The Hall of Songs

These are the 65 songs you’ve inducted into the Hall of Songs.

1. “Rock Around the Clock”
By Bill Haley & His Comets, 1955
Inducted: 1st Class / 1955 / 67.56%

It’s not the first rock ‘n’ roll song; in fact, let’s call it what it is: a country singer leaning into rockabilly and relying on the propulsive, spontaneous percussion patterns of his drummer, Billy Gussak. Bill Haley’s “Rock Around the Clock” has been taken apart, studied and investigated, but above all it’s the sound of a white bandleader mixing some of the styles found across America in the early 1950s, cleaning it up and shining it well, and presenting it as a sparkling and breezy piece of teenage fun. It’s still impossible to deny.

2. “Heartbreak Hotel”
By Elvis Presley, 1956
Inducted: 2nd Class / 1956 / 67.74%

This is the moment a jerky kid from Tupelo becomes a star. Elvis’ voice, singing about a lonely man who’s a double shot of whiskey from doing some terrible, trembles as it hopscotches through bassist Bill Black’s jazzy saunter. Twinkly piano attempts to set Elvis as a crude lounge act, but Scotty Moore’s stinging guitar has other ideas. The vibe is everything. From here, Elvis could yodel and it would be a hit.

3. “Great Balls of Fire”
By Jerry Lee Lewis, 1957
Inducted: 3rd Class / 1957 / 75.40%

Black musicians effortlessly twisted spirituality into the rhythm and blues that would dominate the South in the 1950s, but white audiences didn’t perk up their ears until a lanky and pasty Louisiana kid started pounding on the ivories. “Great Balls of Fire” is Jerry Lewis’ quintessential song, a one-minute, fifty-one second sermon set to rolling, bounding piano and sashaying cymbals.

4. “You Send Me”
By Sam Cooke, 1957
Inducted: 3rd Class / 1957 / 66.67%

If there was ever a song that introduced America to what we know of as “soul music,” it’s “You Send Me.” Nothing sounded like this before: A gospel kid singing about pure young love over cooing background vocals and a tight, innocent rhythm. “You Send Me” also illustrates just why Cooke would be one of the biggest stars of the next half-decade – his smooth crooning has more yearning than your Sinatras and Crosbys. It seemed obvious even this early that Cooke clearly had more to say, though that would come a little later.

5. “Johnny B. Goode”
By Chuck Berry, 1958
Inducted: 4th Class / 1958 / 75.00%

It’s simple blues, but nobody married it with chugging guitar quite like Chuck Berry. His goal was to write and record rhythm and blues songs that could reach white audiences through rockabilly, and “Johnny B. Goode” did that better than any song before or since. Plus, this cocksure tale is about a kid who uses rock ‘n’ roll as a way of life. Name five more influential lyric sheets, we dare you.

6. “Good Golly Miss Molly”
By Little Richard, 1958
Inducted: 4th Class / 1958 / 70.00%

No performer simultaneously baffled and roused audiences like Little Richard. Born to to record wild songs and light up the stage, Richard’s best tunes – including “Tutti Frutti,” “Lucille” and “Long Tall Sally” – feature pounding piano keys, wailing vocals, and plenty of winks and nudges. “Good Golly Miss Molly” is the pinnacle of this style. Richard never pounds harder, never wails better, and never delivers the salaciousness with more juice. The incredible thing about “Good Golly Miss Molly” is that it’s just two minutes long.

7. “Will You Love Me Tomorrow”
By The Shirelles, 1960
Inducted: 6th Class / 1960 / 68.00%

Once record executives got their arms around this new fad of youth music, they were able to turn its creation into something like a Detroit automobile factory, but set in sleek and impossibly urbane Manhattan. The Brill Building was rock’s first laboratory, armed with top-notch musicians and fueled by young and hungry writers like the married Gerry Goffin and Carole King. Their stunning “Will You Love Me Tomorrow” effortlessly combines teenage berdroom sighing with adult themes, the lyrics coated with a candy-flavored string section. Topping it all are the pitch-perfect vocals of pioneering girl group The Shirelles. It’s the first great, blissful lab creation in modern music.

8. “At Last”
By Etta James, 1960
Inducted: 6th Class / 1960 / 68.00%

Thankfully, music has a few stories of vocalists who, after a few years of uncomfortably fitting material, get the song that defines their entire being. Etta James is one of those. “At Last” is hers and hers alone, a shimmering pop song about the moment you’ve discovered you don’t have to look for love anymore. The arrangement is light and unobtrusive, purposeful because it lets James sing the crispest, most confidently gorgeous vocal of rock’s early years.

9. “Shout”
By The Isley Brothers, 1959
Inducted: 6th Class / 1960 / 68.00%

This isn’t just the song that you sing at wild college parties and weddings. It ain’t just about the “a little bit louder now” part and the “hey, hey, hey, hey” part. “Shout” is the Isley Brothers stretching Jackie Wilson’s “Lonely Teardrops” into a call to arms. This is the first iconic soul rave, a song that sets the tone for everything from funk to mid-period Motown. Also, those vocals … Ronald Isley slices you up like a chef’s knife.

10. “What’d I Say”
By Ray Charles, 1959
Inducted: 6th Class / 1960 / 68.00%

If “Shout” is the sound of a soul rave, “What’d I Say” is the sound of soul finding its groove. Ray Charles spent the first years of his career teetering between Christian ballads and upbeat love songs, but this is the first time he finds the sweet spot in the middle. There’s plenty of gospel in “What’d I Say,” plenty of late-night moonshine blues in it, too. Then there’s sex. Lots of sex. Nearly a decade after Billy Ward and His Dominoes were signing about back door men, Ray decided to take the front door, and American music hasn’t since looked back.

