When you ask twenty people the greatest song ever made, you will likely get twenty different answers. The truth is that this is the beauty of music. An amazing song has the ability to move people on a personal level, which is more important than what others have to say. This is a compilation of songs that both fans and music critics say are the best songs of all time. This list comes from two lists: Ranker’s The Best Songs of All Time and Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. Let us get to it!
‘Gimme Shelter’ — The Rolling Stones
Can you believe that Keith Richards wrote this song in only twenty minutes? “Gimme Shelter” left a huge impression on people who heard it. It was the opening track of the 1969 album “Let It Bleed,” but it was not released as a single. Despite this, it has been added to many compilation records and played at many live gigs over the years. In 2012, the Rolling Stones performed it for the 50th-anniversary tour with Florence Welch, Mary J. Blige, and Lady Gaga.
‘One’ — U2
This is the third track on “Achtung Baby,” a 1991 album by U2. It was a spin-off from “Mysterious Ways,” the second single. The Rolling Stone said that the Edge came up with two ideas for the bridge. Bono liked the other one so much that he created a new set of lyrics to go with it. Even though “One” turned out to be a wedding hit, they did not expect it. “People have told me they play it at their wedding,” said the Edge. “And I think, ‘Have you listened to the lyrics? It’s not that kind of a song.’”
‘No Woman, No Cry’ — Bob Marley
If you ask us, the best version of “No Woman, No Cry” is not the original version of the 1974 album “Natty Dread.” No, that honor goes to the one in “Live!”, which was performed at the Lyceum Theatre on July 17, 1975. The performance was a part of Bob Marley’s Natty Dread Tour. It did not only change his life, but he also credited the songwriting to a childhood friend named Vincent “Tata” Ford. With its popularity, Ford got to keep his soup kitchen in Kingston above the water.
‘You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling’ — The Righteous Brothers.
In 1964, the Righteous Brothers first recorded “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling.” It went on to reach the highest spots on both the U.K. and U.S. charts. The year after that, it even became the fifth-bestselling song stateside. It has been covered by various artists, including the likes of Hall and Oates and Dionne Warwick. However, no other version has come close to one by Bill Medley. The intro, without instruments, was iconic: “You never close your eyes anymore when I kiss your lips.”
‘Sympathy For The Devil’ — The Rolling Stones
When it comes to the topic of controversy, The Rolling Stones have definitely seen their fair share of it. In 1968, they released “Sympathy for the Devil” off “Beggars Banquet.” This was not an exception to the rule and caused a stir among religious groups who thought they worshiped the devil. In 1995, Rolling Stone interviewed them. Mick Jagger shed light on the topic by saying that he came up with it due to French writing. “I just took a couple of lines and expanded on it,” he explained. “I wrote it as sort of like a Bob Dylan song.”
‘I Walk The Line’ — Johnny Cash
Johnny Cash had been serving in serving in the Air Force stationed in Germany when he started to work on “I Walk the Line.” He only got to record it many years later, although he realized that its original tape had been damaged. This turned out to be a good thing as he chose to embrace the resulting unique sound. In fact, he even wrapped a piece of wax paper around the guitar strings to spice it up further. This was how he earned his first No. 1 Billboard chart hit. “It was different than anything else you had ever heard,” he shared with Rolling Stone. Bob Dylan added, “A voice from the middle of the Earth.”
‘River Deep – Mountain High’ — Ike and Tina Turner
Phil Spector believes that his best work as a producer was the 1966 Ike and Tina Turner release: “River Deep – Mountain High.” A lot of people would agree with that sentiment. It even fetched the No. 33 spots on the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time list by the Rolling Stone. In 1999, it entered the Grammy Hall of Fame. Turner said that putting it together was unforgettable. Spector had her sing it for hours on end to get it “perfect.” “I must have sung that 500,000 times,” she revealed to the Rolling Stone. She added, “I was drenched with sweat. I had to take my shirt off and stand there in my bra to sing.”
‘Help!’ — The Beatles
In 1980, John Lennon revealed to Playboy that “Help!’ came with depths so hidden that he himself had not been aware of it. The song came out as a single at the height of Beatlemania in July 1965. “Most people think it’s just a fast rock ‘n’ roll song,” he shared, “Subconsciously, I was crying out for help. I didn’t realize it at the time; I just wrote the song because I was commissioned to write it for the movie.” He later told Rolling Stone he didn’t like the recording: “We did it too fast, to try and be commercial.”
