63 Best Songs of All Time

Best Songs of All Time

The old adage that beauty is in the eye of the beholder rings true across all artforms – especially music.

However, some songs are so era-defining or genre-defying that they transcend the subjective nature of music appreciation.

The following list of the best songs of all time highlights these rare, three-minute pop treasures.


“The Weight” by The Band

Song year: 1968

Ironically, The Band isn't from the American south, but rather Canada. This group of Canucks sure knew how to tap into its rootsy zeitgeist, though. By delivering a wallop of a tune with “The Weight,” The Band wrote the gold standard in Americana-inflected folk-rock.

The Band started its career as Bob Dylan's touring group. Once they struck out on their own, they helped define the Americana genre that continues to thrive, proving this group could carry the weight.

“Juicy” by The Notorious B.I.G.

Song year: 1994

Updated for the 90s gangster rap set, Notorious B.I.G.'s “Juicy” tells a classic rags-to-riches tale, only this time our hero is a young rapper coming up in the game.

Given hip-hop's massive influence on our culture, “Juicy” holds a clear spot on the list of best songs of all time. Notorious B.I.G.'s deft lyricism and outsized appearance helped bring the genre to the masses. With a track this infectious, you won't hear any complaints.

“Heart of Glass” by Blondie

Song year: 1978

Splitting the difference between punk, new wave, and disco, Blondie's “Heart of Glass” became one of the first dance-rock songs at a time in the 70s when rock and disco music were at war.

Though Blondie's punk rock peers accused the group of selling out after releasing “Heart of Glass,” the song would sell millions of copies and inspire legions of bands to incorporate more exotic themes into their rock sound.

“Tiny Dancer” by Elton John, One Of The Best Songs Ever

Song year: 1971

“Tiny Dancer” is the crown jewel of Elton John's career, which is saying something considering the pianist's wealth of classic material. There just isn't denying this somewhat obtuse homage to 70s California, where pianos and slide guitars usher us into an anthemic and poetic chorus.

Exemplifying the strength of the songwriting duo of Elton John and Bernie Taupin, the song has retroactively come to represent the sun-kissed melancholy just beneath the surface of American rock and roll.

“The Message” by Grandmaster Flash & the Furious Five

Song year: 1982

While many early hip-hop tracks were focused on partying and featured boastful and light rhymes, Grand Master Flash & The Furious Five changed the game entirely with the social commentary on “The Message.”

Laying the groundwork for more socially conscious groups that would come later in the decade, “The Message” serves as the bridge for hip-hop from dancefloors to a highly considered art form with its funky and experimental background track allowing the lyrics to shine.

“Louie Louie” by The Kingsmen

Song year: 1963

It might be hard to imagine now, but when “Louie Louie” came out in the early 60s, people were scared of it. Parents were so perplexed by this aggressive new sound that had teenagers dancing that the FBI spent months trying to decode the lyrics.

The Kingsmen improved on previous versions of “Louie Louie” by adding a slight change to the rhythm and thus changed rock and roll forever. It's unintelligible and loud, influencing countless garage rock bands to come.

“Like a Prayer” by Madonna

Song year: 1989

While Madonna was already a platinum-selling pop star by the late 80s, critical success often evaded her. That all changed after releasing “Like a Prayer,” a song that blurred the lines between religion and sexuality while combining rock, pop, and gospel musical elements.

“Like a Prayer,” with its provocative music video, was condemned by the Vatican and ushered in a new era of controversy for Madonna. She would explore more sexually explicit themes in the 90s, empowering a new generation of female musicians.

“Shotgun” by Jr. Walker & the All Stars

Song year: 1965

Junior Walker didn't consider himself a vocalist, but when the singer booked for the recording session failed to show up, he was behind the mic wailing the lyrics to “Shotgun.” Though it isn't an earth-shattering vocal performance, the song is an exercise in all that is right with soul music.

