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The Top 10 Best Songs of All Time

Entertainment, Most Popular
The Top 10 Best Songs of All Time

In a 13-year span from 1958 to 1971, nine of the greatest songs in history were
composed. It was a time of great music probably inspired by the tumult of the times.
Here is a list of the top 10 best songs of all time as determined by Rolling Stone
magazine.

10. “What’d I Say, Pts. 1 & 2,” 1959 – Ray Charles

10

Some may consider “What’d I Say, Pts. 1 & 2” as a vulgar song, but this is probably
the greatest feel good song in the history of rock and roll. It was also the first top
10 song of Ray Charles, the man they call The Genius. The song actually is just a
handful of short verses that are not even connected to each other. It however has a
bridge that goes “ummmmh, unnnnh.” It was sang gospel style, with Charles singing
and The Raelettes repeating everything he said. It spent 15 weeks in the chart,
peaking at number six.

9. “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” 1991 – Nirvana

9

The song “Smells Like Teen Spirit” evokes the rage of punk music, alienation of indie
lyrics and sensibilities and hooks of pop music. It was like John Lennon meeting
The Pixies. Written by Kurt Cobain, it was his protest at pop culture. Teen Spirit is
actually a brand of deodorant for teenage girls and the song wiped away the smell
of 80’s jive. It is ironic that the song catapulted Cobain to megacelebrity status and
made him part of the very culture he abhorred. He grew tired of the song, insisting
that the band has better music to offer. It stayed in the chart for 20 weeks, peaking at
number six.

8. “Hey Jude,” 1968 – The Beatles

8

Can there be a top 10 all-time music chart without The Beatles? “Hey Jude” has
become an anthem of sorts and, along with “Let It Be,” is usually the song that ends
all-star concerts. It was written by Paul McCartney for Julian Lennon, whose parents
were about to be divorced. Its universal appeal was evident early on when John
Lennon thought the song was a message for him from McCartney. The song was in
the chart for 19 weeks, staying at number one for nine weeks.

7. “Johnny B. Goode,” 1958 – Chuck Berry

7

Though he may not have come from “deep down in Louisiana” and he was not
really a “country boy,” the song is an autobiography of Chuck Berry. For lyrical
and rhyming purposes, he changed his native St. Louis to Louisiana. For practical
reasons, he used “country boy” instead of “colored boy.” The rest, however, fit Berry
exactly. It was about a guitar player who made it big in the city, just like Berry who
was then the most consistent hit maker after Elvis Presley. The difference was that
Berry wrote his own classic songs. It was in the chart for 15 weeks, topping off at
number eight.

6. “Good Vibrations,” 1966 – The Beach Boys

6

“Good Vibrations” came at a time when Brian Wilson was still working on The Beach
Boys’ seminal album Pet Sounds. It was recorded over seven months in four
studios using different combinations of instruments and rhythmic approaches. It
cost the band $50,000, making it at that time the most expensive single released. It
stayed on the charts for 14 weeks, peaking at number one.

5. “Respect,” 1967 – Aretha Franklin

5a

Aretha Franklin and the song “Respect” are interchangeable, but it was actually the
song’s writer, Otis Redding, who first recorded the song. Franklin, however, drew
on the experience of her tumultuous marriage to deliver a passionate version of the
song. She made use of a higher moral ground because women were always getting
the raw end of the deal. The song established Franklin as the Queen of Soul. It was
her first song to reach number one on the pop chart, where it stayed for a total of 12
weeks.

4. “What’s Going On?,” 1971 – Marvin Gaye

4

It was initially rejected for not being commercial enough, but “What’s Going On?”
turned out to be Marvin Gaye’s greatest achievement in the studio. It was the time
of the Vietnam War and racial strife. Gaye was also involved in a lot of personal
conflicts, be it with his wife or his father. His partner, Tammi Terrell, had also passed
away. It was a simple, plaintive cry of desperation and hope for peace on so many
levels. He never got out of that desperation nor achieved peace. In 1984, he died
after getting shot by his father. The song was on the charts for 13 weeks, peaking at
number two.

3. “Imagine,” 1971 – John Lennon

3

John Lennon thought the song might be too radical for some, as its call for equality
and dissolution of religions, governments and social classes was practically the
music version of “The Communist Manifesto.” But he did it with grace and the lyrics
were something everyone should hope for and agree to. It was his greatest triumph
and that’s saying a lot considering the many classics he released while he was with
The Beatles. It stayed on the chart for nine weeks, peaking at number three.

2. “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction,” 1965 – The Rolling Stones

2

The riff came from Keith Richards and the words of disgust and helplessness came
from Mick Jagger. Richards came up with the riff in one night after a dream, while
Jagger wrote the words in 10 minutes. It was quickly done but its impact has been
lasting. Steve Van Zandt, an accomplished guitarist in his own right, calls it the riff
heard around the world. The song was on the chart for 14 weeks, peaking at number
one.

1. “Like a Rolling Stone,” 1965 – Bob Dylan

1

Bob Dylan was known to bend the roots and forms of folk music. He did just that with
“Like a Rolling Stone,” his classic song that featured electrifying vocals, tight verses
and confrontational chorus. It was revolutionary in its style and execution, with no sheet music and everything being played by ear. Dylan sang the words, “Ho-o-o-ow does it fe-e-e-el?” The rock and roll world felt like it just heard the greatest song of all time. It was on the chart for 12 weeks, peaking at number two.

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