Music is the soundtrack of our lives. Songs have the power to transport us to a certain moment in our lives when everything was so much simpler. Love them or hate them, there are many old songs everyone knows, and we’ll be sharing them below.
Good or bad, some of these songs are timeless. People know all of the lyrics and will sing along with them practically until the end of time. There are some you may love, and there are some you may hate. However, I’m certain that you’ll know the majority of the songs we’ll share below. We also included a Spotify playlist at the bottom of the page.
Table of Contents
1. Sweet Home Alabama by Lynyrd Skynyrd
|Genre||Southern Rock, Hard Rock, Classic Rock|
I have always found it a little odd that a band from Florida wrote a song singing the praises of Alabama. Nevertheless, this track from 1974’s “Second Helping” has become one of the most iconic rock songs in history. The interesting thing about this song is that it has been caught up in its fair share of controversy. It is often misinterpreted as racist because it takes a shot at Neil Young. Ronnie Van Zant replied by saying,” We’re Southern rebels, but more than that, we know the difference between right and wrong.”
2. Don’t Stop Believin’ by Journey
|Genre||Hard Rock, Rock, Classic Rock|
You have to be honest, there are several songs from Journey’s extensive catalog that I could use to fill this spot. Throughout their long and storied career, this band has produced memorable track after memorable track, making them one of the most popular acts of the 1980s. However, when talking about Journey, this track is the one that I hear brought up the most. This tune is a perfect pick-me-up for any time that you are feeling down and could use a little encouragement. The uplifting message is what makes this song a timeless classic.
3. Born to Be Wild by Steppenwolf
|Genre||Hard Rock, Classic Rock|
This song is famous for coining the term “heavy metal” in modern music. The term appears in the line “I like smoke and lightnin’. Heavy metal Thunder” and is featured on Steppenwolf’s classic self-titled debut album. The song is often associated with motorcycles because of its inclusion in the 1969 biker film “Easy Rider,” and has also been used in several television commercials. Dennis Edmonton, who also goes by the stage name Mars Bonfire, wrote this track when he saw a poster of a motorcycle with the words “Born to Ride.” The rest, as they say, is history.
4. Ice Ice Baby by Vanilla Ice
|Album||To the Extreme|
There was a time in the early 1990s when you couldn’t turn on the radio without hearing Vanilla Ice’s track “Ice Ice Baby,” which made his debut album one of that year’s top-selling records. However, the song got the attention of the wrong people. Rob Van Winkle was sued for using the hit single “Under Pressure” without permission. Queen took Vanilla Ice to court for copyright infringement and won an undisclosed amount. Instead of paying royalties each time the song was played, Van Winkle bought the publishing rights for $4 million, calling it “a great investment.”
5. Never Gonna Give You Up by Rick Astley
|Genre||Adult Contemporary, Pop, Dance|
|Album||Whenever You Need Somebody|
I don’t know how, but this song’s popularity has managed to increase exponentially since it appears on Rick Astley’s debut album “Whenever You Need Somebody.” Beginning March 12, 1988, this track sat atop the Billboard Hot 100 charts for two weeks. The track is a typical 1980s pop song about a guy who swears that he will never give up on his girlfriend, nor will he ever treat her badly. It has since become a meme where someone is tricked into hearing the song, thus being “Rick Rolled.” Astley is still performing it today.
6. Mr. Jones by Counting Crows
|Album||August and Everything After|
Alternative and Grunge music was all the rage in the 1990s when being different was considered normal. Although those two genres have slowly faded into obscurity, they left us with some of the most memorable songs of our lives. One of those songs was the alternative indie-rock hit from the Counting Crows, “Mr. Jones,” which was their first single from their debut album, “August and Everything After.” The song is a touching story of a special friendship, in which lead vocalist Adam Duritz sings about some of the conversations, escapades, and adventures he’s had with the titular character.
7. Purple Rain by Prince
|Genre||Rock, R&B, Soul|
|Album||Purple Rain (Original Soundtrack)|
“Purple Rain” was one of the biggest box office hits of 1984, grossing $70 million and starring the one-and-only Prince Rogers Nelson. He and his band, the Revolution, also performed the soundtrack for the film, which was a semi-autobiographical account of a young musician who was paying his dues and trying to break into the big time by playing clubs. It also details some of the struggles he has in his personal life as well. The title track from the film and the album is dedicated to the memory of Prince’s father.
8. Super Freak by Rick James
This hit single from Rick James’ album “Street Songs” is so well-known that people who aren’t even aware of who he is can sing along with it. The song is so wildly popular and beloved that it has been sampled in a plethora of hip-hop and rap songs. But, as the old saying goes, “There ain’t nothing like the real thing,” and Rick James proves that in “Super Freak.” In this song, Rick James is singing about a girl who seems to be quite a handful. However, he doesn’t seem to mind her behavior at all.
9. Poker Face by Lady Gaga
Even if you don’t recognize the name of this song or artist, trust me when I tell you that you have probably heard this song at least two or three dozen times by now. Featured on Lady Gaga’s diamond-certified album “The Fame,” this song earned the singer one of her 13 Grammy Awards. The song is an expression and a celebration of Gaga’s bisexuality and became an anthem for the gay community. It was also one of her astounding 17 top-ten hits, five of which shot to the top spot of the Billboard Hot 100 charts.