‘People Get Ready’ — The Impressions
Without a doubt, the most famous hit by The Impressions is “People Get Ready.” It was penned by Curtis Mayfield and fetched the No.3 spot on the Billboard R&B chart. The song became the unofficial anthem of the Civil Rights Movement. Mojo Magazine added it to its list of the top ten songs of all time. “That was taken from my church or the upbringing of messages from the church. Like there’s no hiding place and get on board, and images of that sort. I must have been in an intense mood of that type of religious inspiration when I wrote that song,” said Mayfield himself.
‘In My Life’ — The Beatles
If you ask John Lennon, this 1965 single off “Rubber Soul” would receive a place on all the lists of the greatest songs ever made. The Beatle went as far as to call it “my first real, major piece of work.” He also said that “up until then, it had all been glib and threw away.” Peter Shotton, his friend, and eventual biographer said that the line “Some [friends] are dead and some are living / In my life I’ve loved them all” was a tribute to both Shotton himself Stuart Sutcliffe, who passed away in 1962.
‘Layla’ — Derek And The Dominos
Eric Clapton was inspired by “The Story of Layla and Majnun,” a 12th-century book by Persian poet Nizami Ganjavi that he penned “Layla.” Many people think that it is one of the greatest rock songs in the history of music. Aside from that, Clapton also took inspiration from his life and his unrequited love for Pattie Boyd. She was the wife of his fellow musician and friend George Harrison, but it worked out in the end as they went on to be married for almost a decade. “It was the heaviest thing going on at the time,” he shared with the Rolling Stone in 1974. He added, “That’s what I wanted to write about most of all.”
‘(Sittin’ On) The Dock Of The Bay’ — Otis Redding
This is probably the best-known song by Otis Redding. He wrote its lyrics while sitting on the dock of the bay! All right, he had been on a rented houseboat after the Monterrey Pop Festival in Sausalito, California. Same difference. Can you believe that they actually used the real sound of waves on the backing track? He wrote and then recorded it with guitarist Steve Cropper a couple of months after that. This happened only days before he was killed in a plane crash. His private vehicle fell into Lake Monona in Wisconsin. The song became the first posthumous single that reached the top spot in the U.S. charts.
‘Let It Be’ — The Beatles
They say that tumultuous times often lead to amazing creativity. This was the case for Paul McCartney and this song. The Beatles had been falling apart, so he took comfort in the dream he had of his late mother giving him words of advice. It served as the inspiration behind the opening lines of this song: “When I find myself in times of trouble / Mother Mary comes to me.” This was the title track of what became the last studio album of the band. It was iconic in more ways than one. Released in March 1970, “Let it Be” was the last single the Beatles released before they announced they were breaking up.
‘The Times They Are A-Changin” — Bob Dylan
Bob Dylan wrote the title track of the 1964 album, “The Times They Are a-Changin.” It instantly became known as an anthem for change. When it first came out in the United Kingdom in 1965, it snagged the No. 9 spots on the singles chart. However, it did not chart across the pond at all. Despite this, it has become one of his best-known and most influential songs. Various artists have covered it. Among them are the Beach Boys, Bruce Springsteen, Nina Simone, and Simon & Garfunkel. His relationship with this song seems to be complicated. The track had been a setlist staple from 1965, but he dropped it in 2009.
‘Baba O’Riley’ — The Who
Pete Townshend of the Who had been influenced by an Indian spiritual master by the name of Meher Baba. Composer Terry Riley has received credit for pioneering a minimalist composition style with this. There was a time when he merged these two things, ultimately coming up with “Baba O’Riley.” In 1971, it came out as a single. The song was initially written for Lifehouse. The rock opera made as a follow-up to Tommy from two years before. However, the sequel was abandoned in the end. In 2018, Roger Daltrey called the song a warning to children who used social media too often.
‘Be My Baby’ — The Ronettes
You will see this on the list of the best songs by NME, Pitchfork, Time, and Rolling Stone. Phil Spector produced it. The song had a full orchestra and backing vocals by Cher. “The things Phil was doing were crazy and exhausting,” said engineer Larr Levine. “But that’s not the sign of a nut. That’s genius.”
