Any time you have a conversation about the best songs of all time, there’s going to be intense debate centered on people’s personal preferences and genres. For our list, we’ll be taking a look at the 75 most iconic songs in history, including tracks that remain popular today, those that achieved incredible commercial success, and tunes that changed the course of music history with their influence.
75. Ms. Jackson – Outkast
Ms. Jackson is one of Outkast’s best-known songs and also one of their most creative. It helped their Stankonia album become one of their best-sellers and won the duo a Grammy Award, BET Award, and MTV Video Music Award.
74. He Stopped Loving Her Today – George Jones
Country songs don’t particularly have a lot of representation on this list, but it’s impossible to deny a legend like George Jones. He Stopped Loving Her Today is often considered one of, if not, the greatest country track of all time. It also re-entered the charts after his death in 2013, 34 years after its initial recording.
73. What’s Love Got to Do With It – Tina Turner
What’s Love Got To Do With It was Tina Turner’s one and only number-one single on the Hot 100. In 1984, it was the second best-selling single of the year in the US and won three Grammy Awards for her.
72. Don’t Stop Believin’ – Journey
Journey’s Don’t Stop Believin’ remains one of the most iconic rock songs of all time through today and makes for some compelling karaoke. It was a massive hit upon release and has remained relevant across the decades, becoming one of the most well-known tracks of all time.
71. Kashmir – Led Zeppelin
Kashmir was everything great about Led Zeppelin wrapped into a single song. A concert staple for them, it was one of their most progressive epics and was performed at every single one of their concerts after it was released to the public.
70. Waterfalls – TLC
Waterfalls was written for TLC’s CrazySexyCool album in 1994 and eventually turned into their signature song. One of the greatest girl-group singles of all time, and an embodiment of the 1990s, it’s gone down in history as one of the most popular tracks of all time.
69. At Last – Etta James
At Last was written for the musical film Sun Valley Serenade in 1941, but it was Etta James’ cover version of the track in 1960 that was arranged into an R&B song that made it wildly popular. It served as the title track of her debut album that year and was eventually inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.
68. Losing My Religion – R.E.M.
Losing My Religion was the first single released from R.E.M.’s 1991 album Out Of Time and was a surprise hit for them. Built on a mandolin riff rather than a guitar, it ended up receiving extensive airplay on radio and television, turning it into their highest-charting single in the US and winning two Grammy Awards in the process.
67. Sympathy for the Devil – The Rolling Stones
Sympathy For The Devil is one of The Rolling Stone’s songs that earned the most critical acclaim in their star-studded discography. It was the opening track of their 1968 album Beggars Banquet and essentially took on the perspective of the literal devil for the duration of the track. Interestingly, it’s one that still finds radio airplay on modern rock stations today.
66. 99 Problems – Jay-Z
Jay-Z is easily one of the greatest rappers of all time, but even he has had to deal with rap critics during his career. The track 99 Problems was his response to those critics, police using racial profiling, and the threats he received during that time. The hook was actually taken from an Ice-T single of the same name from the 1993 album Home Invasion.
65. Since U Been Gone – Kelly Clarkson
Kelly Clarkson’s Since U Been Gone was released as the lead single of her Breakaway album in 2004. It was the highlight of the album and one of the best singles of the year, peaking at number two on the Hot 100 and spending six weeks on top of the US Pop 100 chart.
64. Back to Black – Amy Winehouse
Back To Black was the title track and third single of Amy Winehouse’s 2006 album. Inspired by an ex-boyfriend who left her for one of his exes, it turned out to be one of her signature songs and a scathing takedown of an ex. You can also hear it in the 2013 film adaptation of The Great Gatsby and the documentary film about her life.
63. Rolling In The Deep – Adele
Adele produced one of the biggest crossover hits of all time in 2011 when she released Rolling In The Deep. The song was a highlight of the production quality behind her work and her stunning vocal talents, becoming her first number-one hit in the US and one of the best-selling singles of all time.
