The mix of a rock or heavy metal song with the smooth, classical sounds of a violin is truly something beautiful. Since rock n’ roll’s conception, artists have added violin to their songs to create a unique blend. It adds something unexpected and interesting to any track – as long as it is properly executed.
The following songs got it right. With just the right amount of classical violin, these songs go down in the history books as some of the best to add violin into a genre where it’s not usually present.
Eleanor Rigby – The Beatles
Of course, we had to start with one of the most well-known and well-loved songs from one of the world’s most iconic bands: The Beatles. “Eleanor Rigby” is backed entirely by a violin bouncing and getting louder over the melody. It adds a lovely, whimsical element to the song where one would normally expect guitar or bass.
The song was written by Paul McCartney, who invented the characters Eleanor Rigby and Father McKenzie, living their respective lonely lives until they are united by her death. Some folks condemned the song due to John Lennon’s controversial take on religion and the fact that the song seems to echo his sentiments. Still, this controversy hasn’t taken away the legendary status of “Eleanor Rigby” over the years.
While The Beatles are more of a pop rock than a hard rock band, “Eleanor Rigby” certainly has a more melancholy feel amped up by the mournful violin background. Its hard look at loneliness through the lyrics skyrocketed it to fame and is maintained to this day. Even folks who aren’t familiar with The Beatles have probably heard “Eleanor Rigby.”
Kashmir – Led Zepplin
If “Eleanor Rigby” is a sad pop-rock ballad, “Kashmir” by Led Zepplin is rock n’ roll through and through. With pounding drums and a sense of urgency that’s enhanced by the frantic violins, “Kashmir” is an epic ten-minute masterpiece well-loved by any classic rock fan. It is highly ranked both in the United States and the United Kingdom as one of the best rock songs (or just best songs in general) of all time.
Even the band members themselves agree that Kashmir is some of their best work. Robert Plant called it one of his favorite songs and that he liked it more than Stairway to Heaven. Jimmy Page noted that it has “the greatest Zepplin riff of all.”
Hurricane – Bob Dylan
“Hurricane” by Bob Dylan is one of the most prolific protest songs ever written. In it, Bob Dylan tells the story about Rubin “Hurricane” Carter, a professional boxer who was wrongfully convicted of murder. Dylan released the song in 1976 as a protest against racial profiling and racism in general. Like Kashmir, this song is a long ballad at around eight and a half minutes long.
The serious tone of the song is further conveyed by the addition of violins in the background. While it has an upbeat melody, the violins and masterful storytelling of the lyrics give this rock song a mournful feel.
There were several controversies surrounding the release of “Hurricane,” mostly due to some of the actual details of the story changing in the song. These controversies caused Dylan to have to re-record the song.
While Carter was eventually charged with two life sentences despite the popularity of the song, he was later released when a judge ruled he had not received a fair trial.
Wish You Were Here – Pink Floyd
“Wish You Were Here” is a soft rock song from the iconic Pink Floyd. Its simple melody and wistful lyrics make it a relatable ballad.
The song is on Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time and hasn’t lost any of its popularity or pop culture status even though it was released in 1975.
The album Wish You Were Here as a whole is a prime example of being ahead of its time. While it received mixed reviews at the time of its release, it is now well-known as one of the best rock albums of all time. Many consider it one of the greatest albums of all time, period.
Comatose – Skillet
As a smaller Christian band, Skillet may not be as famous as Bob Dylan and Led Zepplin, but that doesn’t mean that their masterful use of violin in their song “Comatose” is nothing short of spectacular.
The song was released on an album by the same name in 2006. The album was a hit, going platinum and receiving a Grammy nomination.
Ocean Avenue – Yellowcard
If you were a pop-punk kid of the early 2000s, Ocean Avenue was a staple on every mix tape. Released in 2003, “Ocean Avenue” is an ode to Jacksonville, Florida. The song played nonstop on MTV and went double platinum.
The subtle violin background in the chorus adds a smooth, sweet sound to the song, and the solo takes it up a notch, making rock fans everywhere realize that violin can sound pretty rock n’ roll.