10. We’re Not Gonna Take It by Twisted Sister
|Genre||Arena Rock, Hard Rock, Metal|
During the 1980s, heavy metal was gaining traction and becoming wildly popular in the United States. One of the bands that wanted to get in on the action was New Jersey’s Twisted Sister. By the time the band had released their third studio album, “Stay Hungry,” in 1984, they were starting to experience some commercial success. “We’re Not Gonna Take It” almost cracked the top 20 on the Billboard Hot 100, making it the band’s most successful song ever and firmly cementing this song as an anthem for angry, rebellious teenagers across America and around the world.
11. The Real Slim Shady by Eminem
|Album||The Marshall Mathers LP|
Marshall Mathers has a knack for letting his mouth get him into quite a bit of trouble. For instance, let’s take a look at the track “The Real Slim Shady,” which was a hit single from his album “The Marshall Mathers LP.” The song sees Eminem in “attack mode,” spitting lines about practically every celebrity appearing on the MTV show TRL at that time. One of his primary targets in this track is Britney Spears, who took the jab personally. Coincidentally, this record was the best-selling album of the 2000s, moving well over 32 million units.
12. Crazy Train by Ozzy Osbourne
|Album||Blizzard Of Ozz|
Can you imagine being fired from heavy metal’s most influential band because your drinking and Drug problem got to be too excessive for the rest of the band? Well, this is exactly what happened to Ozzy Osbourne in 1979, which nearly drove him away from music altogether. Although with a solo career that saw album sales of over 70 million units sold worldwide, I would say that Ozzy landed on his feet. Osbourne’s first solo album, “Blizzard Of Ozz,” included the phenomenal track “Crazy Train,” which has become a staple at sporting events across America.
13. Like a Virgin by Madonna
|Album||Like a Virgin|
With 335 million albums and singles sold, Madonna is the highest-selling female artist of all time, according to the Guinness Book of World records. Although she made some waves with her debut album, Madonna was thrust into the spotlight in 1984 when she released her second album, “Like a Virgin.” The title track from this album spent six weeks atop the Billboard Hot 100 charts, and its meaning was the topic of a friendly debate in the Quentin Tarantino film “Reservoir Dogs.” It’s about the special feeling you get at the beginning of a new relationship.
14. Friends In Low Places by Garth Brooks
Astonishingly, Garth Brooks is the most successful solo artist of all time. He sits behind only The Beatles in total albums sold, with an incredible 157 million units shipped in his amazing career. In 1990, Brooks released his second album, no fences, which peaked at number three on the Billboard 200 and spent an unbelievable 128 weeks in the top 40. One of the standout tracks from this album was “Friends In Low Places,” which spent four weeks at the number-one spot on the Billboard Hot 100 and was the Country Music Association song of the year.
15. Can’t Stop the Feeling by Justin Timberlake
|Album||Trolls (Original Soundtrack)|
In 2016, DreamWorks Animation created a musical l, comedic animated movie based on the Good Luck Trolls dolls created by Thomas Dam simply called “Trolls.” The movie was a huge hit, taking in $343,242,613 at the box office and producing video sales totaling $72,705,896. Although the movie featured shortened cover versions of several popular songs, pop sensation Justin Timberlake recorded an original tune for it called ‘Can’t Stop the Feeling.” Instead of having a complicated or convoluted message, the song is about nothing more than just feeling good and dancing.
16. Smells Like Teen Spirit by Nirvana
Love it or hate it, this song was the biggest song of the ’90s and was the catalyst that skyrocketed Nirvana to the top of the charts and made this band from Aberdeen, Washington, the world’s most famous rock act. Their second album, “Nevermind,” was the second-best-selling album of 1991, going triple-diamond with 30 million copies sold. However, lead vocalist and guitarist Kurt Cobain did not take to the success very well. Although Cobain committed suicide in 1994, his music will continue to live on forever, specifically this track that ushered in the decade’s grunge movement.
17. Livin’ On a Prayer by Bon Jovi
|Genre||Arena Rock, Glam Rock|
|Album||Slippery When Wet|
The New Jersey-based hard rock band Bon Jovi has been around since 1983, getting their first taste of success that year with the track “Runaway.” However, the van got its big break and became a national phenomenon in 1986 when they released Slippery When Wet, which sold over 16.9 million copies worldwide. The biggest hit from that album was “Livin’ On a Prayer,” which spent four weeks at number one on Billboard. The track is about a young couple who are facing hard times, but they refuse to give up on their relationship and each other.
18. Push It by Salt N’ Pepa
|Album||Hot, Cool & Vicious|
Formed in Queens in 1985, three women named Salt, Pepa, and DJ Spinderella formed a hip-hop group that would make history. Although the trio from New York City wasn’t the first all-female rap group in history, they became the first all-female rap group to be nominated for a Grammy Award, eventually winning one as well. The song that earned them the Grammy nomination was The Sensational hit “Push It” from their debut record “Hot, Cool & Vicious.” The song made a splash on the Billboard Hot 100, becoming the trio’s first top 20 hits, but certainly not their last.