62. I Will Always Love You – Whitney Houston
I Will Always Love You started out as a ballad written by Dolly Parton as a farewell to her business partner and mentor. That version was released in 1974 as a country single and was a success in its own right. But Whitney Houston’s cover version of the song as a soul ballad took it to new heights, spending 14 weeks at number one on the Hot 100 and becoming the best-selling single of all time by a female solo artist.
61. (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman – Aretha Franklin
While everyone knows Respect as Aretha Franklin’s signature song, (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman should rank just as high. It reached number eight on the Hot 100 and made history on the UK Singles Chart by becoming a hit after her death, nearly 51 years after the track was initially released.
60. Blowin’ In The Wind – Bob Dylan
Blowin’ In The Wind is largely defined as one of Bob Dylan’s best protest songs, asking questions about war, peace, and freedom. One of the most recognizable and obvious tracks of all time, it earned an induction into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1994.
59. Wonderwall – Oasis
Wonderwall might be the song you dread hearing when a frat boy pulls out an acoustic guitar but that shouldn’t take away from the greatness of the original Oasis release. It topped the charts or broke into the top 10 in 15 different countries and became their most popular hit single.
58. Reach Out I’ll Be There – Four Tops
The Four Tops made quite the mark on the R&B world during their career, but Reach Out I’ll Be There is a song that was just a notch above the rest of their work. One of the best-known Motown Records hits of the era, it was a number-one track on the Hot 100, Rhythm and Blues, and UK Singles chart.
57. Blitzkrieg Bop – Ramones
The Ramones were integral to shaping the sound of the post-punk genre and their eponymous album is held in high regard among fans and critics alike. Perhaps the most successful single to come from the album, Blitzkrieg Bop, contains one of the greatest guitar solos of all time and becomes a classic sports single.
56. All Too Well – Taylor Swift
Swifties might argue that this entire list should come from Taylor Swift’s discography, but picking one of her amazing songs is better than none. She truly broke free in her Red album, with All Too Well serving as a slow-burning power ballad that mixed all of her signature styles together. It earned a cult following and was a pop culture phenomenon, eventually winning the Grammy for Best Music Video and reaching the top of the Hot 100.
55. Jolene – Dolly Parton
Dolly Parton was actually inspired to write Jolene after a bank clerk flirted with her husband shortly after the two were married. Both the name and appearance of the “Jolene” in the song were based on that clerk. The song itself turned out to be a classic in the country genre and served as the lead single and title track of her 1973 album.
54. I Walk The Line – Johnny Cash
I Walk The Line was one of Johnny Cash’s most famous songs and one of the most interesting windows into his life. It came near the beginning of his touring career, with a new family at home waiting for him. It was likely meant to reassure his wife regarding her suspicions of his infidelity, as he was touring alongside his eventual wife June Carter at the time.
53. Suspicious Minds – Elvis Presley
Suspicious Minds was written by Mark James, but his recording was a commercial failure. Elvis Presley picked the song up in 1968 and turned it into a number-one hit track. All about a distrusting and dysfunctional relationship, the song turned out to be one that resonated with millions and is frequently discussed among his greatest tracks.
52. Running Up That Hill – Kate Bush
Running Up That Hill was the lead single of Kate Bush’s 1985 album Hounds Of Love. It was a massive hit that dealt with a man and woman bargaining with God to switch places with each other. It peaked at number three on the UK Singles Chart, while in the US, it rose to number 30 on the Hot 100. It’s one of the most recognizable songs of all time and familiar to modern audiences thanks to its prolific use in the Stranger Things Netflix series.
51. Family Affair – Sly & the Family Stone
Family Affair was the biggest and most impactful single from the legendary funk group Sly & the Family Stone. It became their third and final number-one single and was their most successful single. A cover version of it by John Legend won the Grammy Award for Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals as well.
50. Work It – Missy Elliot
Work It was a breakout song for Missy Elliot that was a perfect representation of old-school hip hop. It spent 10 weeks at number two on the Hot 100, becoming her most successful single of all time. Part of the track was also responsible for popularizing the slang term ‘badonkadonk,” and for that, we are all grateful.
