"The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time" is a recurring survey compiled by the American magazine Rolling Stone. It is based on weighted votes from selected musicians, critics, and industry figures. The first list was published in December 2004 in a special issue of the magazine, issue number 963, a year after the magazine published its list of "The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time". In 2010, Rolling Stone published a revised edition, drawing on the original and a later survey of songs released up until the early 2000s.
Another updated edition of the list was published in 2021, with more than half the entries not having appeared on either of the two previous editions; it was based on a new survey and does not factor in the surveys that were conducted for the previous lists. The 2021 list was based on a poll of more than 250 artists, musicians, producers, critics, journalists, and industry figures. They each sent in a ranked list of their top 50 songs, and Rolling Stone tabulated the results.
Top 10 songs
2004 and 2010 lists
|1||Bob Dylan||"Like A Rolling Stone"||1965|
|2||The Rolling Stones||"(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction"||1965|
|4||Marvin Gaye||"What's Going On"||1971|
|6||The Beach Boys||"Good Vibrations"||1966|
|7||Chuck Berry||"Johnny B. Goode"||1958|
|8||The Beatles||"Hey Jude"||1968|
|9||Nirvana||"Smells Like Teen Spirit"||1991|
|10||Ray Charles||"What'd I Say"||1959|
|2||Public Enemy||"Fight the Power"||1989|
|3||Sam Cooke||"A Change Is Gonna Come"||1964|
|4||Bob Dylan||"Like a Rolling Stone"||1965|
|5||Nirvana||"Smells Like Teen Spirit"||1991|
|6||Marvin Gaye||"What's Going On"||1971|
|7||The Beatles||"Strawberry Fields Forever"||1967|
|8||Missy Elliott||"Get Ur Freak On"||2001|
- Of the 500 songs, 351 are from the United States and 120 from the United Kingdom; they are followed by Canada, with 13; Ireland, with 12 entries (of which 8 were composed by U2); Jamaica, with 7; Australia, with two (AC/DC); Sweden (ABBA) and France (Daft Punk), each with one.
- 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.
- Although the list is "of all time", 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' "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. Muddy Waters' "Rollin' Stone" (1950) is based on an earlier song, dating to the 1920s.
- 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:
- The Beatles are the most represented musical act, with 23 songs on the list. John Lennon, Paul McCartney and George Harrison are also represented as solo artists. Lennon is the only artist to appear twice in the top 10, as a member of the Beatles and as a solo artist. The Beatles are followed by the Rolling Stones (14); Bob Dylan (13); Elvis Presley (11); U2 (8); the Beach Boys, Jimi Hendrix (7); Led Zeppelin, Prince, Sly and the Family Stone, James Brown, Chuck Berry (6); Elton John, Ray Charles, the Clash, the Drifters, Buddy Holly, and the Who (5).
- The artists not included on the list of the top 100 artists but having the most songs featured in the list are the Animals, Blondie, and the Isley Brothers, each with three songs.
- The album with the most entries on the list (excluding compilation albums) is "Are You Experienced" by the Jimi Hendrix Experience with four songs on the list: "Purple Haze" (number 17), "Foxy Lady" (number 152), "Hey Joe" (number 198) and "The Wind Cries Mary" (number 370).
- Three songs appear on the list twice, performed by different artists: "Mr. Tambourine Man", performed by Bob Dylan (number 107) and by the Byrds (number 79); "Blue Suede Shoes" by Elvis Presley (number 430) and by Carl Perkins (number 95), and "Walk This Way" by Aerosmith (number 346) and by Run-DMC (number 293).
- The shortest tracks are "Rave On!" by Buddy Holly running 1:47, "Great Balls of Fire" by Jerry Lee Lewis (1:52), and Eddie Cochran's "C'mon Everybody" (1:53).
- The longest tracks are "The End" (11:41) by the Doors; "Desolation Row" (11:21) by Bob Dylan, and "Marquee Moon" (9:58) by Television.