11. “Crazy”
By Patsy Cline, 1961
Inducted: 7th Class / 1961 / 86.27%

It’s a singer with fine tone and a distinct voice. It’s a legendary songwriter. It’s Nashville’s top musicians. And it’s the bluest and best background singers of the rockabilly era. “Crazy” by Patsy Cline, written by Willie Nelson, played by the A-Team, and backed by the Jordanaires, is one of the definitive country songs. It’s an everyday tale of a lovestruck woman worried and wondering, and it couldn’t be more perfect.

12. “Can’t Help Falling in Love”
By Elvis Presley, 1961
Inducted: 7th Class / 1961 / 82.35%

In the 1960s, Elvis Presley starred in a lot of movies. Most of them weren’t very good. But at least “Blue Hawaii” gave us the definitive Elvis ballad, a simmering and epic love song where our hero hands in a textbook vocal. It should be studied for ages.

13. “Stand By Me”
By Ben E. King, 1961
Inducted: 7th Class / 1961 / 66.67%

After leaving The Drifters and hooking up with old writing pals Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, Ben E. King came up with this richly rewarding piece of music. Inspired by a psalm, “Stand By Me” uses beautiful natural imagery to wrap us into a lyric sheet about the potential of love. With memorable percussion choices, a regal string arrangement, and an optimistically gravelly vocal by King, it’s the kind of song that’s sure to live on through the ages.

14. “Crying”
By Roy Orbison, 1961
Inducted: 7th Class / 1961 / 66.67%

Roy Orbison’s whole thing is drama. Every song is a damn heartbreak just as every string section bleeds, every background vocal portends pain, and every lead vocal trembles through the slow march of impending death before wailing one last scream. “Crying” perfects all of Orbison’s ideas in one three-act burst that clocks in at two and three quarters. It’s the best drama music had to offer before the British Invasion.

15. “Do You Love Me”
By The Contours, 1962
Inducted: 8th Class / 1962 / 70.58%

In its heyday, Motown Records was America’s most streamlined hit factory. But this record, which came out of the same Hitsville U.S.A. offices as everything Smokey Robinson was writing, does in no way reflect the Motown aesthetic. This is the next step after “Shout,” a three-minute party showcasing a freewheeling Funk Brothers sound, an elastic vocal performance by Joe Billingslea, and some tricks that Motown founder and songwriter Berry Gordy had learned in the studio. Gordy would say this song synthesized rhythm and blues, pop, and rock ‘n’ roll. He might be right.

16. “Blowin’ in the Wind”
By Bob Dylan, 1963
Inducted: 9th Class / 1963 / 71.42%

Before Bob Dylan, folk was the sound of quiet Appalachian and Dust Bowl rebellion, of Pete Seeger and Woody Guthrie. But Dylan, who didn’t sell many records right away, was the right poet with the right voice at the right time. “Blowin’ in the Wind” captured America just as its youth were wising up to the injustice around them. It’s not even that political, but with a lyric like “how many deaths will it take ’til he knows that too many people have died,” it’s not hard to see how this song made such an immediate impact.

17. “Be My Baby”
By The Ronettes, 1963
Inducted: 9th Class / 1963 / 67.85%

Wrecking Crew drummer Hal Blaine hits those drums like they’re the heartbeat of Ronnie Spector, lead singer of the Ronettes and the real reason that this classic still endures. Her vocal is innocent and longing simultaneously, captured and stored in 1963 and not tainted by the producer lurking in the shadows. No, “Be My Baby” is about a woman pining for everything she hasn’t got, and nobody could ever take that away.

18. “Dancing in the Street”
By Martha and the Vandellas, 1964
Inducted: 10th Class / 1964 / 76.92%

The first powerhouse Motown record is a call for action. But while Martha Reeves, the Vandellas, and the Funk Brothers make it sound like the best block party Detroit ever hosted, this is really about rising up and fighting evil across America. Listen to those haunting background vocals, the incessant chunky guitar, the brooding brass, and the bulky bass riff that James Jamerson lays down. “Dancing in the Street” is insanely fun, but peel away the layers and it’s one of the most complex songs of the 1960s.

19. “A Change is Gonna Come”
By Sam Cooke, 1964
Inducted: 10th Class / 1964 / 73.07%

Sam Cooke died soon after recording “A Change is Gonna Come,” the song that will forever define the first star of soul music. After building a fleet of hits in the late 1950s and early ’60s, Cooke wrote his truth as a Black man in song form – the struggle of the past and present, the hope of the future, the doubt that casts over everything. Backed with a gorgeous string and horn arrangement, “A Change is Gonna Come” is testament to Cooke’s genius. He had so much more to say, but at least we got this.

20. “The House of the Rising Sun”
By The Animals, 1964
Inducted: 10th Class / 1964 / 69.23%

Eric Burdon didn’t write “House of the Rising Sun.” He didn’t even invent the vocal that vaults this song about Gulf Coast debauchery to demonic levels. But Burdon, backed by his stout British band The Animals, is simply the perfect fit for all of this. He’s a young and uneducated kid from working-class Newcastle translating Southern gothic with reckless abandon. He has no soul, he has no history, and he has no context, but all of that frees him to drunkenly wail about trying to get the hell out of New Orleans. This is a masterclass in drama and proof that broken clocks get them right twice a day.