19. Every Breath You Take by The Police
This is quite possibly the creepiest song to ever appear on the Billboard Hot 100, soaring to the top spot and staying there for eight weeks in 1983. The song earned the band two Grammys, one for the single and one for their album “Synchronicity.” One of the most interesting things about the song is that people often misconstrue the message behind it as a timeless love song. However, it is actually about a guy who is stalking someone. It’s never specifically mentioned whom the song is meant for, but lead vocalist Sting is singing it directly to them.
20. Total Eclipse Of The Heart by Bonnie Tyler
|Album||Faster Than the Speed Of Night|
First appearing on Bonnie Tyler’s fifth studio album, “Faster Than the Speed Of Night,” the chart-topping hit “Total Eclipse Of The Heart ” was written by Jim Steinman, who has also written several hits for Meat Loaf. In 1983, the single spent four weeks at the summit of the Billboard Hot 100 chart and is the sad story of a relationship that unfortunately has not gone the distance. The way that the relationship ended must have made a devastating impact on Tyler because she is saying that she is incapable of loving someone now and she may never be able to love again.
21. … Baby One More Time by Britney Spears
|Album||…Baby One More Time|
When you hear the first four piano notes of this song along with the opening line, “Oh baby, baby. How was I supposed to know that something wasn’t right here,” you know exactly what’s about to follow. This song, which was the first of five Billboard Hot 100 number-one hits of Britney Spears’ career, was everywhere in the late 1990s. No matter where you were, you could not escape hearing it, making it one of the most parodied and disliked tunes of all time. Still, love it or hate it, this is a track everybody knows.
22. Girls Just Wanna Have Fun by Cyndi Lauper
|Album||She’s So Unusual|
While the eclectic pop star Cyndi Lauper did not quite attain the level of success as other female stars of the era, like Madonna, her debut album “She’s So Unusual” produced three top-five hits and reached the fourth spot on the Billboard 200 charts. One of those top five hits was “Girls Just Want to Have Fun,” which was originally written by a man named Robert Hazard. When asked, Lauper said that she wanted to change this to a female empowerment anthem, so she included Hazard’s song on the album with the intention of uplifting women around the world. This is one of my personal favorite old songs everybody knows.
23. Play That Funky Music by Wild Cherry
The Cleveland-based funk group Wild Cherry epitomizes the term “one-hit wonder,” with only one of their songs appearing in the Billboard Hot 100 top 40. However, they certainly made it count because “Play That Funky Music” shot all the way up to the top spot. Originally starting as a cover band, Wild Cherry decided to cash in on the Disco fad of the late 1970s because they were told that if they wanted to be booked at most venues, they would have to play the music that would get the patrons on their feet and dancing. I would say it worked.
24. See You Again by Wiz Khalifa (Featuring Charlie Puth)
|Album||Furious 7 (Original Soundtrack)|
I’ve noticed a recurring theme with quite a few songs that everybody knows. Quite a few of them have been featured in some of the most popular movies of the year they were released. Charlie Puth and rapper Wiz Khalifa were commissioned to write this track for the final scene and credits for the film Furious 7, which was Paul Walker’s last film because he tragically died in a car accident in 2013. This song is a goodbye to the actor and holds the record for the most views of all time, with over 5.7 billion views. This is truly a powerful song about losing someone you love, which is why it’s such a famous song.
25. Wonderwall by Oasis
|Album||(What’s the Story) Morning Glory?|
The English band Oasis broke into the alternative music scene in the 1990s, everybody was hailing the band as the next coming of The Beatles. While Oasis didn’t attain the level of success of The Beatles, they did produce some of the most memorable tunes of the decade. One of those songs that everybody knows is “Wonderwall,” from their second album “(What’s the Story) Morning Glory?” The term “Wonderwall” refers to someone whom you constantly find yourself thinking about. This song is about the feelings Liam Gallagher gets when he thinks of this person, which fluctuates between euphoria and agony.
26. Shake It Off by Taylor Swift
For one reason or another, many artists end up switching genres at some point in their careers, much like what happened with Taylor Swift. The insanely popular singer started in country music but then switched to pop on her fourth studio album, “Red.” By the time she released the follow-up to that album, “1989,” she was a full-fledged pop star. The switch worked for Swift, especially in the single “Shake It Off,” which topped the Billboard Hot 100 twice. That’s not bad for a song in which Taylor is shrugging off all of her haters.
27. I Heard It Through the Grapevine by Marvin Gaye
|Album||In the Groove|
Widely known throughout music as the “Prince of Motown” and the “Prince of Soul,” Marvin Pentz Gay Jr. tragically had his life cut short when he was shot and killed by his father the day before his 45th birthday. However, his soulful contributions to music and his legacy continue to touch people almost four decades after his death, including “I Heard It Through the Grapevine.” In this track, Gaye has heard a rumor that his girlfriend is cheating on him with another man, and he is trying to convince her that he is the better choice for her.
28. Enter Sandman by Metallica
|Album||Metallica (The Black Album)|
Nobody familiar with Metallica’s previous albums was prepared for what they released in 1991. Looking to change their sound, the thrash metal band slowed down and opted for a more radio-friendly sound. The result was the top-selling album of 1991, the triple-diamond certified self-titled record “Metallica.” Not only was this album the highest-selling album of 1991, but it was also the decade’s fifth-best-selling record. The first single from this release was the band’s first-ever top-ten single, “Enter Sandman.” That’s pretty disturbing for a track that was written about crib death.
