19 Rock Songs With Mandolin

Although many people associate the mandolin with bluegrass and country music, this instrument is versatile for various music genres, including rock.

Let's look at some of the best rock songs with mandolin instrumentation you should add to your playlist.

“Little Ghost” by The White Stripes

Song Year: 2005

First up on this list of rock songs with mandolin music is The White Stripes' “Little Ghost.” It has a folksy, upbeat vibe that contrasts with lyrics about loving an unseen woman and not wanting to let her go. Vocalist and guitarist Jack White’s mandolin skills are as smooth as his usual guitar riffs.

It was featured on The White Stripes' album Get Behind Me Satan, which ranked third on the US Billboard 200 and UK Album charts.

“Copperhead Road” by Steve Earle

Song Year: 1988

One of the best rock songs with mandolin music that incorporates a country vibe is Steve Earle's “Copperhead Road.” It ranked tenth on Billboard's Mainstream Rock Tracks chart.

The song tells the story of a man whose father and grandfather were active in bootlegging moonshine. After returning from the Vietnam War, he decides to sell weed on the same road and not get caught.

Its upbeat tempo, especially halfway through the song, enhances the anecdotal style of the song.

“Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want” by The Smiths

Song Year: 1984

Songs about yearning, hope, and other personal desires resonate with many people. Despite its short length, this song by The Smiths encapsulates this feeling perfectly. It’s a nice change of pace from rock songs replicating the country genre.

With only two verses, this song has a striking mandolin solo halfway through the track and trails off towards the end, making it feel slightly somber and bittersweet.

Nevertheless, it's a great tune to listen to when writing down your feelings in a book on a gloomy, rainy day.

“Mandolin Rain” by Bruce Hornsby and The Range

Song Year: 1986

What better way to talk about mandolin rock songs than with the instrument being part of its name? Co-written by Bruce Hornsby and his brother John, with David Mansfield on mandolin, the lyrics reflect the feeling of missing someone you’ve known for a short time to a sad song you hear on the radio.

This song ranked fourth on Billboard's Hot 100 in the summer of 1987. It also topped the Adult Contemporary Chart for three weeks.

“I Will Dare” by The Replacements

Song Year: 1984

Frontman Paul Westerberg has described this song as an answer to U2's “I Will Follow,” a partial love song, and the band's ambition. Besides writing the song and performing its lead vocals, Westerberg also plays the mandolin.

Although it didn't rank on national charts, many college radio stations played it and increased its popularity.

“Dream of the Archer” by Heart

Song Year: 1977

If there's one song that will make you want to wander through a forest in search of a spirit, Heart's “Dream of the Archer” is one song that's done justice through its melodic mandolins provided by Nancy Wilson. It has a mystic and hypnotic vibe, emphasized by Ann Wilson's vocals.

“Thinking Allowed” by Skyclad

Song Year: 1993

If you prefer listening to rock songs with a little edge about embracing your beliefs, Skyclad's “Thinking Allowed” is one hard bop you shouldn't skip when browsing for songs online.

Although this has the standard guitar riffs as most folk metal bands have, it incorporates mandolin strumming towards its beginning and end.

Its fast-paced rhythm is one reason that I love listening to this song whenever I’m in the mood for something different.

“It’s Time” by Imagine Dragons

“It’s Time” by Imagine Dragons

Song Year: 2010

Sometimes, the most inspirational songs manifest from personal hardships. Although Imagine Dragons' lead singer Dan Reynolds wrote this song while dealing with depression, the overall theme of this song is hope.

Many people can relate to this song's lyrics about following their path and staying true to themselves, no matter what twists and turns they may face. I love listening to this whenever I feel upset.

“If You Belonged to Me” by The Traveling Wilburys

Song Year: 1990

There are many rock songs where the singer laments how the person they love would be happier with them instead of someone they claim makes them feel miserable. I can see this song resonate with anyone who feels invisible when seeking love.

Bob Dylan's vocals and harmonica skills work well with George Harrison's mandolin instrumentation and give the song a folk-like tone that's catchy and rhythmic.

“Holiday Inn” by Elton John

Song Year: 1971

The best part of this Elton John song that showcases Davey Johnstone's mandolin performance is the solo near the end.

The song's lyrics highlight the perspective of a traveling performer. Interestingly, the album release version of this song cut out a third verse where the narrator complains about the titular Holiday Inn, from its broken TV to its late room service.

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