In a 13-year span from 1958 to 1971, nine of the greatest songs in history werecomposed. 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 Stonemagazine.
10 “What’d I Say, Pts. 1 & 2,” 1959 – Ray Charles
Some may consider “What’d I Say, Pts. 1 & 2” as a vulgar song, but this is probablythe greatest feel good song in the history of rock and roll. It was also the first top10 song of Ray Charles, the man they call The Genius. The song actually is just ahandful of short verses that are not even connected to each other. It however has abridge that goes “ummmmh, unnnnh.” It was sang gospel style, with Charles singingand The Raelettes repeating everything he said. It spent 15 weeks in the chart,peaking at number six.
9 “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” 1991 – Nirvana
The song “Smells Like Teen Spirit” evokes the rage of punk music, alienation of indielyrics and sensibilities and hooks of pop music. It was like John Lennon meetingThe Pixies. Written by Kurt Cobain, it was his protest at pop culture. Teen Spirit isactually a brand of deodorant for teenage girls and the song wiped away the smellof 80's jive. It is ironic that the song catapulted Cobain to megacelebrity status andmade him part of the very culture he abhorred. He grew tired of the song, insistingthat the band has better music to offer. It stayed in the chart for 20 weeks, peaking atnumber six.
8 “Hey Jude,” 1968 – The Beatles
Can there be a top 10 all-time music chart without The Beatles? “Hey Jude” hasbecome an anthem of sorts and, along with “Let It Be,” is usually the song that endsall-star concerts. It was written by Paul McCartney for Julian Lennon, whose parentswere about to be divorced. Its universal appeal was evident early on when JohnLennon thought the song was a message for him from McCartney. The song was inthe chart for 19 weeks, staying at number one for nine weeks.
7 “Johnny B. Goode,” 1958 – Chuck Berry
Though he may not have come from “deep down in Louisiana” and he was notreally a “country boy,” the song is an autobiography of Chuck Berry. For lyricaland rhyming purposes, he changed his native St. Louis to Louisiana. For practicalreasons, he used “country boy” instead of “colored boy.” The rest, however, fit Berryexactly. It was about a guitar player who made it big in the city, just like Berry whowas then the most consistent hit maker after Elvis Presley. The difference was thatBerry wrote his own classic songs. It was in the chart for 15 weeks, topping off atnumber eight.
6 “Good Vibrations,” 1966 – The Beach Boys
“Good Vibrations” came at a time when Brian Wilson was still working on The BeachBoys’ seminal album Pet Sounds. It was recorded over seven months in fourstudios using different combinations of instruments and rhythmic approaches. Itcost the band $50,000, making it at that time the most expensive single released. Itstayed on the charts for 14 weeks, peaking at number one.
5 “Respect,” 1967 – Aretha Franklin
Aretha Franklin and the song “Respect” are interchangeable, but it was actually thesong’s writer, Otis Redding, who first recorded the song. Franklin, however, drewon the experience of her tumultuous marriage to deliver a passionate version of thesong. She made use of a higher moral ground because women were always gettingthe raw end of the deal. The song established Franklin as the Queen of Soul. It washer first song to reach number one on the pop chart, where it stayed for a total of 12weeks.
4 “What’s Going On?,” 1971 – Marvin Gaye
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 timeof the Vietnam War and racial strife. Gaye was also involved in a lot of personalconflicts, be it with his wife or his father. His partner, Tammi Terrell, had also passedaway. It was a simple, plaintive cry of desperation and hope for peace on so manylevels. He never got out of that desperation nor achieved peace. In 1984, he diedafter getting shot by his father. The song was on the charts for 13 weeks, peaking atnumber two.
3 “Imagine,” 1971 – John Lennon
John Lennon thought the song might be too radical for some, as its call for equalityand dissolution of religions, governments and social classes was practically themusic version of “The Communist Manifesto.” But he did it with grace and the lyricswere something everyone should hope for and agree to. It was his greatest triumphand that’s saying a lot considering the many classics he released while he was withThe Beatles. It stayed on the chart for nine weeks, peaking at number three.
2 “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction,” 1965 – The Rolling Stones
The riff came from Keith Richards and the words of disgust and helplessness camefrom Mick Jagger. Richards came up with the riff in one night after a dream, whileJagger wrote the words in 10 minutes. It was quickly done but its impact has beenlasting. Steve Van Zandt, an accomplished guitarist in his own right, calls it the riffheard around the world. The song was on the chart for 14 weeks, peaking at numberone.
1 “Like a Rolling Stone,” 1965 – Bob Dylan
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 versesand 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.