100 Best Rock Songs with Sitar

Updated on November 15, 2019
Ansel Pereira profile image

I have been an online writer for over two years. I am passionate about books, philosophy, music, and the music industry.

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Although the sitar has been widely used in different forms of Indian classical music since the 16th century, the musical instrument gained popularity with western audiences in the 1960s. It was through the works of Ravi Shankar that this musical instrument gained mainstream attention. Sitar maestro, Ravi Shankar, mesmerized audiences in Europe and the U.S., playing a fiery brand of Indian classical music. His live performances at concerts in the late ‘50s and ‘60s had a profound influence on musicians from different genres. A number of rock musicians and pop musicians of the ‘60s found Ravi Shankar’s sitar playing awe-inspiring. Many bands added the sound of the sitar to their music to create a new dimension to psychedelic music.

The list below showcases a diverse number of rock songs that feature the sitar. If you feel mesmerized by the sounds of the sitar, you will definitely have something to say. Feel free to express your views and opinions in the comments section.

How Sitar Became Popular in Rock Music

In the ‘60s, many rock bands and pop bands started featuring the hypnotic sounds of the sitar in their compositions. A number of rock songs with sitar intros became exceedingly popular with youth, especially within the hippie culture. Mystical sitar riffs became a prominent part of the folk rock, acid rock, and psychedelic rock genres. While the sitar is a complicated instrument to play, a number of musicians in the U.S. and Europe dedicated themselves to studying the basics of sitar playing in order to feature the sounds of the musical instrument in their pop and rock compositions. Suddenly, sitar songs gained a cult following. Catchy sitar riffs became the quintessential sound showcased by a new wave of pop bands and rock bands.

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The Electric Sitar Sound in Rock Music

The sound of the sitar became hugely popular in the folk rock, pop, and rock genres. In 1968, Danelectro, a brand that specialized in musical instruments and accessories, developed the first electric sitar. Also known as the "Coral Electric Sitar," this musical instrument was an electric guitar that mimicked a unique sitar-like sound. The electric sitar featured a special type of bridge called a "buzz bridge," which along with the sympathetic strings located in the left corner of the instrument, were responsible for generating its uniquely distinctive sound. Since playing the electric sitar was much easier than playing the traditional Indian sitar, the instrument became a preferred choice with musicians in the rock and pop genres. Certain jazz fusion bands incorporated the use of electric sitar to create a wall of sound that perfectly matched with more complex time signatures.

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Emergence of Sitar Rock

The electric sitar had a distinctively earthy sound that resembled the traditional acoustic sitar. While a number of rock musicians preferred the sound of the traditional sitar, certain musicians took the sound of the electric sitar to a whole new level. The sitar explosion in rock music diversified certain rock genres. The term "sitar rock" came into prominence as rock bands in the ‘60s embraced the diverse sounds of the instrument. A number of bands and artists in the folk rock and acid rock genres started experimenting with these sounds in their compositions.

While the sitar rock craze faded in the '70s, new forms of music started incorporating the instrument into their arrangements. A number of modern day bands and artists associated with experimental music have used tonal phrasing and playing techniques employed on the sitar on keyboards and guitars. Certain modern fusion bands have used the sitar in orchestral compositions to create an array of complex tonal ideas. While the sitar has a distinctive sound that is rooted in Indian classical music, it will continue to be an integral part of music in the western world.

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Top 10 Best Rock Songs With Sitar

  1. “Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)”—The Beatles
  2. “Paper Sun”—Traffic
  3. “Heart Full of Soul”—The Yardbirds
  4. “Paint It Black”—The Rolling Stones
  5. “Turn-Down Day”—The Cyrkle
  6. “Within You Without You”—The Beatles
  7. “San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair)”—Scott McKenzie
  8. “When We Was Fab”—George Harrison
  9. “I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe)”—Genesis
  10. “Close to the Edge”—Yes

Best Rock Songs With Sitar #11-20

11. “Street Fighting Man”—The Rolling Stones

12. “Judy in Disguise (With Glasses)”—John Fred & His Playboy Band

13. “Love You To”—The Beatles

14. “Tsunami”—Manic Street Preachers

15. “In the Past”—The Chocolate Watchband

16. “Snowblind Friend”—Steppenwolf

17. “Just Dropped in (To See What Condition My Condition Was In)”—First Edition

18. “Marshmallow Skies”—Ricky Nelson

19. “Fancy”—The Kinks

20. “Across the Universe”—The Beatles

Best Rock Songs With Sitar #21-40

21. “Sound Sleep”—The Turtles

22. “People Like Us”—The Mamas and the Papas

23. “The Way”—July

24. “Real Life Permanent Dream”—Tomorrow

25. “Cry Like a Baby”—The Box Tops

26. “You’ll Think of Me”—Elvis Presley

27. “Don’t Come Around Here No More”—Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers

28. “My Little One”—Brian Jones and Jimi Hendrix

29. “The Song Has No Ending (Parts 1 to 9)”—The Incredible String Band

30. “I Wanna Be a Star”—The Mamas and the Papas

31. “4 Degrees”—Tool

32. “Sit With the Guru”—Strawberry Alarm Clock

33. “Wild Mountain Honey”—Steve Miller Band

34. “In Held ‘Twas In I”—Procol Harum

35. “Winds of Change”—Eric Burdon and the Animals

36. “Snowqueen of Texas”—The Mamas and the Papas

37. “Games People Play”—Joe South

38. “Love Buzz”—Shocking Blue

39. “Visions of Paradise”—The Moody Blues

40. “The Rain, the Park & Other Things”—The Cowsills

Best Rock Songs With Sitar #41-60

41. “Green Tambourine”—The Lemon Pipers

42. “Can’t Lose You”—Type O Negative

43. “Hole in My Shoe”—Traffic

44. “The Fading Age”—Glass Hammer

45. “For the Love of God”—Steve Vai

46. “Monterey”—Eric Burdon and the Animals

47. “The Mad Hatter’s Song”—The Incredible String Band

48. “Armagideon”—The Clash

49. “Evergreen”—The Stone Poneys

50. “The Inner Light”—The Beatles

51. “Multi-Love”—Unknown Mortal Orchestra

52. “Philby”—Rory Gallagher

53. “Tomorrow Never Knows”—The Beatles

54. “Ain’t Talkin’ About Love”—Van Halen

55. “Snowbird”—Elvis Presley

56. “Pretty Tied Up”—Guns N’ Roses

57. “Om”—The Moody Blues

58. “Lady Genevieve”—The Mamas and the Papas

59. “Do It Again”—Steely Dan

60. “Water Boy”—Shocking Blue

Best Rock Songs With Sitar #61-80

61. “Flying Start”—Mike Oldfield

62. “Babji (Twilight Raga)”—Blue Cheer

63. “Holiday Inn”—Elton John

64. “Fat Man”—Jethro Tull

65. “Orange and Red Beams”—Eric Burdon and the Animals

66. “Bracelets of Fingers”—Pretty Things

67. “Something Else Again”—Richie Havens

68. “Arianna”—Glass Hammer

69. “Glory Bound”—The Grass Roots

70. “Grasshopper”—The Mamas and the Papas

71. “The Wagon”—Dinosaur Jr.

72. “Be Here Now”—George Harrison

73. “Tried and True”—Ween

74. “Siberian Breaks”—MGMT

75. “Metal Heart”—Accept

76. “Everytime You Go Away”—Paul Young

77. “Cannondale”—The Strawbs

78. “Black-Butter Present”—Strawberry Alarm Clock

79. “Steal Away”—Robbie Dupree

80. “Night of Fear”—The Move

Best Rock Songs With Sitar #81-100

81. “An Angry Young Man”—Strawberry Alarm Clock

82. “Hurdy Gurdy Man”—Donovan

83. “Greed”—Amorphis

84. “Hyperbole”—Glass Hammer

85. “Once I Had a Sweetheart”—Pentangle

86. “Play My Song”—Redd Kross

87. “Halo of Ashes”—Screaming Trees

88. “The Devil’s Been Busy”—Traveling Wilburys

89. “Acka Raga”—Shocking Blue

90. “Wherever I May Roam”—Metallica

91. “Carpet Man”—The 5th Dimension

92. “Siberian Khatru”—Yes

93. “This Just Doesn’t Seem to Be My Day”—The Monkees

94. “Chrome Sitar”—T Rex

95. “Skating Away on the Thin Ice of the New Day”—Jethro Tull

96. “Pagan Moonbeam”—My Brother The Wind

97. “Sunny South Kensington”—Donovan

98. “Open Up Said the World at the Door”—The Move

99. “House Carpenter”—Pentangle

100. “Junkyard Angel”—Glass Hammer

Other Notable Songs That Feature Sitar

  • “All Is One”—Eric Burdon and the Animals
  • “The Iron Stone”—The Incredible String Band
  • “Fat Angel”—Donovan
  • “Love Will Lead You Back”—Taylor Dayne
  • “Rob Mastrianni”—Beatbox Guitar
  • “We Love You Lil”—Eric Burdon and the Animals
  • “Terrifying Love”—Marshall Crenshaw
  • “Hooked on a Feeling”—B.J. Thomas
  • “Cruel Sister”—Pentangle
  • “Hot Sand”—Shocking Blue
  • “What the Hell Have I”—Alice in Chains
  • “Signed, Sealed, Delivered I’m Yours”—Stevie Wonder
  • “Another Life”—D’Angelo and the Vanguard
  • “Breezes of Patchouli”—Donovan
  • “To Be Over”—Yes
  • “No Self Pity”—Eric Burdon and the Animals
  • “Hi-Heel Sneakers”—Elvis Presley
  • “I’m a Woman”—Shocking Blue
  • “See My Friends”—The Kinks
  • “There Ain’t Nothing Wrong”—Noel Redding
  • “Only Red”—Glass Hammer
  • “The Snows”—Pentangle
  • “Song for Dan Treacy”—MGMT
  • “Departure”—The Moody Blues
  • “Total Mass Retain”—Yes
  • “Subject Sayonara”—Aya Matsuura

  • “I Have a Dream”—ABBA
  • “Three King Fishers”—Donovan
  • “Stranger in My Own Hometown”—Elvis Presley
  • “Band of Gold”—Freda Payle
  • “Muse”—Glass Hammer
  • “Who You Are”—Pearl Jam
  • “Nexus”—Dan Fogelberg
  • “America”—Yes
  • “Guinevere”—Donovan
  • “Last Words”—The Rationales
  • “It Ain’t Over Till It’s Over”—Lenny Kravitz
  • “Who Do You Think You Are?”—Bo Donaldson and the Heywoods
  • “Didn’t I Blow (Your Mind This Time)”—The Delfonics
  • “It’s a Shame”—The Spinners
  • “Primary”—Van Halen
  • “Tales From Topographic Oceans”—Yes
  • “I Was Made to Love Her”—Stevie Wonder
  • “Rain and Snow”—Pentangle
  • “Twilight of Longview”—Glass Hammer
  • “Ferris Wheel”—Donovan
  • “Lebanese Blonde”—Thievery Corporation
  • “Run, Shaker Life”—Richie Havens
  • “I’m Not Working”—Manic Street Preachers
  • “Charade”—D’Angelo and the Vanguard
  • “And You and I”—Yes
  • “Celeste”—Donovan

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    © 2019 Ansel Pereira

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