‘Born To Run’ — Bruce Springsteen
The most ambitious song Bruce Springsteen ever made was the title song of his 1975 album, “Born to Run.” He shared with Rolling Stone, “I wanted to make the greatest rock record I’d ever heard.” This was his first global single release, but it only got to the top 20 in the United States. The Atlantic said that it was a cult hit. It was so in-demand in Philly that the top-40 morning station aired it a few times per day.
‘Behind Blue Eyes’ — The Who
In 1971, The Who recorded “Behind Blue Eyes.” It was said to be have been inspired by an incident at a concert. Allegedly, Pete Townshend was tempted by one of the groupies the year before that! He did not succumb to temptation and instead returned to the hotel room to write a prayer. It started with this line: “When my fist clenches, crack it open.” You will find that line in the song. It was featured on the fifth album of the band: “Who’s Next.” Various artists have covered the song over the years.
‘La Bamba’ — Ritchie Valens
The Los Lobos covered a Mexican folk song called “La Bamba.” This was the title track of a 1987 film in which Lou Diamond Phillips played Ritchie Valens. That must be the best-known version of this song! However, the 1958 adaptation by Valens also appears in the Rolling Stone list of the Top 500 and the Ranker chart. On this list, this is the only song sung in any other language aside from English. “La Bamba” is among the most popular songs from the early part of the rock ‘n’ roll era.
‘Hound Dog’ — Elvis Presley
Even before Elvis Presley covered this song, it was already a hit for Willie Mae’s “Big Mama” Thornton. However, the King of Rock and Roll version was the one that reached No. 19 on the Rolling Stone top 500. He included it in his 1956 setlist after hearing Freddie Bell and the Bellboys sing it in Las Vegas. Presley also famously serenaded a dog in a top hat on Steve Allen Show later in the year. He revealed, “It was a ridiculous appearance I ever did, and I regret ever doing it.” At any rate, “Hound Dog” became his best-selling single. It is now one of the best-selling singles in history.
‘Rock Around The Clock’ — Bill Haley And The Comets
While this is a rock ‘n’ roll classic, Bill Haley and the Comets rendition is the most successful and the best-known version of it. In 1954, the band released it to great success. It earned the top spot in both the U.K. and U.S. charts. This is partly thanks to the fact that it was played in The Blackboard Jungle’s opening credits. The Guardian even called the song “the world’s first rock anthem.” It caused riots in cinemas and schools. You can even say that it paved the way for pop music as we know it.
‘Break On Through (To The Other Side)’ — The Doors
This was the first track on the eponymous debut album by The Doors. “Break on Through (To the Other Side)” was the first single release of the band. It did not fare very well when it was first released as it only reached No. 126 on the charts in the US. Despite this, it is one of their most popular tracks. Jim Morrison told Hit Parader that he penned the song as he was crossing the canals of Venice. “I was walking over a bridge,” he shared. “I guess it’s one girl, a girl I knew at the time.” Elektra Records, the band’s label, removed the “high” from “she gets high” because they knew that it might affect its radio airplay. The truth is that every single re-issue of the track came without the word until the ‘90s rolled in.
‘Here Comes The Sun’ — The Beatles
The Beatles featured “Here Comes the Sun” on the 1969 album called “Abbey Road.” John Lennon and Paul McCartney penned most of their songs, but the credit for this hit goes to none other than George Harrison. It was also clear that lead guitarist was gaining more influence from Indian classical music at the time. He allegedly wrote the song at the home of Eric Clapton, where he went to avoid going to a meeting at the band’s Apple Corps organization. This is one of the most popular songs among fans of the band. By January 2020, it was even the most-streamed Beatles song in the U.K.
‘Rebel Rebel’ — David Bowie
David Bowie was considered a pioneer in the glam rock movement. “Rebel Rebel” was allegedly his farewell to it. The song came out in 1974. It is basically about a boy who goes against his parents’ wishes by putting on makeup and female clothes. In the United States, it reached No. 16 on the charts. It climbed to No. 5 across the pond and continues to be a “glam anthem” even to this day. This is one of his most-covered tracks. The Smashing Pumpkins and Bryan Adams, among others, have covered it.
