Music is food for the soul, and everyone has different tastes. It can be challenging to create a list of the best songs since it is different for everyone. However, here are the top 50 songs universally accepted the best.
#50. Gimme Shelter By The Rolling Stones
The Rolling Stones are a classic, and no one makes music better than them. Did you know that “Gimme Shelter” was written within twenty minutes by Keith Richards? Yes, it only took twenty minutes to write, and yet this song was a hit everywhere.
“Gimme Shelter” was kept as an opening track for their album “Let it Bleed.” It has been a part of all the live gigs that the band has performed ever since then. When The Rolling Stones were on their 50th-anniversary tour, they sang “Gimme Shelter” with three other amazing singers: Florence Welch, Mary J. Blige, and Lady Gaga.
#49. One By U2
In 1991, U2 released an album that was known as “Achtung Baby.” The 3rd track on this album was “One,” and it was another rendition of their previously recorded song “Mysterious Ways.”
During the making of Mysterious Ways, Edge suggested two types of lyrics. Bono liked these lyrics so much that he decided to make two different types of songs out of them. That is how “Mysterious Ways” and “One” came to be known.
You might have heard “One” being played at many weddings. However, that is not what the band wants since the lyrics have another meaning that is not appropriate for weddings.
#48. No Woman, No Cry By Bob Marley
Bob Marley is a legend, and people remember his songs to this date. He changed the music landscape, and one of his best songs was “No Woman, No Cry.” However, the best version of this song is not the album version recorded in the studio.
Instead, the best version is the live version performed by Bob Marley in 1975 in the Lyceum Theatre. The song changed the life of Bob Marley and also changed the lives of his fans. It is one of the songs that people listen to the most by him.
#47. You’ve Lost That Lovin Feeling By The Righteous Brothers
You’ve Lost That Lovin Feeling was a significant hit in the 60s. The Righteous Brothers released the song in 1964, and it was one of the top songs in the United Kingdom and the United States. Ever since then, the song has had many covers by a variety of artists.
However, no cover will ever get close to the original. The Righteous Brothers made a masterpiece that people still listen to. If you haven’t heard this song yet, then you should. It will become your favorite as well in no time.
The Righteous Brothers do no wrong, and this song is a great example.
#46. Sympathy For The Devil By The Rolling Stones
Of course, this list would be incomplete without some of the greatest hits by The Rolling Stones. They changed the landscape of music, and still, everyone listens to their unforgettable songs. Their songs have sparked up controversy on more than one occasion, and this song did the same.
After “Sympathy For The Devil” released, many religious institutions and groups believed that The Rolling Stones were worshippers of Satan. Mick Jagger cleared up this scandal and told everyone that this song was inspired by some of the French literature he had read.
Mick Jagger took some lines from the literature and turned it into a song. It was a hit with a spark of controversy, but what Rolling Stone song isn’t controversial?
#45. River Deep By Mountain High By Ike And Tina Turner
If you haven’t heard this song already, then you need to give it a listen now. It comes at Number 33 out of the Rolling Stones Top 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. The producer of the show, Phil Spector, ensured that everything is perfect during the recording.
He made them sing till the vocals, notes, and melodies were perfect. Such hard work shows in the result as the song was a big hit in the 60s. It was also an incredible experience for Tina Turner.
Turner remembers singing the song till everything was perfect, and she was drenched in sweat.
#44. November Rain By Guns And Roses
Guns and Roses are perhaps the greatest rock band of all time. Their videos, guitar solos, and everything else is just perfection. November Rain was one of Guns and Roses’ biggest hits that featured the most extended guitar solo you will hear.
However, it is all worth it because no one plays guitar better than Slash. The song was initially twenty-five minutes, but it was brought down to 9 minutes. The video of this sing now has more than 1 billion views and YouTube.
So, why not expand your music horizons and listen to November Rain in November? You will not be disappointed.
