“Life without music would be a mistake”, said Friedrich Nietzsche. To prove it, we have made a list of the best songs in history, hymns from different genres (and generations) that will never go out of style.
- You can also read: The 34 types of music: classification and musical subgenres.
The 50 best songs in musical history
Without further delay, we present the best songs of all time. To make the list we have based ourselves on our own criteria.
50. Ain’t No Sunshine (Bill Withers)
We start the list with this soul anthem loaded with good vibes . From his debut album Just As I Am (1971).
49. Zombie (The Cranberries)
A painful protest against the attacks of the terrorist group IRA in 1993. The most representative single from the album No Need to Argue (1994).
48. Bitter Sweet Symphony (The Verve)
Song that gives its name to the 1997 album of the same name. A genius of the British composer Richard Ashcroft that you will have heard more than once on the radio.
47. One More Time (Daft Punk)
Electronic music also has its representation. We have chosen this theme because it is the confluence point of electronica, dance and pop . Single from the album Discovery (2001).
46. Fight The Power (Public Enemy)
We must not forget hip hop, and Public Enemy is one of the great references of the genre. Proof of his greatness and his commitment to social activism is this song from the brutal album Fear of a Black Planet (1990).
45. Basket Case (Green Day)
If there is any merit to be attributed to Green Day, it is to take punk music to more accessible levels , giving life to what we now call pop-punk. One of the songs from the album Dookie (1994).
44. Money for Nothing (Dire Straits)
Mark Knopfler, one of the best guitarists in history , joined forces with Sting to compose one of the best albums of all time: Brothers in Arms (1985).
43. Smoke On The Water (Deep Purple)
When you learn to play the guitar, one of the great illusions is to see that you are able to play the rhythm of Smoke On The Water, a single from the album Machine Head (1972).
42. The Message (Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five)
Perhaps it is the least known of the list. Grandmaster Flash is considered the father of hip hop as we know it today (with DJ’s and MC’s). From the studio work The Message (1982).
41. Anarchy in the UK (Sex Pistols)
If we talk about punk music, we cannot ignore Sid Vicious’s Sex Pistols. One of the most critically acclaimed songs is Anarchy in the UK, included on the album Never Mind the Bollocks (1976).
40. Seven Nation Army (The White Stripes)
The title may not ring a bell, but we’re sure you’ve heard the main tune a thousand times. The Detroit duo included this song on the album Elephant (2003).
39. I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing (Aerosmith)
One of those rock ballads to take the lighter out for a walk. Yes, Steven Tyler has a spectacular voice and they show it in the main theme of the film Armageddon (1998).
38. Losing My Religion (REM)
REM has authentic hymns like Bad Day or Everybody Hurts, but the most famous and representative song is this one from the band’s seventh album: Out of Time (1991).
37. Every Breath You Take (The Police)
One of those songs that has been covered ad nauseam. Written by Sting at the height of his marriage to Frances Tomelty, it has different connotations , so it’s not just a romantic song. From the album Synchronicity (1983).
36. What I’m Looking For (U2)
We doubted between With or Without You or this one, but we believe that What I’m Looking For is much more representative of the U2 style.
35. Come As You Are (Nirvana)
First of the two Nirvana songs to appear on the list. Guess which one is the other?
Second single from one of the best albums in history such as Nevermind (1991).
34. We Will Rock You (Queen)
A rhythm built on handclaps and kick drum and a final guitar solo is all a song needs to become an intergenerational anthem. That and the colossal voice of Freddie Mercury. It first appeared on the News of the World album (1977).
33. In the End (Linkin Park)
One of the most famous metal songs. Linkin Park knew how to transfer the genre, again, to the general public with a particular mixture of rock, electronica and rap (elements of nu-metal). The single belongs to his debut Hybrid Theory (2000).
32. My Generation (The Who)
The best hymns have the peculiarity of always sounding current. This is what happens with this single by The Who that gives its name to a self-titled album, released in 1965.