- Love is the most frequent word used in the songs' lyrics, with 1,057 occurrences, followed by I'm (1,000), oh (847), know (779), baby (746), got (702), and yeah (656).
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 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:
- Two songs by U2 and two by Jay-Z were added to the list. Jay-Z is 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.
- The most represented musical act is once again the Beatles (12), followed by Bob Dylan, David Bowie, the Rolling Stones (7), Prince (6) and Bruce Springsteen (5).
- The album with the most entries on the list (excluding compilation albums) is Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen with three songs on the list: "Born to Run" (number 27), "Thunder Road" (number 111) and "Jungleland" (number 298).
- The most represented year is 1971 with 21 songs from that year in the Top 500, including 6 in the Top 100.
- Daddy Yankee's "Gasolina" was listed as released in 2010 by mistake, when it was released in 2004.
- "Da Doo Ron Ron" by the Crystals was added back to the list after being removed. The song's new position is at 366.
- The highest entry for a newly added song is "Dreams" by Fleetwood Mac at number 9.
- The highest entry not in the English language is "Gasolina" by Daddy Yankee at number 50.
- 30 songs from the 2010s were added, with the highest entry being "Dancing On My Own" by Robyn at number 20.
- The highest entry for a song from 2020 is "Safaera" by Bad Bunny at number 329.
- The highest entry from the previous lists to be excluded is "Hound Dog" by Elvis Presley, originally placed at number 19. The original version by Big Mama Thornton is, however, present at number 318 after being absent from the earlier iterations of the list.
- The longest song on the list is "Walk On By" by Isaac Hayes (12:00) (number 312) and the shortest is "Old Town Road" by Lil Nas X (1:53) (number 490). The live version of "Whipping Post" by the Allman Brothers Band (number 410) is specifically referenced in the article and is 22:40, almost twice as long as any other song on the list if counted.
- Four songs are featured twice on the list, performed by different artists: "Walk On By" by Dionne Warwick (number 51) and Isaac Hayes (number 312), "Gloria" by Them (number 413) and Patti Smith (number 97), "Mr. Tambourine Man" by Bob Dylan (number 164) and the Byrds (number 230) and "Killing Me Softly with His Song" by Roberta Flack (number 273) and Fugees (number 359).
Artists with multiple songs (2021 edition)
- Fiona Apple
- Bad Bunny
- Black Sabbath
- The Byrds
- Johnny Cash
- Ray Charles
- The Clash
- Leonard Cohen
- Creedence Clearwater Revival
- The Cure
- Dr. Dre
- The Four Tops
- Grateful Dead
- Al Green
- Guns N' Roses
- Buddy Holly
- Whitney Houston
- Lil Wayne
- Little Richard
- Martha and the Vandellas
- Curtis Mayfield
- The Miracles
- New Order
- Pink Floyd
- Public Enemy
- Otis Redding
- The Revolution
- Sex Pistols
- Simon & Garfunkel
- Sly and the Family Stone
- Patti Smith
- The Smiths
- Britney Spears
- Taylor Swift
- Talking Heads
- The Temptations
- The Velvet Underground
- Kanye West
- Hank Williams
- The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's selection of 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll
- Rockism and poptimism
- "The RS 500 Greatest Songs of All Time". Rolling Stone. 2004-12-09. Archived from the original on 2008-06-22. Retrieved 2008-04-10.
- "The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time". Rolling Stone. 2010-05-28. Archived from the original on 2011-05-30. Retrieved 2023-03-17.
- "The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time". Rolling Stone. 2021-09-15. Retrieved 2021-09-16.
- "Pete Seeger – American Favorite Ballads" (PDF). Volume 2, pp. 11–12. Smithsonian Folkways. 2009. pp. 27–28. Retrieved 2011-12-04.
Palmer, Robert (1993). Blues Masters Volume 8: Mississippi Delta Blues. p. 8. R2 71130.
- #1 #14 #59 #68 #107 #187 #192 #206 #232 #260 #340 #373 #413
- "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.