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The 100 Greatest Songs of All Time

Eric is a University of Miami alum. He's a movie aficionado, music enthusiast, wannabe guitarist, and part-time philosopher.

The top 100 songs of all-time.

The top 100 songs of all-time.

Welcome to My List of the Top 100 Songs Ever Recorded

After three years away, I have finally updated the list, and my totally biased opinion is that it’s better than ever! I’ve not only updated the rankings, but I have also included a commentary for each song.

And that’s not all. For every song, I have also provided five recommendations for similar songs you may enjoy. (Yep: 500 additional songs). This allowed me give due to artists and genres that are worth mention while still keeping my list at an even 100 songs.

Searching for the world's best songs

Searching for the world's best songs

#100 - "Bitter Sweet Symphony" by The Verve

Appears on: 'Urban Hymns' (1997)

Genre: Britpop

Label: Hut

Written by: Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Richard Ashcroft

Produced by: Martin "Youth" Glover, The Verve

The alternative revolution was an important one, and I wanted Britpop—England's reaction to American grunge—to be represented on the list. Hard to go wrong with "Bitter Sweet Symphony," right?

Recommended listening:

The Stone Roses - "She Bangs the Drums" (1989)

Suede [UK] / The London Suede [US] - "Animal Nitrate" (1993)

Blur - "Girls & Boys" (1994)

Oasis - "Live Forever" (1994)

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The Verve - "Sonnet" (1997)

#99: "For What It's Worth" by Buffalo Springfield


Genre: Folk Rock

Label: Atco

Written by: Stephen Stills

Before Neil Young was on his own (and, briefly, in CSNY), he played in Buffalo Springfield with Stephen Stills. This protest song is their most lasting cut.

Recommended listening:

Crosby, Stills & Nash - "Suite: Judy Blue Eyes" (1969)

Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young - "Ohio" (1970)

Neil Young - "Heart of Gold" (1972)

Neil Young - "Cortez the Killer" (1975)

Neil Young & Crazy Horse - "My My, Hey Hey (Out of the Blue)" (1979)

#98 "Fire and Rain" by James Taylor

Appears on: 'Sweet Baby James' (1970)

Genre: Folk Rock

Label: Warner Bros.

Written by: James Taylor

Produced by: Peter Asher

This song is so good. It pretty much defines James Taylor, though that isn't necessarily a good thing. Meanwhile, none other than Carole King plays the piano on the recording; she worked as a songwriter/session musician before hitting it big with her 'Tapestry' album in '71.

Recommended listening:

Joni Mitchell - "Both Sides, Now" (1969)

Carole King - "I Feel the Earth Move" (1971)

Carole King - "It's Too Late" (1971)

Joni Mitchell - "All I Want" (1971)

Tracy Chapman - "Fast Car" (1988)

#97: "Rolling in the Deep" by Adele

Appears on: '21' (2011)

Genre: Pop

Label: XL [UK] / Columbia [US]

Written by: Adele, Paul Epworth

Produced by: Paul Epworth

Adele is already considered something of a generational figure to us Millennials, and I am confident that years from now both "Rolling in the Deep" and her diamond-selling album '21' will be considered once-in-a-generation phenomena, like Nirvana's 'Nevermind' and "Smells Like Teen Spirit" were for Generation X.

Recommended listening:

Adele - "Chasing Pavements" (2008)

Adele - "Hometown Glory" (2008)

Adele - "Lovesong" (2011)

Adele - "Rumour Has It" (2011)

Adele - "Someone Like You" (2011)

#96 "(We're Gonna) Rock Around the Clock" by Bill Haley and His Comets


Genre: Rock & Roll

Label: Decca

Written by: Max C. Freedman, James E. Myers

Produced by: Milt Gabler

There were three candidates for the birth-of-rock-and-roll slot: "Rock Around the Clock" and two Elvis Presley cuts from his Sun Records tenure, “That’s All Right” and “Mystery Train.” In the end I picked this one, since Elvis has other appearances later on the list and, relatively speaking, “That’s All Right” and “Mystery Train” aren’t as good as his later material, even if they—especially “That’s All Right” -- were crucial.

Recommended listening:

Hank Williams - "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry" (1949)

Muddy Waters - "Rollin' Stone" (1950)

Elvis Presley - "That's All Right" (1954)

Elvis Presley - "Mystery Train" (1955)

Johnny Cash - "I Walk the Line" (1956)

#95: "Midnight in a Perfect World" by DJ Shadow

Appears on: 'Endtroducing...' (1996)

Genre: Trip-Hop

Label: Mo' Wax

Written by: Josh Davis, Baraka, Pekka Pohjola

Produced by: DJ Shadow

'Endtroducing...,' the album on which "Midnight" appears, is considered a breakthrough in popular music, as it was created entirely from samples stitched together in a finely textured and complex 63-minute narrative. Most of its tracks are too unwieldy for such a list as this one, but "Midnight in a Perfect World" is a -- indeed, perhaps the -- glorious exception.

Recommended listening:

DJ Shadow - "Building Steam with a Grain of Salt" (1996)

DJ Shadow - "Changeling" (1996)

DJ Shadow - "Napalm Brain / Scatter Brain" (1996)

DJ Shadow - "Stem / Long Stem" (1996)

DJ Shadow - "What Does Your Soul Look Like (Part 1 - Blue Sky Revisit)" (1996)

#94 "Sultans of Swing" by Dire Straits

Appears on: 'Dire Straits' (1978)

Genre: Roots Rock

Label: Vertigo

Written by: Mark Knopfler

Produced by: Muff Winwood

There were three songs on this list that I simply couldn’t part with because they’re just too good, and this is one of them. A lot of the entries on my list can probably be filed under “classic rock,” but only this one marries the slick fingerpicking of guitarist Mark Knopfler with the impeccable production of the Dire Straits.

Recommended listening:

Steely Dan - "Reelin' in the Years" (1972)

Steely Dan - "Show Biz Kids" (1973)

Steely Dan - "Rikki Don't Lose That Number" (1974)

Dire Straits - "Southbound Again" (1978)

Dire Straits - "Money for Nothing" (1985)

#93 "California Dreamin'" by The Mamas and the Papas

Appears on: 'If You Can Believe Your Eyes and Ears' (1966)

Genre: Pop

Label: Dunhill

Written by: John Phillips, Michelle Phillips

Produced by: Lou Adler

Any kid who grew up on the East Coast can relate to this one. Something that I didn’t notice until a friend pointed it out (though it’s kind of hidden in plain sight): when the Mamas repeat each line during the verses, they’re actually singing an entirely different melody; they don’t harmonize with the Papas except sporadically during the chorus. It’s what gives the song its driving momentum.

Recommended listening:

The Byrds - "I'll Feel a Whole Lot Better" (1965)

The Byrds - "Mr. Tambourine Man" (1965)

The Byrds - "Turn! Turn! Turn!" (1965)

The Mamas and the Papas - "Monday, Monday" (1966)

The Byrds - "Hickory Wind" (1968)

#92 "Lose Yourself" by Eminem

Appears on: '8 Mile' [Soundtrack] (2002)

Genre: Hip-Hop

Label: Shady

Written by: Marshall Mathers, Luis Resto, Jeff Bass

Produced by: Eminem, Jeff Bass

I remember this one quite well. It caught fire instantly, topping the charts across the globe within weeks, and it’s still a blast to listen to even now. Excessive overplay has rendered “Lose Yourself” somewhat trite, to put it mildly, but I remain bullish on its greatness -- listening to it for the first time in a while always gets the adrenaline pumping all over again.

Recommended listening:

Dr. Dre feat. Snoop Doggy Dogg - "Nuthin' But a 'G' Thang" (1992)

Snoop Doggy Dogg - "Gin and Juice" (1993)

2Pac feat. Dr. Dre - "California Love" (1995)

Eminem - "Stan" (2000)

OutKast - "Hey Ya!" (2003)

#91 "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" by U2

Appears on: 'The Joshua Tree' (1987)

Genre: Rock

Label: Island

Written by: U2

Produced by: Brian Eno, Daniel Lanois

There isn’t a single weak track—or even a song that falls short of pretty great—on 'The Joshua Tree,' so just picking one cut from it was tough. A good case can be made for any of the first three tracks, but personally, I have always been partial to this one.

Recommended listening:

U2 - "I Will Follow" (1980)

U2 - "Sunday Bloody Sunday" (1983)

U2 - "Pride (In the Name of Love)" (1984)

U2 - "Where the Streets Have No Name" (1987)

U2 - "With Or Without You" (1987)

#90 "Baba O'Riley" by The Who

Appears on: 'Who's Next' (1971)

Genre: Rock

Label: Decca [US] / Polydor [UK]

Written by: Pete Townshend

Produced by: The Who, Glyn Johns

This is another album slot. I used to have both “Baba O’Riley” and “Won’t Get Fooled Again” from 'Who’s Next' on here, but I only had room for one, and “Won’t Get Fooled Again” got the boot.

Recommended listening:

The Who - "Behind Blue Eyes" (1971)

The Who - "Won't Get Fooled Again" (1971)

The Who - "Love, Reign O'er Me" (1973)

The Who - "Who Are You?" (1978)

The Who - "Eminence Front" (1981)

#89: "Everything in its Right Place" by Radiohead

Appears on: 'Kid A' (2000)

Genre: Electronic

Label: Capitol [US] / Parlophone [UK]

Written by: Radiohead

Produced by: Nigel Godrich, Radiohead

Radiohead is obviously very popular and highly acclaimed, so I felt like they should be represented. After surveying their catalog, I settled on “Everything in Its Right Place” from 'Kid A.' It was never released as a single—no singles were released from 'Kid A,' actually—but, in addition to being killer good, the song showcases the band at its most ambitiously experimental, as they fully absorb electronica into their alt-rock repertoire.

Recommended listening:

Radiohead - "Creep" (1993)

Radiohead - "Fake Plastic Trees" (1995)

Radiohead - "Paranoid Android" (1997)

Radiohead - "Pyramid Song" (2001)

Radiohead - "There There" (2003)

#88: "Free Fallin'" by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers

Appears on: 'Full Moon Fever' (1989)

Genre: Heartland Rock

Label: MCA

Written by: Tom Petty, Jeff Lynne

Produced by: Jeff Lynne, Tom Petty, Mike Campbell

You’ve all heard the song countless times, I’m sure. It’s the best pure acoustic rock song of the past 25 years, plain and simple.

Recommended listening:

Bob Seger - "Night Moves" (1976)

Steve Miller Band - "Rock'n Me" (1976)

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers - "American Girl" (1976)

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers - "Refugee" (1979)

Tom Petty - "Runnin' Down a Dream" (1989)

#87: "You Can't Always Get What You Want" by the Rolling Stones

Appears on: 'Let It Bleed' (1969)

Genre: Rock

Label: Decca [UK] / London [US]

Written by: Mick Jagger, Keith Richards

Produced by: Jimmy Miller

John Lennon accused this song of being the Stones’ answer to “Hey Jude,” but whether or not that’s true, it’s still a pretty damn awesome song. This song is one of the definitive album closers, for sure, and one of the few times the Stones stretch a song past seven minutes.

Recommended listening:

The Rolling Stones - "Brown Sugar" (1971)

The Rolling Stones - "Tumbling Dice" (1972)

The Rolling Stones - "Miss You" (1978)

The Rolling Stones - "Beast of Burden" (1978)

The Rolling Stones - "Start Me Up" (1981)

#86: "Paid in Full" by Eric B. & Rakim

Appears on: 'Paid in Full' (1987)

Genre: Hip-Hop

Label: 4th & B'way

Written by: Eric Barrier, Rakim Allah

Produced by: Eric B. & Rakim

Before Randy Moss enlightened the world to the phrase “straight cash, homie,” turntablist Eric B. and master of the mic Rakim cut this title track of their debut record. Featuring what would become hip-hop’s most distinctive loop as its beat and the vocal stylings of rap’s greatest MC, this is a song everyone can enjoy.

