The Greatest Songs In Music History

With all of the various streaming services, new music is available to the general public like never before. But there are only a few songs out there that can be labeled as some of the greatest of all time. From The Notorious B.I.G.’s “Juicy” to ABBA’s “Dancing Queen,” there are some all-time greats on this list that will have readers heading straight to Spotify to download.

Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell’s “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough”

Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell's
GAB Archive/Redferns
GAB Archive/Redferns

Seriously, if this song doesn’t get people up and dancing while singing at the top of their lungs, what will? Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell worked flawlessly together, making the melodies of “Ain’t no Mountain High Enough” seem easy.

There’s a reason the song has been used in more than one big blockbuster film throughout the years, including Remember the Titans. People just can’t get enough of the song and its catchy lyrics.

The Beatles’ “Hey Jude”

The Beatles
Jeff Hochberg/Getty Images
Jeff Hochberg/Getty Images

Written to comfort John Lennon’s son, Julian, the song “Hey Jude” is one of The Beatles’ finest. Over seven minutes long, the 1968 track was the longest-standing single to top the British charts at the time.

The heart-warming arrangement is pretty much impossible not to sing along to, especially when the “Na na na na” refrain part comes into play, lasting over a solid four minutes. It’s one of the band’s most successful songs.

The Notorious B.I.G.’s “Juicy”

The Notorious B.I.G.
Mitchell Gerber/Corbis/VCG via Getty Images
Mitchell Gerber/Corbis/VCG via Getty Images

The Notorious B.I.G.’s debut album Ready to Die was critically acclaimed and had more than one hit on it, including the popular song “Juicy.” The album pretty much threw Biggie into the East Coast-West Coast hip-hop feud of the ’90s, making him a central figurehead.

He is considered one of the greatest rappers and hip-hop artists of all time, with a very distinct lyricism that is laid-back while telling stories of hardship, criminal activity, and, sometimes, his life.

Elvis Presley’s “Jailhouse Rock”

Elvis Presley
Archive Photos/Getty Images
Archive Photos/Getty Images

Between his dancing and vocals, people couldn’t get enough of the King, Elvis Presley, in the 1950s. Even today, people are still dancing along to his music, including the ever-popular “Jailhouse Rock.”

Released in 1957, the song became an instant classic, especially when the King was seen dancing alongside inmates in a film of the same name. The song was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2016 and is considered one of the songs that helped shape rock and roll.

The Doors’ “Light My Fire”

The Doors
Chris Walter/WireImage
Chris Walter/WireImage

The Doors are considered to be one of the most influential rock bands to come out of the 1960s. While the band had released many songs prior to “Light My Fire,” the single became their first hit, making it to the number one spot on the Billboard Hot 100.

The song blew up virtually overnight, remaining in that number one slot for 17 weeks. It is thought to be one of the greatest rock songs ever created.

Shania Twain’s “Man! I Feel Like A Woman”

Shania Twain
Barry King/WireImage
Barry King/WireImage

It’s hard not to get up, dance, and sing along when Shania Twain’s “Man! I Feel Like A Woman” comes on the radio. Praised for its message of female empowerment and feisty tone, the song quickly became a favorite among both country and pop fans upon its 1997 release.

The song earned Twain her second Grammy Award for Best Female Country Vocal Performance. It’s widely considered one of her top hits.

Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On”

Singer Marvin Gaye
Armando Gallo/Getty Images
Armando Gallo/Getty Images

The Prince of Motown Marvin Gaye contributed a lot to the music industry during his successful career, but none of his songs hit quite as hard as “What’s Going On.” It was released in 1971 after Gaye went on strike from his record label after they refused to release the song.

Well, it wound up shooting to the number one spot on the R&B charts within a month of its release. It stayed there for five weeks.

The Beatles’ “Yesterday”

The Beatles
Jeff Hochberg/Getty Images
Jeff Hochberg/Getty Images

Considered one of the most influential bands of all time, The Beatles have more than one hit song in their catalog. But one of them stands out among the rest. “Yesterday” is haunting, and while the lyrics are a bit simple compared to some of their later songs, it is something the mainstream populace can relate to.

On the track, Paul McCartney is accompanied by a string quartet, a very different approach for a rock and roll band at the time of its release.

The Clash’s “London Calling”

The Clash on First U.S. Visit
Roger Ressmeyer/CORBIS/VCG via Getty Images
NCJ Archive/Mirrorpix/Mirrorpix via Getty Images

The Clash was a new-wave group that meshed together forms of punk, pop, ska, and even reggae into their music. Their interesting style made its way to the United States by their third studio album, London Calling, which included the single by the same name.

The song is loud, unapologetic, and completely what one would expect a late ’70s early ’80s punk song to sound like. The album wound up selling over five million copies worldwide, with “London Calling” being a top 20 single.

Bob Dylan’s “Like A Rolling Stone”

Bob Dylan
Fiona Adams/Redferns
Fiona Adams/Redferns

Ironically, the iconic Bob Dylan song “Like a Rolling Stone” was the bane of the songwriter’s existence for some time. While recording, Dylan was having difficulty with the song, not really understanding why it wasn’t working.