This song doesn't come on the stereo without heads and hips swaying. It's a staple of soul dancefloors everywhere and a reminder that sometimes the best songs are simply the most fun.

“Good Vibrations” by The Beach Boys

Song year: 1966

The Beach Boys' “Good Vibrations” was so massive upon its release that a new term, pocket symphony, was coined to describe the piece. Brian Wilson's revolutionary recording techniques captured the song's sound from four different studio takes, crafting the track in an almost piecemeal fashion.

While it would take several years for the public to come around on the totality of Wilson's genius, “Good Vibrations” was heralded immediately. The experimental nature of its pop sound remains just as fresh half a century later.

“Smells Like Teen Spirit” by Nirvana

Song year: 1991

Punk rock was nothing new in 1991, but Nirvana's bitingly raw take on the genre, which would define the grunge genre, was a shock to the arena rock senses early in the decade.

With Nirvana's “Smells Like Teen Spirit” came a voice for the disaffected children of hippies and baby boomers, and finally, Generation X had an anthem. But unlike other imitators, Nirvana's strength was the impeccable songcraft beneath their raw power.

“Respect” by Aretha Franklin

Song year: 1967

Originally written and recorded by Otis Redding, Aretha Franklin's diva-sized vocal chops took “Respect” from Redding's male-driven take on domesticity to a feminist and social rights anthem for generations to come.

With help from the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section, Franklin would redefine her career with the gritty, southern-tinged performance of “Respect.” Among its many accolades, “Respect” was added to the Library of Congress' National Recording Registry.

“Radio Free Europe” by R.E.M.

Song year: 1981

Even one of the biggest rock bands of their time has to start somewhere. For R.E.M., that meant college radio. The bands' first charting single, “Radio Free Europe,” would help define burgeoning college radio and indie rock for generations to come.

“Radio Free Europe” is by no means the quintessential R.E.M. song. But considering the effect that it had on independent radio and bands of the early 80s, it might be their most important.

“Baba O’Riley” by The Who

Song year: 1971

Call it a rock and roll classic, call it one of the defining works of The Who's celebrated career, but don't call it “Teenage Wasteland.” From the manic synthesizer intro to the violin outro, “Baba O'Riley” isn't quite like any other rock and roll song.

Pulling influences from Indian gurus, minimalist composers, Woodstock, and their own forays into rock operas, The Who recorded one of the most vital accounts of the fall-out of the promise of rock and roll with “Baba O'Riley.”

“99 Problems” by Jay-Z

Song year: 2003

With pioneering hip-hop producer Rick Rubin at the helm, Jay-Z's “99 Problems” would serve as an homage to hip-hop's past while blazing a trail for its future.

With commentary on American race relations at the dawn of the new Millenium, Jay-Z took Ice-T references and Rubin's classic production style and turned it into one of the best hip-hop tracks of the modern era with “99 Problems.”

“Son of a Preacher Man” by Dusty Springfield

Song year: 1969

Enamored by the sound of American soul music, British songstress Dusty Springfield signed with Atlantic Records, setting out to revamp her recording career in the fertile grounds of Memphis, Tennessee.

Springfield's producer, armed with the famed backing band the Memphis Boys and the song “Son of a Preacher Man,” originally written for Aretha Franklin, helped breathe new life into the career of Springfield. Along the way, the syrupy slow sounds of “Son of a Preacher Man” would help define the Memphis sound.

“London Calling” by The Clash

Song year: 1979

The Clash's classic punk single “London Calling” explodes from speakers like an urgent call to arms. Using a staccato rhythm and ferocious guitars, the band manages to touch on police brutality, drug abuse, music fads, and nuclear fallout in three punchy minutes.

The Clash would lay the groundwork for the typically apolitical nature of early punk to merge into its more political mutations of the 80s. Their influence on the genre, and protest music at large, cannot be overstated.