49. Like A Prayer – Madonna
Madonna released quite a lot of incredible hits in her career, but it was Like A Prayer that stood out among the rest. Lyrically, the song had a depth to it that allowed it to be interpreted either as a religious track or one full of sexual innuendos. This did end up getting it condemned by the Vatican, but that didn’t stop it from being one of the most popular tracks of the 1980s.
48. Stayin’ Alive – Bee Gees
Stayin’ Alive was the highlight of Saturday Night Fever and one of the Bee Gees’ most impressive tracks. As a soundtrack album, it embodied the disco scene in the 1970s. But this song transcended all the rest, turning into an all-time classic and one of the most popular tracks of the entire era.
47. Stand By Me – Ben. E. King
Ben E. King’s Stand By Me is undeniably one of the best R&B tracks ever and an all-time classic. It was inspired by a spiritual song written by Sam Cooke and served as an incredibly uplifting track about supporting your brothers and sisters. Over 400 recorded versions of the song have been produced, with artists like John Lennon, Otis Redding, and Tracy Chapman all taking their turn with the track over the past six decades.
46. Sultans of Swing – Dire Straits
Sultans Of Swing was actually a demo recorded by Dire Straits that found its way to radio rotation in North London in 1977. It quickly gained a rabid following and earned them a major record label deal before being placed on their debut album. It’s their most recognizable song and has continually been played on classic rock radio stations for the past five decades.
45. River Deep – Mountain High – Ike & Tina Turner
River Deep – Mountain High was the title track of Ike & Tina Turner’s 1966 studio album. While it was more popular in Europe than in the US, it eventually became one of the most iconic soul songs in history. It was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
44. A Change is Gonna Come – Sam Cooke
Sam Cooke was inspired to write A Change Is Gonna Come after he and his entourage were refused at a whites-only motel in Louisiana. The song became an anthem of the Civil Rights Movement and a chronicle of the plight of African Americans inside the US. It may not have been a massive chart success for him, but it ended up being one of his most important and praised compositions.
43. Dancing in the Street – Martha & the Vandellas
Dancing In The Street was originally written by Marvin Gaye but didn’t become a popular song until 1964 when Martha & The Vandellas recorded the track. Their version went on to become one of the signature songs of the Motown label and reached number two and number four on the Hot 100 and UK Singles Chart, respectively. Versions by The Mamas & The Papas, Van Halen, and David Bowie would all also turn out to be reasonable hits as well.
42. You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’ – The Righteous Brothers
You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’ is the perfect example of the Wall of Sound recording technique that revolutionized the music industry. It was a massive critical and commercial success in 1964, reaching number one on the composite charts in both the US and the UK. Several other iconic covers have become hits over the years, including versions from Roberta Flack, Dionne Warwick, and Hall And Oates.
41. God Only Knows – The Beach Boys
God Only Knows was perhaps the best single to come from the Beach Boys’ innovative album Pet Sounds in 1966. Invoking the Baroque style of love tracks, many people argue that it’s the best song the mythical band ever produced. Issued as the B-side of Wouldn’t It Be Nice, it peaked at number 29 on the Hot 100 and broke into the top 10 in Canada. Eventually, the track was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
40. C.R.E.A.M. – Wu-Tang Clan
C.R.E.A.M. might not have reached the commercial heights of many other songs on this list, but retrospect has shined a light on what could be one of the greatest hip hop tracks of all time. A standout on Wu-Tang Clan’s debut album Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers), it has been sampled for decades by other artists and showcased the lyrical mastery of the members of the group at that time.
39. Purple Haze – Jimi Hendrix
Purple Haze was the second single the Jimi Hendrix Experience released and it used a unique blend of the Hendrix chord, the blues, and Eastern music styles to create one of the most iconic psychedelic rock songs of all time. It has always been one of his most popular tracks, but the guitar chords and progressions have made it one of the best songs for the guitar in music history.
38. Tiny Dancer – Elton John
Tiny Dancer was the first track on Elton John’s 1971 album Madman Across The Water and was meant to embody the spirit of California. It wasn’t just one of his most successful singles, it eventually turned out to be his best-known song—at least on this side of the pond—and an iconic piece of classic rock as a whole.
