You’ll probably get twenty different answers if you ask twenty people what the greatest song ever made is. The truth is that this is what makes music so beautiful. The ability of an amazing song to move people on a personal level is more important than what others have to say. This is a collection of songs that music critics and fans agree are the best of all time. Ranker’s The Best Songs of All Time and Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time were used to compile this list. Let’s get started!
‘Gimme Shelter’ — The Rolling Stones
Isn’t it amazing that Keith Richards wrote this song in just 20 minutes? The song “Gimme Shelter” left a lasting impression on those who heard it. It was the first track on the album “Let It Bleed,” released in 1969, but it was never released as a single. Despite this, it has appeared on numerous compilation albums and has been performed live numerous times over the years. The Rolling Stones performed it with Florence Welch, Mary J. Blige, and Lady Gaga for their 50th-anniversary tour in 2012.
‘One’ — U2
This is the third track from U2’s 1991 album “Achtung Baby.” It was a spin-off from the second single, “Mysterious Ways.” The Edge came up with two bridge ideas, according to Rolling Stone. Bono was so taken with the other one that he wrote a new set of lyrics to go with it. They were not expecting “One” to be a wedding hit, even though it was.
‘No Woman, No Cry’ — Bob Marley
The best version of “No Woman, No Cry,” in our opinion, is not the original version from the 1974 album “Natty Dread.” No, that honor goes to the one who appeared in the Lyceum Theatre’s production of “Live!” on July 17, 1975. Bob Marley’s Natty Dread Tour included the performance. It not only changed his life, but he also credited Vincent “Tata” Ford, a childhood friend, with the songwriting.
‘You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling’ — The Righteous Brothers.
“You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling” was first recorded by the Righteous Brothers in 1964. It went on to top the charts in both the United Kingdom and the United States. It went on to become the fifth best-selling song in the United States the following year. Various artists, including Hall and Oates and Dionne Warwick, have covered the song. No other version, however, has come close to Bill Medley. Without instruments, the intro was memorable: “You never close your eyes when I kiss your lips anymore.”
‘Sympathy For The Devil’ — The Rolling Stones
When it comes to controversies, The Rolling Stones have seen their fair share. They released “Sympathy for the Devil” from “Beggars Banquet” in 1968. This was not an outlier, and it caused consternation among religious groups who believed they were worshiping the devil. Rolling Stone interviewed them in 1995. Mick Jagger clarified the situation by stating that he came up with the phrase because of French writing.
‘I Walk The Line’ — Johnny Cash
When Johnny Cash began work on “I Walk the Line,” he was a member of the Air Force stationed in Germany. Many years later, he was finally able to record it, even though the original tape had been damaged. This turned out to be a good thing because he chose to embrace the unique sound that resulted. To add even more spice, he wrapped a piece of wax paper around the guitar strings. This is how he got his first Billboard chart No. 1 hit.
‘River Deep – Mountain High’ — Ike and Tina Turner
Phil Spector considers “River Deep – Mountain High,” a 1966 release by Ike and Tina Turner, to be his best work as a producer. A large number of people share that sentiment. It even made a rolling stone’s list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time at No. 33. It was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1999. Turner described the experience of putting it together as “unforgettable.” Spector made her sing it for hours to make it “perfect.”
‘Help!’ — The Beatles
In 1980, John Lennon told Playboy that the song “Help!” had hidden depths that he himself was unaware of. In July 1965, at the height of Beatlemania, the song was released as a single. “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.”
‘People Get Ready’ — The Impressions
“People Get Ready” is, without a doubt, The Impressions’ most well-known hit. Curtis Mayfield wrote the song, which reached No. 3 on the Billboard R&B chart. The song became the Civil Rights Movement’s unofficial anthem. It was named one of the top ten songs of all time by Mojo Magazine.
