weeks which ensured it became Christmas number one single that year.

    The song was originally a hit for actor and singer extraordinaire Harry Belafonte in 1957, which saw him become the first ever black male artist to have a UK number one hit.

    Boney M's rendition followed in Belafonte's footsteps, becoming one of the biggest-selling singles of all time.

  6. 'Sunny'

    Boney M. - Sunny (Official Video) [HD 1080p]

    Bobby Hebb's 1963 song 'Sunny' is one of the most covered songs of all time, and Boney M sent the jazz standard twirling with their disco spin in 1976.

    Featuring on their debut album, Take the Heat off Me, the single established Boney M as a main player in the Euro-disco scene.

    A top ten hit across Europe, the group's version of 'Sunny' has been sampled or remixed on various occasions over the years, keeping the group fresh in the minds of fans around the globe.

  7. 'Ma Baker'

    Boney M. - Ma Baker (Live Video)

    One of the funkiest songs ever written about a legendary crime lord, 'Ma Baker' was based on Kate Barker, who bore four sons who became infamous criminals in the early 20th century a la Bonnie & Clyde.

    Portrayed as the matriarch of the crime family, she was more of an accessory to her son's crimes, though her legend precedes her after her 1935 death, in which the FBI killed her in what is still the longest-running shoot-out in the organisation's history.

    Pure funk guitar rhythm and shoulder-shimmying bassline, 'Ma Baker' was a massive hit across Europe in 1977, peaking at number two in the UK.

    It was kept off the top spot by Donna Summer's timeless, era-defining hit 'I Feel Love', which isn't a bad song to lose out to.

  8. 'Rasputin'

    Boney M. - Rasputin (Sopot Festival 1979)

    A fabled Russian monk-turned-playboy wouldn't usually provide the inspiration for a disco track, but Boney M made it happen with 'Rasputin'.

    The track peaked at number two on the UK charts, though, as one of the rare Western bands to make it big in Soviet Union, they were encouraged not to play it live when they toured the USSR.

    Bobby Farrell died on 30th December 2010 in St. Petersburg, the same date and city that the real Rasputin coincidentally died on in 1916.

    Strangely enough, 'Rasputin' had somewhat of a resurgence in 2021 due to the #Rasputindancechallenge on TikTok.

  9. 'Rivers Of Babylon'

    Boney M. - Rivers of Babylon (Sopot Festival 1979)

    Bringing their Jamaican roots to the very top of the British charts, Boney M transformed 'Rivers Of Babylon' into 1978's biggest-selling UK single.

    A cover of The Melodians' 1970 hit, the song became an anthem for the Rastafarian movement, and the Euro-disco group (whose members Liz Mitchell and Marcia Barrett were from Jamaica) made it a mainstream sensation.

    Repurposing the lyrics from Psalm 137 of The Bible, 'Rivers Of Babylon' became a number one across Europe, Australasia, and in South Africa.

    In the UK, it stayed at the top of the charts for five weeks, and remains one of the UK charts' top ten best-selling singles of all time, believe it or not.

  10. 'Daddy Cool'

    Boney M - Daddy Cool (Original video) 1976

    Boney M's breakthrough single, 'Daddy Cool', is undoubtedly their most memorable.

    It's the song that heralded their arrival as a major player in European disco, and the phrase has since even become a part of common vernacular, though, US doo-wop group The Rays did it first with their song of the same name in 1957.

    'Daddy Cool' means "cool cat" - or something along those lines - and its frequent usage in popular culture has cemented Boney M's version.

    All of the group's original members originated from around the world - Liz Mitchell and Marcia Barrett from Jamaica, Maizie Williams from Montserrat, and Bobby Farrell from Aruba - but when they all lived in Germany at the time, Frank Farian struck gold by bringing their individual talents together.

    When 'Daddy Cool' was rising up pop charts around the continent, Mitchell explained: "There are so few black people in Germany that we tend to not get too much competition."

    "And we've been here long enough to speak German so we get the best of both worlds."

    And it was certainly 'Daddy Cool' that brought Boney M to the world.