31. (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction (The Rolling Stones)
Mick Jagger’s band could not be left out of this list. The original idea was Keith Richards and the lyrics were added later, there is not much more mystery. Sometimes inspiration comes like that, suddenly. The theme was included on the album Out of Our Heads (1965).
30. Surfin’ USA (Beach Boys)
We continue with the good vibes of the Beach Boys, champions of surf rock. They have been the influence of many current groups like Weezer. The song gives name to his second work of the same title, published in 1963.
29. Enter Sandman (Metallica)
UnaOne of the bands that has done the most to bring heavy metal to the mainstream is Metallica. His style reached higher levels in the famous “black album” of 1991, which opened with this song.
28. Livin’ on a Prayer (Bon Jovi)
Who has never lost their voice TRYING to sing this great song by Bon Jovi
? It is the second single from a highly acclaimed album: Slippery When Wet (1986).
27. Wonderwall (Oasis)
The Gallagher brothers proclaimed themselves as the leaders of the best band in the world. Perhaps it is pretentious to say such a thing, but they were the paradigm of the Britpop movement . From the second studio work (What’s the Story) Morning Glory
26. Highway to Hell (AC/DC)
From the album of the same name that was released in 1979, even with Bon Scott on the microphone. It was the first album that generated millionaire sales, increasing the popularity of the Australian band.
25. November Rain (Guns N’ Roses)
One of the two songs on the list that exceeds 10 minutes in length. Just as well known as the song is its video clip, winner of an MTV Video Music Awards (when MTV was still credible). Belonging to his third album Use Your Illusion I (1983).
- You can also read: The 30 best songs of the 80s (in English and Spanish).
24. No woman, no cry (Bob Marley)
Reggae also had to have a presence on the list, and who better than Bob Marley & The Wailers, with a song that has been covered countless times. You can find it on her album Live! (1975).
23. Sunday Bloody Sunday (U2)
U2 has not always been a radio pop rock band, and proof of this is the particular sound of War (1983), the third album by the Irish band. Sunday Bloody Sunday, inspired by 1972’s Bloody Sunday, was the first single from the album.
22. Born in the USA (Bruce Springsteen)
Many believe that this theme of the boss is a patriotic anthem, but the truth is that it is an acid criticism of the Vietnam War . The work of the same name was published in 1984.
21. Walk on the Wild Side (Lou Reed)
I’m sure you know the double bass tune. If it is one of the most famous songs in history, it is also thanks to the production of David Bowie. Extracted from the album Transformer (1972), Lou Reed’s third solo work.
20. Hotel California (The Eagles) The Eagles
‘ discography is excellent, but for obvious reasons they will always be remembered for Hotel California, a song that gives name to an album released in 1976.
19. Blitzkrieg bop (The Ramones)
The Ramones taught us that you don’t have to be a virtuoso to make timeless songs. Blitzkrieg bop has enough attitude and energy. These punk pioneers came to publish 14 albums, and this is included in the first of them: Ramones (1976).
18. Ring of Fire (Johnny Cash)
Singer, songwriter and author, rock music cannot be understood without Johnny Cash . His music, halfway between rock & roll and country, toured the United States for 50 years, leaving an incalculable legacy. Vinyl was released in 1963.
17. All Along the Watchtower (The Jimi Hendrix Experience)
Jimi Hendrix isn’t just a guitarist, he’s a six-string wizard. What some do not know is that the original song is by Bob Dylan and appears on the John Wesley Harding album (1967). It’s the only version you’ll see on this list.
16. Suspicious Minds (Elvis Presley)
We were not going to forget the king of rock. The song was composed by composer Mark James and brought Elvis back to professional success, being his last single to reach number 1 in the United States. The year was 1969.
15. Starway to Heaven (Led Zeppelin)
Two music monsters like Jimmy Page and Robert Plant gave life to this mythical ballad from the album Led Zeppelin IV (1971), eight minutes and two seconds long. One of the high points in the history of rock that made critics forget the irregular Led Zeppelin III.
14. Killing in the Name (Rage Against the Machine)
Few gangs have bothered the US political apparatus as much as that of Zach de la Rocha and company. A hymn of generation X that we continue to sing at the top of our lungs. This is the first song of the homonymous work published in 1992.