Recommended listening:

EPMD - "Strictly Business" (1988)

Eric B. & Rakim - "Microphone Fiend" (1988)

Slick Rick - "Children's Story" (1988)

De La Soul - "Me Myself And I" (1989)

A Tribe Called Quest - "Award Tour" (1993)

#85: "Go Your Own Way" by Fleetwood Mac

Appears on: 'Rumours' (1977)

Genre: Rock

Label: Warner Bros.

Written by: Lindsey Buckingham

Produced by: Fleetwood Mac, Richard Dashut, Ken Caillat

Anyone who has heard 'Rumours' knows that record is loaded with great songs, but when it comes to choosing one for greatest songs lists, “Go Your Own Way” always gets picked because it has that kind of feel to it. It’s certainly not my favorite song on the album—which is “Dreams,” incidentally—or even the best—which is probably “Gold Dust Woman”—yet those songs just don’t fit on this list.

Recommended listening:

Fleetwood Mac - "Rhiannon" (1975)

Fleetwood Mac - "Dreams" (1977)

Fleetwood Mac - "Gold Dust Woman" (1977)

Fleetwood Mac - "Sara" (1979)

Stevie Nicks - "Edge of Seventeen" (1981)

#84: "California Girls" by The Beach Boys

Appears on: 'Summer Days (And Summer Nights!!)' (1965)

Genre: Pop

Label: Capitol

Written by: Brian Wilson, Mike Love

Produced by: Brian Wilson

Listen carefully to “California Girls” and you’ll hear the roots of their seminal album 'Pet Sounds,' released the following year. Lyrically, it’s a little more in line with their pre-'Pet Sounds' work, which makes sense. But then again, “I wish they all could be California Girls” isn’t all that different from, “Wouldn’t it be nice if we were married,” now is it?

Recommended listening:

Dick Dale - "Misirlou" (1962)

The Beach Boys - "In My Room" (1963)

The Beach Boys - "Surfin' U.S.A." (1963)

The Beach Boys - "Don't Worry Baby" (1964)

The Beach Boys - "I Get Around" (1964)

#83: "Sweet Child o' Mine" by Guns N' Roses

#83: "Sweet Child o' Mine" by Guns N' Roses

Appears on: 'Appetite for Destruction' (1987)

Genre: Glam Metal

Label: Geffen

Written by: Guns N' Roses

Produced by: Mike Clink

There aren't really any standout metal tracks from the '80s aside from this one, and the production for 'Appetite for Destruction'—which actually doesn't sound very '80s, relatively —kind of sounds the most like a grunge precursor, so its popularity makes sense in retrospect. Pop/hair metal was in, but GNR weren't cheesy. They were just plain nasty and didn't fit into that crowd... and yet the album sold 28 million copies anyway.

Recommended listening:

Iron Maiden - "Hallowed Be Thy Name" (1982)

Metallica - "Fade to Black" (1984)

Guns N' Roses - "Welcome to the Jungle" (1987)

Guns N' Roses - "November Rain" (1991)

Metallica - "Nothing Else Matters" (1991)

#82: "Good Golly Miss Molly" by Little Richard

Appears on: 'Little Richard' (1958)

Genre: Rock & Roll

Label: Specialty

Written by: John Marascalco, Robert "Bumps" Blackwell

Produced by: Robert "Bumps" Blackwell

I’m swapping in “Good Golly Miss Molly” for “Tutti Frutti,” which used to make the list but is more a song with great moments—namely, the killer intro/outro—than a great song. (I like “GGMM” more. Simple as that.) Early rock & roll doesn’t get much better than this.

Recommended listening:

Little Richard - "Tutti Frutti" (1955)

Carl Perkins - "Blue Suede Shoes" (1956)

Little Richard - "Long Tall Sally" (1956)

Jerry Lee Lewis - "Great Balls of Fire" (1957)

Jerry Lee Lewis - "Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On" (1957)

#81: "Heroes" by David Bowie

Appears on: 'Heroes' (1977)

Genre: Rock

Label: RCA

Written by: David Bowie, Brian Eno

Produced by: David Bowie, Tony Visconti

I only had room for one Bowie song—he’s more expressive in the album format—so of course I picked “Heroes.” I have a lot of favorite Bowie songs though; he’s got an amazing body of work.

Recommended listening:

David Bowie - "Space Oddity" (1969)

David Bowie - "Changes" (1971)

David Bowie - "Ziggy Stardust" (1972)

David Bowie - "Rebel Rebel" (1974)

Queen & David Bowie - "Under Pressure" (1981)

#80: "Proud Mary" by Creedence Clearwater Revival

Appears on: 'Bayou Country' (1969)

Genre: Roots Rock

Label: Fantasy

Written by: John Fogerty

Produced by: John Fogerty

CCR has so many good ones, but "Proud Mary" is probably the most timeless of their many hits. "Fortunate Son" has more artistic merit, but "Proud Mary" has collected more cultural capital—for one thing, it gets sung/butchered during the audition episodes of 'American Idol' every year, for better or worse.

Recommended listening:

Creedence Clearwater Revival - "Bad Moon Rising" (1969)

Creedence Clearwater Revival - "Born on the Bayou" (1969)

Creedence Clearwater Revival - "Down on the Corner" (1969)

Creedence Clearwater Revival - "Green River" (1969)

Creedence Clearwater Revival - "Lodi" (1969)

#79: "Walk This Way" by Run-D.M.C. and Aerosmith

Appears on: 'Raising Hell' (1986)

Genre: Hip-Hop

Label: Profile

Written by: Steven Tyler, Joe Perry

Produced by: Rick Rubin, Russell Simmons

I’m killing two birds with one stone here: this fills an early/pivotal hip-hop slot and an Aerosmith hole. (Yeah, I had to part with “Dream On.”) It’s a damn fun song to boot.

Recommended listening:

Run-D.M.C. - "It's Like That" (1984)

LL Cool J - "I Can't Live Without My Radio" (1985)

Run-D.M.C. - "It's Tricky" (1986)

Beastie Boys - "(You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (To Party)" (1986)

Beastie Boys - "High Plains Drifter" (1989)

#78: "White Rabbit" by Jefferson Airplane

Appears on: 'Surrealistic Pillow' (1967)

Genre: Psychedelic Rock

Label: RCA Victor

Written by: Grace Slick

Produced by: Rick Jarrard

I had a tough time choosing between “White Rabbit” and “Somebody to Love,” which both appear on 1967’s 'Surrealistic Pillow.' I’m trying to cover more ground this time genre-wise, so I have avoided “duplicate picks” wherever possible. I like “White Rabbit” more, personally, and feel that, of the two, it is the more representative of the psychedelic era.

Recommended listening:

The Byrds - "Eight Miles High" (1966)

Jefferson Airplane - "Somebody to Love" (1967)

Love - "Alone Again Or" (1967)

Big Brother and the Holding Company - "Piece of My Heart" (1968)

Janis Joplin - "Me and Bobby McGee" (1971)

#77: "Suspicious Minds" by Elvis Presley


Genre: Blue-Eyed Soul

Label: RCA

Written by Mark James

Produced by: Chips Moman, Felton Jarvis

Elvis disappeared from the music scene in 1958 after he was drafted by the military—with no war going on—and stationed in Germany for two years. Upon his return to the States, he made a great living as a Hollywood hack for several years before reinventing himself as a blue-eyed (read: white) soul act. “Suspicious Minds,” featuring much more elaborate production techniques than Presley’s ‘50s work, shot to #1 upon its release in 1969.

Recommended listening:

Elvis Presley - "Bossa Nova Baby" (1963)

Dusty Springfield - "You Don't Have to Say You Love Me" (1968)

Dusty Springfield - "Son of a Preacher Man" (1969)

Elvis Presley - "In the Ghetto" (1969)

Elvis Presley - "Burning Love" (1972)

#76: "I'm Waiting for the Man" by The Velvet Underground

Appears on: 'The Velvet Underground & Nico' (1967)

Genre: Garage Rock

Label: Verve

Written by: Lou Reed

Produced by: Andy Warhol

It’s been a severe oversight on my part not to have included a song by the Velvet Underground on the list until now. “I’m Waiting for the Man” has the same punk-ish, garage rock-ish rhythm and crazy mystique that the entire 'Velvet Underground & Nico' album has; in this case, Lou Reed, with 26 dollars in his hand, is literally waiting for a drug dealer to show up. What a strange place 1960s New York City must have been.

Recommended listening:

The Velvet Underground - "Heroin" (1967)

The Velvet Underground - "Venus in Furs" (1967)

The Velvet Underground - "Oh! Sweet Nuthin'" (1970)

The Velvet Underground - "Rock and Roll" (1970)

The Velvet Underground - "Sweet Jane" (1970)

#75: "Get Up, Stand UP" by Bob Marley and The Wailers

Appears on: 'Burnin'' (1973)

Genre: Reggae

Label: Tuff Gong/Island

Written by: Bob Marley, Peter Tosh

Produced by: Chris Blackwell, the Wailers

I used to have two different Bob Marley songs on the list: “No Woman, No Cry” and “Redemption Song.” The inclusion of “No Woman, No Cry” kind of bothered me since I have never particularly liked the studio version—the live cut from 'Live!' and the 'Legend' compilation is superior—and I wanted my Bob Marley pick to come from the early part of his career, so that meant curtains for “Redemption Song.” “Get Up, Stand Up” seemed like the most logical choice.

Recommended listening:

The Wailers - "Concrete Jungle" (1973)

The Wailers - "I Shot the Sheriff" (1973)

Bob Marley and the Wailers - "No Woman, No Cry" (1974)

Bob Marley and the Wailers - "Exodus" (1977)

Bob Marley and the Wailers - "Redemption Song" (1980)

#74: "Dancing in the Street" by Martha and the Vandellas

Appears on: 'Dance Party' (1965)

Genre: Soul

Label: Gordy

Written by: Marvin Gaye, William "Mickey" Stevenson, Ivy Jo Hunter

Produced by: William "Mickey" Stevenson

Vintage Motown. Seven years before Marvin Gaye did “What’s Going On,” he co-wrote—and played drums on—this party song that would later be cited as a key track in the American civil rights movement after protesters frequently played “Dancing in the Street” during demonstrations.

Recommended Listening:

Martha and the Vandellas - "(Love Is Like A) Heat Wave" (1963)

Mary Wells - "My Guy" (1964)

The Supremes - "Baby Love" (1964)

Martha and the Vandellas - "Nowhere to Run" (1965)

The Supremes - "Stop! In the Name of Love" (1965)

#73: "Losing My Religion" by R.E.M.

Appears on: 'Out of Time' (1991)

Genre: Alternative Rock

Label: Warner Bros.

Written by: R.E.M.

Produced by: Scott Litt, R.E.M.

R.E.M. was, by far, the greatest and most important alternative rock band; no other alternative artist’s catalog even begins to compare to R.E.M.’s work from ’83-’92. They were the alternative underground in the ‘80s, and jumped from indie label I.R.S. to major label Warner Bros. after the success of 1987’s 'Document.'

“Losing My Religion” was released in early 1991 and was a pop smash, hitting #4 on the Hot 100. The smashing success of “Smells Like Teen Spirit” would follow later that year, but there’s no underestimating the importance of what R.E.M. did to prime the pump beforehand.

Recommended listening:

R.E.M. - "Radio Free Europe" (1983)

R.E.M. - "Time After Time (Annelise)" (1984)

R.E.M. - "The One I Love" (1987)

R.E.M. - "Orange Crush" (1988)

R.E.M. - "Man on the Moon" (1992)

#72: "Paranoid" by Black Sabbath

Appears on: 'Paranoid' (1970)

Genre: Heavy Metal

Label: Vertigo

Written by: Black Sabbath

Produced by: Rodger Bain

I didn’t really have room for much metal on the list, so why not pick one from the beginning? Although the title track from Sabbath’s second record isn’t exactly the first heavy metal song, its influence is ridiculously self-evident: “Paranoid,” a hybrid of distorted metal and down-stroked punk, contains everything the grunge movement, a hybrid of distorted metal and down-stroked punk, ever needed.

