The 200 Best Rock Songs Of All Time

Best Rock Songs

Rock music is a music genre that developed in the late 1960s from 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 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 massive 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, precisely this circumstance in December 1971 proved to be an incredible stroke of luck in the medium term. After all, that evening in Montreux inspired “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 practical, 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 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 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 initial concert announcement, “We are Motörhead….and we play Rock ‘n’ Roll!” was not a complete live performance of this British band. 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 critical 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. He 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.

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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 at the band’s concert. 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” became 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 by 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. At the same time, 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 surprise, “The Boys are back in Town” turned out to be just that bright spot after some enthusiastic radio D.J.s 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 infectious with its positive mood and inevitably motivates you to go out with friends.

The double-voiced leads have not established themselves as the group’s trademark 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 several films and T.V. 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 put a strong 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 continued 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 U.S. 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.

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15. The Who – Baba O’Riley

After the success of the rock opera “Tommy,” Pete Townshend wanted to launch a similar, even more, ambitious project. The work 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. After laying the foundations of psychedelic rock with the band above, 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. Still, 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

Kurt Cobain himself 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.

21.Paint It BlackThe Rolling Stones1966
22.Born to RunBruce Springsteen1975
23.Highway StarDeep Purple1972
24.You Shook Me All Night LongAC/DC1980
25.Bring Me To LifeEvanescence2003
26.Hey JudeBeatles1968
27.We Will Rock YouQueen1977
28.Bat Out of HellMeat Loaf1977
29.Hotel CaliforniaThe Eagles1976
30.Gimme ShelterRolling Stones1969
32.Livin on a PrayerBon Jovi1986
33.Sweet Child O’ MineGuns N’ Roses1987
34.Whole Lotta RosieAC/DC1977
35.Master Of PuppetsMetallica1986
36.Carry On Wayward SonKansas1976
37.Run To The HillsIron Maiden1982
38.All Right NowFree1970
39.The Spirit Of RadioRush1980
40.KashmirLed Zeppelin1975
41.Don’t Stop Believin’Journey1981
42.Rock And RollLed Zeppelin1971
43.Wish You Were HerePink Floyd1975
44.The Final CountdownEurope1986
45.Whiskey In The JarThin Lizzy1973
46.Nothing Else MattersMetallica1991
47.Silver MachineHawkwind1980
48.Still In Love With YouThin Lizzy1974
49.Another Brick In The Wall Part 2Pink Floyd1979
50.Dazed And ConfusedLed Zeppelin1969
52.Cum On Feel The NoizeSlade1985
53.Achilles Last StandLed Zeppelin1976
54.Brown SugarRolling Stones1971
55.Won’t Get Fooled AgainThe Who1971
56.Black NightDeep Purple1988
58.Purple HazeJimi Hendrix1970
59.You Really Got MeKinks1964
60.Tom SawyerRush1981
61.Hey JoeJimi Hendrix1966
63.Tiny DancerElton John1971
64.Since I’ve Been Loving YouLed Zeppelin1970
65.Wishing WellFree1972
66.Rock BottomUFO1974
67.MoneyPink Floyd1973
68.Whole Lotta LoveLed Zeppelin1969
69.Speed KingDeep Purple1970
70.Locomotive BreathJethro Tull1978
71.War PigsBlack Sabbath1970
72.Let It BeThe Beatles1970
73.Don’t Fear the ReaperBlue Oyster Cult1976
74.I’ve Seen All Good PeopleYes1971
75.Black Magic WomanSantana1970