21. “I Want to Hold Your Hand”
By The Beatles, 1963
Inducted: 10th Class / 1964 / 69.23%

The Beatles exploded through television sets in 1963 and ’64, defining the second wave of rock with the kind of loose abandon folks like Fats Domino could only dream of displaying. “I Want to Hold Your Hand” punches you, slaps you, turns you around and inside out. John Lennon and Paul McCartney don’t sing the song as much as shout harmonies into the air. George Harrison’s guitar broods and rings at the same time. Ringo Starr’s drums keep everything in place. This is the sound of rock hitting an entirely new gear.

22. “You’ve Really Got Me”
By The Kinks, 1964
Inducted: 10th Class / 1964 / 69.23%

Dave Davies probably had some Bo Diddley here and some Dick Dale there. Combine the two and you get the charging, jailed-up guitar riff that pulses “You’ve Really Got Me” and sets the tone for the next 25 years of rock ‘n’ roll. His manic solo in the bridge is absolutely unique and fresh, while brother Ray’s vocals wink and twirl in a way that Lennon and/or McCartney couldn’t imagine at the time. The first great second-wave rock ‘n’ roll track? A stunner.

23. “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction”
By The Rolling Stones, 1965
Inducted: 11th Class / 1965 / 85.71%

From the second Keith Richards’ stinging guitar intrudes, the Rolling Stones’ signature song takes command and never lets go. “Satisfaction” deftly sums up the frustration felt by young people on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean in the mid 1960s, doing so by pounding its presence into your cortex.

24. “Like a Rolling Stone”
By Bob Dylan, 1965
Inducted: 11th Class / 1965 / 82.14%

While the Rolling Stones spat in your face with their forceful “Satisfaction,” Bob Dylan quietly threw shade in “Like a Rolling Stone,” the perfect summation of the bubbling chaos brewing in the mid 1960s. “Like a Rolling Stone” has been praised for its pompous run time, its wordy lyric sheet, and its seething tone. All of it is great. But more, Dylan practically invents a ramshackle style of folk rock that’ll make billions for a whole gaggle of baby boomers.

25. “California Dreamin'”
By The Mamas and the Papas, 1965
Inducted: 11th Class / 1965 / 67.85%

Denny Doherty’s lead vocal never gets enough credit. The trembling, bumbling, overly dramatic protagonist he plays wails over the crunchy folk rhythm, providing Western music with its first fool. Behind him the women of The Mamas and the Papas offer doom and gloom. While many have connected this song to sunshine pop, “California Dreamin'” is far closer to emo and goth, setting the template for countless artists of the 1980s and ’90s.

26. “Good Vibrations”
By The Beach Boys, 1966
Inducted: 12th Class / 1966 / 78.61%

Brian Wilson spent more than half of a year concocting the formula for his pocket symphony, the single song that would break down the walls of rock ‘n’ roll. “Good Vibrations” is a weird song. While it has traditional verses and choruses, it clearly switches from one part to the next in an angular, dizzying way. Still, everything is recorded so well, from the Beach Boys’ signature harmonies to the early synthesizer sound of the electro-theremin, that it’s hard to do anything but sit back and marvel.

27. “God Only Knows”
By The Beach Boys, 1966
Inducted: 12th Class / 1966 / 74.21%

When Brian Wilson went into the studio to write, arrange, and produce his Beach Boys’ 1966 album “Pet Sounds,” he was seeking moments that could overwhelm a young listener. “God Only Knows” is a full 2:53 of overwhelming moments. Fragile, defiant, blustery, beautiful: “God Only Knows” shows a young man losing grip of life and knowing the only thing that can save him is the love of a woman. Around that swirls with every emotion a kid could cobble together. Simply stunning,

28. “Yesterday”
By The Beatles, 1965
Inducted: 12th Class / 1966 / 70.44%

The Beatles did it all, and they did it all extremely well. But it’s interesting that arguably their most famous song is Paul McCartney playing acoustic guitar and singing while backed by a string arrangement. Here it’s about words and mood. “I believe in yesterday” is a powerful sentiment about unrequited love, and it’s possible nothing has approached that in the nearly 60 years since it was written.

29. “For What It’s Worth”
By Buffalo Springfield, 1966
Inducted: 12th Class / 1966 / 67.92%

Neil Young’s guitar trembles. Stephen Stills’ vocal observes with hesitation. Richie Furay and Dewey Martin keep their emotions in check. “For What It’s Worth” is proof that a song can feel like a play where all the actors know their parts and hit them perfectly. Written about some authoritative police officers on the Sunset Strip, Buffalo Springfield’s quintessential song captured the tone and tenor of America at the height of both the Vietnam War and the Civil Rights movement.

30. “Purple Haze”
By The Jimi Hendrix Experience, 1967
Inducted: 13th Class / 1967 / 70.83%

The first few seconds of “Purple Haze” sound like Jimi Hendrix is sounding the alarm to everyone in rock music. The game has changed for good. Guitar will never again sound the same. Unbelievably, this is the band’s second single, one of their first recordings together as a unit. It still hits hard.

31. “Brown Eyed Girl”
By Van Morrison, 1967
Inducted: 13th Class / 1967 / 66.67%

Sometimes people just want the hits. “Brown Eyed Girl” isn’t the song that rock critics would’ve used to define Van Morrison – it’s a jaunty pop song that describes the very American habit of necking outside the stadium – but maybe it’s ultimately the one he deserves. Put it this way: If Van the Man has all these problems, maybe he needs a cool glass of water splashed right in his face. That’s what this is – the coolest glass of water in the Hall of Songs.