Recommended listening:

Jeff Beck - "I Ain't Superstitious" (1968)

MC5 - "Kick Out the Jams" (1969)

Black Sabbath - "Iron Man" (1970)

Black Sabbath - "N.I.B." (1970)

Black Sabbath - "War Pigs" (1970)

#71: "Bo Diddley" by Bo Diddley


Genre: Rock & Roll

Label: Checker

Written by: Ellas McDaniel

Produced by: Leonard Chess, Phil Chess, Bo Diddley

Give “Bo Diddley” a spin and you’ll immediately recognize the rhythm; known simply as the Bo Diddley Beat, it has been copped repeatedly over the course of the last six decades by other artists, from the Who (1968's "Magic Bus") to U2 (1988’s “Desire”) to George Michael (1987’s “Faith”). Unfortunately for Bo Diddley's bank account, rhythms can’t be copyrighted.

Recommended listening:

Muddy Waters - "Hoochie Coochie Man" (1954)

Bo Diddley - "I'm a Man" (1955)

Muddy Waters - "Mannish Boy" (1955)

Bo Diddley - "Who Do You Love?" (1956)

Muddy Waters - "Got My Mojo Working" (1957)

#70: "Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)" by The Beatles

Appears on: 'Rubber Soul' (1965)

Genre: Raga Rock

Label: Capitol [US] / Parlophone [UK]

Written by: John Lennon, Paul McCartney

Produced by: George Martin

'Rubber Soul' ushered in the psychedelic era, and the most overtly otherworldly track is the sitar-laden “Norwegian Wood.” Even though they had just done “Yesterday”—arguably the Beatles’ finest song—for the 'Help!' album/soundtrack, 'Rubber Soul' was a giant creative leap forward for the Fab Four, and “Norwegian Wood” narrowly edges out “In My Life” and “Girl” as the standout track.

Recommended listening:

The Beatles - "Girl" (1965)

The Beatles - "I'm Looking Through You" (1965)

The Beatles - "If I Needed Someone" (1965)

The Beatles - "In My Life" (1965)

The Beatles - "What Goes On" (1965)

#69: "Walk on By" by Dionne Warwick

Appears on: 'Make Way for Dionne Warwick' (1964)

Genre: Pop

Label: Scepter

Written by: Burt Bacharach, Hal David

Produced by: Burt Bacharach, Hal David

Another treasure from the most exciting time in the history of pop music. The production isn’t great —hey, it was 1964—but "Walk on By" is nevertheless a slice of pop perfection. It has a really effortless quality to it.

Recommended listening:

Etta James - "At Last" (1960)

Patsy Cline - "Crazy" (1961)

Nancy Sinatra - "These Boots Are Made for Walkin'" (1966)

Percy Sledge - "When a Man Loves a Woman" (1966)

Procol Harum - "A Whiter Shade of Pale" (1967)

#68: "Sign O' the Times" by Prince

Appears on: 'Sign "O" the Times' (1987)

Genre: Rock

Label: Paisley Park

Written by: Prince

Produced by: Prince

"Purple Rain" used to routinely make this list, but this time around I had a hard time choosing between "Purple Rain" and "When Doves Cry." So I picked "Sign 'O' the Times," the title track from Prince's 1987 double album that's frequently cited as one of the best albums of the '80s. It's an excellent song and was the album's lead single and lead track, so I don't think it's too out of place here as the sole entry from Prince's catalogue.

Recommended listening:

Prince and The Revolution - "Little Red Corvette" (1982)

Prince and The Revolution - "1999" (1982)

Prince and The Revolution - "Purple Rain" (1984)

Prince and The Revolution - "When Doves Cry" (1984)

Prince and The Revolution - "Kiss" (1986)

#67: "Everyday People" by Sly and the Family Stone

Appears on: 'Stand!' (1969)

Genre: Psychedelic Soul

Label: Epic

Written by: Sly Stone

Produced by: Sly Stone

Sly and the Family Stone have a ton of great ones, but this one has always been the standout to me; it’s probably the best example of a post-James Brown, ‘60s-funk-with-social-commentary song in popular music.

Recommended listening:

Sly and the Family Stone - "Dance to the Music" (1968)

Sly and the Family Stone - "I Want to Take You Higher" (1969)

Sly and the Family Stone - "Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Again)" (1969)

Sly and the Family Stone - "You Can Make It If You Try" (1969)

Sly and the Family Stone - "Family Affair" (1971)

#66: "Light My Fire" by The Doors

Appears on: 'The Doors' (1967)

Genre: Psychedelic Rock

Label: Elektra

Written by: The Doors

Produced by: Paul A. Rothchild

It wasn’t the first single by the Doors—“Break on Through (To the Other Side)” has that honor—but it nevertheless summarizes the band’s early work and the psychedelic era more generally.

Recommended listening:

The Doors - "Break on Through (To the Other Side)" (1967)

The Doors - "The End" (1967)

The Doors - "Hello, I Love You" (1968)

The Doors - "Roadhouse Blues" (1970)

The Doors - "Riders on the Storm" (1971)

#65: "I Fought the Law" by The Bobby Fuller Four

Appears on: 'I Fought the Law' (1966)


LABEL: Mustang

WRITTEN BY: Sonny Curtis


After Buddy Holly died in an infamous plane crash on what later would be called “the day the music died,” Sonny Curtis took his place in the Crickets, and one of the songs he had written was “I Fought the Law.” This Bobby Fuller Four cover is the best-known version, although the Clash would also record a version in 1979.

Recommended listening:

Eddie Cochran - "C'mon Everybody" (1958)

Eddie Cochran - "Summertime Blues" (1958)

Dion - "The Wanderer" (1961)

The Troggs - "Wild Thing" (1966)

The Clash - "I Fought the Law" (1979)

#64: "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" by The Beatles

Appears on: 'The Beatles' [The White Album] (1968)

Genre: Rock

Label: Apple

Written by: George Harrison

Produced by: George Martin

John Lennon and Paul McCartney overshadowed George Harrison throughout the Beatles’ run, restricting him to one song per side on just about every album. In the band’s early days, Harrison simply wasn’t as good (or prolific) at songwriting, but by the time 'The White Album' and 'Abbey Road' were recorded, there was no question that George was on equal footing with John and Paul. “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” from 'The White Album,' featuring Eric Clapton on lead guitar in the only guest appearance ever by any artist on a Beatles song, is Harrison’s best track.

Recommended listening:

The Beatles - "Long, Long, Long" (1968)

The Beatles - "Savoy Truffle" (1968)

The Beatles - "Here Comes the Sun" (1969)

The Beatles - "Something" (1969)

George Harrison - "My Sweet Lord" (1970)

#63: "Waterloo Sunset" by The Kinks

Appears on: 'Something Else by the Kinks' (1967)

Genre: Rock

Label: Pye [UK] / Reprise [US]

Written by: Ray Davies

Produced by: Ray Davies

“You Really Got Me,” which used to make this list, is an undeniably great early rock & roll song, but since there are plenty of great early rock & roll songs on this list and I only have room for one Kinks cut, I’m going to switch my vote to the achingly beautiful “Waterloo Sunset.”

Recommended listening:

The Animals - "The House of the Rising Sun" (1964)

The Kinks - "All Day and All of the Night" (1964)

The Kinks - "You Really Got Me" (1964)

The Animals - "We Gotta Get Out of This Place" (1965)

The Kinks - "Lola" (1970)

#62: "Maybellene" by Chuck Berry


Genre: Rock & Roll

Label: Chess

Written by: Chuck Berry

Produced by: Leonard Chess, Phil Chess

Every Chuck Berry song is more or less the same thing, but “Maybellene” towers above the rest—aside from “Johnny B. Goode,” of course—as one of the most stunning debut singles in rock & roll history; rock stars existed before Chuck Berry, but guitar gods did not. Indeed, “Maybellene” put flinging violent noise through electric guitar amps on the map.

Recommended listening:

Chuck Berry - "Thirty Days" (1955)

Chuck Berry - "Roll Over Beethoven" (1956)

Chuck Berry - "Too Much Monkey Business" (1956)

Chuck Berry - "Oh Baby Doll" (1957)

Chuck Berry - "School Day" (1957)

#61: "One" by U2

Appears on: 'Achtung Baby' (1991)

Genre: Rock

Label: Island

Written by: U2

Produced by: Daniel Lanois, Brian Eno

U2 rose out of the post-punk muck to become superstars. With 1987’s 'The Joshua Tree,' they had gotten everything right. The 1988 black-and-white concert documentary/live album 'Rattle and Hum,' however? Not so much.

The sessions for 'Achtung Baby' were hostile as hell, and pulling “One,” a personal song about Bono’s relationship with his father, out of the hat was reportedly the only thing that kept U2 from parting ways. Rarely has a song so personal been so universally applicable; it perfectly encapsulates how the band members were feeling towards each other at the time, and was released as a benefit single, with all profits going to AIDS research.

Recommended listening:

U2 - "Even Better Than the Real Thing" (1991)

U2 - "Mysterious Ways" (1991)

U2 - "Beautiful Day" (2000)

U2 - "Elevation" (2000)

U2 - "Vertigo" (2004)

#60: "Let's Stay Together" by Al Green

#60: "Let's Stay Together" by Al Green

Appears on: 'Let's Stay Together' (1971)

Genre: R&B

Label: Hi

Written by: Al Green, Willie Mitchell, Al Jackson, Jr.

Produced: Al Green, Willie Mitchell

Choosing one Al Green song is a tall order, since “Love and Happiness” and especially “Take Me to the River” are two of my favorites (and “Tired of Being Alone” is really good too), but “Let’s Stay Together” really is amazing and is Green’s best-known song.

Recommended listening:

Al Green - "Tired of Being Alone" (1971)

Bill Withers - "Ain't No Sunshine" (1971)

Al Green - "Love and Happiness" (1972)

Bill Withers - "Lean on Me" (1972)

Al Green - "Take Me to the River" (1974)

#59: "Hey Joe" by the Jimi Hendrix Experience


Genre: Rock

Label: Reprise (US) / Polydor (UK)

Written by: Billy Roberts

Produced by: Chas Chandler

"Purple Haze” was the first Hendrix single in the US, but his first single ever released was “Hey Joe” six months earlier in the UK, where he had immigrated because White America wasn’t receptive to a black guitarist. (Conveniently, I also happen to like “Hey Joe” a lot more than “Purple Haze.”)

Recommended listening:

The Jimi Hendrix Experience - "Are You Experienced?" (1967)

The Jimi Hendrix Experience - "Fire" (1967)

The Jimi Hendrix Experience - "Foxey Lady" (1967)

The Jimi Hendrix Experience - "Purple Haze" (1967)

The Jimi Hendrix Experience - "The Wind Cries Mary" (1967)

#58: "Smokestack Lightnin'" by Howlin' Wolf


Genre: Blues

Label: Chess

Written by: Chester Burnett

Produced by: Leonard Chess, Phil Chess, Willie Dixon

Another one of many, many important blues songs that finally got recorded once the rock & roll era was underway, “Smokestack Lightnin'” continues to serve as an important piece of the pop-music vocabulary.

Recommended listening:

Robert Johnson - "Kindhearted Woman Blues" (1937)

Howlin' Wolf - "Spoonful" (1960)

John Lee Hooker - "Boom Boom" (1961)

B.B. King - "The Thrill Is Gone" (1969)

Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble - "Pride and Joy" (1983)

Appears on: 'The Wall' (1979)

Genre: Progressive Rock

Label: Columbia (US) / Harvest (UK)

Written by: David Gilmour, Roger Waters

Produced by: Bob Ezrin, David Gilmour, James Guthrie, Roger Waters

It’s easy to cast “Comfortably Numb” aside as “just another classic rock song,” but this track has the greatest guitar solo of all time, so it’s by definition anything but. Plus, this masterpiece has a painterly quality to it, with rich sonic detail.

Recommended listening:

Pink Floyd - "Dogs" (1977)

Pink Floyd - "Another Brick in the Wall, Part 2" (1979)

Pink Floyd - "Hey You" (1979)

Pink Floyd - "Mother" (1979)

Pink Floyd - "Run Like Hell" (1979)

#56: "Unfinished Sympathy" by Massive Attack

Appears on: 'Blue Lines' (1991)

Genre: Trip-Hop

Label: Virgin

Written by: Massive Attack, Jonathan Sharp, Shara Nelson

Produced by: Massive Attack, Jonny Dollar

Three different strands of pop-music broke through in the early '90s: alternative rock, hip-hop, and electronica. Massive Attack's debut album 'Blue Lines' didn't just introduce the world to the electronic sub-genre trip-hop, it put electronic music on the map more broadly. "Unfinished Sympathy" is Massive Attack's biggest hit and best song.