‘You Really Got Me’ — The Kinks
Ray Davies wrote this song for the third single of the Kinks. “You Really Got Me” climbed to No. 1 on the singles chart in the U.K. in 1964. Across the pond, it reached No.7. Rolling Stone said that the band Dave Davies’ guitarist used a razor on the speaker cone of his amp to make the incredible sound on the riff. “The song came out of a working-class environment,” he explained. “People fighting for something.”
‘Purple Haze’ — The Jimi Hendrix Experience
You will find “Purple Haze,” a No. 17 on the list of the greatest songs by Rolling Stone. It was penned by Jimi Hendrix and came out as the second The Jimi Hendrix Experience single in 1967. This is one of his best-known songs and introduced his unique psychedelic rock sound to many people. It is a common sight in lists of the greatest guitar songs: No. 1 on Q magazine and No. 2 on Rolling Stone. In 2013, fans of Rolling Stone voted it as the fifth-best song by Jimi Hendrix. In case you did not know, the lyrics go, “Excuse me while I kiss the sky.” He did not say, “Excuse me while I kiss this guy.” The more you know!
‘London Calling’ — The Clash
While undergoing several personal difficulties and experiencing concern about global events, The Clash made one of its most iconic songs. At the time, they had no management but a lot of debt. “We felt that we were struggling,” said lead vocalist Joe Strummer, “about to slip down a slope or something, grasping with our fingernails. And there was no one there to help us.” This came out as the only single in the UK from the eponymous album. In 1980, it climbed to No. 11 in the charts and became the highest-charting single band until they released “Should I Stay or Should I Go” a decade after that.
‘What A Wonderful World’ — Louis Armstrong
On the Ranker list, “What a Wonderful World” earned the No. 15 spots. This was written by George David Weiss and Bob Thiele under George Douglas. After Louis Armstrong recorded it, the song earned the top spot on the U.K. pop chart in 1967. However, it only earned No. 32 across the pond. Despite this, the song was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1999. Many artists have covered the song through the years. Among others, Tony Bennett, Katie Melua, The Flaming Lips, Joey Ramone, Nick Cave, Shane MacGowan, Katie Melua, and Eva Cassidy all have their own renditions this iconic track.
‘A Change Is Gonna Come’ — Sam Cooke
In 1964, “A Change is Gonna Come” came out as the B-side of his posthumous single “Shake.” The song was released only a few days after he was interred in December 1964. Sadly, Sam Cooke died after a woman shot him at a motel in Los Angeles. Even though it did not fare all that well on the charts, it was used as an anthem of the civil rights movement. In 2007, the National Recording Registry even chose it for preservation. It was selected because it is a “culturally, historically, or aesthetically important” song.
‘The Sound Of Silence’ — Simon & Garfunkel
We bet that you are familiar with this song. “The Sound of Silence” earned the 10th spot in the Ranker community. It was recorded as part of the debut album by Simon & Garfunkel in 1964: “Wednesday Morning, 3 A.M.” In January 1966, it earned the top spot of the Billboard Hot 100 and joined the top 10 in other countries like Austria, Australia, the Netherlands, West Germany, and Japan. It was featured in The Graduate, but the duo wrote “Mrs. Robinson” for it. Paul Simon told NPR that the key to the song was “the simplicity of the melody and the words, which are youthful alienation.”
‘A Day In The Life’ — The Beatles
This song is thought to be one of the final true collaborations of John Lennon and Paul McCartney. “A Day in the Life” by the Beatles served as the dramatic conclusion to their 1967 album, “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.” Various artists have covered it, like Bary Gibb, Jeff Beck, and The Fall and Phish. Since 2008, Paul McCartney has also performed it at live performances. Three years after that, Rolling Stone called it the greatest song by the Beatles. Acclaimed Music says that it is the third most liked song in the history of popular music. It is not hard to see why this is the case.
‘My Generation’ — The Who
According to Rolling Stone, the 11th greatest song ever is “My Generation” by The Who. It is one of the most recognizable songs by the band. It was also ranked 13th by VH1 on its 100 Greatest Songs of Rock & Roll list and 37th on its Greatest Hard Rock Songs list. NME added it to its 100 Best Songs of the 1960s, saying, “Taking in a timeless sense of youthful disaffection via a countercultural, Mod lens, Pete Townshend’s age-defying ditty distilled what it feels like to be young, energized and in the prime of life into 3:18 minutes of bristling hedonism.”