#43. I Walk The Line By Johnny Cash
The brilliant Johnny Cash started working on this song when he was stationed in Germany in the Air Force. However, he didn’t release the music at that time. After a few years, he finally decided to record this masterpiece.
After Johnny Cash recorded the song, he realized that the tape was damaged. Of course, this was just a minor setback as he embraced the tape’s unique sound and released it anyway.
People that heard this song were extremely impressed, and it went on to be Number 1 on the Billboard Charts. Cash believed in himself and didn’t let a damaged tape stop him.
#42. Help By The Beatles
The Beatles are widely celebrated to this day because they transformed what music meant to people. The song “Help” was released in the 60s when everyone was listening to The Beatles.
However, this song was made for a movie, and John Lennon didn’t realize this song’s depths when he wrote it. He later understood that his emotions and troubling times inspired him to write this song.
Of course, like all other Beatles songs, this one was a big hit, too, as people loved it.
#41. People Get Ready By The Impressions
People Get Ready is what The Impressions is known for, and that’s how people remember them. It was the official song for the Civil Rights Movement, and it reached Number 3 on Billboard during that time.
Curtis Mayfield wrote the song, and he took his inspiration from the Church. Religious messages inspired him to write this song, and soon it was a big hit everywhere. The Impressions were widely celebrated once this song was released, and this is how people came to know them.
If you haven’t listened to this song already, then listen now and be inspired.
#40. Layla By Derek And The Dominos
If you have heard of the famous Persian tale of Layla and Majnun, you will know what inspired this song. Layla is said to be one of the best rock songs of all time. It is a classic that everyone has heard,
Eric Clapton wrote Layla, and he took some inspiration from his love life as well. He was in love with his friend’s wife, and eventually, he married her. They were happily married for almost ten years.
Unlike the tale of Layla and Majnun, Clapton and his love worked out and got happily married. Not all love stories end in tragedy.
#39. It’s My Life By Bon Jovi
It’s My Life is perhaps the most played song by Bon Jovi. It was a big hit, and fans went crazy when the track released. It came out twenty years ago, and ever since then, the song has been played on a variety of occasions.
It was played at the 2002 Winter Olympics closing ceremony, beginning of the 2002 NFL season, victory of the New Jersey Devils of the Stanely Cup in 2003, and many more occasions.
The song reached Number 1 in many countries worldwide, such as Belgium, Austria, Switzerland, and Italy. It was one of the greatest songs by Bon Jovi next to “Livin On A Prayer.”
#38. Let It Be The Beatles
You will see many of The Beatles songs on this list, and rightly so. They are one of the greatest bands of all time. Let it Be was the last single released by the band before they decided to go their separate ways.
The song was inspired by a dream Paul McCartney had. He was going through a troubling time, and he had a dream where his mother came and gave him some advice. The advice that she gave is the inspiration for this song.
The most troubling times spark the most creativity, and that is precisely what happened here.
#37. Stand By Me By Ben E. King
Stand By Me has a fascinating history behind it. The song was originally a gospel hymn written in 1905 by Charles Albert Tindley, a Philadelphia church minister. After this, it was used by many singers and bands to create covers.
The most famous rendition was the one by The Staple Singers, and this was the version that King wanted to do. So, he suggested recording this song to his band, The Drifters. They rejected this idea, and King left the band.
After a while, he recorded this song, and it gained popularity in no time. It was the 4th most played track on American TV and radio during the 20th century.
#36. The Times They Are A-Changing By Bob Dylan
Bob Dylan’s most influential and well-known song has been this even though it didn’t reach any chart in the U.S. However, in the U.K it reached Number 9. The song was part of his 1964 and perhaps the only song that gained such wide recognition internationally.
Many other artists have also covered this masterpiece, such as Bruce Springsteen, Nina Simone, the Beach Boys, and Simon and Garfunkel. The charts don’t accurately reflect the recognition this song gained in no time.