Recommended listening:

Massive Attack - "Be Thankful for What You've Got" (1991)

Massive Attack - "Daydreaming" (1991)

Massive Attack - "Safe from Harm" (1991)

My Bloody Valentine - "Only Shallow" (1991)

Massive Attack - "Teardrop" (1998)

#55: "Sunshine of Your Love" by Cream

#55: "Sunshine of Your Love" by Cream

Appears on: 'Disraeli Gears' (1967)

Genre: Psychedelic Rock

Label: Atco [US] / Polydor [UK]

Written by: Jack Bruce, Pete Brown, Eric Clapton

Produced by: Felix Pappalardi

One of the most definitive guitar songs ever recorded; unforgettable lick, incredible solo, and a really weird drum pattern. The production’s not very good, but that hardly matters.

Recommended listening:

Cream - "I Feel Free" (1966)

Cream - "SWLABR" (1967)

Cream - "Tales of Brave Ulysses" (1967)

Cream - "Crossroads" (1968)

Cream - "White Room" (1968)

#54: "London Calling" by The Clash

Appears on: 'London Calling' (1979)

Genre: Punk

Label: Columbia [US] / CBS [UK]

Written by: Joe Strummer, Mick Jones

Produced by: Guy Stevens

The album's a much better achievement than the song, but "London Calling" nevertheless represents—on this list, at least, since I only have room for one 'London Calling' song—everything punk can be.

Recommended listening:

The Clash - "Death or Glory" (1979)

The Clash - "Lost in the Supermarket" (1979)

The Clash - "Train in Vain" (1979)

The Clash - "Rock the Casbah" (1982)

The Clash - "Should I Stay or Should I Go" (1982)

#53: "Thunder Road" by Bruce Springsteen

Appears on: 'Born to Run' (1975)

Genre: Rock

Label: Columbia

Written by: Bruce Springsteen

Produced by: Bruce Springsteen, Jon Landau

“Thunder Road,” shockingly, was never released as a single, which is doubly surprising considering a legal battle with manager Mike Appel would sideline Bruce until 1978’s 'Darkness on the Edge of Town.' Alas, only two singles were released from 'Born to Run,' the title track and “Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out.” Nevertheless, “Thunder Road” remains an incredible opener to one of rock’s great opuses, weaving together ‘50s and ‘60s rock & pop influences to create a feel that’s simultaneously old-timey and timeless.

Recommended listening:

Bruce Springsteen - "Blinded by the Light" (1973)

Bruce Springsteen - "New York City Serenade" (1973)

Bruce Springsteen - "Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)" (1973)

Bruce Springsteen - "Backstreets" (1975)

Bruce Springsteen - "Jungleland" (1975)

#52: "Billie Jean" by Michael Jackson

Appears on: 'Thriller' (1982)

Genre: Dance-Pop

Label: Epic

Written by: Michael Jackson

Produced by: Michael Jackson, Quincy Jones

Pop, funk, dance -- whatever you want to call it, it works. 'Thriller' did too, to the tune of over 50 million copies sold worldwide. Jackson worked with producer Quincy Jones to make music that's as infectious as hell, and it’s safe to say they succeeded.

Recommended listening:

Michael Jackson - "Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough" (1979)

Michael Jackson - "Beat It" (1982)

Michael Jackson - "Thriller" (1982)

Michael Jackson - "Wanna Be Startin' Somethin'" (1982)

Michael Jackson - "Smooth Criminal" (1987)

#51: "Whole Lotta Love" by Led Zeppelin

Appears on: 'Led Zeppelin II' (1969)

Genre: Hard Rock

Label: Atlantic

Written by: Led Zeppelin, Willie Dixon

Produced by: Jimmy Page

I really wish more Zeppelin could have made the list, but unfortunately, “Whole Lotta Love” is going to have to stand in for a whole lotta songs—“Heartbreaker,” “Ramble On,” “How Many More Times,” “Immigrant Song,” etc.—on their first three albums.

Recommended listening:

Led Zeppelin - "Heartbreaker" (1969)

Led Zeppelin - "How Many More Times" (1969)

Led Zeppelin - "Ramble On" (1969)

Led Zeppelin - "Immigrant Song" (1970)

Led Zeppelin - "Since I've Been Loving You" (1970)

#50: "Shake, Rattle and Roll" by Big Joe Turner


Genre: Rock & Roll

Label: Atlantic

Written by: Charles E. Calhoun

The oldest song on the list, “Shake, Rattle and Roll” was released in April 1954, but it’s still a blast to listen to nearly six full decades after its recording. Rock & roll novices need to incorporate this track into their repertoire. Now.

Recommended listening:

The Dominoes - "Sixty Minute Man" (1951)

Clyde McPhatter and The Drifters - "Money Honey" (1953)

Fats Domino - "Ain't That a Shame" (1955)

Johnny Cash - "Folsom Prison Blues" (1955)

Fats Domino - "Blueberry Hill" (1956)

#49: "Fight the Power" by Public Enemy

#49: "Fight the Power" by Public Enemy

Appears on: 'Do the Right Thing' [Soundtrack] (1989)

Genre: Hip-Hop

Label: Motown

Written by: Carlton Ridenhour, Eric Sadler, Hank Boxley, Keith Boxley

Produced by: The Bomb Squad

Although “Fight the Power” closed out their third album, 1990’s 'Fear of a Black Planet,' it appeared in Spike Lee’s groundbreaking film 'Do the Right Thing' the year before. At any rate, although “Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos” remains my favorite PE tune, “Fight the Power” is clearly their finest song.

Recommended listening:

Boogie Down Productions - "South Bronx" (1986)

Public Enemy - "Bring the Noise" (1987)

N.W.A - "Straight Outta Compton" (1988)

Public Enemy - "Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos" (1988)

LL Cool J - "Mama Said Knock You Out" (1990)

#48: "A Day in the Life"

Appears on: 'Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band' (1967)

Genre: Rock

Label: Capitol [US] / Parlophone [UK]

Written by: John Lennon, Paul McCartney

Produced by: George Martin

A well-reasoned case can be made that “A Day in the Life” belongs in the #1 spot. It is, after all, the crown jewel of the greatest album of all time, 'Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,' and on a related note, it’s hard to imagine any other song besting it on a list of greatest album closers. But listen to “A Day in the Life” outside the context of 'Sgt. Pepper' and you’ll surely notice that it’s not quite the same; the magic just isn’t there. Nevertheless, it remains a towering achievement.

Recommended listening:

The Beatles - "Eleanor Rigby" (1966)

The Beatles - "Here, There and Everywhere" (1966)

The Beatles - "Tomorrow Never Knows" (1966)

The Beatles - "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" (1967)

The Beatles - "With a Little Help from My Friends" (1967)

#47: "Louie Louie" by the Kingsmen

Appears on: 'The Kingsmen in Person' (1963)

Genre: Rock & Roll

Label: Jerden/Wand

Written by: Richard Berry

Produced by: Ken Chase, Jerry Dennon

I honestly don’t know a single word of this song, and, clearly, neither does the singer. Nevertheless, this song is still tons of fun no matter how many times you have heard it and is another great early rock & roll track.

Recommended listening:

Barrett Strong - "Money (That's What I Want)" (1959)

Chubby Checker - "The Twist" (1960)

The Beatles - "I Saw Her Standing There" (1963)

The Beatles - "Twist and Shout" (1963)

Johnny Cash - "Ring of Fire" (1963)

#46: "The Harder They Come" by Jimmy Cliff

Appears on: 'The Harder They Come' [Soundtrack] (1972)

Genre: Reggae

Label: Island

Written by: Jimmy Cliff

Produced by: Jimmy Cliff

Though Bob Marley would later fully embody reggae, the world was first introduced to reggae through the film 'The Harder They Come,' which featured a dynamite lineup of songs by Jimmy Cliff and a handful of other artists on its soundtrack. Marley’s great albums would follow, beginning with 'Catch a Fire' in ’73.

Recommended listening:

Jimmy Cliff - "Many Rivers to Cross" (1969)

The Maytals - "Pressure Drop" (1970)

Jimmy Cliff - "Sitting in Limbo" (1972)

Jimmy Cliff - "You Can Get It If You Really Want" (1972)

The Wailers - "Rasta Man Chant" (1973)

#45: "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" by The Rolling Stones


Genre: Rock

Label: London [US] / Decca [UK]

Written by: Mick Jagger, Keith Richards

Produced by: Andrew Loog Oldham

The reason why I always put "Satisfaction" so low on my list—compared to other lists, at least, where it frequently cracks the top five—is because the Stones would produce thoroughly superior work in just a few years. Nevertheless, this song was pretty monumental; it established the Rolling Stones as the band we now know and love after a few years of doing solid but relatively decent work.

Recommended listening:

The Rolling Stones - "Get Off My Cloud" (1965)

The Rolling Stones - "The Last Time" (1965)

The Rolling Stones - "Under My Thumb" (1966)

The Rolling Stones - "Ruby Tuesday" (1967)

The Rolling Stones - "Jumpin' Jack Flash" (1968)

#44: "Superstition" by Stevie Wonder

Appears on: 'Talking Book' (1972)

Genre: Funk

Label: Tamla

Written by: Stevie Wonder

Produced by: Stevie Wonder

Stevie really had a great run during the early to mid ‘70s, crafting six magnificent albums in a row during a five-year period. Countless songs could be chosen for the Stevie Wonder slot, but for me “Superstition” and “Higher Ground” have always been the standout tracks. Alas, “Higher Ground,” we hardly knew ye.

Recommended listening:

Stevie Wonder - "You Are the Sunshine of My Life" (1972)

Stevie Wonder - "Higher Ground" (1973)

Stevie Wonder - "Living for the City" (1973)

Stevie Wonder - "Black Man" (1976)

Stevie Wonder - "Isn't She Lovely" (1976)

#43: "Don't Be Cruel" by Elvis Presley


Genre: Rock & Roll

Label: RCA

Written by: Otis Blackwell, Elvis Presley

Produced by: Steve Sholes, Elvis Presley

Even with its use of obviously primitive recording technology, “Don’t Be Cruel” has a springy step. It’s simply one of Elvis’ best tunes and, frankly, it’s too hard to leave it off the list.

Recommended listening:

Elvis Presley - "Blue Moon of Kentucky" (1954)

Elvis Presley - "Baby, Let's Play House" (1955)

Elvis Presley - "Blue Suede Shoes" (1956)

Elvis Presley - "Love Me Tender" (1956)

Elvis Presley - "All Shook Up" (1957)

#42: "Strawberry Fields Forever" by The Beatles


Genre: Psychedelic Rock

Labels: Capitol [US] / Parlophone [UK]

Written by: John Lennon, Paul McCartney

Produced by: George Martin

The legacy of “Strawberry Fields Forever” has always been somewhat short-changed; it was originally intended for inclusion on 'Sgt. Pepper' but was released beforehand as the second A-side track to the “Penny Lane” single released in February 1967. ('Sgt. Pepper' wasn’t released until June 1). It's hard to know how its placement on 'Sgt. Pepper' might have affected things, but “Strawberry Fields” now stands proudly with “A Day in the Life” as one of the twin towers of the Beatles' ’67 psychedelic peak.

Recommended listening:

The Beatles - "All You Need Is Love" (1967)

The Beatles - "I Am the Walrus" (1967)

The Beatles - "Penny Lane" (1967)

The Beatles - "Happiness Is a Warm Gun" (1968)

The Beatles - "Revolution" (1968)

#41: "That'll Be the Day" by Buddy Holly and The Crickets

Appears on: 'The "Chirping" Crickets' (1957)

Genre: Rock & Roll

Label: Brunswick

Written by: Buddy Holly, Jerry Allison, Norman Petty

Produced by: Norman Petty

I love these old and rock & roll songs. It’s an accident, really, that these songs still hold up after all these years. Unfortunately for rock & roll forefather (and Cricket) Buddy Holly, he didn’t live long enough to see this phenomenon take place. As you may have heard, he died in a plane crash on February 3, 1959, at the tender age of 22.