37. Heartbreak Hotel – Elvis Presley
Out of all of Elvis Presley’s famous recordings, few were as big a hit as Heartbreak Hotel. It spent seven weeks atop the Hot 100, six weeks on Cashbox’s Pop chart, and 17 weeks at the pinnacle of the country and western charts. Its shining achievement was that it broke the top five of the country, pop, and R&B charts simultaneously, a feat just about no other song has ever done. Its record-setting performance earned it an induction into the Grammy Hall of Fame and turned it into a rock and roll standard.
36. Bridge Over Troubled Water – Simon & Garfunkel
Bridge Over Troubled Water was the title track and second single released from this legendary duo’s 1970 album. One of the most awarded songs of all time, it brought home five awards at the 1971 Grammy Award Ceremony and became the pair’s signature track. It also topped the Hot 100 for six weeks and broke into the top five in several other countries worldwide.
Throughout the 20th century, it was one of the most performed and covered songs around the world, with big names like Elvis Presley and Aretha Franklin taking their turn with it.
35. Gasolina – Daddy Yankee
Gasolina is one of the most important songs in Latin music history. It was the first reggaeton track to ever be nominated for the Latin Grammy Award for Record of the Year and has always remained a popular song. In 2005, it became a worldwide international hit and it eventually found a place in the National Recording Registry of the Library of Congress for its cultural and historical relevance.
34. Paper Planes – M.I.A.
Paper Planes was written to satirize the way Americans view immigrants from third-world countries. It became a powerful chronicle of M.I.A.’s views on the world and was a massively influential single. On its own, it helped shape modern alternative hip hop and was even able to showcase elements of traditional African music. In the US, the song peaked at number four on the Hot 100 and was her first and only track that broke into the chart.
33. My Girl – The Temptations
Smokey Robinson wrote My Girl as an ode to his wife. This classic song from The Temptations became their signature track and first number-one single. It easily found a place as one of the most popular singles released throughout the 1960s and has remained a well-known choice through the modern era. It was even selected for preservation by the Library of Congress in the National Recording Registry.
32. Redemption Song – Bob Marley & the Wailers
There are plenty of Bob Marley tracks that could have been considered for this list, but Redemption Song added such a deep personal layer that it becomes hard to argue against it for one of the best songs of all time. He had already been diagnosed with cancer when the track was recorded, and it clearly was meant to deal with the way he grappled with his own mortality. It was eventually released as a single in the UK and France after appearing on his album Uprising.
31. All Along the Watchtower – Jimi Hendrix
All Along The Watchtower was actually a famous Bob Dylan song before Jimi Hendrix picked it up, but it took on new life when it was played by the Jimi Hendrix Experience. His version became the best-known one of the tracks, finding a spot on his third studio album Electric Ladyland. After adapting it to his own style, he produced one of the most incredible singles of all time.
30. Royals – Lorde
Royals served as Lorde’s debut single in 2012 and was one of the best art pop tracks of all time. Its songwriting skills and production quality, when paired with her vocal talents, earned it incredible amounts of praise among critics. It spent nine weeks on top of the US Hot 100, selling 10 million copies worldwide and becoming one of the most successful singles in music history. It even took home the Grammy Awards for Song of the Year and Best Pop Solo Performance in 2014.
29. When Doves Cry – Prince & the Revolution
When Doves Cry was an ambitious experimental pop song from Prince’s vaunted 1984 Purple Rain album. It was the first number-one single of his career, spending five weeks on top of the US Hot 100, and was the best-selling single of 1984. It also happens to be the last track to earn a platinum certification before the requirements were lowered. The music video was the subject of some controversy, though it helped pump up the song’s numbers.
28. (Sittin’ On) the Dock of the Bay – Otis Redding
Otis Redding co-wrote (Sittin’ On) The Dock Of The Bay and was able to record it twice before his tragic passing in a plane crash. It was inspired by his search for peace as he rose to musical prominence. The song was eventually released as his first posthumous single, becoming the first posthumous single in US history. It also ended up peaking at number three on the UK Singles Chart.