It took rookie session musician Al Kooper’s organ playing and a rock format to make Dylan realize the song’s true potential. It is considered one of the greatest rock songs of all time, crafted by a true poet.

Aretha Franklin’s “RESPECT”

Aretha Franklin
Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

The Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin proves she’s worthy of the nickname with her 1967 song “RESPECT.” Even people who don’t listen to the artist most likely know this song or, at the very least, know the iconic chorus.

Considered one of the best R&B songs of the era, Franklin wound up winning two Grammy Awards for the song: one for Best Rhythm & Blues Solo Vocal Performance, Female, and the other for Best Rhythm & Blues Recording.

The Beach Boys’ “Good Vibrations”

The Beach Boys
Malcolm MacNeil/Mirrorpix/Getty Images
Mark and Colleen Hayward/Redfern

The Beach Boys were one of the most influential rock bands of the ’60s, bringing a new sound into the mix with their funky, laidback style. That’s why no one was really ready for the release of “Good Vibrations.” The song was legendary.

Often referred to as Brian Wilson’s masterpiece, the song “‘was a revelation upon its release, wowing musicians, critics, and music fans and rocketing to the top of singles charts around the world. [It was a] crown jewel of popular music,” according to Capitol Records.

Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway To Heaven”

Led Zep.
Brad Elterman/FilmMagic
Brad Elterman/FilmMagic

What would a “Best Songs Ever” list be without Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven”? Considered one of the greatest rock songs in existence, “Stairway” runs for a solid 7.5 minutes of epic vocals, guitar solos, and increasing tempos.

Composed by Jimmy Page and Robert Plant, the duo had no clue the heights the song would reach. According to Plant, “I knew it was good, but I didn’t know it was going to be almost like an anthem … But I knew it was the gem of the album, sure.”

Red Hot Chili Peppers’ “Californication”

Red Hot Chili Peppers
Michel Linssen/Redferns
Michel Linssen/Redferns

While it is very difficult to pick a best song out of the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ catalog, “Californication” holds a special place on the list, as it’s remained not only the band’s most popular song since its 1999 release, but the one they perform live the most.

Interestingly, the band had a bit of trouble putting everything together. While Anthony Kiedis had the lyrics down, the instrumentals didn’t come together for some time.

Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody”

Queen Rock
Dave Hogan/Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Dave Hogan/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

With everything that goes on in Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody,” it’s really no surprise that it was initially met with mixed reviews. It literally goes from a ballad to an opera and then to a hard rock number, after all!

Years after its release in 1975, the six-minute song is one of the group’s most famous and popular numbers. In 2004, it was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.

The Who’s “My Generation”

The Who
Chris Morphet/Redferns/Getty Images
Chris Morphet/Redferns/Getty Images

One of the most influential rock bands of the 20th century, The Who established themselves as an international group with the release of their studio album My Generation, which included the single “My Generation.” Interestingly, Pete Townshend originally wrote the song as a ballad. Clearly, it didn’t stay as one.

The song peaked at No. 2 on the charts and is the highest-ranked single for the band in the UK.

John Lennon’s “Imagine”

John Lennon
Helmut Reiss/United Archives via Getty Images
Helmut Reiss/United Archives via Getty Images

John Lennon was one of a kind, a lyrical genius who came up with wonderous tracks such as “Imagine.” The song encourages listeners to think of a world filled with peace and without any sort of division, something that is pretty much unheard of.

Even though it only peaked at number three on the Billboard Hot 100, it is still the most successful single that came out of Lennon’s solo career.

Outkast’s “Hey Ya!”

Super Bowl XXXVI - Leigh Steinberg and Jeffrey Moorad's Assante Super Bowl Party XVI
KMazur/WireImage
KMazur/WireImage

One of the best songs to come out of the 2000s was Outkast’s “Hey Ya!” Critically acclaimed, the track reached number one in not only the United States but also Canada, Norway, Sweden, the Czech Republic, and Australia.

The song’s unique mix of funk, soul, power pop, hip-hop, and electronic sounds was something even people who hadn’t heard of the band before could get behind. It was quite a product of the times.

Bruce Springsteen’s “Born To Run”

The Boss
Pinterest
Pinterest

Bruce Springsteen, aka “The Boss,” was very close to losing his record deal unless something changed. Well, that change came with his third album, Born to Run. The album reached worldwide popularity, including the single of the same name.

Despite the song’s popularity, it only reached No. 23 on the Billboard charts. Either way, it is still considered the unofficial-official state song of New Jersey and still manages to get his sold-out crowds into a frenzy!

Elvis Presley’s “Hound Dog”

Elvis Presley
Bettmann/Getty Images
Bettmann/Getty Images

People can’t talk about 1950s music without bringing up the King, Elvis Presley. He ruled not only the charts but the stage and fans’ radios at home, too. Between his unique vocals, range, and his new form of hip-swinging dancing, people couldn’t get enough of him.