‘In My Life’ — The Beatles
If you ask John Lennon, this 1965 single from “Rubber Soul” would be on every list of the greatest songs ever written. It was dubbed “my first real, major piece of work” by the Beatles. “Up until then, it had all been glib and thrown away,” he added. The line “Some [friends] are dead, and some are living / In my life I’ve loved them all,” according to Shotton’s friend and eventual biographer Peter Shotton, was a tribute to both Shotton and Stuart Sutcliffe, who died in 1962.
‘Layla’ — Derek And The Dominos
“The Story of Layla and Majnun,” a 12th-century book by Persian poet Nizami Ganjavi, inspired Eric Clapton to write “Layla.” Many people consider it to be one of the greatest rock songs ever written. Clapton also drew inspiration from his own life, particularly his unrequited love for Pattie Boyd. She was the wife of his friend and fellow musician George Harrison, but it all worked out in the end, and they were married for nearly a decade.
‘(Sittin’ On) The Dock Of The Bay — Otis Redding
This is probably Otis Redding’s most well-known song. While sitting on the bay’s dock, he wrote the song’s lyrics! He had been on a rented houseboat in Sausalito, California, after the Monterrey Pop Festival. He wrote it and then recorded it a few months later with guitarist Steve Cropper. This occurred only a few days before he died in a plane crash. His personal vehicle sank into Wisconsin’s Lake Monona. The song was the first posthumous single to reach number one in the United States.
‘Let It Be — The Beatles
It’s been said that turbulent times breed incredible creativity. In the case of Paul McCartney and this song, this was the case. The Beatles broke up, so he found solace in a dream about his late mother giving him advice. This song served as the title track for the band’s final studio album. In more ways than one, it was iconic. “Let it Be,” released in March 1970, was the Beatles’ final single before they announced their breakup.
‘The Times They Are A-Changin” — Bob Dylan
Bob Dylan’s 1964 album, “The Times They Are A-Changin,” was written by him. It quickly became known as a change anthem. It reached No. 9 on the singles chart in the United Kingdom when it was first released in 1965. However, it did not chart at all on the other side of the Atlantic. Regardless, it is one of his most well-known and influential songs. The song had been a staple of his setlist since 1965, but he dropped it in 2009.
‘Baba O’Riley’ — The Who
Meher Baba’s name influenced Pete Townshend of the Who, an Indian spiritual master. Terry Riley is credited with being the first to use a minimalist composition style in this piece. There was a time when he combined the two, resulting in the name “Baba O’Riley.” It was released as a single in 1971. Roger Daltrey described the song as a warning to children who used social media excessively in 2018.
‘Be My Baby’ — The Ronettes
This is on NME’s, Pitchfork’s, Time’s, and Rolling Stone’s lists of the best songs. Phil Spector produced it. Cher sang backup vocals on the song, which featured a full orchestra. “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 title track of Bruce Springsteen’s 1975 album “Born to Run” was his most ambitious song. “I wanted to make the greatest rock record I’d ever heard,” he told Rolling Stone. This was his first international single, but it only reached the top 20 in the United States. According to The Atlantic, it was a cult hit. It was so popular in Philadelphia that the top-40 morning station aired it several times a day.
‘Behind Blue Eyes’ — The Who
The Who released “Behind Blue Eyes” in 1971. An incident at a concert allegedly inspired it. Pete Townshend was allegedly tempted by one of the groupies the year before! He resisted temptation and went back to his hotel room to write a prayer. “When my fist clenches, crack it open,” the line began. That line is included in the song. It was included on the band’s fifth studio album, “Who’s Next.”
‘La Bamba’ — Ritchie Valens
The Los Lobos performed a cover of the Mexican folk song “La Bamba.” This was the theme song for a 1987 film starring Lou Diamond Phillips as Ritchie Valens. That has to be the most well-known version of the song! The 1958 adaptation by Valens, on the other hand, appears on both the Rolling Stone Top 500 and the Ranker chart. “La Bamba” is one of the most well-known songs from the early days of rock and roll.