“A Change Is Gonna Come” by Sam Cooke

Song year: 1964

Released shortly after his tragic death, Sam Cooke's “A Change Is Gonna Come” immediately became an anthem for the 60s civil rights movement. With its slow, plodding rhythm and haunting orchestration, the song is an emotionally stirring account of hope in the face of hate.

Cooke's legacy continues to this day, with his songwriting and crooner's voice finding new audiences with each generation, thanks in part to the historical significance of “A Change Is Gonna Come.”

“Gimme Shelter” by The Rolling Stones

Song year: 1969

As the 60s' hope for peace and love faded into the reality that the Vietnam War would continue into the next decade, The Rolling Stone's “Gimme Shelter” became a dark anthem of an unsettled time.

With a slinky guitar line, crashing piano, and female choir opening the song, The Rolling Stones perfectly set the stage for an incoming storm. Once “Gimme Shelter” kicks into high gear, it's clear that this song is bigger than rock and roll.

“Back to Black” by Amy Winehouse

Song year: 2006

Combing her heartbreak with the sounds of early soul music and a Phil Spector-esque wall of sound, Amy Winehouse's “Back to Black” has become one of the few modern entries into the soul music canon. Rightfully so, as the vocal performance and production quality make for a haunting track.

Winehouse's tragic death left us with only a small body of work, but “Back to Black” is undoubtedly a classic, the rare type of track that transcends its own time.

“In the Midnight Hour” by Wilson Pickett

Song year: 1965

Wilson Pickett's “In the Midnight Hour” is a no-frills, barn-burner of classic southern soul that would help shape the Memphis soul sound for a generation to come.

“In the Midnight Hour” has been covered by countless bands and is considered a classic of the soul genre. The song's influence has even crossed over from soul, with bands as diverse as The Grateful Dead and Genesis regularly covering it.

“Love Will Tear Us Apart” by Joy Division

Song year: 1980

Released a month after lead singer Ian Curtis' suicide, Joy Division's “Love Will Tear Us Apart” is hauntingly prescient as a posthumous declaration of the destructive nature of toxic relationships.

Though Joy Division would dissolve and reemerge as New Order, “Love Will Tear Us Apart” would continue to find new audiences throughout the decade as a gold standard for post-punk dance songs. The minimalistic goth sound of the single continues to inspire dance rock bands.

“Runaway” by Kanye West ft. Pusha T

Song year: 2010

As the centerpiece of Kanye West's classic My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, “Runaway” explores themes of celebrity and fame as West is experiencing them in real-time. West recognizes his faults, but just as importantly, points out the perception and reality of the situation might not always align.

The song's outro, four minutes of auto-tuned humming, takes the era's much-maligned use of auto-tune and transforms it into a jazz-styled, improvisational catharsis. In the age of celebrity, “Runaway” holds the mirror back to the famous – and society.

“Heroes” by David Bowie

Song year: 1977

Inspired by the Berlin Wall, David Bowie's “Heroes” recasts the Romeo and Juliet story in the Cold War era. Many credit his performance of “Heroes” at the Berlin Wall as a factor in the wall's fall.

Though the song was not a hit upon its initial release, it is now considered one of Bowie's best compositions. The ominous tone of the song, aided by Brain Eno's production, has a timeless quality that transcends musical trends.

“Because the Night” by Patti Smith

Song year: 1978

When Bruce Springsteen hit a roadblock with his half-written song “Because the Night,” he handed it off to Patti Smith to see if she could do anything with it. The result was a dash of pop inspiration for the punk pioneer and would become her first hit single.

Both Bruce Springsteen and Patti Smith continue to perform the song live. Surprisingly, “Because the Night” adapts to the specific demands of these different artists, serving as proof of the quality of this moody torch ballad.

“Ms. Jackson” by Outkast

Song year: 2000

Bringing the unique sounds of Atlanta hip-hop to the mainstream, Outkast simultaneously became a creative and commercial force in hip hop. Nowhere is this blend of artistic and commercial viability more evident than the duo's hit “Ms. Jackson.”