Recommended listening:

Buddy Holly - "Everyday" (1957)

The Crickets - "Not Fade Away" (1957)

Buddy Holly - "Peggy Sue" (1957)

Buddy Holly - "Rave On" (1958)

Buddy Holly - "It Doesn't Matter Anymore" (1959)

#40: "God Only Knows" by The Beach Boys

Appears on: 'Pet Sounds' (1966)

Genre: Baroque Pop

Label: Capitol

Written by: Brian Wilson, Tony Asher

Produced by: Brian Wilson

There are a lot of great songs on 'Pet Sounds'—my favorite is “Caroline, No”—but come on. You know “God Only Knows” has to be the official 'Pet Sounds' representative on the list. Because it has the word “God” in the title—it was the first single in American history that did—and because it’s great.

Recommended listening:

The Beach Boys - "Caroline, No" (1966)

The Beach Boys - "Don't Talk" (1966)

The Beach Boys - "Sloop John B." (1966)

The Beach Boys - "Wouldn't It Be Nice" (1966)

The Beach Boys - "You Still Believe in Me" (1966)

#39: "Voodoo Child (Slight Return)" by The Jimi Hendrix Experience

Appears on: 'Electric Ladyland' (1968)

Genre: Psychedelic Rock

Label: Track [US] / Polydor [UK]

Written by: Jimi Hendrix

Produced by: Jimi Hendrix

Blistering doesn't even begin to describe Hendrix's guitar playing on "Voodoo Child," which manages to thrill and enthrall every single listen. 'Electric Ladyland' was also Hendrix's first foray into stereo—yep, his first two albums were in mono, though each received a stereo release with an awful "fake stereo" mix, as well—which adds considerably to the panoramic psychedelia.

Recommended listening:

The Jimi Hendrix Experience - "Bold as Love" (1967)

The Jimi Hendrix Experience - "If 6 Was 9" (1967)

The Jimi Hendrix Experience - "Little Wing" (1967)

The Jimi Hendrix Experience - "Spanish Castle Magic" (1967)

The Jimi Hendrix Experience - "You Got Me Floatin'" (1967)

#38: "Fortunate Son" by Creedence Clearwater Revival

Appears on: 'Willy and the Poor Boys' (1969)

Genre: Roots Rock

Label: Fantasy

Written by: John Fogerty

Produced by: John Fogerty

Arguably the greatest of the Vietnam War protest songs to emerge from the 1960s American counter-culture movement, it’s John Fogerty at his impeccable best.

Recommended listening:

Creedence Clearwater Revival - "Have You Ever Seen the Rain" (1970)

Creedence Clearwater Revival - "Long as I Can See the Light" (1970)

Creedence Clearwater Revival - "Run Through the Jungle" (1970)

Creedence Clearwater Revival - "Travelin' Band" (1970)

Creedence Clearwater Revival - "Up Around the Bend" (1970)

#37: "Bridge Over Troubled Water" by Simon and Garfunkel

Appears on: 'Bridge over Troubled Water' (1970)

Genre: Pop

Label: Columbia

Written by: Paul Simon

Produced by: Roy Halee, Paul Simon, Art Garfunkel

This one’s a struggle for me; my favorite S&G song is (easily) “Scarborough Fair / Canticle,” and truth be told, I actually like “The Boxer” and “The Sound of Silence” more than “Bridge over Troubled Water,” which, let’s not kid ourselves, is an excellent song that deserves to make this list.

Recommended listening:

Simon & Garfunkel - "The Sound of Silence" (1965)

Simon & Garfunkel - "Scarborough Fair / Canticle" (1966)

Simon & Garfunkel - "America" (1968)

Simon & Garfunkel - "Mrs. Robinson" (1968)

Simon & Garfunkel - "The Boxer" (1970)

#36: "The Message" by Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five

Appears on: 'The Message' (1982)

Genre: Old-School Rap

Label: Sugar Hill

Written by: Ed "Duke Bootee" Fletcher, Grandmaster Melle Mel, Sylvia Robinson

Produced by: Ed Fletcher, Clifton "Jiggs" Chase, Sylvia Robinson

This old-school rap cut contains everything future rappers and DJs would later expand upon, with instantly memorable lyrics and a spacy synth hook. It took another couple of years for a hip-hop artist to assemble an entire album’s worth of great material—Run-D.M.C.’s self-titled debut ushered in a new school—but “The Message” was the first song to get hip-hop right. Every subsequent hip-hop song owes something to it in some way.

Recommended listening:

The Sugarhill Gang - "Rapper's Delight" (1979)

Kurtis Blow - "The Breaks" (1980)

Afrika Bambaataa & the Soulsonic Force - "Planet Rock" (1982)

Herbie Hancock - "Rockit" (1983)

Mantronix - "Bassline" (1985)

#35: "A Change is Gonna Come" by Sam Cooke

Appears on: 'Ain't That Good News' (1964)

Genre: Soul

Label: RCA Victor

Written by: Sam Cooke

Produced by: Hugo Peretti, Luigi Creatore

Sam Cooke might have the smoothest voice I have ever heard, which serves him well as far as “A Change Is Gonna Come” is concerned, since neither before nor since has a song about racism gone down so easy.

Recommended listening:

Sam Cooke - "You Send Me" (1957)

Sam Cooke - "Chain Gang" (1960)

Sam Cooke - "Wonderful World" (1960)

Sam Cooke - "Cupid" (1961)

Sam Cooke - "Shake" (1965)

#34: "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag" by James Brown

Appears on: 'Papa's Got a Brand New Bag' (1965)

Genre: R&B

Label: King

Written by: James Brown

Produced by: James Brown

Yet another case of me only allowing one slot for a great artist who deserves several. “Papa” has always been my pick for Brown’s best, though of course the omnipresent “I Got You (I Feel Good)” is also up there. My personal favorite is (of course) “Get Up (I Feel Like Being A) Sex Machine.”

Recommended listening:

James Brown - "Please Please Please" (1956)

James Brown - "I Got You (I Feel Good)" (1965)

James Brown - "It's a Man's Man's Man's World" (1966)

James Brown - "Say It Loud - I'm Black and I'm Proud" (1968)

James Brown - "Get Up (I Feel Like Being A) Sex Machine" (1970)

#33: "Blitzkrieg Bop" by the Ramones

Appears on: 'Ramones' (1976)

Genre: Punk

Label: Sire

Written by: Tommy Ramone, Dee Dee Ramone

Produced by: Craig Leon

The song that kick-started the punk revolution. By 1976, rock & roll had grown increasingly indulgent as corporate arena rock flew off the shelves and people packed the stadiums to watch ten-minute guitar solos. In one of the most seismic movements in the history of pop music, punk musicians across the US and UK started crawling into the clubs to make some noise—and people actually showed up to watch them do it.

Recommended listening:

Sex Pistols - "Anarchy in the UK" (1976)

The Clash - "White Riot" (1977)

Ramones - "Sheena Is a Punk Rocker" (1977)

Sex Pistols - "God Save the Queen" (1977)

Ramones - "I Wanna Be Sedated" (1978)

#32: "Blowin' in the Wind" by Bob Dylan

Appears on: 'The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan' (1963)


LABEL: Columbia


PRODUCED BY: John H. Hammond

There are so many great Bob Dylan songs: folk songs, rock songs, early songs, newer songs, short songs, long songs, and everything in between. After considering all of the usual suspects, I decided “Blowin’ in the Wind” is the best representative for the non-“Like a Rolling Stone” Dylan slot. (In composing the list this time around, I was surprised to discover the list doesn’t lose all that much power when Dylan’s input is reduced to just two tracks.)

Recommended listening:

Bob Dylan - "Don't Think Twice, It's All Right" (1963)

Bob Dylan - "Masters of War" (1963)

Bob Dylan - "The Times They Are A-Changin'" (1964)

Bob Dylan - "Subterranean Homesick Blues" (1965)

Bob Dylan - "Mr. Tambourine Man" (1965)

#31: "Jailhouse Rock" by Elvis Presley


Genre: Rock & Roll

Label: N/A

Written by: Jerry Leiber, Mike Stoller

Produced by: Jerry Leiber, Mike Stoller

Before John Lennon and Paul McCartney’s songwriting partnership became the dominant force of ‘60s popular music, there was Jerry Lieber and Mike Stoller, who were a hit-making duo in rock & roll’s earliest days. Elvis made their song “Hound Dog”—recorded numerous times by various artists as early as 1953—famous in 1956, and when Presley’s new movie 'Jailhouse Rock' came out the following year, they had a track ready just for him.

Recommended listening:

Elvis Presley - "Hound Dog" (1956)

The Drifters - "There Goes My Baby" (1959)

Ben E. King - "Spanish Harlem" (1961)

Ben E. King - "Stand by Me" (1961)

Donald Fagen - "Ruby Baby" (1982)

#30: "What'd I Say" by Ray Charles

Appears on: 'What'd I Say' (1959)

Genre: R&B

Label: Atlantic

Written by: Ray Charles

Produced by: Jerry Wexler

Ray is another artist that got sort squeezed out except for this one slot. I love a lot of Ray’s songs, but “What’d I Say” is easily the ideal candidate to represent his magnificent body of work.

Recommended listening:

Ray Charles - "I've Got a Woman" (1954)

Ray Charles - "Georgia on My Mind" (1960)

Ray Charles - "Hit the Road, Jack" (1961)

Ray Charles - "I Can't Stop Loving You" (1962)

John Mayall - "What'd I Say" (1966)

#29: "I Want to Hold Your Hand" by the Beatles


Genre: British Invasion

Label: Capitol [US] / Parlophone [UK]

Written by: John Lennon, Paul McCartney

Produced by: George Martin

If there is a song that encapsulates Beatlemania, this is certainly it. "I Want to Hold Your Hand" didn't appear on 'Please Please Me' or 'With the Beatles,' but it did, however, appear as the first track on the US-only 'Meet the Beatles,' which is now out of print, since the UK versions have become standard in the digital era. Now it can be only found on compilations like '1' and 'Past Masters, Vol. 1.'

Recommended listening:

The Beatles - "Love Me Do" (1962)

The Beatles - "Please Please Me" (1963)

The Beatles - "She Loves You" (1963)

The Beatles - "Can't Buy Me Love" (1964)

The Beatles - "A Hard Day's Night" (1964)

#28: "(Sittin' on) the Dock of the Bay" by Otis Redding

Appears on: 'The Dock of the Bay' (1968)

Genre: R&B

Label: Volt

Written by: Steve Cropper, Otis Redding

Produced by: Steve Cropper

How great is this song? “(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay” is one of those songs where the pieces fit together perfectly, plain and simple. (Semantics issue: shouldn’t “pier” be used instead of “dock”? That’s always sort of nagged me, as someone who comes from a Navy family.)

Recommended listening:

Otis Redding - "I've Been Loving You Too Long (To Stop Now)" (1965)

Wilson Pickett - "In the Midnight Hour" (1965)

Otis Redding - "Try a Little Tenderness" (1966)

Wilson Pickett - "Mustang Sally" (1966)

Otis Redding - "Tramp" (1967)

#27: "I Heard It Through the Grapevine" by Marvin Gaye

Appears on: 'I Heard It Through the Grapevine!' (1968)

Genre: Soul

Label: Tamla

Written by: Norman Whitfield, Barrett Strong

Produced by: Norman Whitfield

I actually still haven’t bothered to listen to the original Gladys Knight version—Gaye’s cover is so perfect and iconic that I don’t want to spoil that. Creedence Clearwater Revival’s 11-minute version is pretty epic though.

Recommended listening:

Marvin Gaye - "Can I Get a Witness" (1963)

Marvin Gaye - "Ain't That Peculiar" (1965)

Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell - "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" (1967)

Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell - "Ain't Nothing Like the Real Thing" (1968)

Creedence Clearwater Revival - "I Heard It Through the Grapevine" (1970)

#26: "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'" by The Righteous Brothers

Appears on: 'You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'" (1965)

Genre: Pop

Label: Philles

Written by: Phil Spector, Barry Mann, Cynthia Weil

Produced by: Phil Spector

Vintage Phil Spector. The Wall of Sound producer worked with a lot of acts throughout the ‘50s and ‘60s mono era, and this is my pick as the finest track from the male artists he worked with. (Keep reading to see where the top female artist places.)