‘Light My Fire’ — The Doors
The 16th spot on Ranker’s list was claimed by “Light My Fire” by The Doors. In 1967, it was released by the band on its eponymous album. The edited single had three weeks at the top spot of the Billboard Hot 100 chart. It deserves credit for making the band even bigger than it already was. The song also got them invited to The Ed Sullivan Show, but Jim Morrison was asked not to sing a particular line. It was the part that goes, “Girl, we couldn’t get much higher.” Despite this, he went on to sing it. This might be the reason this became both their first and last appearance on the show.
‘What’d I Say’ — Ray Charles
Rolling Stone chose “What’d I Say” by Ray Charles as the 10th best song in history. He composed it one night in 1958 as the band was performing in Pittsburgh. They had time to kill, so he wrote one of the greatest songs ever written. “I said to the guys, ‘Hey, whatever I do, just follow me,’” he shared with David Letterman. He added, “And I said the same thing to the girls, I said, ‘Whatever I say, just repeat it, I don’t care what it is.’” The audience obeyed with great enthusiasm. The song became his first top ten pop single. He always closed his gigs with this song. In 2002, it was added to the National Recording Registry, which was made to archive tracks that “are culturally, historically, or aesthetically important, and/or inform or reflect life in the United States.”
‘Paint It Black’ — The Rolling Stones
On Ranker, you will find “Paint It Black” by the Rolling Stones on the fifth spot. 1966 single was released to great success. It climbed to No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 and the U.K. Singles Chart. The third No.1 hit single of the band in the United States and the sixth one across the pond. Fans of Rolling Stone ranked it the third-best single of the band, lagging only after “Sympathy for the Devil” and “Gimme Shelter.” In 2004, Keith Richards said that the key to the song was Bill Wyman on the organ. He said, “It didn’t sound anything like the finished record until Bill said, ‘You go like this.’”
‘Respect’ — Aretha Franklin
In 1965, Otis Redding wrote and recorded this song. However, Aretha Franklin deserves credit for making “Respect” into what it now is. Two years after the original came out, she turned it into a female empowerment anthem. She mixed it up a bit by adding the “R-E-S-P-E-C-T” part to the chorus, as well as “Sock it to me, sock it to me, socks it to me…” in the refrain. It is one of her signature songs. In 1968, she won two Grammys for it. One was for the Best Rhythm & Blues Recording, while the other was for the Best Rhythm & Blues Solo Vocal Performance, Female. In 1987, it entered the Grammy Hall of Fame.
‘All Along The Watchtower’ — The Jimi Hendrix Experience
Bob Dylan might have written “All Along the Watchtower,” but the Ranker voters ranked the rendition by The Jimi Hendrix Experience as the fourth greatest song in history. It first came out on “John Wesley Harding,” the album that Bob Dylan released in 1967. Six months later, Hendrix covered it for “Electric Ladyland.” In 1968, it was in the top 20. Rolling Stone ranked his version as the 47th greatest song of all time. U2, Eddie Vedder, and Neil Young have also covered the track in question in the past.
‘What’s Going On’ — Marvin Gaye
In 1971, Marvin Gaye released “What’s Going On.” It was inspired by all the cases of police brutality recorded in California. At first, it did not fare well commercially. However, it later went on to reach No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100. It is one of the most successful Motown records by the star. Rolling Stone called it an “exquisite plea for peace on Earth.” It is fourth on its list of the best songs in history.
‘Stairway To Heaven’ — Led Zeppelin
Led Zeppelin released “Stairway to Heaven” in 1971. It is a huge hit among the members of the Ranker community. They ranked it the seventh greatest song in history. For readers of Planet Rock, it was the top song of all time. They gave it over twice as many votes as its closest contender did. The song was also voted as the U.K.’s favorite rock anthem, Even though it was not released as a commercial single across the pond. It became the most requested song on the radio back in the ‘70s. How ironic!
