There are tons of rock songs worthy of raising your fist and punching it through the air. Even if you don’t know the words, you’ll probably be banging your head and playing air guitar the moment they come on the radio. Some of these legendary songs have even become somewhat of an anthem — complete with energy and passion. We’ve put together a short list of 25 tunes that have graced our lives (and ears) over the decades in no specific order they are…..
1. Free Bird — Lynyrd Skynyrd (1974)
No matter what kind of music you’re into, “Free Bird” is probably one of your favorite jams. The song is synonymous with Skynyrd and is a real example of freedom. The song is 9:08 minutes on the album version, and every time it comes on, we get emotional — no matter how many times we’ve heard it.
2. Dazed And Confused – Led Zeppelin (1969)
In 1967 the Yardbirds with Jimmy Page played the Village Theatre in New York, supported by folk singer Jake Holmes, who’d just released his debut album, The Above Ground Sound Of Jake Holmes. Bass player Chris Dreja remembers Page coming back to the hotel with a copy of the album and enthusing over the track Dazed And Confused. The Yardbirds worked up the song and added it to their set, and at some point rookie guitarist Jimmy Page produced a violin bow that he proceeded to viciously employ on the strings of his over-cranked Fender Telecaster. It was a gob-smacking gimmick, but it represented a tantalising glimpse into rock’s future. For with this single flamboyant gesture Page was sweeping aside the studious purism of mid-60s blues austerity and flinging open the door to the grandiose gestures and limitless possibilities of titanic 1970s mega-rock. It also provided Page with his broadest canvas for live extemporization.
3. My Generation — The Who (1965)
This song may as well be considered one of the great rock songs of all time. “My Generation” became a song for the youth of the 60s to glorify, no matter which side of the country you were on! Interestingly enough, it has become one of the most covered songs in rock history. This doesn’t come as much of a surprise; after all, teen angst is inter-generational.
4. Born to Be Wild — Steppenwolf (1968)
This timeless anthem is one of rebellion and freedom. “Born to Be Wild” was featured in the cult classic, “Easy Rider,” and instantly became famous in biker culture. For some, it is considered a heavy metal song, and that may be because the term “heavy metal” is sung in the song. When we hear it, we imagine the open roads and a cool summer breeze.
5. Black Sabbath – Iron Man (1970)
With its complex sci-fi story-line and equally weighty sonics, Iron Man went on to become so much more than just another Black Sabbath track – but don’t go thinking it’s about the superhero…It’s about a man who goes into the future and witnesses the apocalypse. Going back to his own time, he encounters a rogue magnetic field, which turns him into a mute, steel creature. Unable to talk, he still tries to warn people about the impending end of the world, but is only mocked for his troubles. Angry and bitter, he eventually causes the devastation he’d warned everyone about. Ultimately the would-be hero becomes the villain.
6. Rock and Roll All Nite — Kiss (1975)
There is no doubt that this is Kiss’s most well-known piece. Whether you’re into punk, pop, or rap, this song is easily recognizable and one you’ll probably sing along to.
7. American Pie — Don McLean (1971)
There’s a good chance most of you know this song, but don’t know who sings it. McLean never really managed to make his way into becoming a household musical name, but his song about “the day the music died,” is one of the most notable songs of all-time. To this day, the song is considered an influential rock classic, an ode to Americana.
8. All Along the Watchtower – Jimi Hendrix Experience (1967)
“All Along the Watchtower” is a song written and recorded by American singer-songwriter Bob Dylan. The song initially appeared on his 1967 album, John Wesley Harding, and it has been included on most of Dylan’s subsequent greatest hits compilations. Since the late 1970s, he has performed it in concert more than any of his other songs. Different versions appear on four of Dylan’s live albums. “All Along the Watchtower” is strongly identified with the interpretation Jimi Hendrix recorded for the album Electric Ladyland with the Jimi Hendrix Experience. The Hendrix version, released six months after Dylan’s original recording, became a Top 20 single in 1968, received a Grammy Hall of Fame award in 2001, and was ranked 47th in Rolling Stone magazine’s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time in 2004.
9. We’re An American Band – Grand Funk Railroad (1973)
There’s just something cool about songs sung by drummers. Written and sung by Grand Funk drummer Don Brewer, this hit is probably played at least once or twice a day on those classic rock radio stations (what’s that?) still in existence. The song is a celebration of the band itself. Touring, rollicking live shows and even what goes on afterward. It’s just a fun, rock song that still holds up today.
10. Sweet Home Alabama – Lynyrd Skynyrd (1974)
Even during these volatile times with social justice and racism at the forefront of issues in the United States, it means a lot to those folks south of the Mason-Dixon Line. To the band, it was a response to Neil Young’s “Southern Man,” which touched on racism and slavery. Within the Skynyrd legacy, it shines bright and is played with plenty of pride over the various lineup changes and years piled up by the band.
11. Runnin’ With The Devil – Van Halen (1978)
This is the first song on the first Van Halen album. It starts with a backwards blare of car horns, which was made by a contraption Eddie Van Halen put together using a bunch of horns, a car battery, and a foot-switch. They used to use it when they played at clubs. Van Halen included this song on a demo Gene Simmons produced for them in 1977. After seeing them in concert, Simmons flew the band to New York, bought them clothes, and set up a recording session. They didn’t get a record deal out of it, but gained valuable experience. The song contains many of the things Van Halen became famous for: David Lee Roth’s squeal, Eddie’s guitar solo, and Michael Anthony’s backup vocals.