32. “Respect”
By Aretha Franklin, 1967
Inducted: 13th Class / 1967 / 66.67%

Many in the rock mind hive consider Aretha Franklin’s version of “Respect” the greatest single recording of all-time. Hard to argue it. This sounds like we’re getting a private, fly-on-the-wall look at Franklin, her sisters, and a bunch of Muscle Shoals musicians hammer this song out in a New York studio. Few songs cook like this, and few are as vital even today.

33. “I Heard It Through the Grapevine”
By Marvin Gaye, 1968
Inducted: 14th Class / 1968 / 69.56%

During the mid-19th century, slaves adopted the idea of passing along messages “through the grapevine,” or from person to person. Knowing this adds hefty context to the Barrett Strong and Norman Whitfield composition about a man learning his love is more lie than truth. The song was shopped around Motown and recorded by numerous artists, each giving lending their own quintessential touch. Marvin Gaye turned it into a slow burn with rapturous, pleading vocals. Behind him is the Funk Brothers at their peak, ensuring this would be an unassailable smash hit. All the elements add up into a gothic, eerie tale of woe that somehow threads in 100 years of context if you listen hard enough. It’s as American as they get.

34. “Light My Fire”
By The Doors, 1967
Inducted: 14th Class / 1968 / 69.56%

Did the Doors invent the kind of spacy experimentation that would evolve into rock jamming? No. Credit jazz much more for that. Did the Doors invent the sensual stage persona with the Jesus complex? No. Hell, Jerry Lee Lewis was polishing his sex-crazed preacher character a decade earlier. Did the Doors invent an organ leading a rock band? Good question … doesn’t really matter. The point is “Light My Fire” expands the capabilities of a white, college-bred rock ‘n’ roll band without losing both drama and pop sensibility.

35. ‘Gimme Shelter”
By The Rolling Stones, 1969
Inducted: 15th Class / 1969 / 75.00%

This is the Rolling Stones at their peak. It’s raw and ready yet shiny from studio spit-polish. It’s Mick Jagger wailing about violence in the streets, war in every direction, and children at risk. It’s a big dirty harmonica and Keith Richards’ glass-sharp lines. And it’s Merry Clayton waking up in the middle of the night to deliver a tornado of a background vocal. Gimme shelter? Take shelter.

36. “The Weight”
By The Band, 1968
Inducted: 15th Class / 1969 / 66.67%

“The Weight” tells stories of hastily-drawn characters borne out of Turkey Scratch, Arkansas, home to Band drummer and vocalist Levon Helm. They ultimately are American stories: fighting with the devil, traveling without a destination, and the need for community – things we take with us daily. Paired with a warm blanket of piano, bass, stumbling drums, “The Weight” turns these stories around and lets the listener approach them in their own way. “The Weight” becomes whatever the listener wants it to be.

37. “My Girl”
By The Temptations, 1965
Inducted: 16th Class / 1970 / 66.67%

Of all the Motown records, “My Girl” is the one that brings the most sunshine, even on a cloudy day. Consider the flourish of strings, the expertly tailored background vocals, and the velvety lead vocal from David Ruffin. All of it comes together so perfectly and effortlessly, and when that final verse kicks in, heaven appears. Nothing but sunshine.

38. “(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay”
By Otis Redding, 1968
Inducted: 16th Class / 1970 / 66.67%

Otis Redding recorded “(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay” just weeks before dying in a plane crash en route to a tour stop. If the terrible tragedy never happened, who knows where Redding’s career could have gone. As it stands, this one-man soul masterpiece (with the help of Stax legend Steve Cropper) is the definitive performance of Redding’s life. It’s a vulnerable and tender recording that floats above time as it watches life continue on far beyond shore.

39. “Let It Be”
By The Beatles, 1970
Inducted: 16th Class / 1970 / 66.67%

When Paul McCartney wrote “Let It Be” quietly toward the end of the Beatles’ tumultuous January 1969 sessions at Twickenham Studios, he couldn’t have known the impact his tune would have. “Let It Be” is a song for all, a way to mourn – whether the death of a loved one, the memory of days gone by, or the bitter end of the world’s greatest and most influential rock band. Helped by stout electric piano work by Billy Preston, and elevated by the heaven-reaching production of Phil Spector, “Let It Be” achieves everything it can, even if it started as a simple piano ballad.

40. “What’s Going On”
By Marvin Gaye, 1971
Inducted: 17th Class / 1971 / 66.67%

It’s a funny setup: a party, some idle chatter, the presence of a couple members of the Detroit Lions football team. Then the satiny, rhythmic juice pours out from the Funk Brothers, leading us into a passionate Marvin Gaye vocal about the ills of America in 1971 – but also of today and tomorrow. “What’s Going On” doesn’t beat you over the head with agitprop; instead, it lays it all out there and lets Marvin plead to and for all of us. And we join in with finger snaps, an easy-to-sing melody, and a little more party chatter toward the end. No song better demonstrates the shared American experience of simultaneous love and frustration.

41. “Stairway to Heaven”
By Led Zeppelin, 1971
Inducted: 17th Class / 1971 / 66.67%

There’s a reason classic rock radio stations ask us to “get the Led out.” There’s a reason Wayne Campbell gets chided in a Guitar Center to never test an axe with those famous chords. There’s a reason Led Zeppelin was the biggest band in the 1970s, the very reason tour t-shirts exist, and still respected today as gods of rock ‘n’ roll. It’s because every part of the audacious “Stairway to Heaven,” from quiet opening to mid-tempo transition to wild Jimmy Page solo to absolutely bitchin’ climax, kicks all of the ass.

