The 200 Best Rock Songs Of All Time

Sharing

Rock music is a music genre that developed in the late 1960s from the genres of rock ‘n’ roll, beat music, and blues. The heyday of rock was definitely between the late 60s, the beginning of the 70s, and the 80s. Rock music with bands that are still famous today such as Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix, The Beatles often dominated the singles charts in the three decades.

Probably the most famous rock song was released in 1971 and is called “Stairway to Heaven” by the English band Led Zeppelin. The band has sold over 300 million records to date and is one of the most successful bands of all time.

Other legendary rock songs include Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Free Bird,” The Who’s “Baba O’Riley,” The Rolling Stones’ “Paint It Black” and “Bohemian Rhapsody” by the British band Queen.

Our playlist of the 200 best rock songs of all times offers AC/DC, Guns N’ Roses, Nirvana, The Eagles, Supertramp, and the already mentioned bands and musicians probably the best selection of rock songs that there has ever been!

(At the end of this article we have put together a Spotify playlist with all the songs listed here.)

The best rock songs of all time:

01. Queen – Bohemian Rhapsody


Queen is one of the few bands that could fill a list like this all by itself. A representative for the incredibly multifaceted oeuvre of the Brits, however, is probably their biggest hit, which was a groundbreaking audiovisual experience when it was released with a video clip in 1975: “Bohemian Rhapsody” mixed rock song and opera in a previously unknown way, which is why the responsible label bosses initially gave the almost six-minute number very little chance of success.

The rest is history – today it is an undisputed classic of the genre and namesake of a multiple Oscar-winning band biography.

02. Deep Purple – Smoke on the Water


Usually, it should be a really big nuisance for a band when a fire breaks out in the building where they want to record their new album. For the Brits of Deep Purple, however, exactly this circumstance in December 1971 proved to be an incredible stroke of luck in the medium term – after all, that evening in Montreux provided the inspiration for “Smoke on the Water”, as thick smoke settled over Lake Geneva. While the song’s lyrics give a first-hand account of events, the main riff, as simple as it is effective, is one of the basic exercises for any novice guitarist!

03. AC/DC – Highway to Hell


What an auspicious harbinger: Australian riff factory AC/DC got their fans in the mood for their sixth album, “Highway to Hell,” in 1979 with the now-iconic title track. On the music, written as usual by the Young brothers and held in the powerful midtempo, frontman Bon Scott sings about the strenuous life on tour – and ironically, the song was from then on no longer to be excluded from the live program of the band.

It stayed in the German charts for 45 weeks and also gave AC/DC its first place on the charts in the United States.

04. Jimi Hendrix – All along the Watchtower


This Performeration of the song originally written and published by Bob Dylan could well be the most style-defining cover in rock history. Released in 1968 on “Electric Ladyland”, the Jimi Hendrix Experience version is better known than the equally popular original, not least thanks to its use in film and television, and introduced many people to it in the first place psychedelic stylistic means familiar.

Of Hendrix’s singles, “All along the Watchtower” proved most successful in the U.S.; the prestigious Rolling Stone magazine also honored it as one of the 500 best songs of all time (rank 47).

05. Motörhead – Ace of Spades


Without the introductory concert announcement “We are Motörhead….and we play Rock ‘n’ Roll!” was not a live performance of this British band complete. At the same time, singer and bassist Lemmy Kilmister, as well as his cohorts, who have changed several times over the years, have constantly pushed the limits of a rock song through sheer volume and speed!

Recorded in 1980 with “Fast Eddie” Clarke and “Philthy Animal” Taylor, “Ace of Spades” is probably the best-known example of this approach, combining gambling metaphors with boisterous music that comes dangerously close to punk or speed metal.

06. Pink Floyd – Comfortably Numb


Actually, “Comfortably Numb” deals with a key scene of the 1979 concept album “The Wall”: main character Pink finds himself with a dubious and phrase-mongering doctor, embodied in the verses by Roger Waters, who is supposed to inject his patient fit for performance. In turn, the passages are sung by David Gilmour describe Pink’s spaced-out, “comfortably numb” state from a first-person perspective.