By flipping their sample backward and adding bird calls and dog barks, Outkast' employs Beatles recording techniques seamlessly into their southern hip-hop oeuvre, thus innovating the form. Though “Ms. Jackson” wouldn't be the last hit for Outkast, it served as a creative peak.

“I Walk the Line” by Johnny Cash

Song year: 1957

Johnny Cash's “I Walk the Line” stands as a shining song of devotion, shaping a tradition of classic tales of faithfulness such as “Stand by Your Man” and “My Aim is True.” The song would become the first hit for Cash and a staple of his live shows for decades to come.

Along with the train-esque chugging rhythm of his backing band, The Tennessee Two, Cash's signature baritone drives this tale of loyalty into cool and alluring territory.

“Reflections” by Dianna Ross & The Supremes

Song year: 1966

Signaling Motown's desire to keep up with the times, Dianna Ross & The Supremes dipped into psychedelic-pop with their late 60s single “Reflections.”

Unlike most of the light psychedelia filtering onto the airwaves, the Supremes featured a soulful core, namely the otherworldly bass playing of James Jamerson. The musicianship of Motown session players made the psychedelic flourishes adornment rather than a crutch, and the result is one of the most adventurous Motown singles ever.

“Walk on the Wild Side” by Lou Reed

Song year: 1972

Of course Lou Reed, the definition of 20th century counter culture, would pen the ultimate counter-cultural anthem. “Walk on the Wild Side” finds Reed offering character studies based on his experiences with Andy Warhol and the 1960s New York City art world.

Each verse oozes taboo and danger while a stand-up bass imbues the song with disaffected jazz hipness. Even as the song ages, the stand-up bass underscores the verses with a sonic irony, making it a standard for cool kids everywhere.

“California” by Joni Mitchell

Song year: 1971

With a gentle dulcimer riff and lilting melody, Joni Mitchell outlines her love of The Golden State via France in her classic song “California.” It's a fitting ode as Mitchell is synonymous with the Laurel Canyon sound associated with California's singer-songwriters of the 70s.

Mitchell's career would find her chasing several different muses, but “California,” with help from the guitar work of James Taylor, stands as a perfect balance between the eclecticism and pop sensibility of this classic artist.

“Roadrunner” by The Modern Lovers

Song year: 1976

With a sound inspired by the Velvet Underground and lyrics inspired by a deep love of Massachusettes, The Modern Lovers' “Roadrunner” is a proto-punk anthem bursting with New England pride.

Though released in 1976, “Roadrunner” was recorded in 1972, making it an essential element in the evolution of rock and roll. Jonathan Richman would disband The Modern Lovers before they released their debut album. Richman would pursue a softer songwriting career, ensuring the exuberant “Roadrunner” would be one of one.

“Green Onions” by Booker T. & The M.G.’s

Song year: 1962

As the house band for Stax Records, Booker T. & The M.G.'s cut a slew of classic soul records for other artists during the 60s, but perhaps none were as iconic as the Booker T.'s own “Green Onions.”

With Booker T.'s classic Hammond organ as its guide, the track is one of the most successful instrumentals of all time. Six decades later, “Green Onions” is still used in film and television and remains the high water mark for instrument rock and soul.

“Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” by Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell

Song year: 1967

Though Marvin Gaye was no stranger to cutting a duet or two, there was undeniable magic when his voice intertwined with Tammi Terrell's. The duo would strike gold on a string of singles, reaching their creative apex with “Ain't No Mountain High Enough.”

With the skillful playing of Motown's Funk Brothers, the song's minimalist verses explode into Gaye and Terrell's anthemic chorus of devotion. The result is a sound that perfectly punctuates the sentiment.

“Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen

Song year: 1975

A prog-rock masterpiece indebted as much to musical theatre and opera as it was to virtuosic guitar chops, Queen would find an audience twice with “Bohemian Rhapsody.” First, as a worldwide hit single. Then nearly three decades later, as a head-banging soundtrack for Wayne's World.