42. “Let’s Stay Together”
By Al Green, 1971
Inducted: 18th Class / 1972 / 66.67%

Like Sam Cooke or Patsy Cline some 10 years earlier, Al Green makes this all so effortless. It seems like just about anyone can sing “Let’s Stay Together,” this easygoing plea for romantic bliss over the Hi Records stamp of galloping percussion and sneaky horn stabs, but the difference is that nobody can sing like Green. The preacher-like inflections, the confidence in his youthful, smoothly sexy delivery – in one song, Green becomes the symbol of male vulnerability, the ultimate vocalist after 20 years of rock and soul myth creation.

43. “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman”
By Aretha Franklin, 1967
Inducted: 20th Class / 1974 / 80%

Some songs have “good bones.” They’re the songs that can be covered by just about anyone, done in just about any style. “A Natural Woman,” written by Carole King and Gerry Goffin, is among the best of these, a beefy ballad with stunning highs and plenty of opportunity for the singer to emote. The song was written for Aretha Franklin, and naturally – pun intended – she recorded the quintessential version. It packs equal parts tenderness and fragility with awe-inspiring power. It’s arguably Franklin’s (and King’s) most triumphant moment.

44. “Bohemian Rhapsody”
By Queen, 1975
Inducted: 21st Class / 1975 / 68.96%

“Bohemian Rhapsody” represents a monumental step forward in the recording and production of rock and roll. While artists were still capturing a live, full-band sound, Queen – along with some other peers – opted to break the recording down into a menagerie of individual parts. Led by the super creative Freddie Mercury, the band created several dozen vocal overdubs, jamming them into about two-dozen tracks. Queen then played all of the separate pieces of their sprawling epic about a young man’s descent into madness, putting them together meticulously in production. The result is an operatic masterwork that incredible straddles a line between camp and ecstasy – others in the 70s tried to do the same, but Queen did it best.

45. “Take Me Home Country Roads”
By John Denver, 1971
Inducted: 21st Class / 1975 / 67.24%

Few songs capture the essence of place and culture better than John Denver’s quintessential early 70s folk rock ballad of easygoing country life. With echoed vocals that ring higher than the Appalachian mountains, and an acoustic guitar part that evokes simplicity, Denver is able to rally millions of Americans behind the idea that there’s no place like home. Hell, 1.7 million West Virginians can’t be wrong.

46. “The Boys Are Back in Town”
By Thin Lizzy, 1976
Inducted: 22nd Class / 1976 / 75%

Thin Lizzy was an Irish band that worked hard to develop into stout rockers, armed with a bluesy backbone and pre-punk edge. That paid off with the band’s 1976 album Jailbreak, and specifically, with this driving rock song to end all driving rock songs. The feel-good anthem to nostalgia and community packs in awesome imagery with a rowdy spirit. It sure makes us want to visit Dino’s Bar and Grill.

47. “Born to Run”
By Bruce Springsteen, 1975
Inducted: 22nd Class / 1976 / 68.75%

Picked apart and meticulously analyzed, “Born to Run” is the triumph of 1970s analog recording. It famously took Bruce Springsteen months to produce the behemoth, layering tracks atop one another to achieve that bombastic, Wall of Sound-quality feeling of exhiliarting youth. It’s sure fun, too.

48. “Wish You Were Here”
By Pink Floyd, 1975
Inducted: 22nd Class / 1976 / 68.75%

Listen to the entire album Wish You Were Here and you’ll understand the power of its title track, which creeps into the feed tangled in static, but reveals itself with tremendous heart. Roger Waters wrote the song about his own issues with stardom, but it’s easily a universal anthem about desolation, whether from others or from self. And when the chorus kicks in – for one time and one time only – it truly rewards the listener.

49. “Superstition”
By Stevie Wonder, 1972
Inducted: 23rd Class / 1977 / 75%

Stevie Wonder has written several dozen good songs in his life, about everything from love to politics and from religion to parenthood. “Superstition” is about believing in mysticism to deny clarity, which ultimately sums up Wonder’s entire MO. It’s all about you, he’s saying, and musically it’s all about him. He plays just about everything here, from that famous clavinet riff to the drums. It’s the quintessential Wonder performance and lyric.

50. “Dreams”
By Fleetwood Mac, 1977
Inducted: 23rd Class / 1977 / 75%

How does a song like this capture people’s imaginations more than 40 years later? It isn’t just because Nathan Apodaca made a TikTok out of it. “Dreams” is a soothing balm, brooding but warm thanks to an effortless backbone that includes Christine McVie’s keyboard work, John McVie’s quiet excellence on bass, Mick Fleetwood’s ability to stay grounded while peppering in just enough of the unexpected, and of course those luscuous Fleetwood Mac harmonies. It was exactly the song people needed in late 2020, plunged deep into a sheltered existence thanks to COVID-19. What’s wild is that the song is about a really bad breakup.

51. “’Heroes’”
By David Bowie, 1977
Inducted: 23rd Class / 1977 / 67.5%

Immediately defiant and triumphant, David Bowie’s song about breaking all of the walls, outside and in, and finding the love that has been restricted, remains unique in the Western music canon. It powers through relentlessly thanks to Brian Eno’s industrial production techniques and Robert Fripp’s down-in-the-hole guitar work. But all that allows for Bowie to give it all he’s got, and does he ever. When he wails that climactic verse, you can feel all the pain he’s singing about, everything that surrounds him in Berlin, 1977.