The fact that the song is also an absolute star hour of rock, detached from the context of the album, is due in particular to its second guitar solo by Gilmour, which even after the umpteenth hearing still unfolds its full emotional penetrating power.

07. Kiss – Detroit Rock City


The opener of the fourth Kiss album “Destroyer” from 1976 is based on a sad story: while writing it, singer and guitarist Paul Stanley remembered a fan who died in a car accident on the way to a concert of the band. While the inspiration is reflected in the story told, Stanley was also concerned with paying homage to Detroit – where Kiss was able to prove themselves especially early on as headliners.

Although the single was not a significant success, “Detroit Rock City” went on to become one of the most popular hard rock songs of all time!

08. The Rolling Stones – Sympathy for the Devil


When Mick Jagger sings “Please allow me to introduce myself: I’m a man of wealth and taste / I’ve been around for a long, long year…”, one could well assume autobiographical lines. In fact, of course, it is the Horned One himself for whom Jagger calls for a little more compassion in accordance with the song title from 1968.

After an intro with evocative screams and maracas, he takes the listener on a six-minute journey through the darker chapters of human history, while the samba rhythms and Keith Richard’s incisive lead guitar contributions contribute indispensably to the overall atmospheric picture.

09. Thin Lizzy – The Boys are back in Town


Thin Lizzy had already made a name for themselves with “Whisky in the Jar”, but in 1976 the Irish band was in desperate need of a hit. To its own surprise, “The Boys are back in Town” turned out to be just that bright spot, after some enthusiastic radio DJs in the U.S. played the number up and down and their colleagues soon followed suit. The song, written by singer and bassist Phil Lynott, is really infectious with its positive mood and inevitably motivates you to go out with friends.

The double-voiced leads have not established themselves as a trademark of the group for nothing!

10. The Beatles – Helter Skelter


The complete works of the perhaps most successful music group to limit the complete works of the Beatles to a single rock song is a truly thankless task. When it comes to rich, distorted guitars, the selection can, fortunately, be narrowed down a bit: The Fab Four only went as heavy as on “Helter Skelter” (1968) in the case of “I want you”!

The hard rock blueprint was not created on a whim: The fact that The Who claimed to have written the hardest song in living memory with “I can see for Miles” was not something Paul McCartney wanted to take lying down and prompted his musical comrades-in-arms to outdo their colleagues.

11. Lynyrd Skynyrd – Free Bird


Possibly due to modern rePerformerations, “Sweet Home Alabama” is the best-known song of these Southern rock giants overall, but “Free Bird” (1973) is generally accepted among fans of the genre as their magnum opus: The first half of the album version, which is over nine minutes long, is a sometimes wistful power ballad before the second half is a veritable feast of joy for lovers of dueling lead guitars. In a live context, the band often stretched out the hit and used it as a brilliant finale to a show; in addition, the solo part, in particular, was used as background music in a number of films and TV series.

12. Guns N’ Roses – Welcome to the Jungle


Despite a slow start and skeptical critics, the Los Angeles band led by front siren Axl Rose was able to put a mighty exclamation point on “Appetite for Destruction,” which hard rock fans remember fondly to this day. It enjoys a status as the best-selling debut album of all time; a mention in the corresponding bestseller lists is virtually a civic duty.

However, “Welcome to the Jungle” should be representative of the enormous hit density of the disc released in 1987: It unites the most diverse trademarks, radiates energy in abundance, and is thus a simply perfect opener!

13. Faces – Stay with me


It’s hard to fit much more essential rock ‘n’ roll feeling into less than five minutes, really: Snappy tempo, bluesy riffs, a melody punctuated with a hearty “Guitar!” and last but not least lyrics about a one-night stand with a red-haired Rita, which was at best non-committal. Rod Stewart, one of the most distinctive grater voices of our time, was behind the microphone, while string master Ronnie Wood and drummer Kenney Jones were to continue their careers later with the Rolling Stones and The Who.

In the charts of their home country England, the Faces reached fourth place in 1972!

14. Neil Young – Rockin’ in the Free World


The Canadian singer-songwriter didn’t want to decide between an acoustic and an electrically amplified version for “Rockin’ in the Free World” and without further ado included both on his 1989 album “Freedom” – an obvious reminiscence of his own “Hey Hey, My My”. Neil Young deals with the politics of the first Bush administration and refers in the lyrics directly to statements of the US president or other personalities of that time.