‘Hound Dog’ — Elvis Presley
This song was already a hit for Willie Mae’s “Big Mama” Thornton before Elvis Presley covered it. The King of Rock and Roll version, on the other hand, peaked at No. 19 on the Rolling Stone top 500. After hearing Freddie Bell and the Bellboys sing it in Las Vegas, he included it in his 1956 setlist. Later that year, Presley famously serenaded a dog in a top hat on the Steve Allen Show.
‘Rock Around The Clock’ — Bill Haley And The Comets
While this is a rock ‘n’ roll classic, Bill Haley and the Comets’ version is the most successful and well-known. The band released it to great acclaim in 1954. It topped the charts in both the United Kingdom and the United States. This is due in part to the fact that it was featured in the opening credits of The Blackboard Jungle. The song was even dubbed “the world’s first rock anthem” by The Guardian.
‘Break On Through (To The Other Side)’ — The Doors
This was the first track on The Doors’ self-titled debut album. The band’s first single was “Break on Through (To the Other Side).” It did not fare well when it was first released, reaching only no. 126 on the US charts. Regardless, it is one of their most popular songs. Jim Morrison told Hit Parader that he wrote the song while walking through Venice’s canals.
‘Here Comes The Sun’ — The Beatles
The Beatles included “Here Comes the Sun” on their 1969 album “Abbey Road.” John Lennon and Paul McCartney wrote most of their songs, but the credit for this hit goes to none other than George Harrison. It was also clear that the lead guitarist was becoming more influenced by Indian classical music. He allegedly wrote the song at Eric Clapton’s house to avoid attending a band’s Apple Corps organization.
‘Rebel Rebel’ — David Bowie
David Bowie was regarded as a forefather of the glam rock movement. “Rebel Rebel” is said to be his farewell to it. The song was released in 1974. It is essentially about a boy who defies his parents’ wishes by wearing makeup and female clothing. It peaked at No. 16 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the United States. It peaked at No. 5 in the United Kingdom and remained a “glam anthem” today.
‘You Really Got Me’ — The Kinks
Ray Davies wrote this song for the Kinks’ third single. In 1964, “You Really Got Me” reached No. 1 on the UK singles chart. It peaked at No. 7 in the United Kingdom. According to Rolling Stone, the guitarist for the band Dave Davies used a razor on the speaker cone of his amp to create the incredible sound on the riff.
‘Purple Haze’ — The Jimi Hendrix Experience
“Purple Haze” is ranked 17th on Rolling Stone’s list of the greatest songs. It was written by Jimi Hendrix and released as the second single from The Jimi Hendrix Experience in 1967. This is one of his most well-known songs, and it introduced many people to his distinct psychedelic rock sound. In 2013, Rolling Stone readers voted it Jimi Hendrix’s fifth-best song.
‘London Calling’ — The Clash
The Clash wrote one of its most iconic songs while going through a series of personal difficulties and being concerned about global events. They had no management and a lot of debt at the time. This was the only single released in the UK from the eponymous album. It reached No. 11 on the charts in 1980, making them the highest-charting single band until they released “Should I Stay or Should I Go” a decade later.
‘What A Wonderful World’ — Louis Armstrong
“What a Wonderful World” was ranked 15th on the Ranker list. Under the supervision of George Douglas, this was written by George David Weiss and Bob Thiele. In 1967, the song reached the top of the UK pop chart after being recorded by Louis Armstrong. However, it only ranked 32nd in the UK. Despite this, in 1999, the song was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame. Throughout the years, many artists have covered the song.
‘A Change Is Gonna Come — Sam Cooke
The song was only released a few days after he was laid to rest in December 1964. Unfortunately, Sam Cooke died after being shot by a woman in a Los Angeles motel. Even though it did not fare well on the charts, it was used as a civil rights movement anthem. It was even chosen for preservation by the National Recording Registry in 2007. It was chosen because it is a song that is “culturally, historically, or aesthetically important.”