52. “Stayin’ Alive”
By Bee Gees, 1977
Inducted: 23rd Class / 1977 / 67.5%

Lost in this song, one that has been the butt of jokes, and sometimes the reason that people started to truly loathe disco, is that it rips. The funk groove laid down by the Gibb brothers and their band is serious. Within that groove is, somehow, the ability for space to coexist. Blue Weaver’s understated keyboard work unwraps the jam, bringing it its cinematographic scope. Then comes Barry Gibb with the falsetto vocal to end all falsetto vocals. Perfectly put together, “Stayin’ Alive” defies all the humor and remains king.

53. “September”
By Earth, Wind & Fire, 1978
Inducted: 24th Class / 1978 / 75.6%

Can a song transcend simply through joyfulness? Even when it may not make lyrical sense? Even when it happens to be the tidiest and tightest song from a legendary band capable of stretching into elastic funk and setting down an endless groove? Yes, of course, because that song is “September.” It’s the best time ever condensed into a spartan pop song.

54. “You Can’t Always Get What You Want”
By the Rolling Stones, 1969
Inducted: 24th Class / 1978 / 70.7%

Much like its life on the Hall of Songs ballot, “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” takes time to appreciate. For one, it’s the Stones’ stone-cold epic, their attempt at the Beatles’ “Hey Jude.” But it goes beyond that, and with repeated listens, the genius of this stunner, which beckons the end of the 1960s, truly reveals itself. It’s the interplay of Keith Richards’ guitar with Mick Jagger’s narrative. It’s the exciting rhythm bed. It’s the ramshackle way the song unspools, and once it’s over, you wish it kept going for another seven minutes.

55. “What a Fool Believes”
By the Doobie Brothers, 1978
Inducted: 24th Class / 1978 / 68.2%

Long before there was ever “yacht rock,” there was real momentum in Los Angeles. Some of the top session musicians, inspired by the Beatles and raised in an age of musical innovation, realized that jazz could find space in rock, and that what had become labeled as rhythm and blues was the key in bridging the two styles. The Doobie Brothers already had the rock chops, but Michael McDonald and his Steely Dan training brought just enough jazz to turn the Doobies into a rhythmic outfit capable of executing a bright pop tune with just enough complexity. That the rest of America agreed and took this classic to No. 1 is a testament to their prowess, to the capability of music to blend and transcend, and to – yes – the power of really smooth music.

56. “London Calling”
By The Clash, 1979
Inducted: 25th Class / 1979 / 68.7%

“London Calling” isn’t scary or very raw. It’s not the genesis of punk. But if any song represents the snarl, wit, smarts, and sheer power of the punk movement, we’re very cool with this. The Clash’s quintessential track from its greatest achievement is political and social discourse masked in reverb and stabbing guitar chords, accessible but jarring, unsettling but even triumphant. All in under four minutes.

57. “Comfortably Numb”
By Pink Floyd, 1979
Inducted: 25th Class / 1979 / 68.7%

Pink Floyd were masters of progressive rock, capable of blending jazz and folk with just enough edge to create soundscapes worthy of repeated listens. Arguably they aren’t a band about singles and records, and yet “Comfortably Numb,” like “Wish You Were Here” before it, symbolizes the greatness of Roger Waters, David Gilmour and Co. As your ears receive a tense, anxiety-ridden album about self collapse, there seems to be no remedy … until a pause at the climax of The Wall. Then comes an uplifting couple minutes, the record that proves this band could do just about anything.

58. “You Shook Me All Night Long”
By AC/DC, 1980
Inducted: 26th Class / 1980 / 72.5%

From that ringing, opening chord played by Angus Young, it’s evident you’re in for a good time with “You Shook Me All Night Long.” That’s the whole thing with AC/DC. Of all the good times they’ve created in their long and fruitful career, the Aussies never did it as well as here. Sharp and short, thundering and defiant, it’s everything rock ‘n’ roll was meant to be.

59. “Once in a Lifetime”
By Taking Heads, 1980
Inducted: 26th Class / 1980 / 72.5%

Keyboards lay a bed that sounds like chimes being played underwater. A stiff and uncertain drum beat layers atop. A bassline brews about, and above all of that is the manic preaching of a truly interesting dude. “Once in a Lifetime” is music’s greatest live art performance. It doesn’t conclude. It doesn’t ever feel right. But it’s also stupidly fun, weirdly intoxicating, and lyrically, an intense reminder that maybe you haven’t taken the right path in life.

60. “Could You Be Loved”
By Bob Marley and the Wailers, 1980
Inducted: 26th Class / 1980 / 70%

Bob Marley contained multitudes. He could sing beautiful poetry over sparse rhythm. He could push spirituality, call out hypocrisy, and tell stories of the undermined and marginalized through electric reggae. “Could You Be Loved” is among the countless records that proved Marley’s superior songwriting and performing talent; it’s hard to tell whether it’s his greatest moment, but certainly it’s joy, insight, heat and ice in one pop reggae package.

61. “Under Pressure”
By Queen and David Bowie, 1981
Inducted: 27th Class / 1981 / 75%

If any artists can pull off the kind of audacious, spectacular anthem demanded by “Under Pressure,” it’s Queen and David Bowie. From a cinematic and pulsating open to Freddie Mercury’s sparse scatting, and from the thundering build to the massive climax, “Under Pressure” pulls no punches. Its power is undeniable. And come on: Is there a better minute in pop music history than the moment directly after Bowie’s “Insanity laughs, under pressure we’re breaking”?

62. “I Will Survive”
Gloria Gaynor, 1978
Inducted: 27th Class / 1981 / 67.85%

This is the sound of disco at its absolute peak. You can hear the past and future of the genre, from the Philly-inflected horns that heralded the genre’s youth to the absolutely hard four-on-floor beat that would dictate the next several years of dance music. As this swaggering production settles into its groove, there’s Gloria Gaynor pushing a perfect vocal, both vulnerable and defiant.