29. Good Vibrations by The Beach Boys
|Genre||Surf Rock, Rock and Roll, Pop|
In the 1960s, there was a brand new sound in rock and roll that was coming out of the Western Coast of the United States. One of the bands that were spearheading that sound was the Beach Boys. In 1966, the band released their album “Good Vibrations,” which featured the massively popular title track. This iconic song has an infectious singalong chorus that has made this track one of the most memorable and popular songs of that genre and time. Although the Beach Boys split up in 1979, this track has certainly stood the test of time.
30. Creep by Radiohead
Although Radiohead has released several critically-praised albums that their fans adore, you might not expect the band to have released one of the most memorable alternative rock songs ever released. However, that’s exactly what they did in 1992 with their hit single “Creep.” Sure, this track is the one that got most people into the band in the first place, but not even Radiohead could have expected it to be as hugely successful and popular as it became. Strangely enough, lead vocalist Thom Yorke has since grown to hate this song and doesn’t like to play it live.
31. Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen
|Genre||Classic Rock, Hard Rock|
|Album||A Night at the Opera|
When discussing the top rock vocalists of all time, Freddie Mercury has to sit at the very top of the list, in my humble opinion. He has power, range, and emotion in his vocals that are unmatched in the genre. In 1975, those vocals were on full display in what would become Queen’s most beloved song and memorable track, “Bohemian Rhapsody.” Over the years, there has been much speculation as to the meaning of this song. However, it has finally been revealed that the song is a metaphor for Freddie Mercury publicly coming out as a gay man.
32. I Will Always Love You by Whitney Houston
|Genre||R&B, Soul, Pop|
|Album||The Bodyguard (Original Soundtrack)|
Originally written, recorded, and released by the great Dolly Parton as a farewell to her partner Porter Wagoner in 1973, this song was covered by legendary R&B singer Whitney Houston in 1992 for the film “The Bodyguard.” The song was a smash hit for Houston, winning her several awards, including two Grammys. Parton, who says that she wishes she would have had the chance to sing this song with Whitney, used the royalties she made from this song to buy properties in a less fortunate area of Nashville to help poor families in the predominantly African-American neighborhood.
33. I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles) by The Proclaimers
|Album||Sunshine on Leith|
Have you ever had a song stuck inside of your head, and you can’t get rid of it, no matter how hard you try? The only thing that usually helps this is listening to the song. Although I can’t scientifically prove it, this is what made this track from the Scottish duo The Proclaimers a number-one hit in several countries, including the United States and the United Kingdom. This is a simple tune where the narrator proclaims (see what I did there?) his love for someone, saying how far he would go to be with her.
34. Mr. Brightside by The Killers
Most of us have been in a situation at least once in our lives when we had an unrequited crush on someone who ends up getting together with someone else. When this happens, it hurts. What makes it especially painful is when this takes place at a social event in front of other people. If you’ve ever been in this situation, then you can relate to the lyrics to the hit single “Mr. Brightside” from The Killers. The song was a huge hit, getting lots of radio play and cracking the top 10 on the Billboard Hot 100.
35. Jump by Van Halen
|Genre||Arena Rock, Hard Rock|
Van Halen lead vocalist, David Lee Roth, had the energy and the charisma to become one of the most memorable frontmen in the history of hard rock. However, no one could have guessed that their most iconic song would be about someone wanting to commit suicide and being encouraged to do so. Still, the single “Jump” from their multi-platinum selling album “1984” was a huge hit for the band and one of the songs that practically everybody knows. Although Roth and Van Halen would eventually part ways, this song remains one of their most beloved tracks.
36. Billie Jean by Michael Jackson
When it comes to songs that everybody knows, there are at least a dozen that you could choose from the late, great Michael Jackson. The King of Pop had 13 singles that have topped the Billboard charts, including “Billie Jean.” Known for having one of the most instantly recognized bass lines in any genre, this track from Jackson’s massively successful album “Thriller” claimed the top spot on the charts for seven weeks. This song tells the tale of a woman who says that she is carrying his child, although he claims that the two were never an item.
37. 867-5309 (Jenny) by Tommy Tutone
|Album||Tommy Tutone 2|
Tommy Tutone is yet another example of the staying power of a one-hit-wonder. This song was his everywhere in 1981 and was the only hit he ever had. Although this quirky track peaked at the fourth spot on the Billboard Hot 100 chart back in 1982, it is still played on the radio and is in rotation at house parties everywhere today. The message behind the song is simple enough. It’s about a guy who gets a girl named Jenny’s number from a bathroom wall and decides to give it a call.
38. Everybody Wants To Rule the World by Tears For Fears
|Album||Songs From the Big Chair|
Where would the music of the 1980s be without Tears for Fears and their enormously successful album “Songs From the Big Chair?” This album, which produces three top-five Billboard hits, was adored by both critics and fans of the band everywhere. One of those huts, which climbed to the top spot on the charts, was the first single off of this album, “Everybody Wants To Rule the World.” Interestingly enough, the original title of the song was “Everybody Wants To Go To War,” and delivers an insightful message about the desire that humans have for power and control.