Occasionally the song – also one of the 500 best ever according to Rolling Stone magazine – is incorrectly prefixed with “Keep on” used in the chorus.

15. The Who – Baba O’Riley


After the success of the rock opera “Tommy,” Pete Townshend wanted to launch a comparable, even more, ambitious project. The work on it was put aside in favor of a conventional studio album and already written material for “Who’s next” was used – so also “Baba O’Riley”, released 1971. The title is composed of the names of the spiritual Meher Baba and the musician Terry Riley, who both served Townshend as sources of inspiration.

Lyrically, the youthful devastation brought on by the Woodstock festival is critiqued – a message that is not infrequently overheard.

16. Roky Erickson – I think of Demons


Roky Erickson’s career, which began in the mid-1960s with the 13th Floor Elevators, was not marked by commercial success for long periods of time. After laying the foundations of psychedelic rock with the aforementioned band, his life was dominated by drug problems, and his stays in psychiatric wards.

In 1981, however, he released “The Evil One” – an album that, between melodic leads and Roky’s incredibly distinctive vocals, carries with it a magic that, in its best moments, transcends mere rock songs. “I think of Demons” provides the ideal introduction to the work of a criminally underestimated artist!

17. Metallica – Enter Sandman


On “…and Justice for All” Metallica played their acclaimed thrash metal more progressive and intricate than ever before. As a direct counter to that, for 1991’s subsequent “Black Album,” they strove for songs that got to the point more quickly – like the first single, “Enter Sandman,” which speaks of the fear of falling asleep and the associated nightmares.

Fans of the earlier years were bothered by the hard rock orientation of the number, but it served its desired purpose perfectly precisely because of that: Metallica opened up the mainstream to hard guitar music and, thanks to their reorientation, were able to assert themselves as one of the world’s most successful bands.

18. David Bowie – The Width of a Circle


In hindsight, David Bowie is particularly celebrated for his tireless changeability. But before he became a chameleon of experimentation, shuttling at will between pop and avant-garde, he delivered his third studio work, which opens with “The Width of a Circle” (1970), a veritable hard rock eight-minute wonder.

A valuable part of the two-part song was contributed by his then-new guitarist Mick Ronson, whose expressive playing in some moments even reminds him of Jimi Hendrix. The later Ziggy Stardust at the peak of his heaviness!

19. Nirvana – Smells like Teen Spirit


According to Kurt Cobain himself, he wanted to write “the ultimate pop song” when he started working on “Smells like Teen Spirit”, inspired by the loud/quiet interplay of the Pixies, whom he adored. Instead, the result was a quake initiated by simple power chords, which almost single-handedly triggered the grunge wave of the early 1990s!

After the groundbreaking success of the first single of the major debut “Nevermind” (1991), the press quickly wrote the trio, completed by Krist Novoselic and Dave Grohl, a role as “mouthpiece of Generation X” on the body, with which especially the sensitive Cobain has struggled very much throughout his life.

20. Led Zeppelin – Stairway to Heaven


A list of the “best rock songs” – subjective as it may be – would probably lose all credibility if Led Zeppelin were not on it. And although the British band could place numerous legitimate candidates, the choice at the end of the day is pretty clear: It falls on “Stairway to Heaven” from the fourth, officially untitled long-player.

The acoustic intro needs no more description than Robert Plant’s haunting vocals or Jimmy Page’s fabulous solo, in which not only devoted fans of the seminal group hear the greatest of all time!

Places 21-201 of the best rock songs of all time:

Each song is linked to the corresponding music video via the title.