‘The Sound Of Silence’ — Simon & Garfunkel
The film “The Sound of Silence” was ranked tenth by the Ranker community. It was included on Simon & Garfunkel’s debut album, “Wednesday Morning, 3 A.M.” in 1964. It reached the top of the Billboard Hot 100 in January 1966, and it also charted in Austria, Australia, the Netherlands, West Germany, and Japan. 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 John Lennon and Paul McCartney’s final true collaborations. The Beatles’ “A Day in the Life” served as the dramatic conclusion to their 1967 album “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.” Various artists, including Bary Gibb, Jeff Beck, The Fall, and Phish, have covered it. Paul McCartney has also used it in live performances since 2008. Three years later, Rolling Stone named it the Beatles’ greatest song.
‘My Generation’ — The Who
The Who’s “My Generation” is ranked as the 11th greatest song of all time by Rolling Stone. It is one of the band’s most well-known songs. VH1 ranked it 13th on its list of the 100 Greatest Rock & Roll Songs and 37th on its list of the Greatest Hard Rock Songs.
‘Light My Fire’ — The Doors
The Doors’ “Light My Fire” took the 16th spot on Ranker’s list. It was released on the band’s eponymous album in 1967. The edited single spent three weeks atop the Billboard Hot 100 chart. It deserves credit for helping to make the band even bigger than it was before. The song also landed them an invitation to The Ed Sullivan Show, though Jim Morrison was asked not to sing a specific line.
‘What’d I Say — Ray Charles
Ray Charles’ “What’d I Say?” was named the 10th best song in history by Rolling Stone. He wrote it while the band was performing in Pittsburgh one night in 1958. He had some spare time, so he wrote one of the greatest songs ever written. The song went on to become his first top ten pop single. He always ended his performances with this song.
‘Paint It Black — The Rolling Stones
On Ranker, “Paint It Black” by the Rolling Stones is ranked fifth. The single was a huge success when it was released in 1966. It peaked at number one on the Billboard Hot 100 and the UK Singles Chart. The band’s third No. 1 hit single in the United States and sixth in the United Kingdom. Keith Richards stated in 2004 that Bill Wyman on the organ was the key to the song.
‘Respect’ — Aretha Franklin
This song was written and recorded by Otis Redding in 1965. On the other hand, Aretha Franklin deserves credit for making “Respect” what it is today. She turned it into a female empowerment anthem two years after the original was released. She added 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, to spice things up a little. It’s one of her most well-known songs. She won two Grammys for it in 1968.
‘All Along The Watchtower’ — The Jimi Hendrix Experience
Although Bob Dylan wrote “All Along the Watchtower,” The Jimi Hendrix Experience’s rendition was voted the fourth greatest song in history by Ranker voters. It was first released on Bob Dylan’s 1967 album “John Wesley Harding.” Hendrix covered it six months later for “Electric Ladyland.” It was in the top 20 in 1968. According to Rolling Stone, his version is the 47th greatest song of all time.
‘What’s Going On — Marvin Gaye
Marvin Gaye released “What’s Going On” in 1971. It was inspired by all of the cases of police brutality that had been documented in California. It did not do well commercially at first. It did, however, go on to reach No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100. It is one of the star’s most successful Motown records. The Rolling Stone described it as an “exquisite plea for peace on Earth.” It ranks fourth on its list of the greatest songs ever written.
‘Stairway To Heaven’ — Led Zeppelin
In 1971, Led Zeppelin released “Stairway to Heaven.” It has a huge following among the Ranker community. They named it the seventh greatest song of all time. It was the best song of all time for Planet Rock readers. They gave it more than twice as many votes as its closest competitor. Even though it was not released as a commercial single in the United Kingdom, it was voted the country’s favorite rock anthem.
‘Like A Rolling Stone’ — Bob Dylan
According to Rolling Stone, the greatest song was Bob Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone.” The track was six minutes and thirteen seconds long, which was unusual. This is why radio stations were initially hesitant to play the song. Despite this, it became a worldwide smash, peaking at No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100. According to Acclaimed Music, it is the most acclaimed song in history in terms of statistics. Dylan’s handwritten lyrics were auctioned off for $2 million in 2014.