39. All-Star by Smash Mouth
|Album||Shrek (Original Soundtrack)|
Although this song had originally shot to the fourth spot on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1999, it saw a resurgence in popularity after being featured in the animated film “Shrek.” Speaking matter-of-factly, I cannot hear this song without thinking of the movie, nor can I watch the movie without immediately wanting to listen to this song two or three times. So, is the song responsible for the popularity of the movie, or is the movie responsible for the popularity of the song? I believe that the latter is the reason why everybody is familiar with it.
40. Hey Ya! by Outkast
|Album||Speakerboxxx/The Love Below|
Although they were well known and wildly popular amongst rap aficionados across the South and had released several hit records, the rap duo Outkast was thrust into the national spotlight in 2003 when they released the double album “Speakerboxxx/The Love Below.” This album, along with the track “Hey Ya!,” earned the band three of their six Grammy Awards. Featuring Andre 3000 on vocals, this song is reminiscent of something that you would hear in the 1950s or 1960s and has a catchy sing-along chorus that is irresistible. Perhaps that’s what makes it a classic that everybody knows.
41. Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This) by The Eurythmics
|Genre||New Wave, Electronic Pop|
|Album||Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This)|
This track has one of the most instantly recognized synthesizer lines of any song ever recorded. Annie Lennox and Dave Stewart formed the English pop duo The Eurythmics in 1980 after leaving their former band, The Tourists. Since then, the band has sold approximately 20.5 million albums, with eight of these records achieving platinum status, including 1983’s “Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This).” The title track from this stellar album showcases Annie Lennox’s powerful and soothing vocals along with Dave Stewart’s songwriting prowess to create one of the most well-known and enduring songs that we’ve ever heard. Songs about dreams are always powerful, and “Sweet Dreams” certainly isn’t an exception.
42. In the Air Tonight by Phil Collins
|Genre||Pop, Soft Rock|
Known primarily for being one of the vocalists and the drummer for the alternative prog band Genesis, Phil Collins also had an impressive solo career, selling over 100 million albums worldwide. One of his most popular albums was 1981’s “Face Value,” which sold over 10 million copies and featured one of his most beloved and recognizable hit singles, “In the Air Tonight.” At face value, the song seems to be about not saving a man from drowning when given the chance. However, Phil Collins has recently stated that the song is a metaphor for going through a divorce.
43. Proud Mary by Ike & Tina Turner
Ike and Tina Turner were a married couple who performed under the name the Ike and Tina Turner Revue and released an astonishing 39 albums in their 19-year relationship. Backed by Ike Turner’s band, the Kings of Rhythm, and backing vocalists called the Ikettes, the group had several Billboard Hot 100 top 40 hits, including their energetic chart-topping single “Proud Mary.” Although this track has been covered several times, most famously by the folk-rock band Creedence Clearwater Revival, the original version by the Ike and Tina Turner Revue remains one of America’s most beloved and iconic tunes.
44. Hey Jude by The Beatles
|Genre||Pop, Alternative, Classic Rock|
A list of songs everybody knows wouldn’t be complete without the world’s most popular band of all time, The Beatles. No band or solo artist has sold more records than them, with over 183 million albums sold. They have also had 20 singles top the Billboard charts. One of those was the ballad “Hey Jude,” which is coincidentally a song that everybody knows and has heard several times in their lifetime. While the song is about turning a bad situation into a good one, most people remember this song for the long “Na na na na” outro.
45. Iron Man by Black Sabbath
Few bands can claim that they pioneered an entire genre, but Black Sabbath certainly has that right. Their second album, “Paranoid,” featured the most iconic song in the history of heavy metal. “Iron Man,” tells the story of a man who travels back in time and witnesses the end of the world. He comes back to the present time to warn his fellow humans of what he saw, but it’s turned into iron when he passes through a magnetic field. Nobody believes him, which angers him and causes him to fulfill his prophecy of destroying the world. If you’re looking for old songs that everyone knows to add to your playlist, this is one that we highly recommend.
46. The Twist by Chubby Checker
|Genre||Rock and Roll|
|Album||Twist With Chubby Checker|
As tame as it may seem by today’s standards, this song and its accompanying dance were initially frowned upon when it was released back in 1960. Nevertheless, Chubby Checker’s incredibly popular song is now considered to be a staple of rock and roll and has earned a spot in the history of the genre. Without acts like Little Richard and Chubby Checker, we would not have most of the modern music that we enjoy today. Thankfully, while Checker is no longer with us, he has left us with his music, including this classic Billboard Hot 100 number-one track.
47. I’d Do Anything For Love (But I Won’t Do That) by Meat Loaf
|Album||Bat Out of Hell II: Back into Hell|
This song from Meat Loaf’s highly-anticipated album “Bat Out of Hell II: Back into Hell” contains one of rock music’s great mysteries. For years, people have wondered what he wouldn’t do for love on this track. As it turns out, Meat Loaf says that the answer is contained within the lyrics, stating that he will never forgive himself if they don’t go all the way; he will also never do it better than I do with her. He will “never stop dreaming of her, and he’ll never forget the way she feels l right now.