Song: Interpret: Listen: Year:
21. Paint It Black The Rolling Stones 1966
22. Born to Run Bruce Springsteen 1975
23. Highway Star Deep Purple 1972
24. You Shook Me All Night Long AC/DC 1980
25. Bring Me To Life Evanescence 2003
26. Hey Jude Beatles 1968
27. We Will Rock You Queen 1977
28. Bat Out of Hell Meat Loaf 1977
29. Hotel California The Eagles 1976
30. Gimme Shelter Rolling Stones 1969
31. Thunderstruck AC/DC 1990
32. Livin on a Prayer Bon Jovi 1986
33. Sweet Child O’ Mine Guns N’ Roses 1987
34. Whole Lotta Rosie AC/DC 1977
35. Master Of Puppets Metallica 1986
36. Carry On Wayward Son Kansas 1976
37. Run To The Hills Iron Maiden 1982
38. All Right Now Free 1970
39. The Spirit Of Radio Rush 1980
40. Kashmir Led Zeppelin 1975
41. Don’t Stop Believin’ Journey 1981
42. Rock And Roll Led Zeppelin 1971
43. Wish You Were Here Pink Floyd 1975
44. The Final Countdown Europe 1986
45. Whiskey In The Jar Thin Lizzy 1973
46. Nothing Else Matters Metallica 1991
47. Silver Machine Hawkwind 1980
48. Still In Love With You Thin Lizzy 1974
49. Another Brick In The Wall Part 2 Pink Floyd 1979
50. Dazed And Confused Led Zeppelin 1969
51. Stargazer Rainbow 1976
52. Cum On Feel The Noize Slade 1985
53. Achilles Last Stand Led Zeppelin 1976
54. Brown Sugar Rolling Stones 1971
55. Won’t Get Fooled Again The Who 1971
56. Black Night Deep Purple 1988
57. Barracuda Heart 1977
58. Purple Haze Jimi Hendrix 1970
59. You Really Got Me Kinks 1964
60. Tom Sawyer Rush 1981
61. Hey Joe Jimi Hendrix 1966
62. Lola Kinks 1970
63. Tiny Dancer Elton John 1971
64. Since I’ve Been Loving You Led Zeppelin 1970
65. Wishing Well Free 1972
66. Rock Bottom UFO 1974
67. Money Pink Floyd 1973
68. Whole Lotta Love Led Zeppelin 1969
69. Speed King Deep Purple 1970
70. Locomotive Breath Jethro Tull 1978
71. War Pigs Black Sabbath 1970
72. Let It Be The Beatles 1970
73. Don’t Fear the Reaper Blue Oyster Cult 1976
74. I’ve Seen All Good People Yes 1971
75. Black Magic Woman Santana 1970
76. Burn Deep Purple 1974
77. July Morning Uriah Heep 1971
78. La Grange ZZ Top 1973
79. Alive Pearl Jam 1991
80. Let There Be Rock AC/DC 1980
81. Still Of The Night Whitesnake 1987
82. Hallowed Be Thy Name Iron Maiden 1982
83. In My Time of Dying Led Zeppelin 1975
84. Dream On Aerosmith 1973
85. Roxanne Police 1978
86. Shine On You Crazy Diamond Pink Floyd 1975
87. The Chain Fleetwood Mac 1977
88. Fear Of The Dark Iron Maiden 1992
89. For What It’s Worth Buffalo Springfield 1966
90. Supper’s Ready Genesis 1972
91. Born To Be Wild Steppenwolf 1968
92. You Really Got Me Van Halen 1978
93. I Still Haven’t Found U2 1987
94. Nights in White Satin Moody Blues 1967
95. Layla Derek & The Dominos 1970
96. Shoot to Thrill AC/DC 1980
97. When The Levee Breaks Led Zeppelin 1971
98. Sultans of Swing Dire Straits 1978
99. Time Pink Floyd 1973
100. Xanadu Rush 1977
101. For Those About To Rock AC/DC 1981
102. Black Water Doobie Brothers 1974
103. Like a Rolling Stone Bob Dylan 1965
104. Iron Man Black Sabbath 1970
105. The Trooper Iron Maiden 1983
106. Bargain The Who 1971
107. Thunder Road Bruce Springsteen 1975
108. Let My Love Open The Door Pete Townshend 1980
109. Crossroads Cream 1968
110. One Metallica 1988
111. Sweet Emotion Aerosmith 1975
112. Black Dog Led Zeppelin 1971
113. Take It Easy Eagles 1972
114. Bloody Well Right Supertramp 1974
115. My Generation The Who 1965
116. White Room Cream 1968
117. Call Me The Breeze Lynyrd Skynyrd 1974
118. School’s Out Alice Cooper 1997