The popularity of “Bohemian Rhapsody” is particularly impressive given its unique and chorus-less song structure. For decades, audiences have marveled at Queen's blend of operatic and rock elements.

“Strange Fruit” by Billie Holliday

Song year: 1939

Billie Holiday's “Strange Fruit” is one of the best protest songs ever recorded. Tackling the issue of lynching before the civil rights movement even began, performing “Strange Fruit” was a risk for Holiday. The message galvanized listeners on its way to selling over a million copies.

With equality and racial history a renewed hot button issue, “Strange Fruit” remains culturally relevant. Given its themes and the era of its recording, it transcends pop music entirely. Instead, “Strange Fruit” is a document of a dark history.

“Born to Run” by Bruce Springsteen

Song year: 1975

When Bruce Springsteen cut “Born to Run,” he had nothing left to lose. Staring down the barrel of his third record, Springsteen needed to break big or was at risk of losing his career before it had even begun. With this desperation and hunger hanging over his head, the Jersey boy finally hit paydirt with his bombastic single.

No song explodes from the speaker as powerfully as “Born to Run,” adding the high octane punctuation to Springsteen's adopting his mantle as the bard of the blue-collar.

“Purple Rain” by Prince

“Purple Rain” by Prince

Song year: 1984

Prince took pop music to church with the song “Purple Rain.” Though often viewed as an artist that pushed the boundaries of sex and sensuality, Prince often viewed his work through a spiritual lens. “Purple Rain” took apocalyptic imagery and gospel instrumentation and shot it to the top of the charts.

Ever the enigma, Prince would write hundreds of songs and sell millions of records, changing his name to a symbol in the process. All the while, “Purple Rain” never lost its universally emotional impact.

“My Way” by Frank Sinatra

Song year: 1969

With the white-hot Billboard chart success of his early career behind him, Frank Sinatra recorded “My Way” in a single take in 1968, unaware that the song would go on to define the back half of his illustrious career.

Perhaps because of the steadfastly resilient and nostalgic tone, “My Way” has become synonymous with travelers at the end of their road less traveled. Besides Sinatra's commanding performance, artists as diverse as The Sex Pistols and Elvis have performed the song, speaking to its universality.

“Something on Your Mind” by Karen Dalton

Song year: 1971

An also-ran of the Greenwich Village folk scene of the early 60s, recognition of Karen Dalton's contribution to music has been a long time coming. Commercial success evaded Dalton throughout her career, with a discouraging reception to her second record, In My Own Time, effectively ending her recording career.

However, Dalton's fascinating voice couldn't go unrecognized forever. A new generation of fans and artists have discovered Dalton, particularly the folky melancholia perfection of “Something On Your Mind.”

“I Only Have Eyes For You” by The Flamingos

Song year: 1959

The Flamingos' doo-wop defining hit “I Only Have Eyes For You” sounds like a transmission to earth from a faraway planet. The reverb-drenched vocals, staccato piano chords, and tremolo guitar effects give this ballad its ethereally timeless quality.

Over six decades since its release, “I Only Have Eyes For You” continues to leave audiences spellbound with its otherworldly account of steadfast devotion.

“Mannish Boy” by Muddy Waters

Song year: 1955

As part of a long blues and folk tradition, Muddy Waters' iconic song “Mannish Boy” borrows from lyrics and song forms that preceded it. The result continues the blues tradition and further explores it. This exchange of musical ideas continues in a modern sense through genres like hip-hop.

Aside from its lineage in the canon of blues standards, Waters' “Mannish Boy” is simply one hard-hitting track. Waters' brand of blues is the ferocious type, making the link from blues to hard-rock possible.