Bitter Sweet Symphony – The Verve
Unlike most of the songs on this list that feature violin in the background, the violin is the main instrument used in “Bitter Sweet Symphony by The Verve. The song was a smash hit when it was released in 1997, topping the charts in both the United Kingdom and the United States, and was nominated for a Grammy for Best Rock Song.
The song sampled “The Last Time” by The Rolling Stones, and The Verve was forced to give all royalties from the songs to The Rolling Stones and credit members of the band as songwriters. In 2019, The Rolling Stones returned the royalties for the song back to The Verve.
Ramble On – Led Zepplin
Another Zepplin classic. “Ramble On” features a wide range of instruments, including violin, to create a funky rhythm that will have you bopping your head and tapping your feet. The song was inspired by Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien, and its folksy tones reflect the traveling fantasy.
Dust in the Wind – Kansas
A melancholy look at the fragility of life and humanity in the grand scheme of things, a gorgeous violin solo in the middle of the song sums up the message of the song: Life is fleeting. Despite its grim message, “Dust in the Wind was a chart-topper, reaching the Top 10 in the Billboard Hot 100 in the United States. It is also a gold-certified song. It’s certainly more of a soft rock song, but what is more heavy metal than examining the meaning (or meaninglessness) of life?
Baba O’Riley – The Who
“Baba O’Riley” features one of rock’s most iconic violin solos at the tail end of the song. This unexpected twist creates a beautiful juxtaposition from the ballad rock at the beginning.
Many people mistakenly think this song is called “teenage wasteland” due to the repetitive lyrics. Still, the song refers to The Who’s a singer/songwriter Peter Townshend’s biggest inspirations: religious spiritualist Meher Baba and musician Terry Riley.
The song’s accolades include Time magazine’s All-Time 100 Songs list, one of the 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and on Rolling Stone’s The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.
Sea of Joy – Blind Faith
“Sea of Joy” by Blind Faith is a mellow, laid-back tune that’s heavy on the instrumentals and light on the vocals. The star of this song is a violin solo right in the middle. While Blind Faith wasn’t a band for a long time, their famous lineup of Eric Clapton and Steve Winwood drew in big crowds. “Sea of Joy” was featured on their self-titled album.
Point of No Return – Kansas
If there is one rock band from the 70s that you can count on to add a cool violin riff to a rock song, it’s Kansas. David Ragsdale is responsible for these iconic violin contributions to their music, and he also played rhythm guitar and provided backing vocals.
“Point of No Return” is a song featured on an album of the same name. “Point of No Return” is one of Kansas’ most well-known songs, beaten only by “Carry On Wayward Son.”
Paper in Fire – John Mellencamp
This upbeat rock and country mash-up reached the Billboard 100 Top 10 in 1987, making it John Mellencamp’s most successful single. The violin backing makes a lovely addition to a bouncy rhythm and fantastic background for Mellencamp’s vocals. Mellencamp’s focus on traditional instruments makes his decision to incorporate the violin smart. It stays on brand while making the song unique.
Do Ya – Electric Light Orchestra
Electric violin. Is there anything more epic? We don’t think so. Electric Light Orchestra brings an element of fun, funky music with its electric violin additions. When pop, classical music, and electric feels merge, the result is something magical.
Electric Light Orchestra’s futuristic sound launched them to the top of the charts in the 1970s-80s was ahead of their time, as electronic music has blown up in the years since and isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.
The Gumbo Variations – Frank Zappa
This jazzy piece is off Frank Zappa’s mostly instrumental album Hot Rats. On top of violins, his work features a wide range of musical instruments, most notably in this song, the saxophone. He also frequently uses piano, organ, flutes, and clarinets on top of lengthy guitar solos. In “The Gumbo Variations,” the background violin takes a backseat to a roaring saxophone solo.
Zappa created the album using high-tech recording equipment and production that enhanced the psychedelic feel of the music.
Best Rock Songs With Violin, Final Thoughts
Rock songs with violin accompaniments come in many forms. When you think rock, you don’t immediately think about a violin, do you? If you listen to these rock songs with violin accompaniments, I guarantee you’ll have a hard time not loving them. The violin adds a huge amount to each of them. Whether you are a classical music enthusiast or heavy metal rocker at heart, there is no denying the magic that happens when you combine rock with violin. What is your favorite rock song that features a violin?