119. Johnny B Goode Chuck Berry 1955
120. Rocket Man Elton John 1972
121. Money for Nothing Dire Straits 1985
122. Immigrant Song Led Zeppelin 1970
123. Back In Black AC/DC 1980
124. Heaven and Hell Black Sabbath 1980
125. Brown Eyed Girl Van Morrison 1967
126. Fortunate Son CCR 1969
127. Number of the Beast Iron Maiden 1982
128. (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction Rolling Stones 1965
129. Bennie & The Jets Elton John 1973
130. Who’ll Stop The Rain CCR 1970
131. Voodoo Child (Slight Return) The Jimi Hendrix Experience 1968
132. Here Comes The Sun The Beatles 1969
133. Everlong Foo Fighters 1997
134. Ramble On Led Zeppelin 1969
135. Jessica Allman Brothers 1973
136. You Can’t Always Get What You Rolling Stones 1969
137. Pour Some Sugar On Me Def Leppard 1987
138. House of the Rising Sun Animals 1964
139. Already Gone Eagles 1974
140. Dirty Deeds AC/DC 1976
141. Turn the Page Bob Seger 1973
142. Runnin’ With The Devil Van Halen 1978
143. Brain Damage Pink Floyd 1973
144. Hells Bells AC/DC 1980
145. Crazy On You Heart 1976
146. Tush ZZ Top 1975
147. Maybe I’m Amazed Paul McCartney 1970
148. Lucky Man ELP 1970
149. Breakfast In America Supertramp 1979
150. Walkin’ On The Moon Police 1979
151. Jumpin’ Jack Flash Rolling Stones 1969
152. Bridge of Sighs Robin Trower 1974
153. Oh Well Fleetwood Mac 1969
154. Walk This Way Aerosmith 1975
155. Oye Como Va Santana 1970
156. Do It Again Steely Dan 1972
157. Every Breath You Take Police 1983
158. I’d Love to Change the World Ten Years After 1971
159. Stranglehold Ted Nugent 1975
160. Dancing Days Led Zeppelin 1973
161. Fire on High ELO 1975
162. Fool In the Rain Led Zeppelin 1979
163. Feel Like Making Love Bad Company 1975
164. Do You Feel Like We Do Peter Frampton 1973
165. Touch Me Doors 1969
166. Aqualung Jethro Tull 1971
167. Dreams Fleetwood Mac 1977
168. Radar Love Golden Earring 1973
169. More Than a Feeling Boston 1976
170. Cold As Ice Foreigner 1977
171. Magic Man Heart 1976
172. Rock and Roll Fantasy Bad Company 1979
173. Eleanor Rigby The Beatles 1966
174. Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door Bob Dylan 1973
175. Killer Queen Queen 1974
176. Dance The Night Away Van Halen 1979
177. Hitch A Ride Boston 1976
178. American Woman Guess Who 1970
179. In My Life The Beatles 1965
180. Eight Miles High Byrds 1966
181. Angie Rolling Stones 1973
182. Give A Little Bit Supertramp 1977
183. Reeling In The Years Steely Dan 1972
184. With Or Without You U2 1987
185. Behind Blue Eyes The Who 1971
186. Have A Cigar Pink Floyd 1975
187. You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away The Beatles 1965
188. Never Been Any Reason Head East 1974
189. Karn Evil 9 ELP 1973
190. Love Me Two Times Doors 1989
191. Just What I Needed Cars 1978
192. Witchy Woman Eagles 1972
193. Burnin’ Sky Bad Company 1977
194. Can’t You See Marshall Tucker Band 1973
195. Middle of The Road Pretenders 1984
196. Your Song Elton John 1970
197. New Year’s Day U2 1983
198. Good Times Roll Car 1978
199. Pink Cadillac Bruce Springsteen 1984
200. White Rabbit Jefferson Airplane 1967
201. Dear Mr. Fantasy Traffic 1967

Rock Music Spotify Playlist:

Music is a matter of taste, no question. However, if you’re even remotely enthusiastic about electrically amplified guitars, this list is definitely worth checking out with a catchy tune leave! Alternatively, maybe one or the other musical education gap will reveal itself, which would like to be closed as soon as possible?

Leave a Comment