63. “Little Red Corvette”
Prince, 1982
Inducted: 28th Class / 1982 / 80%

Prince occupies his own orbit. His sound is his alone, and so much so that many of his various copycats turned out to be him in disguise. “Little Red Corvette” is very Prince, from the chopped electronic drum sound to the subject matter — well, sex. And yet it transcends into synth pop, into hard rock, into classic rock, into soul, into funk, into whatever the hell it needs to be at that moment. In short, “Little Red Corvette” is a singular achievement of pop music.

64. “Billie Jean”
Michael Jackson, 1982
Inducted: 28th Class / 1982 / 73.33%

Ice cold drums, ice cold synthesizers, ice cold guitars. The recipe for “Billie Jean” is deceptively simple but impossible to execute, unless you’re Michael Jackson. Producer Quincy Jones employed R&B and rock musicians to create the maximum minimalism of this stunning piece of post-disco, new wave dance, and Jackson – whose brain simmered daily with equal parts creativity and anxiety – was the only writer and singer capable of pulling it off. “Billie Jean” is a moment in time frozen in time.

65. “Time After Time”
Cyndi Lauper, 1983
Inducted: 29th Class / 1983 / 73.07%

Strip away the warm synthesizer bed and time-keeping click track, and you have a simple classic about a love that will never die. Through superbly written phrases like “suitcase of memories” and “secrets stolen from deep inside,” Cyndi Lauper portrays both the hurt, spurned lover and the hopeful, devoted partner with loving tenderness. “Time After Time” transcends the era of digital production, the 1980s, and all other love songs.

66. “Everybody Wants to Rule the World”
Tears For Fears, 1985
Inducted: 31st Class / 1985 / 66.67%

Nearly all of “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” was recorded on keyboards and machines, the culmination of all of the advancements being made in music production since the very beginning of studio work. While its sound is complete, fresh, and dynamic, it’s everything outside of the electronics that really elevates this all-timer. That includes the dark lyric sheet, the driving vocal and the forward motion of the composition. This is a cold song with a big heartbeat.

67. “Walk This Way”
Run D.M.C and Aerosmith, 1986
Inducted: 32nd Class / 1986 / 70.37%

It’s not the beginning of rap or even the biggest turning point in rap history, but “Walk This Way” is more the confirmation of what rap was saying before Messrs. Simmons and McDaniels burst through the studio wall. These guys rocked hard. They meant every word they said. They also knew they’d take over the world in due time.

68. “Take on Me”
A-Ha, 1985
Inducted: 32nd Class / 1986 / 66.67%

Go to a party, a dance, whatever, and put this on. Let the melody take over, let the synths bleed onto the floor, and let people scream the lyrics, even if they have no real meaning. “I’ll be gone in a day or two” never sounded so good.

69. “Sweet Child o’ Mine”
Guns N’ Roses, 1987
Inducted: 33rd Class / 1987 / 83.33%

It’s not hearsay to assert that Guns N’ Roses changed the landscape of rock music when their product arrived on record store shelves in 1987. But while their nastiness was nastier, and their trashiness was trashier than their counterparts wriggling on convertibles, where GNR thrived was in its tunefulness and arranging abilities. This steamer is example 1A.

70. “Welcome to the Jungle”
Guns N’ Roses, 1987
Inducted: 33rd Class / 1987 / 73.33%

OK, Guns N’ Roses was nasty and trashy as they wanted to be. The opening track of their opening album sounds every alarm bell necessary. Its furious tempo and ceaseless wail is only rivaled by the stunning, chef’s knife guitar work by Slash. Imagine this song 30 years before.

71. “I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me)”
Whitney Houston, 1987
Inducted: 33rd Class / 1987 / 66.67%

Above the veneer of high ’80s production, from electronic drums to fart-tastic synths, there she is. Whitney Houston singlehandedly has the skill to bring the hidden emotions out of even the muddiest lyric sheets. The way she positions herself as a dominant figure despite lyrics that paint the protagonist as lonely? How does she do it? Only her.

72. “Just Like Heaven”
The Cure, 1987
Inducted: 33rd Class / 1987 / 66.67%

Some songs are just perfectly written. Here’s one. Long instrumental passages are like metaphors. Verses paint an impossibly positive picture until you realize it’s all just like a dream. The chorus? Well that is a dream.

73. “Fast Car”
Tracy Chapman, 1988
Inducted: 34th Class / 1988 / 74.19%

Marking the beginning of the coffeehouse folk movement that probably ended when “Friends” set half the show on a cafe couch, “Fast Car” might also be the genre’s apex. Chapman’s great lyric about dreaming of a better life way out of reach is matched perfectly by her excruciatingly realistic vocal treatment and sparse guitar work. No bells and whistles needed for this. It’s just a superb song.

74. “Raspberry Beret”
Prince, 1985
Inducted: 34th Class / 1988 / 67.74%

While “When Doves Cry” and “Purple Rain” earn a lot of love from magazine lists and rock critics, “Raspberry Beret” gets into the Hall of Songs possibly because Prince never sounded so tuneful. Inspired by psychedelic pop of the 1960s, he adds a rainbow of color to a freaky love song … I mean, what else is new.

75. “In Your Eyes”
Peter Gabriel, 1986
Inducted: 34th Class / 1988 / 67.74%

In the mid 1980s, a host of formerly artistic musicians went pretty pop and pretty contemporary with their sound. Lots of moody keyboards, shimmering synth or horn stabs — depending on your preference — and often drum patterns that explicitly scream “Africa.” Of all these attempts, it’s Gabriel’s ditty about hard-to-define love that breaks through.