27. Johnny B. Goode – Chuck Berry
Johnny B. Goode is one of rock and roll’s foundational songs. Written and recorded by Chuck Berry in 1958, it’s widely thought of as the first rock and roll track about being a rock star and is one of the most recognizable songs of all time. Perhaps its greatest accolade was being included on the Voyager Golden Record, a collection of music, images, and sounds designed to serve as a record of humanity that was launched into space by NASA.
26. Juicy – The Notorious B.I.G.
Juicy is the ultimate come-up story, telling the tale of how Biggie rose from being a low-level drug dealer to get by to one of hip hop’s hottest names. A rags-to-riches chronicle for the ages, it’s often referenced as one of the best hip hop songs of all time and was a foundational track of East Coast Rap in the 1990s. In 1994 and 1995, it topped the Hot Rap Songs chart and broke into the top 15 of the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart.
25. Nuthin’ but a “G” Thang – Dr. Dre
Nuthin’ But A “G” Thang dropped from Dr. Dre’s vaunted hip hop album The Chronic in 1992. It was the first single from the album and made it to number two on the Hot 100, instantly launching both Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg’s solo rap careers. It was so transcendent that it was selected by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as one of the 500 Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll.
24. Born to Run – Bruce Springsteen
Bruce Springsteen became The Boss with the release of Born To Run and the accompanying album of the same name. It dabbled in the wall of sound style while romantically painting a picture of working-class America that was utterly universal in nature. It was his first top 40 hit in the US, peaking at number 23 on the Hot 100 and cementing him in 1975 as one of the biggest up-and-coming stars in the music world.
23. Heroes – David Bowie
Heroes was the title track of David Bowie’s 1977 album and was a building art rock track that served as the album’s lead single. While it didn’t earn the same chart success as many on this list, it is looked back at as one of his best songs and has considerably grown in reputation over the years since its release.
22. Be My Baby – The Ronettes
Be My Baby has always been The Ronettes’ biggest hit, rising as high as number two on the US chart and number four in the UK. It was released in 1963 and is almost always ranked among the best songs to be produced during that decade. Many artists have replicated or been inspired by it over the years, with it even returning to the US Top 40 on several occasions thanks to cover versions being released.
21. Purple Rain – Prince & the Revolution
Purple Rain was the title track of Prince’s 1984 album and film, eventually being released as the third single from the album. It was an incredible power ballad that mixed rock, R&B, gospel, and orchestral music in a way that hadn’t ever been done before. It eventually reached the top of the US Hot 100 and became his signature song, so much so that it re-entered the Hot 100 after his death in 2016 and peaked at number four on the chart.
20. I Want to Hold Your Hand – The Beatles
I Want To Hold Your Hand was interestingly the first The Beatles recording made using four-track equipment. The song was first recorded in 1963 and had advance orders of over one million copies lined up prior to release. It spent five weeks atop the UK Singles Chart after displacing their previous single She Loves You as well. For them, this track turned out to be their first American hit and officially began the British invasion of the American music industry.
19. Superstition – Stevie Wonder
Superstition was the lead single of Stevie Wonder’s acclaimed album Talking Book in 1972. It mainly deals with people’s belief in superstitions and the negative consequences that can come from those beliefs. It was a massive hit, topping both the US Hot 100 and the Soul Singles charts, earning him his first number-one single in over a decade. It further brought him two Grammy Awards, for both Best Rhythm and Blues Song and Best R&B Vocal Performance, Male.
18. One – U2
One was released on U2’s Achtung Baby album and served as the third single to come from the album. Through almost entirely improvisational means, they were inspired by a chord Edge was playing in the studio during their heated arguments over the direction of the band. It was released as a benefit single, with proceeds being donated towards AIDS research. It topped the Irish Charts and made it to number one on both the US Modern Rock Tracks and Album Rock Tracks charts in 1992.
17. London Calling – The Clash
London Calling was the title track of The Clash’s 1979 double album and is one of the foundational songs of the entire post-punk music genre. An apocalyptic political rant, it was a nasty takedown of police brutality, governments not actively solving problems, and the potential end of the world during the Cold War era. It was their highest-charting single for years, entering the charts on a couple of occasions and eventually being thought of as their best single.