‘Like A Rolling Stone’ — Bob Dylan
According to Rolling Stone, the greatest song was “Like a Rolling Stone” by Bob Dylan. It said, “No other pop song has so thoroughly challenged and transformed the commercial laws and artistic conventions of its time, for all time.” The track was longer than typical at six minutes, thirteen seconds. This is why radio stations were reluctant to play the song at first. Despite this, it became a big hit across the world and reached No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100. It has been covered by the likes of Green Day and the Jimi Hendrix Experience. Acclaimed Music even said that it is the most acclaimed song in history in terms of statistics. In 2014, the handwritten lyrics that Dylan wrote were auctioned off for $2 million.
‘God Only Knows’ — The Beach Boys
The Ranker community voted “God Only Knows” as the 19th greatest song ever, while Rolling Stone gave it the 25th spot. This song is also in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Pitchfork Media list of the best songs of the ‘60s. “God Only Knows” was not the top chart hit of the Beach Boys as it was a B-side track on “Wouldn’t It Be Nice.” Despite this, it remains popular among their fans. In fact, readers of the Rolling Stone even said that it was their best song. Paul McCartney called it his favorite song!
‘Blowin’ In The Wind’ — Bob Dylan
In the past, people called this song “Dylan’s first important composition.” It is probably the most famous protest song in history. Bob Dylan is best known for “Blowin’ in the Wind,” which also became a civil rights movement anthem. It is not surprising to find this song on this list! Aside from that, it became a huge hit for the popular folk band Peter, Paul, and Mary in 1963. In 1994, the song was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame. Rolling Stone gave it the No. 14 spots on its list of the 500 best songs in history.
‘I Want To Hold Your Hand’ — The Beatles
There are many great songs by The Beatles, and this is one of them. The Fab Four released “I Wanted to Hold Your Hand” in 1963. It became their first No. 1 song in the United States, while it remained in the U.K. top 50 for 21 weeks. John Lennon explained that he wrote the song “eyeball to eyeball” with Paul McCartney. “I remember when we got the chord that made the song,” he said. “We were in Jane Asher’s house, downstairs in the cellar playing on the piano at the same time. And we had, ‘Oh you-u-u/ got that something…’ And Paul hits this chord, and I turn to him and say, ‘That’s it!’ I said, ‘Do that again!’ In those days, we really used to write like that absolutely — both playing into each other’s noses.”
‘Johnny B. Goode’ — Chuck Berry
In 1958, Chuck Berry released “Johnny B. Goode.” Rolling Stone said that it was “the first rock & roll hit about rock & roll stardom,” as well as “the greatest rock & roll song about the democracy of fame in pop music.” It was a semi-autobiographical song about a “country boy” from New Orleans who can play the guitar “just like ringing a bell.” At its peak, it was No. 8 on the Billboard Hot 100. In 1999, it entered the Grammy Hall of Fame thanks to its influence. The rock ‘n’ roll single is No. 1 on the 100 Greatest Guitar Songs of All Time list by Rolling Stone. On the other hand, it was at No. 11 at Ranker.
‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ — Nirvana
This is the only song on this list that came out in the ‘90s. “Smells Like Teen Spirit” became known as an anthem for that apathetic generation. It was named after a deodorant brand. The song was a hit in different countries across the globe. The Recording Industry Association of America has even certified it platinum. The song also sent the “Nevermind” album to the charts’ top at the beginning of 1992. Sadly, it put a lot of pressure on Nirvana. Kurt Cobain even said, “There are many other songs that I have written that are as good, if not better.” The song earned the No. 9 spots on the Rolling Stone list.
‘Good Vibrations’ — The Beach Boys
In 1966, the Beach Boys saw a lot of success with “Good Vibrations.” It reached the top spot of charts in both the U.K. and the U.S. Back then, it made history the most expensive single to be recorded. It cost the studio $50,000 to make! Brian Wilson produced and composed the song, which drew inspiration from his interest in cosmic vibrations. In his childhood, his mother attempted to explain to him why dogs barked at certain people but not others this way. He explained, “A dog would pick up vibrations from these people that you can’t see, but you can feel. And the same thing happened with people.” One of his goals was to make a better song than “You’ve Lost That Lovin Feelin’.” He did exactly that. It is No. 6 on Rolling Stone’s list, while Ranker put it at No. 8 instead.