48. (You Gotta) Fight For Your Right To Party by Beastie Boys
|Album||Licensed To Ill|
We all know that the Sugarhill Gang brought rap music to the forefront of popular culture in 1980 with their hit single “Rapper’s Delight.” It’s also common knowledge that Run DMC had rap’s first platinum album, “Raising Hell.” However, the Beastie Boys have earned the distinction of being the first rappers to ever have an album top the Billboard 200 charts with “Licensed To Ill,” and they have also given us the track “(You Gotta) Fight For Your Right To Party.” This is one of the most memorable songs in the genre, and its meaning is self-explanatory.
49. Stand By Me by Ben E King
|Album||Don’t Play That Song!|
Although this song was a hit when it was released in 1961, it saw a resurgence in popularity when it was featured in the 1986 Rob Riner film “Stand by Me.” Entertainment was originally released in 1961, the song peaked at the number-four spot on the Billboard Hot 100. When the film was released in 1986, the song shot back up the charts to the ninth spot. This R&B and blues-based classic is known and beloved by practically everybody who has heard it, mostly because of its simple, effective message of being there for those you love.
50. Stairway To Heaven by Led Zeppelin
|Genre||Hard Rock, Classic Rock|
|Album||Led Zeppelin IV|
Even though it has never been officially released as a single, Led Zeppelin’s classic tune “Stairway To Heaven” is one of the most beloved songs in their catalog and one of the most treasured songs in rock and roll history. However, it has been hotly debated as to what the song means. Lead vocalist Robert Plant explains that the song is about a woman who comes into a lot of money but realizes her life has no meaning. He went on to say that the woman got “everything she wanted without giving anything back.”
51. Respect by Aretha Franklin
|Album||I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You|
Aretha Franklin reached legendary status as an R&B singer when she covered Otis Redding’s track respect in 1967, which earned the Queen of Soul two Grammy Awards, of which she now has an incredible 18 wins. The track was also one of the singer’s two Billboard number-one songs in her career. Nevertheless, Franklin didn’t just cover Redding’s song. She completely rearranged it and made it her own. The song became an anthem for women across the country and around the world. Although the singer died in 2018, we will always have her music to remember her.
52. Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It) by Beyoncé
|Album||I Am… Sasha Fierce|
It doesn’t matter if this is one of your favorite tunes or if it is one of your most disliked songs of all time. Everybody has heard this track from Beyoncé’s album “I Am… Sasha Fierce.” Although Madonna is the top-selling female artist of all time, Beyoncé is closing in on her. She is sitting at the number-five spot on the list and still has plenty more music to go before she calls it quits. In her career, Beyoncé has had eight Billboard Hot 100 number-one singles, including this track, which is the most memorable song she’s ever released. Another thing to note about this song is that it’s a great song to test speaker quality since it has a wide range of tones and bass.
53. Rock You Like a Hurricane by Scorpions
|Genre||Arena Rock, Hard Rock|
|Album||Love at First Sting|
The German hard rock act Scorpions has been together since 1965, but the band hadn’t seen mainstream success in the United States until they released their album “Love at First Sting” in 1984. One of the standout tracks on that album was the hard-rocking classic “Rock You Like a Hurricane,” which was also the group’s first song to chart, reaching Billboard’s 25th spot on their Hot 100 chart. The album went triple-platinum, selling almost 3.5 million copies, and the song became a hit on rock radio. And to think, it only took them nine albums.
54. Stayin’ Alive by The Bee Gees
|Album||Saturday Night Fever (Original Soundtrack)|
Most of us who are old enough to remember the disco era try to forget that it ever existed in the first place. Unfortunately, there are a few tracks from the time that has been burned into our brains, making them impossible to forget. The Bee Gees’ title track from the 1977 film “Stayin’ Alive” is one of those songs. The moment that this song’s unmistakable intro starts with its unforgettable bass line, you are transported back to the late ’70s, finding yourself wanting to strut, dance, flip your collar, and sing along with Robin Gibbs’ high-pitched vocals.
55. Piano Man by Billy Joel
|Genre||Pop, Soft Rock|
I’ve always thought that the best songs were the ones that told a story that the listener could follow along with fairly easily. Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against songs that use complicated metaphors to get their point across. However, it’s nice to be able to sit back and just enjoy a song without having to analyze it. That’s all I feel about “Piano Man,” which was one of Billy Joel’s incredible 42 Billboard top 40 hits. The track is just a simple observation of a few of the patrons at the bar he’s playing.
56. Jolene by Dolly Parton
Although I prefer the cover version of this song recorded by The White Stripes in 2000, that song wouldn’t exist without Dolly Parton’s original 1974 version. The song is simple, and this message is easy to comprehend. Dolly Parton is speaking directly to her husband’s mistress Jolene, and she is asking her not to take her man. She goes on to compliment Jolene’s beauty and tells her that her husband talks about her in his sleep. Dolly also tells Jolene that she has plenty of other options and goes on begging her not to take her cheating husband. Overall, “Jolene” is easily one of the best old songs ever.