It is the song that defined Bob Dylan and helped other people remember him.
#35. Baba O’Riley – The Who
The song’s name may be odd, but only because it is inspired by the spiritual master named Meher Baba. The inspiration has also been taken from a composer Terry Riley, hence the name Baba O’Riley. The fantastic track was released in 197 and instantly became a hit.
The song has gained a lot of fame over the years and is still relevant in these times. A few years ago, Roger Daltrey spoke about this song and said that it is a warning to everyone not to overuse social media.
Pete Townshend made a masterpiece, and if you haven’t heard it, you are missing out on great music.
#34. Be My Baby By The Ronettes
If you have seen the opening of the 1987 movie, Dirty Dancing then you know this track. It also played in the opening credits of Mean Streets, a ’73 production by Martin Scorsese. This song gained so much popularity that Dick Clark declared it “the record of the century.”
Phil Spector produced the song, and he is already famous for his genius techniques that transform music. He made the song what it is, and this was his first time working with The Ronettes.
Of course, in the end, everything worked out great because this song went on to become extremely famous.
#33. Born To Run By Bruce Springsteen
Bruce Springsteen is a legend as he is loved by many people all over the world. However, this song was his most ambitious try that turned out to be successful. It made its way into the top 20 singles of the U.S charts.
Soon, this song started playing everywhere, and it gained popularity in many states. It got so famous in Philadelphia that they started playing it several times on the radio every day. Without this song, their day would be incomplete.
That is the effect Bruce Springsteen had on people, and it was phenomenal.
#32. Behind Blue Eyes By The Who
Pete Townshend of The Who always tried to resist temptation. That is what the song is all about. He got married in ’68, and during the ’70s, a groupie started tempting him. However, he didn’t give in and went back to his hotel room.
Once he got there, he wrote a prayer that became the lyrics of this song later on. Townshend always tried to behave appropriately during tours as he did not want to be another spoiled rockstar.
He remained poised even when groupies started flirting with him. The song is a tribute to those times and one of his greatest hits.
#31. La Bamba By Ritchie Valens
La Bamba is the only song in another language that made it to Rolling Stones Top 500 list. It is the song that defined the 80s and the rock’n’roll era at that time. It made it to Number 49 in the U.K charts and Number 22 in the U.S charts.
However, Valens made other songs too that gained even more popularity than La Bamba. If you want to listen to an excellent rock’n’roll song, this should be on the top of your list. No one does it better than Ritchie Valens.
#30. Can’t Help Falling In Love By Elvis Presley
No one does a love song better than Elvis Presley. The song charted Number 1 in the U.K and Number 2 in the U.S. However, the surprising part is that this song was not meant for a lover.
Elvis sang this song to his grandmother on her birthday. He gifted her a music box that played this song as soon as she opened it, and he started singing with the box as well. Many of his concerts ended with this song as it was the most requested.
Many people have covered this song since then, but no one does it as great as Elvis Presley.
#29. Rock Around The Clock By Bill Haley And The Comets
Rock Around The Clock was the beginning of the rock and roll era. At that time, no one was familiar with this genre, and when the band presented this in front of a record company, they couldn’t describe the genre. However, once it was released, people loved it.
The song even went on to become the theme song for the TV show Happy Days. In The U.K, it was the biggest selling single during the 50s. It charted at Number 1 in both the U.K and the U.S.
#28. Break On Through By The Doors
Even though this song didn’t do too well on the charts, it was still well-received by the public. It’s what The Doors are known and loved for. According to Jim Morrison, he wrote this song when he was in Venice’s canals.
It was the first single that they released, and people instantly fell in love with it. The tune has been used in many famous shows and movies such as Forrest Gump and The Simpsons. It may not have charted well, but it was loved, and that is why you should give it a listen too.
#27. Here Comes The Sun By The Beatles
Almost all of the songs by The Beatles were either written by John Lennon or Paul McCartney. However, this fantastic song was written by George Harrison. If you are a big Beatles fan, then you love this song too.