‘Yesterday’ — The Beatles
This must be the most famous ballad by the Beatles. It was voted the third-best song by the Ranker readers, while Rolling Stone put it at 13th. On the BMI list of the Top 100 Songs of the Century, it reached the third spot. In 1999, BBC Radio 2 declared it the greatest song of the 20th century after polling music experts and listeners alike. It only featured Paul McCartney on the vocals with a string quartet. According to him, it was “one of the most instinctive songs I’ve ever written.” He said that he came up with the melody in a dream while staying with Jane Asher, his girlfriend at the time. At first, the band felt “a little embarrassed” about the song since it was different from their typical tracks.
‘(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction — The Rolling Stones
Rolling Stone was deemed “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” by the Rolling Stones as the second greatest song in history. This track helped the band get their first No. 1 in the United States even though it was first limited to pirate radio stations across the pond thanks to its suggestive content. Despite this, it later reached the top of the charts. The riff of the song came to Keith Richards in a dream. He was staying at a motel in Clearwater, Florida, while on the third U.S. tour of the band. “He woke up and grabbed a guitar and a cassette machine. Richards played the run of notes once, then fell back to sleep. “On the tape,” he said later, “you can hear me drop the pick, and the rest is snoring,” said Rolling Stone.
‘Hey Jude’ — The Beatles
If you ask thousands of voters on Ranker, the best song ever is none other than “Hey Jude” by the Beatles. Rolling Stone put it at No. 8 instead. This was the first single release on the Apple label of the band. It topped the charts in a lot of countries across the globe. In 1968, it was the top-selling single in the US, the UK, Canada, and Australia. Its message is moving and personal. Apparently, Paul McCartney penned it to visit Cynthia, the wife of John Lennon, and their child Julian. He said that the opening line was meant to be “a hopeful message for Julian: ‘Come on, man, your parents got divorced. I know you’re not happy, but you’ll be OK.’” He ended up changing “Jules” to Jude” in the end.
‘Imagine’ — John Lennon
We have finally arrived at the end of the list. The Ranker community ranked “Imagine” second, while Rolling Stone dubbed it third. “Imagine” by John Lennon first came out in the United States in October 1971, while it was released across the pond in October 1975. This was the best-selling solo hit of his solo musical career. It is one of the most performed songs of the 20th century as well. Over the years, it has been covered by Stevie Wonder, Elton John, Madonna, Lady Gaga, and more. Since 2005, it has always preceded the New Year’s Time Square Ball drop. The Recording Industry Association of America put it at No. 30 on its 365 Songs of the Century list. Not long before his assassination, he said that Yoko Ono contributed many of its content and lyrics. In 2017, she finally got a co-writing credit for it.
‘Shop Around’ – Smokey Robinson And The Miracles
Barrett Strong should record “Shop Around,” according to Robinson, but Gordy convinced Smokey that he’s the perfect guy for the job. Gordy heard this on the radio after it was released and thought it was way too slow. He awoke Robinson at 3 a.m. and summoned him back to the studio to re-cut it — faster and with more emphasis on Robinson’s vocals. That one was successful.
‘Miss You’ – The Rolling Stones
The Stones were all in Toronto, prepping for their legendary shows at the El Mocambo Club when Jagger did come up with “Miss You” while jamming with R&B legend Billy Preston. It was the band’s first Number One hit in five years, with a disco groove and a touch of the blues provided by a harmonica player they discovered in a Paris subway. “It’s not about a girl,” Jagger explained. “The song is about a feeling of longing.”
‘The Rising’ – Bruce Springsteen
Springsteen wrote a song about 9/11, portraying a firefighter attempting to enter one of the Twin Towers (“Can’t see nothing in front of me…”) before launching into the gospel-tinged chorus. This was the title track from an album aimed at assisting his fans in their grief. In 2002, he told Rolling Stone, “The fundamental thing I hear from fans is, ‘Man, you got me through — whatever it is.”
‘Running On Empty’ – Jackson Browne
Browne’s grand experiment, Running on Empty, was a collection of all-new songs recorded up on the stage, in hotels, as well as on the tour bus. Browne wrote the title track while driving to the studio every day to work on The Pretender. He admitted, “I was always driving around with no gas in the car.” “I simply never bothered to fill up the tank because, after all, how far was it? It’s only a few blocks away.”
