Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Songs of All Time

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RS 500 Front Cover.jpg

"The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time" was the cover story of a special issue of Rolling Stone, issue number 963, published in December 2004, a year after the magazine published its list of "The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time".[1]


  • "Like a Rolling Stone", by the American singer-songwriter Bob Dylan was chosen as number 1. The single was released on 20 July 1965.
  • The list is mostly composed of songs recorded by male North American and British artists and mostly from the second half of the 20th century. Of the 500 songs, 352 are from the United States and 119 from the United Kingdom; they are followed by Ireland, with 12 entries (of which 8 were composed by U2); Canada, with 13 (a majority of them by Neil Young); Jamaica, with 7 (most of them by Bob Marley and the Wailers, Jimmy Cliff, and Toots and the Maytals); Australia, with two (AC/DC); Sweden (ABBA) and France (Daft Punk), each with one (note: if the Anglo-Australian group, the Bee Gees [two entries] were counted as Australian, rather than British (nb. they first achieved success in Australia) the totals would be adjusted to UK - 117, Australia - 4).
  • The list includes only songs written in English, with the sole exception of "La Bamba" (number 345), sung in Spanish by the American singer-songwriter Ritchie Valens.
  • Few songs written prior to the 1950s are included; some that are listed are Robert Johnson's "Crossroads" (1936), in the version recorded by Cream, and Hank Williams's "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry" (1949). "The House of the Rising Sun", listed in the version by English rock band the Animals, was recorded at least as early as 1934.[2] Muddy Waters's "Rollin' Stone" (1950) is based on an earlier song, dating to the 1920s.[3]
  • There is one instrumental on the list: "Green Onions" by the American band Booker T. and the M.G.'s (number 181).
  • The number of songs from each of the decades represented in the 2004 version is as follows:
Decade Number of songs Percentage
1940s 1 0.2%
1950s 72 14.4%
1960s 203 40.8%
1970s 142 28.2%
1980s 57 11.4%
1990s 22 4.4%
2000s 3 0.6%

2010 update[edit]

In May 2010, Rolling Stone compiled an update, published in a special issue and in digital form for the iPod and iPad. The list differs from the 2004 version, with 26 songs added, all of which are songs from the 2000s except "Juicy" by The Notorious B.I.G., released in 1994. The top 25 remained unchanged, but many songs further down the list were given different rankings as a result of the inclusion of new songs, causing consecutive shifts among the songs listed in 2004. The highest-ranked new entry was Gnarls Barkley's "Crazy" (number 100).

The number of songs from each decade in the updated version is as follows:

Decade Number of songs Percentage
1940s 1 0.2%
1950s 70 14%
1960s 195 39%
1970s 131 26.2%
1980s 55 11%
1990s 22 7.4%
2000s 26 5.2%

Two songs by U2 and two by Jay-Z were added to the list. Jay-Z is also featured in two other new songs on the list, "Crazy in Love", by Beyoncé, and "Umbrella", by Rihanna.

The only artist to have two songs dropped from the list is the Crystals; their "Da Doo Ron Ron" (previously number 114) was the highest-ranked song to have been dropped.


With the development of the Rolling Stone website as a digital source of information, users can cross-reference lists electronically. For example, one group that is listed on both Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Songs of All Time and Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Albums of All Time is Toots and the Maytals.[5][6]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "The RS 500 Greatest Songs of All Time". 2004-12-09. Archived from the original on 2008-06-22. Retrieved 2008-04-10. 
  2. ^ "Pete Seeger – American Favorite Ballads" (PDF). Volume 2, pp. 11–12. Smithsonian Folkways. 2009. pp. 27–28. Retrieved 2011-12-04. 
  3. ^ Palmer, Robert (1993). Blues Masters Volume 8: Mississippi Delta Blues. Liner notes. Rhino Records. p. 8. R2 71130. 
  4. ^ "Sex and drugs and Rock'n'roll: Analysing the lyrics of the Rolling Stone 500 greatest songs of all time". 2014-05-09. Retrieved 2014-07-21. 
  5. ^ Rolling Stone. “453. Toots and the Maytals, 'Pressure Drop'” Rolling Stone magazine. Web. 7 April 2011. Retrieved 16 Dec 2016. <>
  6. ^ Rolling Stone. “380. Toots and the Maytals, 'Funky Kingston’” Rolling Stone magazine. Web. 31 May 2012. Retrieved 16 Dec 2016. <>

External links[edit]