A debate rages on in the world of music – what is the best classic rock song of all time?
It is doubtful that we will ever see a unanimous agreement on number one but that’s alright in our book.
Whether you err on the side of Zeppelin’s Stairway to Heaven, stand steadfast behind Aerosmith’s Dream On, or argue for Gimme Shelter by the Rolling Stones, you have to admit that all three are among the most impactful tunes of all time.
So sit back and reminisce over this list of the top 30 most influential classic rock songs – in no particular order, of course!
1. Dream on by Aerosmith
Sure, we could have gone with Sweet Emotion but Aerosmith’s ballad, penned by a 17-year-old Steven Tyler, is an epic ode to growing older and wondering where the time went. Backed by stellar instrumentals, Dream On has become an epic ode to an age old question.
Affectionately referred to as Stairway, this Zeppelin classic may be the most played song on any classic rock station. It is often set as the number one rock song of all time, whether it is or isn’t, Stairway blends all aspects of classic rock in one timeless tune. Incidentally, Kashmir was a close contender to represent Led Zeppelin’s undeniable influence on classic rock.
Let’s be honest, we could make a playlist comprised solely of Stones songs but Gimme Shelter is widely regarded as epic. We would mention Sympathy for the Devil, Angie, and Beast of Burden as heavy influencers as well, but it’s probably safer to stick with our pick. Gimme Shelter is a commentary on a particularly brutal and painful time in history and the addition of Merry Clayton’s voice added another dimension to the track making it one of their most visionary songs.
We can’t discuss rock music without mentioning The Beatles. They truly changed the face of music for generations. Sgt. Pepper is flashy and fun with a catchy, earworm-worthy chorus. The entire track list for that album is immortalized – from Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds to When I’m Sixty-Four, the Beatles in their colorful costumes and with quirky sounds, redefined music once again.
So maybe this verges on heavy metal, but Back in Black has every right to be considered an influential rock classic. Released just 5 months after Brian Johnson replaced Bon Scott as AC/DC’s lead singer, the song affirmed the band’s choice to replace the deceased Scott with Johnson.
With only three verses, Watchtower survives on Hendrix’s incredible instrumentals. It is often posited that the song is representative of Hendrix and allowed him to express the three sides of himself both lyrically and melodically.
It would be impossible to overlook this Queen classic. A brilliant and utterly unique blend of multiple seemingly incongruous aspects of music, Bohemian Rhapsody showcased the very best of Freddie Mercury and cemented his place as rock royalty. Who else could combine opera with hard rock in one song?
The Wall is arguably one of the most famous rock albums of all time so it’s no stretch to add Comfortably Numb to this list.
Touted as the first rock musical, Tommy is about a master pinball player who is deaf, dumb and blind.
Known for popularizing southern rock, Lynyrd Skynyrd was launched to fame with hits like Free Bird, Simple Man, and the southern rock anthem, Sweet Home Alabama.
This was part 1 of our 3 part series of the Top 30 Most Influential Classic Rock Songs, want to see the rest?
- Click here for Top 30 Most Influential Classic Rock Songs Part 2
- Click here for Top 30 Most Influential Classic Rock Songs Part 3