16. Over the Rainbow – Judy Garland
Over The Rainbow was a heartfelt ballad written for the 1937 film The Wizard Of Oz and was performed by Judy Garland in the film. It became her signature track and won the Academy Award for Best Original Song.
However, the best-known version of the track today belongs to Israel Kamakawiwoʻole. His ukulele-laced medley of the song has appeared on charts several times and is one of the most-used tracks in film media. You can hear it in 50 First Dates, Snakes On A Plane, Charmed, Son Of Mask, and several other pieces of media today.
15. Creep – Radiohead
Radiohead found immense success with Creep, but it was unfortunately a track they ended up hating. Artists to their core, the members were asked to play it so often and found it much shallower than their other work, eventually leading to them refusing to play it in live venues.
Despite their eventual distaste for it, it remains their most successful single after it became a slacker anthem alongside Smells Like Teen Spirit and Loser. It’s widely regarded as one of the best debut singles of all time and one of the best songs in history.
14. Stairway to Heaven – Led Zeppelin
Stairway To Heaven is always in contention for the title of the greatest rock song of all time. It appeared on Led Zeppelin’s untitled fourth album in 1971 and was arranged in three sections. Each one raises the tempo and volume of the track, eventually turning into a hard rock arrangement.
While it was never commercially released as a single in the US, it was the most requested song on FM radio stations after its release. As recently as 2007, it appeared on the UK Singles Chart, thanks largely to download sales after the promotion of their Mothership compilation album.
13. (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction – The Rolling Stones
The guitar riff in (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction is widely regarded as one of the greatest hooks of all time. The song itself deals with sexual frustration and commercialism, two things that often leave people feeling unsatisfied in life. It was The Rolling Stones’ first hit in the US but was initially deemed too suggestive in the UK.
After pirate radio stations played the track frequently, it began receiving regular airplay and took the top of the UK Singles Chart as well. In 1998, it was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame, and in 2006, it was selected for preservation in the National Recording Registry.
12. Hey Ya! – Outkast
Hey Ya! was performed by André 3000 for Outkast’s vaunted double album Speakerboxxx/The Love Below. It served as one of the two lead singles for the album and was an instant and massive success. It topped the charts in six countries including the US and is always considered among the best songs of the 2000s. It was nominated for Record of the Year at the Grammy Awards but took home Best Urban/Alternative Performance instead.
11. Strawberry Fields Forever – The Beatles
Strawberry Fields Forever marked a distinct change in The Beatles’ style away from their novel-listening audience and towards more of a pop sound. What many didn’t know at the time was how influential the song would become in the psychedelic genres or how important the music video would be in terms of pioneering music videos as a whole.
It was also yet another time they advanced studio techniques. John Lennon himself viewed the track as his finest work with the band, and it would be entirely impossible to leave it off of our list today.
10. Seven Nation Army – The White Stripes
There’s a lot that can be said about Seven Nation Army, but it’s that guitar lick that turned it into one of the best songs of all time. Of course, it’s a great workout track and can make you feel invincible. But the pitched bass-like riff and distorted vocals were darn near revolutionary at the time and were utterly unique. It won the Grammy Award for Best Rock Song and served as a major boost for the entire garage rock genre and revival going on during the early 2000s.
9. Dreams – Fleetwood Mac
Fleetwood Mac may have had drama upon drama among members of the band, but you have to admit we got some amazing music out of it. Released in 1977 on their 11th album Rumours, Dreams was the only song of theirs to reach number one in the US, going on to sell over a million copies as well. The track saw a revival in 2020 after a viral TikTok was released featuring the song.
8. What’s Going On – Marvin Gaye
What’s Going On was one of the many iconic songs to come out in the Vietnam War era that really just looked at the state of society and wondered what had gone wrong. It quickly became one of Marvin Gaye’s biggest hit singles, spending five weeks on top of the Soul Singles charts before crossing over and peaking at number two on the Hot 100.