Harrison also played acoustic guitar and provided the lead vocals for this song. The song was purely his creation, and the fans loved him for it.
Ever since then, many people have found solace in this song. It gives hope in bad times and provides soothing comfort that nothing else does. If you are going through a bad time, give this song a listen to uplift your mood.
#26. Rebel Rebel By David Bowie
The song is for all the rebels and non-conformists out there who are not afraid to break the norms and the rules. By far, it is the most covered tracks of David Bowie, and it charted to Number 5 in the U.K.
The song is about a boy who goes against his parents by wearing women’s makeup and clothes. Ever since then, it has become the most played anthem by glam rockers.
Bowie had many other hits, but this was the one that was personal as well since he came out three years before he released this single.
#25. You Really Got Me By The Kinks
The song peaked Number 7 in the U.S charts, and Number 1 in the U.K. Ray Davies wrote the lyrics to this song after he saw some girls dancing and grooving in a club. He was overwhelmed by the way they were moving, and so he wrote a song about it.
It got so popular that even Van Halen covered it later on. The intention of releasing this song was to please the crowds, and it achieved this well. The most memorable part of this song is the unique guitar riff that you will never forget.
#24. Purple Haze By The Jimi Hendrix Experience
Purple Haze comes at Number 17 on the Rolling Stones Top 500 list. The song was written and sung by Jimi Hendrix, and it was released in 1967. Everyone that has heard of Jimi Hendrix knows him by this song.
During its time, the song didn’t do too well in terms of charts in the United States, but Number 3 in the U.K. Hendrix claimed that this song was inspired by a dream he had.
In this dream, he was walking under the sea. The dream experience was overwhelming, but Jesus saved him, and that is what the song is all about.
#23. London Calling By The Clash
The Clash is known for its punk rock music and for speaking against the establishment. London Calling is an apocalyptic song that sheds light on the many ways the world could end. The Rolling Stone Magazine named it the best song of the 80s.
It may be grim and dark, but that is what punk rock is all about, and this song was a true testament to the genre. There have been many cover versions of this song, but nothing even comes close to the original.
#22. What A Wonderful World By Louis Armstrong
You can’t know Louis Armstrong until you have heard this song. It is his most famous song and was loved by the people when it released in 68. However, it didn’t gain much fame in America.
Twenty years later in, in 88, it finally got the recognition it deserved in the U.S as well. That only happened because this song was used in Good Morning, Vietnam, a movie that Robin Williams starred in.
After this, the song finally charted to Number 32 in the U.S. Tony Bennett loved this song and went on to cover it many times.
#21. A Change Is Gonna Come By Sam Cooke
A Change Is Gonna Come was written in support of the Civil Rights Movement and became its anthem as soon as it released. Real-life events inspired the song. Once Cooke was with his friends and denied rooms at a motel for being black, the police then arrested them.
Unfortunately, the song released right after Cooke’s death, but it is an excellent tribute to him and his legacy. Even his death was controversial, but this song is his legacy that will live on forever in people’s hearts.
#20. The Sound Of Silence By Simon And Garfunkel
The song is extremely simple, yet it has become one of the most beautiful songs ever. Paul Simon took more than six months to write the lyrics of this song. It is all about a lack of communication between people.
It charted to Number 1 in the U.K, and it was in one of the Top 10 songs in other countries such as Japan, Australia, Netherlands, Austria, and many more. Ever since then, the song has been used in many movies and TV shows such as The Simpsons, Old School, The Graduate, and many others.
#19. A Day In The Life By The Beatles
According to Acclaimed Music, this song was the most celebrated in the history of popular music. It was perhaps one of the most outstanding achievements by The Beatles and rightly so. After all, a 41-piece orchestra played in this song.
It is also one of The Beatles’ rare songs that don’t include the title in the lyrics. You will not hear the words “a day in the life” in the song. Once you listen to it, you will fall in love with it instantly as the music is beautiful.
