Top Ten Rock and Roll Songs of All Time

This article is a collaborative effort, crafted and edited by a team of dedicated professionals.

Contributors: Andranick Tanguiane, Fred Lerdahl,


The top ten rock and roll songs of all time according to Rolling Stone magazine.

“Bohemian Rhapsody” – Queen

“Bohemian Rhapsody” is a song by the British rock band Queen. It was written by Freddie Mercury for the band’s 1975 album A Night at the Opera. The song is a six-minute suite, consisting of several sections without a chorus: an intro, a ballad segment, an operatic passage, a hard rock part and a reflective coda. The single was accompanied by a promotional video, which many scholars consider one of the first real music videos.

“Stairway to Heaven” – Led Zeppelin

“Stairway to Heaven” by Led Zeppelin is often cited as the greatest rock and roll song of all time. The song features a classic rock sound with an epic guitar solo that has been copied by countless artists. The lyrics are notoriously cryptic, but they nonetheless speak to the human experience in a way that few other songs have been able to match.

“Imagine” – John Lennon

“Imagine” is a song by English musician John Lennon from his 1971 album of the same name. The best-selling single of his solo career, its lyrics encourage the listener to imagine a world at peace without the barriers of borders or the divisions of religion and nationality.

“Smells Like Teen Spirit” – Nirvana

“Smells Like Teen Spirit” is a song by American rock band Nirvana. It was released as the lead single from the band’s second album, Nevermind, in September 1991. The unexpected success of the song propelled Nevermind to the top of several international charts, including the Billboard 200 in the United States. The music video, directed by Samuel Bayer, portrays Kurt Cobain as a dejected janitor who alternates between playing apathetic slacker and headbanging rebel.

“What’s Going On” – Marvin Gaye

Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On” is a song that was released in 1971 on the Motown label. The song was written by Gaye, Renaldo Benson, and Al Cleveland. The song is about social issues such as poverty, racism, and violence. “What’s Going On” became a #1 hit on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and has been ranked as one of the greatest songs of all time by various publications.

“Respect” – Aretha Franklin

Aretha Franklin’s “Respect” stands the test of time as not only one of the greatest rock and roll songs of all time, but as an important civil rights anthem. The song was originally written and recorded by Otis Redding in 1965, but Franklin’s version quickly eclipsed the original and has become an icon of both the rock and roll and civil rights movements. With its signature opening line of “R-E-S-P-E-C-T, find out what it means to me,” Franklin’s “Respect” is a powerful demand for equality and respect that still resonates today.

“Good Vibrations” – The Beach Boys

“Good Vibrations” is a song by the American rock band the Beach Boys, released as a single from their album Pet Sounds in September 1966. TheHeader:singer uses the recording studio as an instrument to create new sounds never before possible in live music. The result is one of the most innovative and influential recordings of all time, with its mixing of realize=d and unrealized harmony, contrapuntal melody lines, and sound effects. The Beach Boys’ version of “Good Vibrations” was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1994.

“Johnny B. Goode” – Chuck Berry

You can’t have a conversation about the best rock and roll songs of all time without mentioning “Johnny B. Goode” by Chuck Berry. It’s a song that is as timeless as rock and roll itself, and it’s been covered by everyone from Bruce Springsteen to Michael J. Fox.

The song is about a young man who dreams of one day becoming a star, and it captures the essence of what rock and roll is all about. It’s a simple song, but it’s also one of the most important songs in the history of rock and roll.

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

The Rolling Stones’ “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” was released in 1965 and quickly became one of the band’s signature tunes. With its iconic opening riff, catchy chorus, and sexually suggestive lyrics, the song not only helped the Stones become one of the biggest bands in the world, but also epitomized the rebellious attitude of rock and roll. Though it was initially banned by many radio stations due to its suggestive lyrics, “Satisfaction” went on to become one of the most popular rock songs of all time, cementing the Rolling Stones’ place in musical history.

“Hey Jude” – The Beatles

“Hey Jude” is a song by the English rock band the Beatles, written by Paul McCartney and credited to Lennon–McCartney. The ballad evolved from “Hey Jules”, a song McCartney wrote to comfort John Lennon’s son, Julian, during his parents’ divorce. “Hey Jude” begins with a verse-bridge structure incorporating McCartney’s vocal performance and piano accompaniment; further instrumentation is added as the song progresses. After its release in August 1968 as the first single from the Beatles’ self-titled double album (also known as “the White Album”), “Hey Jude” topped singles charts in many countries around the world.

In 2013, Billboard ranked “Hey Jude” at number eight on its list of the 100 Greatest Songs of All Time. In 2017, NME placed it at number two on its list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.

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