- “Love Hurts” by Nazareth
- “I Can’t Tell You Why” by Eagles
- “I Want to Know What Love Is” by Foreigner
- “Every Rose Has Its Thorn” by Poison
- “Wind of Change” by Scorpions
- “More Than a Feeling” by Boston
- “Dust in the Wind” by Kansas
- “The Power of Love” by Jennifer Rush
- “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” by U2
- “With or Without You” by U2
From power ballads to heart-wrenching anthems, rock ballads have always been a staple in the genre. Here are 5 of the best rock ballad songs of all time.
“Love Hurts” by Nazareth
“Love Hurts” is a rock ballad written by the team of Boudleaux and Felice Bryant. The song was first recorded by the Everly Brothers in July 1960 and released as a single in September 1960. It was their last Grammy-nominated song. Nazareth recorded a cover version of “Love Hurts” in 1975, which became a hit for them and remains their signature song.
The song tells of the pain and suffering caused by love. The lyrics convey a powerful message that love is not always beautiful and can sometimes cause great pain. Despite the sad message, the song has a catchy melody and is one of the most recognizable rock ballads of all time.
“I Can’t Tell You Why” by Eagles
“I Can’t Tell You Why” is a song by the American rock band Eagles. It was released in February 1980 as the lead single from their album The Long Run. The song was written by Glenn Frey, Don Henley, and Timothy B. Schmit, and produced by Glyn Johns.
The song peaked at number 8 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in the United States and number 11 on the Cash Box Top 100. Internationally, it reached number 7 in Canada and number 26 in Australia.
In Eagles’ home country of the United States, “I Can’t Tell You Why” spent three weeks at number eight on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart in 1980, becoming the band’s sixth top-ten single on that chart. On Billboard’s Adult Contemporary chart, the song spent two weeks at number three. The track also reached number 11 on Cash Box’s Top 100 Singles chart.
In Canada, “I Can’t Tell You Why” peaked at number seven on RPM’s Top Singles chart in March 1980, becoming Eagles’ fourth top-ten hit in that country. In Australia, the song debuted at its peak position of number 26 on April 6, 1980, and stayed there for two weeks before leaving the top 50.
“I Want to Know What Love Is” by Foreigner
First released in 1984, “I Want to Know What Love Is” is a power ballad by the British-American rock band Foreigner. The song was written by keyboardist Mick Jones and singer Lou Gramm. It reached number one in both the United Kingdom and United States, making it Foreigner’s biggest hit.
The song is about Jones’ personal quest for love. In an interview, he said: “I was going through a divorce at the time, and I guess I was looking for something else. I wanted to know what love was.” The lyrics also refer to the band’s experiences on tour, as they had been touring for several years by that point.
“I Want to Know What Love Is” has been covered by many artists over the years, including Mariah Carey, Celine Dion, and Whitney Houston.
“Every Rose Has Its Thorn” by Poison
“Every Rose Has Its Thorn” is a ballad by the American rock band Poison. It was released in 1988 as the third single from their second studio album, Open Up and Say… Ahh!. The song is about the pain of lost love and serves as a reminder that even the most beautiful things in life come with thorns.
The song was a massive success, reaching number one on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, becoming Poison’s only single to top the chart. It also peaked at number four on the Mainstream Rock Tracks chart. In 1989, the song won Poison the Grammy Award for Best Hard Rock Performance.
“Wind of Change” by Scorpions
“Wind of Change” is a song by the German rock band Scorpions, released in 1990 on their album Crazy World. The song was written by the band’s lead singer Klaus Meine and produced by Bruce Fairbairn. “Wind of Change” became one of the most iconic songs of the Cold War era, symbolizing the fall of Communism in Eastern Europe. The song topped charts around the world and is one of the best-selling singles of all time, with sales in excess of 14 million copies.
“More Than a Feeling” by Boston
“More Than a Feeling” is a song by the American rock band Boston. It was released in 1976 as the lead single from their debut album, Boston. The song peaked at number five on the Billboard Hot 100 and is one of the band’s best-known songs.
“Dust in the Wind” by Kansas
“Dust in the Wind” is a song by American rock band Kansas, written by band member Kerry Livgren, first released on their 1977 album Point of Know Return. In 1981, the song was certified Gold by the Recording Industry Association of America Elektra Records, and in 1996 it was certified Platinum. A live performance of the song with an orchestra was included on their 1998 album The Symphony Sessions. It has since been covered by many artists.
The song is performed using only two acoustic guitars and a flute, with lead vocals by Steve Walsh. Livgren wrote the lyrics while contemplating mortality after wondering how his life would be remembered after death. The lyrics express the idea that eventually “all we are is dust in the wind”.
The song has been described as a “somber ballad”, “mellow tune”, and “an instant classic”. AllMusic critic William Ruhlmann praised its simple elegance, calling it a “mesmerizing performance” and “one of Kansas’ most popular songs”. In 2003, CNN listed it as one of the 100 greatest songs of all time.
“The Power of Love” by Jennifer Rush
It is hard to believe that “The Power of Love” by Jennifer Rush is a ballad. The song has an upbeat rhythm and a driving beat that does not seem to fit the definition of a ballad. However, the lyrics are what make this song a ballad. The lyrics tell the story of a woman who is in love with a man who does not love her back. Despite the pain of unrequited love, she continues to love him. The lyrics are powerful and emotional, and they are brought to life by Jennifer Rush’s beautiful voice.
“I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” by U2
“I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” is a song by Irish rock band U2. It was released as the second single from their 1987 album The Joshua Tree and became a worldwide hit, topping the charts in several countries, including the United States, Australia and Germany. The song was Radiohead’s “Creep” before Radiohead was Radiohead.
“With or Without You” by U2
“With or Without You” is a song by Irish rock band U2. It is the fourth track on their fifth studio album, The Joshua Tree, and was released as the album’s third single in May 1987. The song was written about lead vocalist Bono’s tumultuous relationship with his wife, Ali Hewson.
The song is a ballad that features continuously chugging guitar work and Edge’s distinctive delay-laden guitar sound. The lyrics are written in a first-person perspective and detail the pain of separation and longing. “With or Without You” was well received by critics and became a commercial success for the band, topping charts in Australia, Canada, Germany, New Zealand, Ireland, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. In 1988, the song won a Grammy Award for Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal at the 30th Grammy Awards.
The music video shot in black-and-white by Mei Gentle and Phil Joanou depicts Bono spending time with his wife and children in Dublin. It intercuts footage of the band performing the song on a kind of minimalist set with footage of family life; at one point, Ali holds their infant son while Bono looks on adoringly.