#18. My Generation By The Who
Pete Townshend wrote the song for the rebellious British youth at the time. These were known as “mods.” It expressed the younger generation’s feeling as the older people didn’t understand their generation.
Green Day and Iron Maiden also covered this song since it gained massive popularity after it was released. However, the BBC refused to play it because they did not want to offend anyone.
If you also feel like the older generation doesn’t get you, this song is for you. So, give it a listen now, and you will fall in love with it.
#17. Light My Fire By The Doors
Light My Fire charted at Number 1 in the U.S and Number 7 in the U.K. It was the song that took the career of The Doors to the next level. It transformed their fame.
However, Jim Morrison didn’t like it that the band came to be known for this song. The song gained so much fame that they were invited to perform on The Ed Sullivan Show.
The song is a treat to the ears, and if you haven’t listened to it yet, then you are missing out on some of the best music ever.
#16. What’d I Say By Ray Charles
What’d I Say’s music was inspired by the church music that Ray Charles grew up with. It went to become one of the most famous songs. The popularity was so massive that he started closing each gig with this song.
Ray Charles made this song in haste at a club’s stage. The people loved it so much that the club’s owners were at his feet to tell them the title so that they could buy the record.
When Charles saw this reaction, he knew he had to record this song. After recording and releasing, it went on to become one of his most famous songs.
#15. Paint It Black By The Rolling Stones
The song charted Number 1 in both the U.K and the U.S. The song is about a depressed person who wants to turn everything black to match the way he feels. The song gained so much popularity that it even featured on the closing credits of The Devil’s Advocate.
Apart from that, many other movies have featured this song from time to time. When asked what inspired this song, Mick Jagger said that it isn’t an original thought as many people have written about it.
#14. Respect By Aretha Franklin
The song charted Number 1 in the U.S and Number 10 in the U.K. It was initially written and recorded by Otis Redding in 1965. However, it didn’t do so well at that time.
Two years later, Aretha Franklin turned Respect into her anthem for female empowerment. It then became one of her most famous and signature songs that she is known for. Even Otis Redding said that it had become her song now, and he doesn’t own it anymore.
#13. All Along The Watchtower By The Jimi Hendrix Experience
The song was initially written and recorded in 1967 by Bob Dylan. However, it was Jimi Hendrix that made this song famous even though many other singers covered it. It charted at Number 20 in the U.S and Number 5 in the U.K.
The Simpsons and Forrest Gump also used this track as it was known as the best cover song of all time. Jimi Hendrix did many great hits, and this was one of them.
#12. What’s Going On By Marvin Gaye
The song took inspiration from the police brutality that happened in California, and it charted Number 2 in the U.S. At first, this song was rejected, but later on, it became one of the most famous Motown songs.
However, this song talks about many issues, such as poverty, the environment, and much more. It was the first song that Gaye utilized to talk about social problems as he never did that before.
#11. Stairway To Heaven By Led Zeppelin
If you haven’t heard Led Zeppelin by now, then you are not listening to the right kind of music. It is the most famous rock song ever to release, and unfortunately, it did not make it to the charts because it was never released to the public as a single.
However, this didn’t stop the band from getting famous. It was the most requested song on radio stations in the 70s as people wanted to listen to more of Zeppelin.
#10. Like A Rolling Stone By Bob Dylan
The song charted Number 2 in the U.S and Number 4 in the U.K. The Rolling Stone magazine ranks this song as the greatest of all time. Once this song was released, it became phenomenal, and many other artists from Green Day to Jimi Hendrix have covered this beautiful musical piece.
The song has also been a subject of many documentaries and books. If you want to know more about Bob Dylan and his music, then this is something you should listen to.
#9. God Only Knows By The Beach Boys
Brian Wilson and Tony Asher wrote this song within 45 minutes, and it was one of the greatest hits by the band. You will not see this song on the charts, but people loved this song, which is why it is known to be one of their biggest hits.