Recommended listening:

The Everly Brothers - "Bye Bye Love" (1957)

The Everly Brothers - "All I Have to Do Is Dream" (1958)

The Everly Brothers - "Cathy's Clown" (1960)

The Righteous Brothers - "Unchained Melody" (1965)

Ike & Tina Turner - "River Deep - Mountain High" (1966)

#25: "Hotel California" by The Eagles

#25: "Hotel California" by Eagles

Appears on: 'Hotel California' (1976)

Genre: Rock

Label: Asylum

Written by: Don Felder, Glenn Frey, Don Henley

Produced by: Bill Szymczyk

So much has been written and debated about this damn song, which is now firmly embedded in the fibers of American culture, that I hate to really add to the heap. Maybe at some point I’ll write my own take on it where I break the whole thing down line by line, but for now, I’ll say this: regardless of what you may think of it, “Hotel California” remains, close to four decades after its release, one of rock’s grandest epics and a twisted commentary on the rapidly increasing Hollywoodification/corporatization of the music industry during the late ‘70s.

Recommended listening:

Jackson Browne - "Doctor My Eyes" (1972)

Eagles - "Desperado" (1973)

Eagles - "One of These Nights" (1975)

Eagles - "Life in the Fast Lane" (1976)

Jackson Browne - "Running on Empty" (1977)

#24: "The Tracks of My Tears" by Smokey Robinson and the Miracles

Appears on: 'Going to a Go-Go' (1965)

Genre: Soul

Label: Tamla

Written by: William "Smokey" Robinson, Jr.; Warren Moore; Marvin Tarplin

Produced by: Smokey Robinson

Easily one of the best songs to emerge from Motown's mid-'60s hit factory. And Smokey Robinson's voice is impossibly high.

Recommended listening:

The Temptations - "My Girl" (1964)

The Impressions - "People Get Ready" (1965)

The Temptations - "Ain't Too Proud to Beg" (1966)

Smokey Robinson & the Miracles - "The Tears of a Clown" (1967)

The Temptations - "Papa Was a Rollin' Stone" (1972)

#23: "Be My Baby" by The Ronettes

Appears on: 'Presenting the Fabulous Ronettes Featuring Veronica' (1964)

Genre: Pop

Label: Philles

Written by: Phil Spector, Jeff Barry, Ellie Greenwich

Produced by: Phil Spector

With apologies to the Righteous Brothers’ “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’,” this is the greatest pop song from the Phil Spector era. It’s simple as hell, and I’m not sure it could have survived in a post-British Invasion music landscape—it has that slightly stiff feeling frequently found in music produced from 1959-1963—or that the song could work without Spector’s mono Wall. Yet it’s absolutely infectious, and is perhaps the earliest example of pure pop.

Recommended listening:

The Coasters - "Yakety Yak" (1958)

The Crystals - "Da Doo Ron Ron" (1963)

The Crystals - "Then He Kissed Me" (1963)

The Drifters - "Under the Boardwalk" (1964)

The Ronettes - "Walking in the Rain" (1964)

#22: "Smells Like Teen Spirit" by Nirvana

Appears on: 'Nevermind' (1991)

Genre: Grunge

Label: DGC

Written by: Kurt Cobain, Dave Grohl, Krist Novoselic

Produced by: Butch Vig

You’d have to go all the way back to Elvis Presley’s “That’s All Right”—the song that, before there was such a thing as rock and roll in the public consciousness, was deemed too black for white people and too white for black people—to find a song that changed the course of popular music like “Teen Spirit” did. Music enjoyed its most fruitful decade since the ‘60s as the Generation X rebellion brought a sea change in what was popular throughout the ‘90s, as alternative rock, hip-hop, and electronic music all enjoyed broader mainstream success.

Recommended listening:

Alice in Chains - "Man in the Box" (1990)

Nirvana - "Come As You Are" (1991)

Pearl Jam - "Black" (1991)

Pearl Jam - "Jeremy" (1991)

Soundgarden - "Jesus Christ Pose" (1991)

#21: "Sympathy for the Devil" by The Rolling Stones

Appears on: 'Beggars Banquet' (1968)

Genre: Rock

Label: London [US] / Decca [UK]

Written by: Mick Jagger, Keith Richards

Produced by: Jimmy Miller

When you listen to “Sympathy for the Devil,” the only appropriate response is to tip your cap and tell the Rolling Stones, “You guys are really good at what you do.”

Recommended listening:

The Rolling Stones - "Street Fighting Man" (1968)

The Rolling Stones - "Midnight Rambler" (1969)

The Rolling Stones - "Moonlight Mile" (1971)

The Rolling Stones - "Shattered" (1978)

The Rolling Stones - "Slave" (1981)

#20: "Wish You Were Here" by Pink Floyd

Appears on: 'Wish You Were Here' (1975)

Genre: Acoustic Rock

Label: Columbia [US] / Harvest [UK]

Written by: David Gilmour, Roger Waters

Produced by: Pink Floyd

Not the most influential song on the list, but I refuse to let go of this song’s high ranking: it’s too damn good.

Recommended listening:

Pink Floyd - "Echoes" (1971)

Pink Floyd - "Money" (1973)

Pink Floyd - "Time" (1973)

Pink Floyd - "Have a Cigar" (1975)

Pink Floyd - "Welcome to the Machine" (1975)

#19: "Born to Run" by Bruce Springsteen

Appears on: 'Born to Run' (1975)

Genre: Heartland Rock

Label: Columbia

Written by: Bruce Springsteen

Produced by: Bruce Springsteen, Mike Appel

Bruce’s first two albums were commercial duds, and “Born to Run”—the song and the album—was his bid to break out of Asbury Park, his small town coastal New Jersey home. Needless to say, it worked.

Recommended listening:

Bruce Springsteen - "She's the One" (1975)

Bruce Springsteen - "Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out" (1975)

Bruce Springsteen - "Something in the Night" (1978)

Bruce Springsteen - "Drive All Night" (1980)

Bruce Springsteen - "Born in the U.S.A." (1984)

#18: "All Along the Watchtower" by The Jimi Hendrix Experience

Appears on: 'Electric Ladyland' (1968)

Genre: Psychedelic Rock

Label: Reprise

Written by: Bob Dylan

Produced by: Jimi Hendrix

How Hendrix managed to ever envision this extraordinarily explosive cover when he heard Bob Dylan’s acoustic original has boggled my mind for years now. This is truly the master at the top of his game here.

Recommended listening:

The Jimi Hendrix Experience - "Burning of the Midnight Lamp" (1968)

The Jimi Hendrix Experience - "Crosstown Traffic" (1968)

The Jimi Hendrix Experience - "1983... (A Merman I Should Turn to Be)" (1968)

The Jimi Hendrix Experience - "Rainy Day, Dream Away" (1968)

The Jimi Hendrix Experience - "Still Raining, Still Dreaming" (1968)

#17: "Bohemian Rhapsody" by Queen

Appears on: 'A Night at the Opera' (1975)

Genre: Rock

Label: Elektra [US] / Parlophone [UK]

Written by: Freddie Mercury

Produced by: Roy Thomas Baker, Queen

Structurally, “Bohemian Rhapsody” is certainly one of the more interesting songs in the pop music canon. This six-minute, hard rock pseudo-opera is also ridiculously fun, no matter how many times you have heard it.

Recommended listening:

Queen - "Killer Queen" (1974)

Queen - "Somebody to Love" (1976)

Queen - "We Are the Champions" (1977)

Queen - "We Will Rock You" (1977)

Queen - "Another One Bites the Dust" (1980)

#16: "The Weight" by the Band

Appears on: 'Music from Big Pink' (1968)

Genre: Folk Rock

Label: Capitol

Written by: Robbie Robertson

Produced by: John Simon

A great example of how effortless pop used to be. It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly which part of America this music stems from—which isn't surprising considering the Band’s members are mostly Canadian. As it stands, “The Weight” is a magnificent summation of the best of what American music had to offer to our neighbors to the north.

Recommended listening:

The Band - "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down" (1969)

Neil Young - "Don't Let It Bring You Down" (1970)

Neil Young - "Southern Man" (1970)

Neil Young - "The Needle and the Damage Done" (1972)

Neil Young - "Old Man" (1972)

#15: "Hey Jude" by The Beatles


Genre: Pop

Label: Apple

Written by: John Lennon, Paul McCartney

Produced by: George Martin

"Hey Jude" has the power to stop you in your tracks with that majestic coda/fade-out, which, by the way, is longer than the main body of the song. Still, "Hey Jude" remains bittersweet. It's really the last time the band was in any kind of sync—though excellent, 'The White Album' and 'Abbey Road' were more like collections of separate solo visions.

Recommended listening:

The Beatles - "Blackbird" (1968)

The Beatles - "Helter Skelter" (1968)

The Beatles - "Get Back" (1969)

The Beatles - "Oh! Darling" (1969)

The Beatles - "The Long and Winding Road" (1970)

#14: "My Generation" by The Who

Appears on: 'My Generation' [UK] (1965) / 'The Who Sings My Generation' [US] (1965)

Genre: British Invasion

Label: Decca [US] / Brunswick [UK]

Written by: Pete Townshend

Produced by: Shel Talmy

Still an exhilarating listen after all these years. The Who have finer songs and more accomplished work, but nothing in their catalog compares to this bomb of a song.

Recommended listening:

The Who - "I Can't Explain" (1965)

The Who - "I Can See for Miles" (1967)

The Who - "Magic Bus" (1968)

The Who - "Pinball Wizard" (1969)

The Who - "The Seeker" (1970)

#13: "Layla" by Derek and the Dominos

Appears on: 'Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs' (1970)

Genre: Blues Rock

Label: Atco [US] / Polydor [UK]

Written by: Eric Clapton, Jim Gordon

Produced by: Tom Dowd, Derek and the Dominos

The fact that it’s basically two songs hurts it more than it helps it, as far as this ranking stuff goes. I love it to death, but it’s very unlikely it will ever reclaim the top spot on my list. Truly magnificent stuff though.

Recommended listening:

Derek and the Dominos - "Bell Bottom Blues" (1970)

Derek and the Dominos - "Have You Ever Loved a Woman" (1970)

Derek and the Dominos - "Tell the Truth" (1970)

Eric Clapton - "I Shot the Sheriff" (1974)

Eric Clapton - "Tears in Heaven" (1992)

#12: "Respect" by Aretha Franklin

Appears on: 'I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You' (1967)

Genre: Soul

Label: Atlantic

Written by: Otis Redding

Produced by: Jerry Wexler

By now I’m sure you have heard the story: “Respect” was originally recorded by a man (Otis Redding), then re-recorded by a woman (Aretha). It was pretty much the signature song of the women’s lib movement. Go Aretha!

Recommended listening:

Aretha Franklin - "Chain of Fools" (1967)

Aretha Franklin - "Do Right Woman - Do Right Man" (1967)

Aretha Franklin - "I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Love You)" (1967)

Aretha Franklin - "(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman" (1967)

Aretha Franklin - "Think" (1968)

#11: "Oh, Pretty Woman" by Roy Orbison


Genre: Rock

Label: Monument

Written by: Roy Orbison, Bill Dees

Produced by: Fred Foster

Still one of the definitive guitar licks five decades later. Oh, and Roy Orbison’s voice is amazing.

Recommended listening:

Link Wray - "Rumble" (1958)

Roy Orbison - "Only the Lonely" (1960)

Roy Orbison - "Crying" (1961)

Booker T. & the MGs - "Green Onions" (1962)

Roy Orbison - "In Dreams" (1963)

#10: "Good Vibrations" by The Beach Boys

#10: "Good Vibrations" by The Beach Boys

Appears on: 'Smiley Smile' (1967)

Genre: Psychedelic Pop

Label: Capitol

Written by: Brian Wilson, Mike Love

Produced by: Brian Wilson

The Beach Boys followed up 'Pet Sounds', their greatest album, with “Good Vibrations,” their greatest song. Brian Wilson reportedly slaved over this track for months, pasting the song's (noticeable) fragments together from over 90 hours of tape. Brian's tenure as the genius of American pop music was painfully short—mental illness and group tensions sidelined him shortly after "Good Vibrations" was completed—but he did resurrect the abandoned 'Smile' LP,the follow-up to 'Pet Sounds', in 2004 to great acclaim.