“Doo Wop (That Thing)” by Lauryn Hill

Song year: 1998

Lauryn Hill debuted at the number one spot on the Billboard charts with her single “Doo Wop (That Thing).” The song's hybrid of doo-wop, hip-hop, and soul creates an effective amalgamation of the Black musical tradition. Bolstered by an incredible hook, the song is a catchy pop tune and musical history at once.

Hill wouldn't top the charts again, but “Doo Wop (That Thing)” is a track so strong that it will carry Hill's name far into the 21st century.

“Redemption Song” by Bob Marley

Song year: 1980

Nearing the end of his life, Bob Marley wrote “Redemption Song” as an inspirational call to the search for mental acuity and free-thinking. Marley eschewed his traditional reggae rhythms for a plaintive strumming more reminiscent of folk music, providing a stark backdrop for his lyrical plea.

“Redemption Song” remains a powerful statement of protest and personal growth that continually finds new audiences. Capturing Marley's final moments on record as some of his most intimate, the song stands as his best.

“What’d I Say” by Ray Charles

Song year: 1959

Ray Charles spent the 50s pushing the genre of R&B forward by adding elements of gospel and Latin rhythms. The result of Charles' efforts were some of the earliest examples of soul music, the best of these being “What'd I Say.”

Originally improvised on stage to fill time in a set, “What'd I Say” maintains this crowd-pleasing and spontaneous nature on record, creating a template for the golden age of soul music to come.

“Try a Little Tenderness” by Otis Redding

Song year: 1966

Backed by Booker T. & The M.G.'s, Otis Redding's desperate and soulful plea for affection, “Try a Little Tenderness,” is one of soul music's shining moments. From its slow opening as a ballad to its closing moments as a full-throated soul shouting stomper, the track helped define 60s soul.

Redding's career would end tragically, but the power of his music has carried his name and legacy past that of any ordinary singer. Redding transcended soul by baring his own.

“Hallelujah” by Leonard Cohen

Song year: 1984

“Hallelujah”‘s journey from a deep cut on a forgotten Leonard Cohen album to a modern-day secular hymn was so improbable that there exist entire books on the subject. However it happened, there is no denying the power of Cohen's imagery and his mastery of language.

By blending vague religious imagery with sexuality, Cohen left the song open to all interpretations, whether holy or profane. The result was an incredibly personal meaning to all who listen.

“Jolene” Dolly Parton

Song year: 1974

Country music has a long tradition of love, betrayal, and desperation running through its songs, but none are as catchy and urgent as Dolly Parton's “Jolene.” The message and melody captured in this Parton composition have lent it a revered status in Nashville and beyond.

The fast-paced finger-picking punctuates Parton's plea to Jolene, the perspective homewrecker, to leave her man alone. In the country tradition of relatable storytelling, few songs capture plain-spoken romantic anxiety as well as “Jolene.”

“Turn! Turn! Turn!” by The Byrds

Song year: 1965

When folk singer Pete Seeger set a verse from the book of Ecclesiastes to music, he never imagined that the resulting song would eventually top the Billboard Hot 100. But that's what happened when the Byrds applied their folk-rock hybrid of vocal harmonies and twelve-string guitars to “Turn! Turn! Turn!”

As a beautifully simple sentiment to the passage of time and as a pioneering single in the now ubiquitous folk-rock genre, “Turn! “Turn! Turn!” is a defining song in the history of rock.

“Rivers Deep – Mountain High” by Ike & Tina Turner

Song year: 1966

Phil Spector's wall-of-sound recording technique reached its logical conclusion with the bombastic Ike & Tina Turner single “River Deep — Mountain High.” The song didn't immediately find commercial success, though it now stands as a pop and soul classic.

Recorded with Spector's notoriously meticulous attention to detail, Tina Turner's sweat-drenched efforts to appease Spector cut through the record. The song was one of the most costly ever recorded at the time, though the money now seems well spent.

“September Gurls” by Big Star

Song year: 1974

After a stint as a teen idol in The Box Tops, Alex Chilton decamped to Memphis and formed Big Star. Though the band never found commercial success, the strength of their classic albums would ensure that word of mouth would keep the band alive for generations to come.