13. Nothing Else Matters (Metallica)
If there have been so many versions for different genres (Shakira or Lucie Silvas) it is because the composition is enormous. Another of the surprises of a “black album” that surprised its fans, parking the thrash metal of the beginning.
12. Thunderstruck (AC/DC)
Any AC/DC fan knows what song it is just by listening to the first riff. This time with Brian Johnson as vocalist, the Australian formation pulled a great album out of their sleeve like The Razors Edge (1990).
11. Sweet Child o’ Mine (Guns N’ Roses)
Appetite for Destruction (1987) is, without a doubt, the best album by Axl Rose’s band. The same singer was in charge of composing this song, a dedication to his then-girlfriend Erin Everly. It was written in five minutes and the band thought it would be a filler song .
10. Another Brick in the Wall (Pink Floyd)
Eight minutes and twenty-six seconds make up one of the best songs in history. It is divided into three parts, the second being the best known, and is included in the anthological album The Wall (1979). We leave you with the mythical animation video.
9. Paint it, Black (The Rolling Stones)
Every Rolling Stones fan has their favorite song. Ours is Paint it, Black, which appears on the US version of the Aftermath album (1966). The curious thing about the case is that the comma in the title is due to a mistake by Decca Records, sparking controversy over racial interpretations (it can be translated as “paint it, black”).
8. Thriller (Michael Jackson)
Few albums in the history of music have gathered as many hits together as Thriller (1982), produced by the great architect of Michael Jackson’s success: Quincy Jones . Any song from the “King of Pop” could be on this list, but we have chosen the one that gives the album its name. Its full-length video was almost as successful as the song itself.
7. Bohemian Rhapsody (Queen)
Freddie Mercury showed that a number one can be made with a complex musical structure . The composition consists of six different sections, and one of them has one of the best guitar solos of all time. A jewel that we can find on the album A Night at the Opera (1975).
6. Hey Jude (The Beatles)
The Beatles are one of the most influential bands of all time . We could cite countless songs like Yesterday or Here Comes the Sun, but we’ll stick with Hey Jude, attributed to Lennon and McCartney. It was the first single for his record label, Apple Records.
5. Imagine (John Lennon)
After the commotion generated by the separation of the Beatles and the role of Yoko Ono in all this, John Lennon imagined a better world, a message of peace in the form of a song that was a bestseller. Despite its popularity, the song has received much criticism throughout history. “Was it a billionaire who said, ‘Imagine there are no possessions
,’ ” Elvis Costello pointed out.
4. Johnny B. Goode (Chuck Berry)
Being a pioneer of rock & roll is enough of an excuse to appear on this list. In Johnny B. Goode we find parallels with the life of Chuck Berry, a country boy who achieved fame playing the guitar. The funny thing is that Berry has written up to 12 songs where he uses Johnny as a fictional character. A single that was released in 1958.
3. “Heroes” (David Bowie)
“Heroes” was recorded in Berlin during the Cold War. In this decadent environment, Bowie elaborated his experimental rock and raised it to its maximum expression , incorporating elements of electronic and ambient music. The quotation marks in the title are due to the fact that the artist intends to offer an ironic vision of the concept of heroism.
2. Smells Like Teen Spirit (Nirvana)
The Generation X anthem that revived the popularity of rock among teenagers. If Nevermind (1991) is so popular it is because the album constitutes a genre in itself, a new sound that caught the mainstream and that lasts to this day. In an interview with ‘Rolling Stone’, Kurt Cobain admitted that he was trying to imitate the Pixies. Genius arises in the most unexpected ways.
1. Like a Rolling Stone (Bob Dylan)
The greatest songwriter of all time and Nobel Prize winner for literature composed this timeless piece after returning exhausted from a UK tour. The poem became a song and finally saw the light of day on the album Highway 61 Revisited (1965), Dylan’s sixth album. Contrary to what many believe, the lyrics of the best song in history do not express love, but resentment and revenge .
- It may interest you: The 20 best-selling albums and records in history.