Recommended listening:

The Beach Boys - "Heroes and Villains" (1967)

The Beach Boys - "Surf's Up" (1971)

Brian Wilson - "Roll Plymouth Rock" (2004)

Brian Wilson - "Cabin Essence" (2004)

Brian Wilson - "Surf's Up" (2004)

#9: "What's Going On" by Marvin Gaye

Appears on: 'What's Going On' (1971)

Genre: Soul

Label: Tamla

Written by: Al Cleveland, Renaldo Benson, Marvin Gaye

Produced: Marvin Gaye

How many songs can claim they changed how an entire industry did their business? Motown’s outdated single factory was history after the public ate up “What’s Going On,” and label president Berry Gordy demanded an album’s worth of material from Gaye.

Recommended listening:

Marvin Gaye - "Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler)" (1971)

Marvin Gaye - "Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology)" (1971)

Marvin Gaye - "Right On" (1971)

Marvin Gaye - "Let's Get It On" (1973)

Marvin Gaye - "Sexual Healing" (1982)

#8: "Let It Be" by The Beatles


Genre: Rock

Label: Apple

Written by: John Lennon, Paul McCartney

Produced by: George Martin

It came at the end of the Beatles’ run but, thankfully, McCartney saved one of his best, most magical, and most touching songs for last.

Recommended listening:

Paul McCartney - "Maybe I'm Amazed" (1970)

Paul & Linda McCartney - "Too Many People" (1971)

Paul McCartney & Wings - "Band on the Run" (1973)

Paul McCartney & Wings - "Jet" (1973)

Paul McCartney & Wings - "Live and Let Die" (1973)

#7: "Gimme Shelter" by The Rolling Stones

Appears on: 'Let It Bleed' (1969)

Genre: Rock

Label: London [US] / Decca [UK]

Written by: Mick Jagger, Keith Richards

Produced by: Jimmy Miller

Only the Stones can make such dark and apocalyptic content sound so fun and exciting. This song is seriously too good.

Recommended listening:

The Rolling Stones - "Honky Tonk Women" (1969)

The Rolling Stones - "Sway" (1971)

The Rolling Stones - "Wild Horses" (1971)

The Rolling Stones - "Rocks Off" (1972)

The Rolling Stones - "Ventilator Blues" (1972)

#6: "Heartbreak Hotel" by Elvis Presley


Genre: Rock & Roll

Label: RCA Victor

Written by: Mae Boren Axton, Thomas Durden, Elvis Presley

Produced by: Steve Sholes

Easily the most awesome Elvis tune; it’s his best rocker and his most heartfelt song, which is a rather wicked combo, for sure.

Recommended listening:

Elvis Presley - "I Love You Because" (1954)

Elvis Presley - "You're a Heartbreaker" (1954)

Elvis Presley - "I Forgot to Remember to Forget" (1955)

Elvis Presley - "I'm Left, You're Right, She's Gone" (1955)

Elvis Presley - "I Want You, I Need You, I Love You" (1956)

#5: "Stairway to Heaven"

Appears on: 'Led Zeppelin IV' (1971)

Genre: Rock

Label: Atlantic

Written by: Jimmy Page, Robert Plant

Produced by: Jimmy Page

Zeppelin’s subsequent epics would be a tad overblown (“Kashmir”) or a bit flat (“Achilles Last Stand”), but “Stairway” is when all of the pieces fell into place during their magical peak.

Recommended listening:

Led Zeppelin - "Black Dog" (1971)

Led Zeppelin - "When the Levee Breaks" (1971)

Led Zeppelin - "No Quarter" (1973)

Led Zeppelin - "In My Time of Dying" (1975)

Led Zeppelin - "Kashmir" (1975)

#4: "Imagine" by John Lennon

Appears on: 'Imagine' (1971)

Genre: Rock

Label: Apple

Written by: John Lennon

Produced by: John Lennon, Yoko Ono, Phil Spector

“Imagine” perfectly captures the twilight of Silent generation dominance, with a simple yet elegant ode to the passing ideals of the ‘60s as power shifted to the rising Baby Boomers.

Recommended listening:

John Lennon - "God" (1970)

John Lennon - "Instant Karma! (We All Shine On)" (1970)

John Lennon - "Mother" (1970)

John Lennon - "Well Well Well" (1970)

John Lennon - "How Do You Sleep?" (1971)

#3: "Like a Rolling Stone" by Bob Dylan

Appears on: 'Highway 61 Revisited' (1965)

Genre: Folk Rock

Label: Columbia

Written by: Bob Dylan

Produced by: Tom Wilson

Both the 'Highway 61 Revisited' album and this, its lead track/single, brought heady folk lyricism and full-blown rock instrumentation together for the first time; it’s the birth of modern rock & roll as we know it.

Recommended listening:

Bob Dylan - "Visions of Johanna" (1966)

Bob Dylan - "All Along the Watchtower" (1967)

Bob Dylan - "Knockin' on Heaven's Door" (1973)

Bob Dylan - "Idiot Wind" (1975)

Bob Dylan - "Hurricane" (1976)

#2: "Yesterday" by The Beatles

Appears on: 'Help!' (1965)

Genre: British Invasion

Label: Capitol [US] / Parlophone [UK]

Written by: John Lennon, Paul McCartney

Produced by: George Martin

"Yesterday" has been covered more than 2,000 times for a reason: it’s simple, effective, and flawless. With “Yesterday,” the Beatles’ early rock & roll juvenilia matured at last. The song is the all-important bridge between those relatively simplistic early days and the sheer genius of the Beatles’ output in the back half of the ‘60s.

Recommended listening:

The Beatles - "Eight Days a Week" (1964)

The Beatles - "Day Tripper" (1965)

The Beatles - "Help!" (1965)

The Beatles - "Ticket to Ride" (1965)

The Beatles - "We Can Work It Out" (1965)

#1: "Johnny B. Goode" by Chuck Berry

Appears on: 'Chuck Berry Is on Top' (1959)

Genre: Rock & Roll

Label: Chess

Written by: Chuck Berry

Produced by: Little "Bongo" Kraus

Of all of the songs made in the pop music era, none carries more weight than this one. It completely embodies everything rock & roll is, was, and can be.

Recommended listening:

Chuck Berry - "Rock and Roll Music" (1957)

Chuck Berry - "Around and Around" (1958)

Chuck Berry - "Carol" (1958)

Chuck Berry - "Reelin' and Rockin'" (1958)

Chuck Berry - "Sweet Little Sixteen" (1958)

What do you think of the new list? Is it better or worse than the older versions?

Don't agree with my list? Be sure to let me know!

-- Eric

Reader Reaction - Honest Comments Only!

Mle on September 05, 2020:

I’m either blind or I haven’t seen one metallica song on here pretty’s here whoever made this hasn’t listened to metal at least have One By metallica in the top 10 or 5 ...

Idd andati on February 09, 2020:

Great list

Christopher Nowak on December 17, 2019:


Christopher Nowak on December 15, 2019:

Sorry folks. It should be GLORIA ESTEFAN.

My apologies!

Christopher Nowak on December 13, 2019:

TURN THE BEAT AROUND!!!! (Gloria Estevan).

Just like AFRICA, DO YOU BELIEVE IN LOVE and STACY'A MOM, the chorus has those piercing high pitched vocals in the harmony.

Christopher Nowak on November 26, 2019:


Notice that I did not say Cyndi Lauper.

Christopher Nowak on November 22, 2019:


For HALLELUJAH, listen to KD LANG and the young but very talented KAYLEE RODGERS.

Philip (Pip) on May 07, 2019:

American Pie - Don McLean

Lyrics alone destroy most of the songs on this list.

Hugh Mann on May 07, 2019:

I feel like this list is pretty biased. I see some pretty popular songs on here, but they're all misplaced in my opinion (and even according to fact). For example, the most recognizable song, Smells like Teen Spirit, is in #20th place or so. "But that doesn't mean it's goo-" I will eat anyone who says, unironically, that they hate this song. Personal matters aside, Bohemian Rhapsody is at #17, which is pretty low compared to other lists like this. And, while it's a good song, "Johnny B. Goode" doesn't feel right in the #1 spot, when there are many more iconic and catchy songs than it. Overall, this list wasn't made to its best potential, and the other commenters seem to agree.

Abcde on April 22, 2019:

Not a single Michael Jackson song in the top 25? Has the best selling album of all time.

ANGRY PERSON23 on April 07, 2019:

IS NO ONE TALKING ABOUT BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY AT NO. 17!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! WHAT KIND OF $#!% IS THIS. AT LEAST NO. 3

Chris on December 10, 2018:

This is a weird list.. can't really agree with the placement of anything except that stairway to heaven definitely deserves its place around 5th give or take few ranks.

Funcklyci on November 28, 2018:

#97: "Rolling in the Deep" by Adele

#68: "Sign O' the Times" by Prince

#66: "Light My Fire" by The Doors

#52: "Billie Jean" by Michael Jackson

Just to mention a few...

and The Ronettes at N°23...?

#23: "Be My Baby" by The Ronettes

There's something really wrong here.

yeepykayyey on February 07, 2018:

Where is Beethoven 9th Symphony?

Greig from Glasgow, Scotland, UK on September 26, 2017:

It's so hard to choose with so many great songs out there.

jim baba tundey on September 19, 2017:

great list, imagine probably no. 1 tho

Teacher Music Fan on September 11, 2017:

Thanks for this list! I teach middle school where most of my students are from immigrant parents who have not introduced them to music except for their cultural music. I was looking for a list of songs I can play between class periods just to expose them to all the great pop/rock/blues, etc. music that has been made since the 1950's. This is a good collection of basic songs. I'm playing a song a day. Today was Bittersweet Symphony and they seemed to enjoy it. Although I'll have to skip a song or two due to lyrics, it will be fun to see their reactions.

Ellen McRae on February 17, 2017:

Listen to Steve Marriott "Stone Cold Fever" and others.

Boomer Music Man on August 23, 2016:

Great list of songs. Love it

J-Sean on February 18, 2015:

I've only looked at your 90-100 so far, but already I think it's better than RollingStone and Billboard, among others that are well-revered publications whose lists people cling as if their word is law.

But you already knew that it's better than those lists, so...

craig57 lm on September 18, 2013:

Great list!

anonymous on September 16, 2013:

I personally think hey Jude should've been at least in the top 5 one of my all time favorites and I'm only 19 which shows how they still effect people

anonymous on September 16, 2013:

Nice choices.

anonymous on September 10, 2013:

What about Machine Gun!?!

anonymous on August 17, 2013:

Nice lovely song list...

anonymous on August 16, 2013:

@anonymous: Of course they are. What in your opinion gets them beaten? "I kissed a girl", "Call me Maybe"? Justin Timberlake, Jay Z? Please.

anonymous on August 16, 2013:

@anonymous: Where to begin with "The List"? Don't get me wrong, I like the songs listed. But, in my opinion, to be considered best of the best, you have to look at what the artist did for music. For example, the Beatles (The greatest group ever) would have never been as good as they were without the influences and outside compitition they had (Beach Boys, Stones) which were offshoots of the Beatles anyhow. That said, and I hate to say this, "Smells like teen spirit" should be much higher. Just where did that one song take the industry? So I think greatest songs should be ranked on how they changed the industry they were in. On a side note, the Beatles reinvented music with damn near ever album they released. Listen to them in order, its amazing in a 10 year period.

anonymous on August 15, 2013:

So sad that there is no Bee Gees ( How Deep Is Your Love, Too Much Heaven, Stayin Alive), no Michael Jackson ( Billie Jean, Beat It , We Are The World, Thriller ), no Madonna ( Like A Little Prayer, Crazy For You, etc), no Elton John ( Sacrifice , Can You Feel The Love Tonight , Your Song , Candle In The Wind) , . In fact its almost no 80's song , and 80's were one of the best decades of music,

anonymous on August 15, 2013:

What an irony that old songs are at the top :)

SamiPearl on August 15, 2013:

I'd have to say "Bohemian Rhapsody" should take the top spot. It's been so influential, and the combined genius of Brian May and Freddie Mercury is incomparable, imo.

stratosgl on July 28, 2013:

Actually i am scared of these lists of "BEST" songs!! It's relevant. Anyone have their own taste of music out there. But anyway i personally liked it a lot!! I can't agree for all of them but still good!

anonymous on July 26, 2013:

No metal, progressive rock, electronic music...hell, there's nothing here at all that really demonstrates you've listened to anything outside of Rolling Stones' top albums & songs. Not to mention some artists got multiple songs here...