57. I Will Survive by Gloria Gaynor
Even though I hated to do this, I had to include multiple disco songs on this list, not because I wanted to, but because this song has become an anthem of empowerment for women everywhere. That alone has made this one of the most important songs in the history of music. It has also earned Gloria Gaynor one of her two Grammy Awards. In this song, the narrator sings about how she and her lover have split and how she doesn’t think that she will survive without him. Eventually, she gets stronger and realizes that she will survive. If you’re looking for songs about surviving, this is one I highly recommend.
58. (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction by The Rolling Stones
|Genre||Rock, Classic Rock|
|Album||Out Of Our Heads|
With a career that spanned over 45 years and 55 original recorded releases, the Rolling Stones are one of the hardest working bands in rock and roll in 1965, the English band released what would become their most celebrated and famous track “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” from their record “Out Of Our Heads.” The song reached the top spot on the Billboard charts thanks to Keith Richards’ unique guitar tone and its simple, understandable lyrics. Those two characteristics that made it so successful are also the same ones that make this song a tune that everybody knows.
59. Electric Avenue by Eddy Grant
|Album||Killer On the Rampage|
While this track from the early 1980s may not initially seem to contain any hidden messages, singer Eddy Grant says that the track has a much deeper meaning. Grant says that the song references an actual street in London. The singer goes on to say that the song contains a message of racial equality in the lyrics, which is highly important to him. He says that the song is the story of a man who is down on his luck, and doesn’t have much money. He sees many things that he wishes he could have but can’t afford.
60. Imagine by John Lennon
|Genre||Alternative Rock, Classic Rock|
The title track from John Lennon’s debut solo album is regarded as the best song of all time, according to a poll taken by The Guardian, and they will get no argument from me. Lennon has always been an advocate for peace and equality, and this song wraps all of those messages in a four-minute masterpiece that has been covered countless times by a plethora of artists. The song delivers a poignant message about how material possessions and religion lead to war and violence and asks us to imagine a world where we didn’t have these things.
61. Under Pressure by Queen and David Bowie
|Genre||Rock, Classic Rock|
Queen and David Bowie have Vanilla Ice to thank as to why this track has earned a spot on a list of songs everybody knows. Originally released as a single in 1981, “Under Pressure” landed on the Billboard Hot 100, but peaked at the 25th spot. It was later included on Queen’s album “Hot . Space” in 1982, but after being illegally sampled on the enormously successful track “Ice Ice Baby,” there probably wasn’t a person alive who wasn’t aware of this song. To this day, this track Still Remains in heavy rotation on rock radio stations across America.
62. American Pie by Don McLean
Leave it to Don McLean to write an eight-and-a-half-minute folk song about the death of his youth and the loss of his childhood innocence as he grew older. However, McLean also says that the song was inspired by the death of rock and roll singer Buddy Holly. The song uses the line “The Day The Music Died,” which refers to February 3, 1959. That’s the day Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and The Big Bopper perished in a plane crash. McLean has also said that the Beatles’ “Sgt. Pepper” album was also a big influence on this song.
63. Come Sail Away by Styx
|Genre||Rock, Classic Rock|
|Album||The Grand Illusion|
Even though this was the first hit single for sticks, appearing at the eighth spot on the Billboard charts, the song became a cultural phenomenon once it was sung by the cartoon character Eric Cartman on the Comedy Central animated television show South Park, which introduced the song to an entirely new generation who may not have been familiar with it before then. Appearing on the album “The Grand Illusion,” the track was written by Dennis DeYoung. It’s about heading into the unknown to chase your dreams, although it takes a hard left turn at the end.
64. Stop! In the Name Of Love by The Supremes
|Genre||Motown, R&B, Soul|
|Album||More Hits By the Supremes|
Headed by the one and only Diana Ross, The Supremes were the epitome of the Motown sound and were one of the leading R&B acts of their time. In this track, the narrator knows that her boyfriend is having an affair with another woman, and she pleads with him to think about what he’s doing before he continues to go through with it. In this number-one hit, she even asks her lover “But is her sweet expression worth more than my love and affection?” Sadly, we never get an answer to this question, nor does she.
65. Candle In the Wind by Elton John
|Genre||Pop, Soft Rock|
|Album||Goodbye Yellow Brick Road|
Sir Elton John originally wrote this song as a tribute to the late great Marilyn Monroe, whom he admired greatly as he was growing up. The song did very well, peaking at number six on the Billboard Hot 100. However, Elton revised the song and released a new recording dedicated to the memory of his friend Princess Diana of Wales, who passed away in 1997. The new version of the song shot up to the number-one spot on the charts. The song is primarily about living life on your terms, even though those terms may be dangerous. This is easily one of my favorite songs with similies, and it’s one that I have on almost all of my playlists.
66. Nuthin’ But a G-Thang by Dr. Dre (Featuring Snoop Doggy Dogg)
This song was symbolic for two reasons. First, it officially marked the end of NWA. Secondly, it was the first time that Snoop Dogg (then known as Snoop Doggy Dogg) appeared on an album. Dr. Dre also proved that he was more than a producer on this album, specifically on the massive hit “Nuthin’ But a G-Thang.” Because the “G” stands for “Gangsta,” this song chronicles the everyday lifestyle of a gangsta, including the music, money, and violence that accompanies this life. In African-American vernacular, the phrase also means that it’s no big deal or it’s not important.