It marked an important time for him as well, as it was his departure from the Motown sound and entrance to more personal work. The track was inspired by an account of police brutality during an anti-Vietnam War protest and embodied a lot of people’s thought processes at the time.
7. Smells Like Teen Spirit – Nirvana
Smells Like Teen Spirit is the quintessential Nirvana song that everyone knows, but it was more than just their big break. This track changed the landscape of the music world as a whole, marking the first time that alternative rock truly broke into the mainstream music world as a major success.
It fundamentally made record labels rethink the bands they signed and what sounds were popular, leading to a massive surge in alternative rock groups being given opportunities. It helped drive the Nevermind album to become one of the best-selling albums of all time and became one of the most important songs of the 1990s.
6. Billie Jean – Michael Jackson
Billie Jean was one of the most successful singles to come from Michael Jackson’s vaunted Thriller album. Allegedly inspired by events that he witnessed his brothers go through during his time as part of the Jackson 5, it was one of the songs that made Thriller the best-selling album of all time.
It topped the charts in the US, the UK, Canada, France, Switzerland, and Belgium. Even today, it remains one of the highest-selling singles of all time. The track earned him two Grammy Awards and an AMA, eventually earning a place on the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s list of the 500 Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll.
5. Like A Rolling Stone – Bob Dylan
Like A Rolling Stone is often thought of as being revolutionary in terms of combining different musical elements, and it helped turn Bob Dylan from a folk singer to a rock star. An incredibly long track at six minutes, this made both his label and radio stations hesitant about it. That didn’t stop it from reaching number two on the US Billboard charts and becoming a worldwide hit single.
It’s angry, cynical, and questioning. A true song of angst and resistance that would eventually be covered by huge names in the industry like The Wailers, The Jimi Hendrix Experience, and The Rolling Stones.
4. Bohemian Rhapsody – Queen
Bohemian Rhapsody is often regarded as a masterpiece from Queen, but it was a song that almost never came to be. Rather than a single track, this one is an amalgamation of several tracks that they were working on at the time. After stringing them together with perfect bridges and several rewrites, we wound up with what is undeniably one of the best songs of all time and one that will forever go down in history as a legendary single.
3. Imagine – John Lennon & The Plastic Ono Band With The Flux Fiddlers
Imagine is often remembered as one of the best songs of the Vietnam War era, if not ever. It asks us to simply imagine a world without materialism, borders, or religion. In this scenario, the things that divide people are gone and we live in peace. It was named one of the most-performed tracks of the 20th century, as over 200 artists have performed or covered the song.
It was even inducted into both the Grammy Hall of Fame and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. While controversial over asking us to imagine a world without religion, it remains a powerful thought experiment and one of the most popular tracks in history.
2. Respect – Aretha Franklin
Respect was originally recorded by Otis Redding in 1965 and was a crossover hit from his third album. In 1967, Aretha Franklin covered the track and infused it with her own signature style, in turn producing her signature song.
A feminist anthem for the ages and one of the most empowering tracks of all time, it was all about human dignity and traditional gender roles. It’s been placed into both the Grammy Hall of Fame and the National Recording Registry in the years since and won her two Grammy Awards en route to becoming perhaps the greatest R&B single of all time.
1. Hey Jude – The Beatles
Any list out there should have this as their top song, and the ones that don’t will most likely at least have it in their top five. The Beatles are well-known across the world for numerous number-one hits, but none are quite as beloved as Hey Jude.
Released as a non-album single in 1968, the track was originally written to comfort John Lennon’s son Julian after his father’s affair with Yoko Ono but evolved from the original Jules to Jude. It was the longest single—in runtime—to reach the top British charts at that time, and in 2013, Billboard magazine named it the 10th biggest song of all time in terms of chart success.
As a contributing writer for Music Grotto, Dakotah writes and produces professional music/media content. He works closely with editorial staff to meet editorial standards and create
quality content for the Music Grotto website. Dakotah is passionate about music in a wide variety of genres, from hip-hop to country and lo-fi to metal, and he enjoys creating music pieces for Music Grotto.