Don't get me wrong though, this is a good list. I just think you need more variety if you're going to call it the GREATEST 100 Songs of ALL TIME. :)

anonymous on July 22, 2013:

no MJ ? so sad ..

anonymous on July 13, 2013:

Clearly this is a person favorites list and while there's nothing wrong with that, you should have entitled it, "MY top 100 Favorite Songs" and not "THE Greatest 100 of all time." How can I prove my point? How can I prove to you that you're incorrect? Easy. 1976, Boston: More than a Feeling. Any top 100 list of 'the greatest' that doesn't include that song is wrong...on my list.

anonymous on July 12, 2013:

No Coldplay? Talk? Clocks? No songs from the 90's onwards... Bitter Sweet Simphony? Oh well

socialcx1 on July 10, 2013:

Some great songs here but not sure about them being the"All time best" ?????

anonymous on July 09, 2013:

What a predictable, nonsense list - the same list everyone provides in

perpetuity - BOB DYLAN, yecch!!!!!!!

anonymous on June 30, 2013:

umm... is it just me or do I NOT see "don't stop believing" by journey on here. I mean, its only the most famous song in American history.

anonymous on June 09, 2013:

sorry pal, but your list doesn't even come close to a :" 100 ALLTIME BEST SONGS"

It's obvious that this list has strong influnce of your era, which-judging by the songs you'v picked-is around 1950-1970, and this is a very narrow(and shallow) approach!!!

anonymous on June 05, 2013:

@anonymous: Agree. My personal list would bring all kinds of criticism that I am sure.

anonymous on May 27, 2013:

by now means am I criticizing these are great songs . its hard to narrow down the greatest songs ever written with so many to chose from , but I was surprised by not seeing American pie by don mclean.

anonymous on May 24, 2013:

No eagles - desperado !!??

anonymous on May 22, 2013:

@anonymous: was that sarcasm? I hope so.....

anonymous on May 18, 2013:

@anonymous: Virtually every great band you can think of is British.

anonymous on May 10, 2013:

@anonymous: Exactly. The Beatles are a classic example of of how American Music is the best. Everyone knows that, duh.

anonymous on May 10, 2013:

@anonymous: I think you meant, Danzig's "Mother". And yes, it should be #1.

Country Sunshine from Texas on May 02, 2013:

Awesome list of tunes... I agree with the majority of them. I appreciate the time & effort you put into writing this article!

anonymous on April 28, 2013:

Why isn't Bon jovi on this?

anonymous on April 28, 2013:

@anonymous: 100% wrong

anonymous on April 28, 2013:

Te fact the King who made Rock and Roll isn't in the top 10 is just wrong

anonymous on April 27, 2013:

@anonymous: indeed.......

anonymous on April 14, 2013:

Id say you had too many of the same artist repeated... U2, simon & garfunkle. I personally would have included David Bowie, Deep purple, rush, elton john, T Rex, ike and tina turner, the ramones, toots and the maytals, bb king, the monkees, jackson 5, stray cats... I should compile a list of my own I think I have a good start lol. I feel like any of these bands woulx easily knock pearl jam, or U2 off this list.

anonymous on April 12, 2013:

hello Eric. Please track down the track "Toy" by the British band "The Casuals". It probably won't make your top 100, but it's bloody good all the same.

anonymous on April 05, 2013:

@anonymous: Pierce the veil is VERY popular hah. Maybe not to the older generations but they are mainstream. I mean I like them but they're not LEGENDARY. they will be forgotten

anonymous on April 04, 2013:


anonymous on March 31, 2013:

Okay, so most of us don't agree with this list based on our preferences, but until you make your own list you will never fully agree. Maybe some great songs were left off, maybe some not so great songs were put on. However, this is still one of the best lists of great songs on the internet. Use it as a guideline, and don't take it as 'THIS number' is definitely better than 'THIS number.'

CristianStan on March 26, 2013:

Wow, I actually agree with most of these songs, some of them I haven't heard of tho

anonymous on March 19, 2013:

Because it is a "classic" does not make it a complex song or a song that takes talent to create. Most of the greatest musicians to have walked the Earth probably play in underground music venues, or are in modern progressive bands. joy. if you let a bunch of youngsters take over Mackelmore would top this list along side this rap artist and that one other rap artist.

anonymous on March 17, 2013:


anonymous on March 15, 2013:

@anonymous: Ummmm Beatle songs?

anonymous on March 10, 2013:

Bohemian - nr 34,,,,,,,,,, what a joke

anonymous on March 08, 2013:

@anonymous: American music is well-known to be the best in the're a complete idiot. There's NO non-American song that can compare with ANY American song,

anonymous on March 08, 2013:

This is a great list, but it seems to lack newer songs, and keep to the classics (which I respect), but there is an abundance of songs like Under The Bridge (Red Hot Chili Peppers), Paranoid Android and Fake Plastic Trees (Radiohead), maybe some Sublime, White Stripes, Police, maybe Green Day, Guns N Roses, Coldplay, and maybe Frank Sinatra, Bobby Darin, and maybe a little country such as Conway Twitty, George Jones, and most importantly, Velvet Underground

anonymous on March 05, 2013:

What a wonderful world????? Greatest song ever made by far!!! Also lose yourself should've made this list, rap is a major factor in the music game and although there should only be two or three rap songs on here its obviously biased against rap to have none.

anonymous on March 04, 2013:

#1 is so loseyourself by eminem

anonymous on February 28, 2013:

This is most strange top ever. Bohemian probably best or second song ever in opion of all the world on the 34.?WTF and no Gun's'N'Roses-Sweet Child O Mine one of the most amazing songs ever. Mind Fuck o,O.

anonymous on February 26, 2013:

Some great songs here, and yes everyone has their own opinion. Not to criticize but to correct- it is Buddy Holly and The Crickets.

anonymous on February 26, 2013:

dude no "Stand by me"? Highway robbery....

anonymous on February 22, 2013:

These comments are absurd. Everything is in the eye of the beholder. Make your own lists, this is ones mans take on HIS top 100. How hard is that to understand.


anonymous on February 18, 2013:

@anonymous: NOT

anonymous on February 18, 2013:

Papa's Got a Brand New Bag on "best list"-hardly!

anonymous on February 16, 2013:

Only one MJ song he is the greatest!!! Money wise and fan wise.

uneasywriter lm on February 16, 2013:

Can't say I agree but you've done a pretty good job putting this top 100 list together. To save argument though I think I would have made it a vote.. Just my humble opinion. Thanks!

anonymous on February 15, 2013:

@xtianfriborg13: because it sucks

anonymous on February 14, 2013:

A few I was surprised by. I would put Baba Oriley way further up!

anonymous on February 07, 2013:

1950 to 1990 the golden age for music!

anonymous on February 07, 2013:

@anonymous: Because music today sucks. Music been going down hill since the 1990's.

The Greatest songs ever made were from 1950 to 1990.

lilantz on February 06, 2013:

Thanks for the share. Some of the songs I didn't know about them. I have enjoyed the list.

anonymous on February 02, 2013:

Where are the 'backstreet boys' and 'Britney Spears'. My Software Synthesizer gently weeps.

anonymous on January 31, 2013:

Agree with and came as a surprise as I per used the rest of your choices...nice one

anonymous on January 30, 2013:

@anonymous: It isn't always about what gave rise to something, it't what the man thinks is the best music. And if he think that classical rock and U2 are the best, and he don't cares about Hip Hop or Rap, so be it. If you like DJ music or Mozart or what ever you do, just listen to it and stop being a pessimist.

Emmett_Smith on January 27, 2013:

I would say that about 15-20 of these would be on my list. Great lens

anonymous on January 19, 2013:

@anonymous: I thought the same thing

anonymous on January 19, 2013:

fantastic list but where is Pink Floyd's mother? in my opinion that should be number 1 on this list

pinkrenegade lm on January 18, 2013:

these songs are classics.. great lens

anonymous on January 18, 2013:

First I want to say by best songs of all time you are talking about american music mainly (or from other english speaking countries). On a best music in the world list probably about 3,4 songs would be american and I think none of them are on your list. But this is probably more about what you are familiar with.

So I would say first remove REM and U2. Popular but haven't really done anything but be popular.

You must add Aphex Twin on the list

Reggae/Dub lots of great songs they gave rise to Hip Hop, DJ music, Dance Clubs and Electronic music and sampling. Definitely at least have 2,3 of those.

The Clash must be on the list. Punk music begins with them

Old blues music. Blind Willie Johnson Soul of A man must be on the list. It was included on the disc that went to space on voyager missions.

No classical music?

You need some american folk. So many songs to pick any of them would do.

Johnny Cash deserves at least one spot. and no the ring of fire. I think there are better songs . Ring of fire is just his most popular. Id vouch for hurt of folsom prison blues.

Rolling stones proably deserve a spot in your list

bob dylan

at least 1 or 2 jazz tunes

some early electronic musicians tunes. for example I would just add Raymond Scott - Powerhouse although probably not really great music he was probably the biggest influence on Bob Moog who invented the synthesizer

and i have about 100 other suggestions. the problem is there is too much music to have 100 only best list. If you are talking about best american music is probably all classical, some jazz, some old american fok and some blues . Probably none of the things you listed.

Michael Oksa on January 15, 2013:

THANK YOU...for including songs from the 1950s (especially Big Joe Turner's original version of "Shake, Rattle And Roll"). It's nice to see a wider range of rock and roll represented on your list. I made a Top 500 list about 30 years (!) ago, but my tastes have changed a lot since then.

I understand the difficult choices that need to be made, and that any such list is, by its nature, subjective.

My saying when it comes to rock music is "It's all good!" There are some newer bands that could have been on the list (White Stripes, Muse, Gorillaz) but that's just my opinion. Great job, and thanks again. Rock on!

Michael Oksa on January 15, 2013:

@anonymous: LOL, I highly doubt it. They are a well-known, newer band that really rocks.

anonymous on January 15, 2013:

@anonymous: because music sucks after 2000....

anonymous on January 15, 2013:

@anonymous: Hhahahahahahaha COLDPLAY REPLACING NIRVANA!? That's hilarious! Coldplay is boring, cheesy and generic. Smells Like Teen Spirit isn't Nirvana's only song. Just the most popular. Have you actually listened to NIRVANA? They are amazing!

anonymous on January 12, 2013:

Don't think I've seen a single song from 2000 or newer on that list

anonymous on January 12, 2013:

Jason, let me guess, is that ur band by any chance?

anonymous on January 09, 2013:

Overall good list but very biased and genre speficic. There is way more to music now then back in the day. Check out pierce the veil, a band you or noone else has heard of yet the guitar riffs and drumming is better than any of these songs on this list.

anonymous on January 09, 2013:

@anonymous: I agree 100%!!!!!! One of the greatest guitarists of all time should be in at least the top 25, no doubt.

anonymous on January 09, 2013:

@anonymous: I find it disturbing that you find Coldplay to be a better band than Nirvana.

anonymous on January 08, 2013:

Born to be wild is every where, radio, tv, movies, commercials, adds

anonymous on January 06, 2013:

I think overall this is a fairly excellent list. Nice one eric

anonymous on January 06, 2013:

Wow... i don't know why u guys r giving Eric such a hard time... this list is based on his musical tastes, not yours, so why don't you just go and make up ur own list. Then you'll see that there will be songs that you haven't put on your list that people are raging about... Eric, good man, great selection

anonymous on January 06, 2013:

@anonymous: there there... ?

anonymous on January 06, 2013:

no thriller?

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