76. “Straight Outta Compton”
N.W.A., 1988
Inducted: 34th Class / 1988 / 67.74%

That’s right, you are now witnessing the strength of street knowledge. This blast from the Los Angeles area in the late 80s packs in racism, police brutality, youthful aggression, crime, drug culture, and straight-up bravado, and it does so in a way nobody 20 years ago could’ve dreamed up. A massive turning point in Western music as it opens the possibilities for rap to not only bite into the culture but wrestle it away from everyone else.

77. “It Takes Two”
Rob Base and DJ E-Z Rock, 1988
Inducted: 34th Class / 1988 / 67.74%

Before Dr. Dre and gangster rap takes over the radio, this intrepid New York duo has their say with an undeniable party anthem, this generation’s “The Boys Are Back in Town.” Using an array of James Brown samples, “It Takes Two” flips funk and soul into the new sound of youth culture, creating a tune that’s not far removed from those early party and dance records of the late 1950s and early 60s.

78. “Free Fallin'”
Tom Petty, 1989
Inducted: 35th Class / 1989 / 80%

For many people who identify as part of Generation X, “Free Fallin'” captures the essence of what it means to be. People in Petty’s solo hit are in various stages of grief, frustration, and disarray, and yet nobody seems to be screaming. They just are. With its Byrds-meets-Outlaw-country guitar melody and Petty’s sly drawl, “Free Fallin'” is the rock song of its time, a complete summation of what is.

79. “Fight the Power”
Public Enemy, 1989
Inducted: 35th Class / 1989 / 71.42%

For many people who identify as under-represented, “Fight the Power” captures the essence of what it means to struggle. Images in the Do the Right Thing soundtrack burner frame the structures of racism and inequity in America, and nobody is sitting down. It’s all loud. With its clattering James Brown-meets-wailing jazz production and Chuck D’s on-point sermonizing, “Fight the Power” is the rap song of its time, a complete summation of what really is.

80. “Vogue”
Madonna, 1990
Inducted: 36th Class / 1990 / 80%

Madonna’s first Hall of Songs inductee is arguably her most iconic moment, and it comes at arguably the peak of her powers. It’s so peak that some allege Madonna stole the culture of ballroom and house music from under its nose just to make a big hit, and yet nobody can deny the record’s power and importance at also bringing attention to this world.

81. “Nothing Compares 2 U”
Sinead O’Connor, 1990
Inducted: 36th Class / 1990 / 76.66%

It’s not hard to understand why this is in the Hall of Songs. You have a beautifully written song by Prince. There’s a production that finds the space between dream pop and the incoming trip hop blast, firmly placing it into a sonic contest. And then there’s O’Connor’s powerfully naked vocal. It all adds up to an easy entry.

82. “Smells Like Teen Spirit”
Nirvana, 1991
Inducted: 37th Class / 1991 / 79.24%

It’s a seismic record that changed what was popular in rock, in pop, and on MTV. It gave music a new deity figure in Kurt Cobain. It also gave us a future deity figure in Dave Grohl. But “Smells Like Teen Spirit” is more than buzzwords and distortion — like, it’s a really good song and record. It just is. Combining garage rock, the Beatles, funk, punk, and early alternative, it manages to tell the story of Western music, even if it’s trying hard to not be anything.

83. “Alive”
Pearl Jam, 1991
Inducted: 37th Class / 1991 / 75.47%

Whereas Nirvana’s line starts with garage rock, Pearl Jam’s starts with the faux blues of Led Zeppelin and really digs into the 1970s. “Alive” calls attention to the Seattle band as it screams classic rock … and the band really knows how to holler. The big chorus, the simmering bridge, the summiting opening riff. Rock on.

84. “November Rain”
Guns N’ Roses, 1991
Inducted: 37th Class / 1991 / 71.69%

Maybe the only comparison to “November Rain” is Led Zeppelin’s Hall of Songs inductee “Stairway to Heaven.” Completely ridiculous on their faces, both reveal startling attention to detail and, incredibly, pay off in the best way possible. These songs aren’t supposed to work, but they do, and because of that, they kick so much ass.

85. “Cult of Personality”
Living Colour, 1988
Inducted: 37th Class / 1991 / 69.81%

Combining hard ’70s funk with British glam, Living Colour found a way to step out of the sludge of ’80s metal and showcase something fresh and crisp. “Cult of Personality” may be as direct as the band gets, but they don’t miss with big power chords, a nasty singalong chorus, and lyrics that warn us of the dangers of believing too much in celebrity. Good call, guys.

86. “Losing My Religion”
R.E.M., 1991
Inducted: 37th Class / 1991 / 67.92%

Mysterious and clever, tuneful but often abstract, R.E.M.’s is one of the most rewarding catalogs in music. “Losing My Religion” may actually be one of the band’s most direct moments, rewarded by being a smash hit in 1991, but it nevertheless puts a lot up to interpretation. It also may be the only Hall of Songs inductee with prominent mandolin.

87. “Friends in Low Places”
Garth Brooks, 1990
Inducted: 37th Class / 1991 / 67.92%

Country music, from how we classify it to how it’s seen to the pop world, and from who gets to be country to where country actually exists … it’s a difficult thing. Lots of mess. But we know one thing: Garth Brooks rules. “Friends in Low Places” is the one country song that gets all the crap out of the way and directly and profoundly belts out a message that everyone can get behind. No wonder everyone — no matter where you love or what you like — can sing along to this.