Nowhere is Big Star as vulnerable yet rocking as “September Gurls.” Through the song, the listener can hear folk-rock, the British Invasion, and the groundwork for punk rock all at once.

“Creep” by TLC

Song year: 1994

The slinky and soulful “Creep” was a turning point in the career of TLC, making the group a household name and defining the 90s era of R&B. The song, a tale of female infidelity, was considered by many to be empowering in a world often dominated by male's tales of conquest.

Regardless of “Creep”‘s underlying morality, the 90s, and R&B, wouldn't be the same without the stilted and funky horns, DJ scratching, and infectious group sing-along of “Creep.”

“Johnny B. Goode” by Chuck Berry

Song year: 1958

Chuck Berry is arguably the most important figure in rock and roll history. From his playing style to his flashy stage presence, Berry laid the foundation for millions of guitarists that would come after him.

On “Johnny B. Goode,” Berry wrote a thinly veiled autobiography of a guitarist becoming famous. The song is the first-ever written about a rock star, and its iconic guitar riff stands as one of music's most recognizable.

“Marquee Moon” by Television

Song year: 1977

While many bands in the early punk scene took a visceral approach to their sound, Television was known for the intricately interwoven guitar lines. The resulting sound was closer to jazz than rock and garnered the band a reputation of being on the cutting edge of the rock avant-garde.

As the centerpiece of their debut album, “Marquee Moon” has become a standard for virtuosic guitarists and punk enthusiasts alike. The jagged stabs of sound and obtuse lyrics sound just as fresh today as they did in the 70s.

“A Day in the Life” by The Beatles

Song year: 1967

The strengths of the songwriting duo of John Lennon and Paul McCartney are on full display on The Beatles' classic “A Day in the Life.” Lennon takes the morose, ripped from the headlines approach to the opening verses, while McCartney plays the jaunty Englishman in his melodic turn.

The Beatles showcased their talents in exciting new ways with the revolutionary recording techniques used for Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band. In this way, “A Day in the Life” perfectly encapsulates two of the best songwriters of all time.

“I Will Always Love You” by Whitney Houston

Song year: 1992

There are torch songs, and then there are songs that set the entire room on fire. Whitney Houston took Dolly Parton's tale of longing and ripped its heart in two with her powerful rendition of “I Will Always Love You.”

As a sweeping declaration of eternal love and as a showcase for Houston's generational talent, “I Will Always Love You” impossibly unites soft rock enthusiasts and music critics. The song has become a modern-day standard and a measuring stick for aspiring singers.

“Where Is My Mind” by Pixies

Song year: 1988

Simple but effective, creepy but catchy, acoustic but rocking, the Pixies' “Where Is My Mind?” is a contradiction in terms. This dichotomy is part of the allure of the Pixies – as a mainstay of the 80s college rock scene, they came to embody all that was weird and fun in rock music.

In time the mainstream would catch up with the Pixies, and though the band would dissolve early in the next decade, “Where Is My Mind?” continues to play in films and dorm rooms every year.

“Nuthin’ But A ‘G’ Thang” by Dr. Dre ft Snoop Dog

Song year: 1992

Snoop Dogg and Dr. Dre were sculpting the California gangster rap sound with their classic hip-hop single, “Nuthin' But A ‘G' Thang.” Dr. Dre's funky production came to define the west coast take on rap and would become the template for aspiring gangster rappers for the next decade.

As a producer and rapper, Dr. Dre's contributions to music are unparalleled. Though discovering and fostering the talents of artists like Eminem and Snoop Dogg make him indispensable to hip-hop history, “Nuthin' But A ‘G' Thang” might be his crowning achievement.

“With Or Without You” by U2

Song year: 1987

When it comes to arena rock anthems, look no further than U2 for the best of all time. After toiling through the beginning of the decade in obscurity, the group hit paydirt with a succession of classic singles. Among these, “With Or Without You” stands as their finest.

