Best Rock Songs That Shaped Rock N’ Roll


Try soliciting opinions from say, 50, other rock n’ roll diehard fans concerning the most famous rock n’ roll songs of all time and rest assured you’ll have an upward of 40 different configurations. But if the cold facts are anything to go by, the consecutive ten singles fetch the top spot on the list of rock n’ roll songs that made a substantial impact on the history, progress and the general evolution of the genre.

King of the Road

Roger Miller

Year: 1964

“King of the Road” is a 1964 rock n’ roll single sung by none other than the king of novelty songs himself, Roger Miller. I would have picked any single from dozens of his big hits (England Swings, Dang Me, and Chug-a-Lug), but a diehard fan of rock n’ roll could have easily sniffed that I went for the low –hanging fruit. Inspired by a sign he saw in Chicago, Miller took a different lyrical tangent on the record that other rock n’ roll artists couldn’t help but emulate.

Louie Louie

The Kingsmen

An upward of 20 different artists and music groups have, in the history of music, re-recorded Louie Louie. They include artists such as the Surfers, Punks, British Rockers, and Marching Bands to name a few. In the mid-1960s, the song got more live events plays than any other song including the National Anthem. R&B artists such as Richard Berry made their rendition of the song. Not to mention, the Washington-based Wailers band who couldn’t rest until they had their version of the song.

Kingsmen’s version, recorded in 1963 is the version that set the whole world wildly ablaze. People started concocting the lyrics, filling Jack Ely’s garbled voice with all kinds of naughty words that sound sweet to the ear. Radio stations had to ban it.

The Message

Grandmaster Flash & the Furious Five

Year: 1982

The entire Grandmaster Flash crew (save for Melle Mel) was against the idea of recording “The Message.” But when the song hit the street in the summers of 1982, it was epic. Even the audience that had earlier on dismissed rap music as an idle Swank was all in praise of the “The Message.”

Though others considered the song a concession for white people, it singlehandedly changed the game and what artist chose to sing. Rock n’ Roll wasn’t exempted.

Head Like a Hole

Nine Inch Nails

Year: 1989

“Nine Inch Nails” used this track as a set closer on so many occasions. And it was all because the song was raw, had a resounding chorus, and was catchy and sweet as it’s harsh. His charismatic persona, conflated with his image of pain and betrayal blended with the song perfectly well during performances. And the crowd would just go wild. Little did he know he was using an industrial rock track to change the face of rock n’ roll…

How Soon is Now

The Smith

Ten singles by “The Smith” were featured in the U.K’s top 20 charts between 1983 and 1984. Not at one time did “How Soon is Now” appear on any chart. But years later, after the group split up, did the song end up as the group’s most loved joint. Seymour Stein even referred to it as the 80s stairway to Heaven. The world couldn’t just get enough of it.

Prove it on Me Blues

Ma’ Rainey

Year: 1928

This song recounts a love affair that existed between two lesbians. Fraught with sexually explicit references, had the record been made today, it would certainly have come with a parental advisory or too much censorship that nothing could be heard.

The song was also thought as an attack towards men though the lyrics challenge listeners to find proof of immorality or illegality on her. Her boldness and defiance were what other musicians admired most.

In the City

The Jam

Year: 1977

“The Jam” shot to fame with the first wave that came with the British punk. At the time, there were too much of youth rebellion. “In the City”, which desperately cried out for an understanding between generations, just happened to be the right song for the season.

The catchy hook, the insightful lyrics, and the slashing, laced with the guitar riff-raff and lead singer’s aggressiveness, made the song both captivating and sweet to listen.

The Sound of Silence

Simon and Garfunkel

Simon & Garfunkel started out as Tom and Jerry, Everly Brothers. They released their first minor hit “Hey Schoolgirl” which rose to number 49 on the Billboard. They split shortly after, but after seven years, came together to release an album called Wednesday Morning 3 a.m, which featured their greatest hits “The sound-of-Silence” and turned out to be a game changer across genres.

I heard it Through the Grapevine

Marvin Gaye

Year: 1968

This Marvin Gaye’s single reached number one on charts and hung there for seven more consecutive weeks. The song is an essay about salvaging not only on love affair but the human spirit as well. It could have been the vocal, the lyrics, the instrumentation or the music arrangement, but one thing is certain, the song took part in shaping rock n’ roll.

My Boy Lollipop

Millie Small

Year: 1964

Written by Robert Spenser in the mid-50s, the song was first recorded in 1956 by Barbie Gaye. Eight years later the song was discovered by Chris Blackwell, who handed to Chris Peers (Millie Small’s manager at the time) for Millie to sing. Millie recorded her version in the same style as Barbie’s, and the single became a blockbuster hit almost immediately. It peaked at number 2 in both the U.S and U.K charts, and number 2 in Ireland. It was one of the most commercially successful records of the time. In 2012, it was featured in the Summer Olympics Opening Ceremony held in London. It has also been featured severally in the British Television series, Heartbeat.

Brown Eyed Girl

Van Morrison

Sir George Ivan Morrison, Jr. was born on 31 August 1945. He is a Northern Irish singer, songwriter and musician. He has received six Grammy Awards, the 1994 Brit Award for Outstanding Contribution to Music. He has been inducted into both the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Songwriters Hall of Fame. He began his career with “Brown Eyed Girl” in 1967.

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