12. Born to Run – Bruce Springsteen (1975)
Bruce needed a breakout. Not just a single, but an album. Born to Run delivered both. Now, some can argue that “Thunder Road” is quite the anthem of young life and love, but the title cut is the unbridled celebration of promise against the odds that Springsteen was hoping to find from his music. Or at least, a song that critics and fans could appreciate in the same light. The album celebrates 45 years in late August.
13. We Will Rock You/We Are the Champions – Queen (1977)
It might not get more anthemistic than this two-fer. It’s also not really fair to talk about one without the other. Especially, since “We Will Rock You” flows right into “We Are the Champions,” to kick off Queen’s News of the World LP. Whether it’s played at sporting events, on TV shows or in film, these back-to-back gems are two of the first songs even the casual Queen fans think of when the band comes to mind.
14. Old Time Rock and Roll – Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band (1979)
An unabashed celebration of the rock-and-roll sound. It also helped that this Seger classic was made more wildly popular thanks to its appearance in the movie Risky Business – with a young Tom Cruise dancing around in his underwear. Even without the movie, though, the song received enough airplay to be considered the highlight of Seger’s quite large and successful catalog.
15. Highway to Hell – AC/DC (1979)
From Angus Young’s memorable riff to Bon Scott’s whiskey-fueled howl, “Highway to Hell” arguably stands tall above the rest of AC/DC’s many anthemic tunes. A song about the rigors of touring, and not really an ode to Satan, it’s one of the most beloved tracks for its overall tightness. It’s a song that does not waste any time, has great pace and really encapsulates the band in less than 3 1/2 minutes.
16. Another Brick In The Wall – Pink Floyd (1979)
The most recognized of the three parts from Floyd’s conceptual gem The Wall. Most notably because of the famed line, “We don’t need no education.” How many kids going back to school around the world are thinking the same thing? Though, we don’t know if many have ever heard this song. Regardless, it’s probably the one track Pink Floyd is known best for, even among the band’s countless exceptional titles during its lengthy run.
17. Another One Bites the Dust – Queen (1980)
Another Queen classic that’s been a staple in sports arenas and stadiums over the decades. It was written by bassist John Deacon, and features perhaps the most famous base line in the history of classic rock. The song is also a big favorite among the funk community, likely because Deacon was heavily influenced by the genre when putting the track together.
18. Stairway To Heaven – Led Zeppelin (1971)
Anticipation was at fever pitch in 1971 as fans awaited the successor to Led Zeppelin III. This eclectic album, released the previous year, had dispelled the notion that Led Zeppelin were merely a heavy rock machine, incapable of playing anything more subtle than Whole Lotta Love. It saw the unveiling of Stairway To Heaven; the band’s best known song, which was destined to become a rock classic. It’s been both loved and loathed in equal measures, but nowhere is Page’s supreme understanding of rock dynamics better illustrated than on Stairway, with a song that teases and caresses and then climaxes with nothing less than the world’s greatest ever guitar solo.
19. Don’t Stop Believin’ – Journey (1981)
At the time, the opening track of Journey’s massively successful Escape album was sandwiched between ballads “Who’s Crying Now” and “Open Arms.” However, the song has enjoyed a revival in popularity over the years. From the theme of the Chicago White Sox’s run to the 2005 World Series to its role in the popular TV series Glee, “Don’t Stop Believin'” has earned classic status.
20. I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll – Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, (1982)
Joan Jett’s cover of the this 1970s tune by little known English rockers the Arrows was another track that benefited from plenty of radio airplay – and help from MTV. Jett is punk at her core, but following the demise of The Runaways, she hit the pop stage and this track (which she first recorded in 1979) made her one of the biggest visual stars of the early 1980s.
21. We’re Not Gonna Take It – Twisted Sister (1984)
There’s plenty of campiness to be had from this Twister Sister favorite. It also helped the band that MTV took the video and ran with it (loved seeing Mark Metcalf revisiting his “Neidermeyer” persona). Nothing seems to strike a chord better than teen angst and rebellion. This tune offered both, and became a rallying cry for youngsters during the 1980s and even today.
22. Born in the U.S.A. – Bruce Springsteen (1984)
Plenty of rock and pop fans missed the boat when it came to the true meaning of this Springsteen hit. The chorus is loud, powerful and certainly anthemistic. Of course, it’s also a subtle protest song of sorts. Specifically calling attention to the difficult plight associated with some Vietnam veterans returning to a normal life after the war. Absorbing the true purpose of the song makes it much more powerful.
23. Livin’ on a Prayer -Bon Jovi (1986)
Another massive sing-a-long favorite, especially in a crowded bar when turning down the volume during the chorus. One that has truly spanned decades and held up extremely well. The tale of Tommy and Gina trying to make it through life is Bon Jovi’s most recognized hit and a song of hope. Something that folks around the United States can still use right about now.
24. Rockin’ in the Free World – Neil Young (1989)
Neil Young is not happy with Donald Trump using this song at his events (who can blame him). And like most casual fans of the tune, Trump and his people probably don’t get its true meaning. The song was aimed to be critical of President George H. W. Bush, but obviously has an anthem-like quality that makes it one of Young’s most popular offerings. The song is also a longtime live favorite for Pearl Jam to cover.
25. Alive – Pearl Jam (1991)
For a good number of Gen X and grunge fans, this song still resonates from that era. Even though the track offers a confusing and somewhat dark take on the traditional family dynamic, it remains a sing-a-long staple at Pearl Jam shows (though begrudgingly for hardcore fans). It’s also a song that has managed to stand the test of musical time quite well – especially within a catalog so expansive as that of these Seattle rockers.
If you think we missed any please feel free to mention your favorites in the comments below because we’ll be posting Part II of this article in a few weeks.
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