With the innovative guitar work of the Edge and the poetic lyricism of Bono, “With Or Without You” is everything that U2 does well as a band. The anthem is an era-defining statement of the band's arrival as rockstars.

“Like a Rolling Stone” by Bob Dylan

Song year: 1965

As improbably as it sounds, Bob Dylan shot up the charts with his six-minute-long takedown of high society snobbery, “Like A Rolling Stone.” Up until then, Dylan was known primarily as a folk-singer. With “Like A Rolling Stone,” Dylan recast himself as a rockstar while breathing new life into the genre.

“Like A Rolling Stone” is the signature song of the most important songwriter of the 20th century. Bob Dylan's contribution to society is unquantifiable.

“I Feel the Earth Move” by Carole King

Song year: 1971

Carole King's “I Feel the Earth Move” captured an aggressive female sensuality often ignored by songs of the era. In 1971, a female songwriter performing her own material in an empowered way was still radical.

Carole King's thundering piano chords and assured vocals were essential to the success of “I Feel the Earth Move.” These signature elements have endeared the song to generations of music lovers and helped pave the way for female songwriters in the future.

“Reelin’ In the Years” by Steely Dan

Song year: 1972

While other jazz-inspired groups of the 70s pursued a fusion with funk, Steely Dan opted for a more rock-centric approach. The band was notorious for its studio perfectionism, and the payoff of this meticulous approach to craft was the classic “Reelin' In The Years.”

Opening the song with a classic piano-pop sound, soon Steely Dan sweeps us away with several guitar solos that remain mind-bending to this day. Many beginning guitarists enlist in lessons to tackle these beastly solos, making Steely Dan less yacht than rock in the annals of music history.

“My Girl” by The Temptations

Song year: 1965

“My Girl” was written by Smokey Robinson to highlight the talents of The Temptations' singer David Ruffin. Until that point, Ruffin had never sung lead vocal for the group. All that would change once “My Girl” shot to the top of the charts, cementing Ruffin as the group's primary vocalist.

Not only was “My Girl” a success for The Temptations, but it would become synonymous with Motown and soul music at large. The song remains one of the most iconic from the golden age of soul.

“Blitzkrieg Bop” by The Ramones

Song year: 1976

The Ramones' buzzsaw guitars and anthemic chorus' inspired an entire generation of kids to pick up instruments and see what they could do. The amateurish and raw sound of the group was part of its appeal, and it often masked The Ramones' calculated appeals to pop music.

The pop leanings of the band are stunningly apparent on “Blitzkrieg Bop.” The song begs the listener to sing along, and if you ignore the distortion, the song reveals a simple pop melody. In this way, “Blitzkrieg Bop” is a clever reimagination of the wheel.

“Dancing in the Street” by Martha & The Vandellas

Song year: 1965

Originally intended as a song celebrating summertime block parties, Martha Reeves & The Vandella's “Dancing in the Street” took on a political interpretation during the hypercharged civil rights movement of the 60s.

Whether the listener interpreted “Dancing in the Street” as a party song or a protest statement, there was no denying the infectious melody and beat. The single became a massive hit for Reeves. Covered by a slew of artists, the song is now considered a staple of the Motown sound.

Best Songs of All Time, Final Thoughts

The best songs take our universal human experiences and present them back to us in three-minute-long sing-alongs. Whether it's hip-hop or electro-pop, music makes an indelible mark upon our lives.

Hopefully, this list of the best songs of all time reminded you of the power and beauty of music.

Do you agree? Are these the best songs ever? Which songs do you feel are missing? Let us know in the comments.

P.S. Remember though, none of what you've learned will matter if you don't know how to get your music out there and earn from it. Want to learn how to do that? Then get our free ‘5 Steps To Profitable Youtube Music Career' ebook emailed directly to you!

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