Even Paul McCartney went on to say that it is one of his favorite songs of all time. If you have heard other songs by The Beach Boys, then you are missing out. Listen to it right now, and you will see what we are talking about.
#8. Blowin In The Wind By Bob Dylan
If you haven’t realized already, you need to know that Bob Dylan transformed the world of music, and that is why we have included many of his songs on the list. He claims he wrote this song in 10 minutes, and it became one of the anthems for the Civil Rights Movement.
It didn’t make it to the charts because of its protest nature, but the people widely knew it. Listening to Bob Dylan would be incomplete without listening to this hit.
#7. I Want To Hold Your Hand By The Beatles
The song charted Number 1 in the U.K and the U.S, and rightly so. After all, it is The Beatles. It was the first song by The Beatles that gained rapid popularity in America as they were only famous in the U.K before this song.
The song changed the game for them, and all news outlets in America talked about this fantastic band. If you want to know why they got famous, then listen to this song now.
#6. Johnny B. Goode By Chuck Berry
The song is an ode to his own life. Chuck Berry came from a humble background, but his talent got him to where he belonged. It was his first rock and roll hit, and he became famous after it.
Ever since then, the song has had many covers and has been used in a few movies. It was also inducted in 1999 in the Grammy Hall of Fame.
#5. Imagine By John Lennon
Imagine was the greatest solo hit of its time, breaking all kinds of records. Written by the legendary John Lennon himself, this song is about a vivid picture of world peace with no more differences between people. John also gave credit for the content to his wife, Yoko Ono. Releasing in 1971 in the US, Imagine is still one of the most performed songs of all time. It is frequently performed at main events throughout the world. This shows the popularity of this beautiful masterpiece that was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1999. According to Rolling Stones, it is one of the top 3 greatest songs of all time.
#4. Hey Jude By The Beatles
Hey Jude is yet another masterpiece by the legendary Beatles, written by Paul McCartney. The Pop- Rock song released in 1968 laid the foundation for pop and rock music in the years to come. It is an iconic tune that became the longest song to top the charts at the time, being named one of the top 10 greatest songs of all time by Billboard magazine. The background for this song was the separation of John Lennon and his wife and it was written, by Paul, to comfort their son Julian at the time. It topped the charts worldwide that year and was an instant success.
#3. I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction By The Rolling Stones
The Rolling Stones is an iconic name in the industry and widely regarded as one of the greatest bands of all time. Some of the credit goes to (I can’t get no) satisfaction, a gem they released in 1965 that was loved by millions of rock lovers. Rightfully making its appearance in the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1998, it topped the charts around the world and became one of the most listened songs that year. Written by Keith Richards and Mick Jagger, this incredible song changed the face of the Rolling Stones and established their legacy in the music world.
#2. Yesterday By The Beatles
According to Guinness World Records, it was the most recorded song in history with more than 1500 covers made by 1986. This Beatles song was released in August 1965 in the UK and a month later in the US. Paul McCartney’s incredible work for this masterpiece was applauded by both; critics and fans. The writer himself said that he heard the tune for this song in a dream and rushed to his piano after waking up so that he doesn’t forget it. Yesterday by The Beatles was also added to the Grammy Hall of Fame after thirty two years of its initial release.
#1. Good Vibrations By The Beach Boys
To top the list we have Good Vibrations. The American band Beach Boys pulled out this gem of a song in 1966. Good Vibrations soon topped the charts in the US and UK and became one of the greatest pieces ever. Being a mix between rock and pop, it was loved by critics and applauded by the entire music industry. Produced by Brian Wilson, this song took 17 recording sessions and was the most expensive song produced at the time. The idea of vibrations was given to Brian by his mother, scaring him as he didn’t like the fact that invisible feelings existed. No one could’ve imagined it would lead to one of the greatest songs of all time.