76.BurnDeep Purple1974
77.July MorningUriah Heep1971
78.La GrangeZZ Top1973
79.AlivePearl Jam1991
80.Let There Be RockAC/DC1980
81.Still Of The NightWhitesnake1987
82.Hallowed Be Thy NameIron Maiden1982
83.In My Time of DyingLed Zeppelin1975
84.Dream OnAerosmith1973
86.Shine On You Crazy DiamondPink Floyd1975
87.The ChainFleetwood Mac1977
88.Fear Of The DarkIron Maiden1992
89.For What It’s WorthBuffalo Springfield1966
90.Supper’s ReadyGenesis1972
91.Born To Be WildSteppenwolf1968
92.You Really Got MeVan Halen1978
93.I Still Haven’t FoundU21987
94.Nights in White SatinMoody Blues1967
95.LaylaDerek & The Dominos1970
96.Shoot to ThrillAC/DC1980
97.When The Levee BreaksLed Zeppelin1971
98.Sultans of SwingDire Straits1978
99.TimePink Floyd1973
101.For Those About To RockAC/DC1981
102.Black WaterDoobie Brothers1974
103.Like a Rolling StoneBob Dylan1965
104.Iron ManBlack Sabbath1970
105.The TrooperIron Maiden1983
106.BargainThe Who1971
107.Thunder RoadBruce Springsteen1975
108.Let My Love Open The DoorPete Townshend1980
111.Sweet EmotionAerosmith1975
112.Black DogLed Zeppelin1971
113.Take It EasyEagles1972
114.Bloody Well RightSupertramp1974
115.My GenerationThe Who1965
116.White RoomCream1968
117.Call Me The BreezeLynyrd Skynyrd1974
118.School’s OutAlice Cooper1997
119.Johnny B GoodeChuck Berry1955
120.Rocket ManElton John1972
121.Money for NothingDire Straits1985
122.Immigrant SongLed Zeppelin1970
123.Back In BlackAC/DC1980
124.Heaven and HellBlack Sabbath1980
125.Brown Eyed GirlVan Morrison1967
126.Fortunate SonCCR1969
127.Number of the BeastIron Maiden1982
128.(I Can’t Get No) SatisfactionRolling Stones1965
129.Bennie & The JetsElton John1973
130.Who’ll Stop The RainCCR1970
131.Voodoo Child (Slight Return)The Jimi Hendrix Experience1968
132.Here Comes The SunThe Beatles1969
133.EverlongFoo Fighters1997
134.Ramble OnLed Zeppelin1969
135.JessicaAllman Brothers1973
136.You Can’t Always Get What YouRolling Stones1969
137.Pour Some Sugar On MeDef Leppard1987
138.House of the Rising SunAnimals1964
139.Already GoneEagles1974
140.Dirty DeedsAC/DC1976
141.Turn the PageBob Seger1973
142.Runnin’ With The DevilVan Halen1978
143.Brain DamagePink Floyd1973
144.Hells BellsAC/DC1980
145.Crazy On YouHeart1976
146.TushZZ Top1975
147.Maybe I’m AmazedPaul McCartney1970
148.Lucky ManELP1970
149.Breakfast In AmericaSupertramp1979
150.Walkin’ On The MoonPolice1979
151.Jumpin’ Jack FlashRolling Stones1969
152.Bridge of SighsRobin Trower1974
153.Oh WellFleetwood Mac1969
154.Walk This WayAerosmith1975
155.Oye Como VaSantana1970
156.Do It AgainSteely Dan1972
157.Every Breath You TakePolice1983
158.I’d Love to Change the WorldTen Years After1971
159.StrangleholdTed Nugent1975
160.Dancing DaysLed Zeppelin1973
161.Fire on HighELO1975
162.Fool In the RainLed Zeppelin1979
163.Feel Like Making LoveBad Company1975
164.Do You Feel Like We DoPeter Frampton1973
165.Touch MeDoors1969
166.AqualungJethro Tull1971
167.DreamsFleetwood Mac1977
168.Radar LoveGolden Earring1973
169.More Than a FeelingBoston1976
170.Cold As IceForeigner1977
171.Magic ManHeart1976
172.Rock and Roll Fantasy Bad Company1979
173.Eleanor RigbyThe Beatles1966
174.Knockin’ on Heaven’s DoorBob Dylan1973
175.Killer QueenQueen1974
176.Dance The Night AwayVan Halen1979
177.Hitch A RideBoston1976
178.American WomanGuess Who1970
179.In My LifeThe Beatles1965
180.Eight Miles HighByrds1966
181.AngieRolling Stones1973
182.Give A Little BitSupertramp1977
183.Reeling In The YearsSteely Dan1972
184.With Or Without YouU21987
185.Behind Blue EyesThe Who1971
186.Have A Cigar Pink Floyd1975
187.You’ve Got to Hide Your Love AwayThe Beatles1965
188.Never Been Any ReasonHead East1974
189.Karn Evil 9ELP1973
190.Love Me Two TimesDoors1989
191.Just What I NeededCars1978
192.Witchy Woman Eagles1972
193.Burnin’ SkyBad Company1977
194.Can’t You SeeMarshall Tucker Band1973
195.Middle of The RoadPretenders1984
196.Your SongElton John1970
197.New Year’s Day U21983
198.Good Times Roll Car1978
199.Pink CadillacBruce Springsteen1984
200.White RabbitJefferson Airplane1967
201.Dear Mr. FantasyTraffic1967
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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?

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