‘Brown Sugar’ – The Rolling Stones
Slavery, sadomasochism, and interracial sex are all topics tackled by the Stones, and they do so in a catchy way. Jagger scribbled three verses on a pad at Muscle Shoals Studios, and Richards provided an impossibly raunchy riff. With a few exultant punctuations, you’ve got yourself a Stones concert classic.
‘Ignition (Remix)’ – R. Kelly
R. Kelly’s industrial metaphors for booty-knockin’ in “Ignition” are a little more sophisticated than they could have been; the lyrics were downplayed at the request of a Chicago radio station. The initial version of the song was followed immediately by the popular remix on Chocolate Factory.
‘Time to Pretend’ – MGMT
The wriggling of a praying mantis that VanWyngarden and Goldwasser kept in college helped inspire the rhythm. VanWyngarden decided to write about rock-star desires (“I’ll move to Paris, shoot some heroin”), though this is difficult to ascertain how sarcastically he meant the words. “Some people believe we’re drug addicts. Others see the sarcasm, while others see the irony, “he stated, “As a lyricist, that’s what I hope for: confusion!”
‘I Will Survive’ – Gloria Gaynor
Gaynor’s professional life was on the decline in 1979. Donna Summer had displaced her as the leading disco diva, and Gaynor, who was 32 at the time, had recently lost her mother and had experienced spinal surgery. She brought extra attitude when she belted out “I Will Survive.” The song was originally a B side, but it became a smash after it was played at discos by enterprising DJs.
‘I Love Rock ‘N Roll’ – Joan Jett And The Blackhearts
Jett’s demo tape for “I Love Rock ‘N Roll” was rejected by 23 record labels as she attempted to launch a solo career following her time with the Runaways. Tiny Boardwalk Records finally took notice, but she had to pay $2,500 for the radio rights to the song. The song is now valued at approximately $20 million.
‘Clocks’ – Coldplay
Coldplay was in a hurry to complete their second album and sought to save “Clocks,” which features a churning piano riff influenced by Muse, for a later release. Fortunately, a friend stepped in to save the day. “He said, ‘You’re talking about the urgency in the lyrics, and you’re talking about holding this song back,'” Chris Martin explained. ” ‘That’s incomprehensible.’
‘Under the Boardwalk’ – The Drifters
Since its release, “Under the Boardwalk” has been a summertime staple of beach-town jukeboxes. It captures the carefree sounds of the shore. But it wasn’t a day at the beach when it was recorded. Because the track’s initial singer, Rudy Lewis, did die of a drug overdose in his accommodation room the night before the session, Johnny Moore was drafted to sing lead.
‘I’m Eighteen’ – Alice Cooper
Cooper was yet another hairy rock goofy before “I’m Eighteen.” However, this proto-punk smash classified the age when you’re “old enough to be drafted but not old enough to vote,” as Cooper put it. Johnny Rotten started to sing this at his audition for the Sex Pistols a few years later; Cooper had been a guest on The Muppet Show at the time.
‘Young Americans’ – David Bowie
In 1975, Bowie abandoned his glammed-up Ziggy Stardust persona in favor of a journey into the “plastic soul,” as he termed it. Yet this R&B homage, recorded in Philadelphia with a then-unknown Luther Vandross on background vocals and David Sanborn wailing on sax, is one of his warmest, wildest tales. “It’s about a newlywed couple who aren’t sure if they love each other,” Bowie explained.
‘Lady Marmalade’ – LaBelle
This No. 1 hit about a New Orleans streetwalker is still in rotation 35 years later. The band was from Philadelphia, but the horrible groove was straight out of New Orleans, thanks to producer Toussaint and his house band, the Meters, who are legendary R&B legends. Every disco fan now knows at least one line of French, thanks to the ladies of LaBelle: “Voulez-vous coucher avec moi?”
‘Cry Me a River’ – Justin Timberlake
The structure of the Timberlake–Timbaland team, a perfect match in pop heaven, was marked by this breakup aria. The spectacular video, in which Justin chases an actress clothed as his ex-girlfriend Britney Spears, revealed the song’s inspiration. Timberlake informed Rolling Stone, “It’s a badass video.” “I didn’t want anyone to smell like roses when they left.”