67. Sweet Child O’ Mine by Guns N’ Roses
|Album||Appetite For Destruction|
“Sweet Child O’ Mine” starts with lead guitarist Slash’s most well-known riff, which started as a warm-up exercise for the iconic musician. The song starts as a loving ballad dedicated to lead vocalist Axl Rose’s ex-wife Erin Everly. The song escalates into a whirl of emotions, with Axl repeatedly asking, “Where do we go now?” However, according to Rose, the song had a third verse that the record company edited out because they said that it made the song too long. Out of six top-ten hits, this is Guns N’ Roses’ only track to reach number one.
68. Ring Of Fire by Johnny Cash
|Album||Ring Of Fire: The Best Of Johnny Cash|
Johnny Cash had an amazing career that spanned nearly five decades, but what made him one of the most admired and respected artists in country music was that he also served four years in the United States Air Force. Cash is also one of the best-selling artists in history and the most influential musician in the genre. In 1963, Cash released “Ring Of Fire,” which is best known for William Krohmer McElhiney’s trumpet playing. Johnny Cash’s daughter Roseanne once said the song is about the “transformative power of love, and that’s what it has always meant to me.”
69. Hotel California by The Eagles
|Genre||Soft Rock, Classic Rock|
Let me start by saying that this is the most over-analyzed and misinterpreted song in the history of rock music and possibly every other genre. This track, which was one of the five songs by the Eagles to hit number one on the Billboard Hot 100, makes a profound statement. According to Eagles drummer and vocalist Don Henley, “It’s a song about the dark underbelly of the American dream and about excess in America.” The lyrics were written by the late guitarist Glenn Frey, and the original title of the track was going to be “Mexican Reggae.”
70. All I Want For Christmas Is You by Mariah Carey
|Genre||R&B, Soul, Pop, Holiday|
|Album||Under the Mistletoe|
This song is so well-known that it has become a meme, although the track holds several spots in the Guinness Book Of World Records. Mariah Carey’s Christmas classic is the highest-charting holiday song ever by a solo artist. With 10.8 million streams on Spotify in one day, it holds the world record for the most streams in 24 hours. There is even a game that is played during the holidays in which participants try to avoid hearing the song for as long as possible over the Christmas season, although I can’t see lasting more than a few days.
71. U Can’t Touch This by MC Hammer
|Album||Please Hammer Don’t Hurt ‘Em|
The 1990s were a strange decade for music, as grunge and rap music overtook pop in popularity. One of the rappers who saw tremendous success early in the decade was Stanley Kirk Burrell, also known by his rap moniker, MC Hammer. Known for his flashy outfits and flashier dance moves, MC Hammer released his third album, the Billboard number-one “Please Hammer Don’t Hurt ‘Em,” which featured his most successful single, “U Can’t Touch This.” The song, which samples Rick James’ “Super Freak,” became a staple at his concerts and is widely considered to be his signature song.
72. Johnny B. Goode by Chuck Berry
|Genre||Rock and Roll|
|Album||Chuck Berry Is On Top|
Rock and Roll as we know it today probably wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for artists like Chuck Berry and Little Richard. Chuck Berry took the style of music that was being played at the time and brought it to another level. This track peaked at number two on Billboard and is sitting at the seventh spot on Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. It is also credited with being the first rock and roll song written about the rock and roll lifestyle and is often called one of the most instantly recognizable songs in any genre.
73. Back In Black by AC/DC
|Genre||Hard Rock, Classic Rock|
|Album||Back In Black|
“Back In Black” is one of the greatest songs and albums in the history of hard rock. When the song opens with those five guitar notes, you know exactly what you’re hearing. Oddly enough, people who are even familiar with hard rock know this song. This song is such a mainstay in modern culture that it has been sampled by Beastie Boys, Boogie Down Productions, and Eminem. It has also been covered an astonishing 37 times, including renditions by Shakira and Santana (Featuring Nas), and is one of only three AC/DC songs to crack the top 40.
74. Rock the Casbah by The Clash
The Clash turned the punk rock world on its ear in 1979 when they released their double album “London Calling.” On this album, they allowed their songwriting to be influenced by genres such as reggae and jazz, and they produced one of the most eclectic punk albums of all time. One of the strangest tunes on the album also became the only top-ten song of their career. That song was “Rock the Casbah,” which is a song about the persecution of Iranian people for enjoying music. Some people received lashes for owning a disco album in that country.
75. Zombie by The Cranberries
|Album||No Need to Argue|
Delores O’Riordan was one of alternative music’s most talented singers. That talent was displayed in n their song “Zombie,” which expressed O’Riordan’s condemnation of the Irish Republican Army. It was a direct response to the deaths of the three young children who were killed when the IRA bombed the Cheshire town of Warrington. What made this song stand out is that it was completely different from anything in the band’s catalog, which was much softer than the hard edge of “Zombie.” Although the song never cracked the top 40, it is the most recognizable song in their discography.
Let us know if there are any great songs that we should add to our list in the comments section below! We always love your feedback.
Hi, my name is Kevin and I’m from Butler, Pennsylvania. I’ve been obsessed with music and audio gear for as long as I can remember. I started this website to help people find professional advice related to a wide range of audio topics. We have a number of Audio Engineers on our team who have been designing and fixing audio gear for decades.