‘God Only Knows — The Beach Boys
The Ranker community ranked “God Only Knows” as the 19th greatest song of all time, while Rolling Stone ranked it as the 25th best song. This song is also in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Pitchfork Media’s list of the best songs from the 1960s. Despite this, it continues to be popular among their fans. In fact, Rolling Stone readers voted it the best song of all time.
‘Blowin’ In The Wind’ — Bob Dylan
This song was once referred to as “Dylan’s first significant composition.” It is most likely the most well-known protest song in history. Bob Dylan’s most famous song is “Blowin’ in the Wind,” which became a civil rights movement anthem. Aside from that, it was a huge hit in 1963 for the popular folk band Peter, Paul, and Mary. The song was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1994. Rolling Stone ranked it 14th on its list of the 500 greatest songs of all time.
‘I Want To Hold Your Hand’ — The Beatles
The Beatles have many great songs, and this is one of them. In 1963, the Fab Four released “I Wanted to Hold Your Hand.” It was their first No. 1 hit in the United States, and it spent 21 weeks in the top 50 in the United Kingdom. John Lennon explained that he and Paul McCartney wrote the song “eyeball to eyeball.”
‘Johnny B. Goode’ — Chuck Berry
Chuck Berry released “Johnny B. Goode” in 1958. According to Rolling Stone, it was “the first rock and roll hit about rock and roll stardom,” as well as “the greatest rock and roll song about the democracy of fame in pop music.” It was a semi-autobiographical song about a New Orleans “country boy” who can play the guitar “like ringing a bell.” It peaked at NO. 8 on the Billboard Hot 100. Because of its influence, it was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1999.
‘Smells Like Teen Spirit — Nirvana
This is the only song on the list that was released in the 1990s. The song “Smells Like Teen Spirit” became an anthem for that apathetic generation. It was given the name of a deodorant brand. The song became a worldwide hit in a variety of countries. It has even been certified platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America. The song also propelled the “Nevermind” album to the top of the charts at the start of 1992. Unfortunately, it put a lot of strain on Nirvana.
‘Good Vibrations — The Beach Boys
The Beach Boys had a lot of success with “Good Vibrations” in 1966. It topped the charts in both the United Kingdom and the United States. It was the most expensive single ever recorded at the time. The studio spent $50,000 to create it! Brian Wilson wrote and produced the song, which was inspired by his interest in cosmic vibrations. His mother tried to explain to him as a child why dogs barked at certain people but not others in this manner.
‘Yesterday’ — The Beatles
This has to be the Beatles’ most famous ballad. The Ranker readers voted it the third-best song, while Rolling Stone ranked it 13th. It was ranked third on the BMI list of the Top 100 Songs of the Century. After polling music experts and listeners alike, BBC Radio 2 declared it the greatest song of the twentieth century in 1999. It only featured Paul McCartney on vocals, accompanied by a string quartet. It was “one of the most instinctive songs I’ve ever written,” he said.
‘(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction — The Rolling Stones
The Rolling Stones ranked “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” as the second greatest song. This song helped the band achieve their first No. 1 in the United States, even though it was initially restricted to pirate radio stations across the pond due to its suggestive content. Despite this, it eventually rose to the top of the charts. Keith Richards had the song’s riff in a dream. He was on his third U.S. tour and was staying at a motel in Clearwater, Florida.
‘Hey Jude’ — The Beatles
According to thousands of voters on Ranker, the best song ever is none other than the Beatles’ “Hey Jude.” Instead, Rolling Stone ranked it eighth. This was the band’s first single to be released on the Apple label. It topped the charts in several countries around the world. It was the best-selling single in the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, and Australia in 1968. Its message is heartfelt and personal. Apparently, Paul McCartney wrote it to pay a visit to Cynthia, John Lennon’s wife, and their child Julian.