One of his more popular dance songs was “Hound Dog,” a track that ruled the top of the charts for a solid 11 weeks. According to guitar player Scotty Moore, crowds would riot every time he began the song.

Tracy Chapman’s “Fast Car”

Tracy Chapman Performs At The Hammersmith Apollo
Samir Hussein/Getty Images
Samir Hussein/Getty Images

In 1988, Tracy Chapman released the beautiful song “Fast Car,” the lead single on her first studio album. The song was nominated for two Grammy Awards — Song of the Year and Record of the Year.

Since the track’s initial release, more than one artist has had the privilege of making a cover. Some of the high-profile artists who have covered “Fast Car” include Justin Bieber, Khalid, Elizabeth Gillies, and Vertical Horizon.

Bob Marley’s “No Woman, No Cry”

Bob Marley
Pete Still/Redferns
Pete Still/Redferns

Bob Marley is known as a Rastafari icon, bringing soothing and fun tunes into the world that people listen to even decades after the release of his first album. “No Woman, No Cry” just so happens to be one of those songs.

The peaceful nature of both the lyrics and instrumentals is unlike anything else Marley does, making it a standout song in his very successful catalog of music. It just makes people want to get up and walk to the nearest beach!

ABBA’s “Dancing Queen”

ABBA
Gus Stewart/Redferns
Gus Stewart/Redferns

In 1974, ABBA made history, winning the first-ever Eurovision Song Contest. Good news for the public, too, because if the band never won, the catchy tune of “Dancing Queen” might never have made it to the mainstream stage.

The song topped the charts in ABBA’s home country of Sweden and made it to the number one spot in the United States, Japan, Canada, and even the Soviet Union. In 2015, the song was inducted into the Recording Academy’s Grammy Hall of Fame

The Ronettes’ “Be My Baby”

The Ronettes
Paul Naylor/Redferns
Paul Naylor/Redferns

The American girl group, The Ronettes, were a force in the ’60s, with one of their more popular songs being “Be My Baby.” The song was released as a single in ’63 before making its way to the group’s only studio album, Presenting the Fabulous Ronettes featuring Veronica the following year.

The song is considered one of the best to come out of the era, making its way into the Grammy Hall of Fame by the time 1999 rolled around.

The Beatles’ “Let It Be”

The Beatles
Bettmann/Getty Images
Bettmann/Getty Images

The partnership between John Lennon and Paul McCartney was one of a kind, something that is difficult to repeat in terms of lyrical geniuses working in the same band. One product of their partnership was the 1970 single “Let It Be.”

The track was the final single the group released before McCartney went solo, and, boy, it was quite a way to go out! The song is considered to be The Beatles’ finest ballad.

The Rolling Stones’ “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction”

The Rolling Stones
Anwar Hussein/Getty Images
Anwar Hussein/Getty Images

The Rolling Stones became one of the quintessential bands of the 1960s, bringing a new sound of hard rock to the stage. With their solid line-up and Mick Jagger as the frontman, there was nothing this bad couldn’t do.

So, when “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” was released in 1965, it was pretty much an instant hit. Going against the status quo, the song became The Rolling Stones’ first number one hit in the United States.

Chuck Berry’s “Johnny B. Goode”

Chuck Berry
Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

“The Father of Rock and Roll” Chuck Berry composed what is considered the most recognizable song in popular music, “Johnny B. Goode.” Released in 1958, the song is widely considered the first song to tell “the first rock star origin story.”

Ranked seventh on Rolling Stones’ list of “500 Greatest Songs of All Time,” the song is a classic with Berry’s powerful vocals, intense instrumental, and a flare that only he could produce on stage.

Johnny Cash’s “I Walk The Line”

Johnny Cash
Michael Putland/Getty Images
Michael Putland/Getty Images

Johnny Cash’s somber, deep, and haunting voice is pretty much as American as it gets. The country singer’s first number one hit on the Billboard charts was “I Walk The Line,” a track he recorded in 1956.

It ended up staying on the charts for over 43 weeks! Not too bad for a song that was quickly written backstage. According to Cash, it only took him 50 minutes to complete the entire song.

Chubby Checker’s “The Twist”

Chubby Checker
William Lovelace/Daily Express/Hulton Archive/Getty Images
William Lovelace/Daily Express/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Chubby Checker might not have been the first person to record the song “The Twist” (that title and honor goes to Hank Ballard and the Midnighters), but he is the one who made it popular.

The song and Checker’s version of the track gave way to the dance craze of the early ’60s. The single reached the No. 1 slot on the Billboard hot 100, staying there for a week.

Prince’s “When Doves Cry”

Prince
Ross Marino/Getty Images
Ross Marino/Getty Images

In 1984, Prince released his sixth studio album, Purple Rain. In that album was his first No 1 Billboard Hot 100 single, “When Doves Cry,” a song about his relationship with Vanity 6 member Susan Moonsie.

The track became the last to receive Platinum certification for a solo artist before the requirements were switched up in ’89. Even so, it is now one of the most celebrated songs in pop music history.