Since the 1950s, the harmonica has been featured in rock songs of various genres. The instrument is particularly associated with blues-rock and rockabilly. It has also been used in more recent hits like “The Weight” by The Band, “Born to Run” by Bruce Springsteen, and “Crazy” by Gnarls Barkley. The harmonica is a versatile instrument that can be used to create a range of different sounds. In rock music, it is often used to add atmosphere or to provide a soloing opportunity for the lead guitarist. The instrument is particularly associated with blues-rock and rockabilly. The following are ten awesome rock songs that feature harmonica.
10. Piano Man – Billy Joel
Released in 1973, “Piano Man” is one of Billy Joel’s most famous and iconic songs. The song features a harmonica solo by David Kleinberg. It was inspired by Joel’s experience working as a lounge singer at the Executive Room in Los Angeles. It topped the Billboard Hot 100 chart and has been certified platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America. When performed live, Joel often uses a harmonica solo to transition into the song’s signature piano riff.
9. The Weight – The Band
Released in 1968, “The Weight” is one of The Band’s most well-known songs. The song features a harmonica solo by Levon Helm. It was inspired by Helm’s experience working as a sharecropper in Arkansas. The band members have said that the song is about “carrying the world on your shoulders.” It was featured in the film The Last Waltz and was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2008. It later inspired a cover by Bob Dylan.
8. The Times They Are A-Changin’ – Bob Dylan
This song, released in 1964, is one of Dylan’s most famous and is often seen as an anthem for social change. The harmonica playing is simple but effective and helps to create the song’s plaintive mood. It is also one of the first examples of Dylan’s use of the harmonica as a soloing instrument, rather than just for accompaniment. The song topped the charts in both the US and the UK when it was originally released. Different awards were received by the song, including Grammy Hall of Fame and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
7. Gimme Some Lovin’ – The Spencer Davis Group
This song, released in 1966, features one of the most famous harmonica intros of all time. The riff is played by Matthew Fisher on a chromatic harmonica in the key of C. It’s a classic example of how the harmonica can be used in a bluesy, rock context. The Spencer Davis Group was a British rock band formed in Birmingham in 1963. The group originally consisted of Steve Winwood (vocals, Hammond organ, guitar), his brother Muff Winwood (bass), Peter York (drums), and Spencer Davis (guitar, vocals). The band’s main early influence was rhythm and blues, but they later incorporated elements of British beat music, psychedelic rock, and Soul.
6. Can’t You Hear Me Knocking – The Rolling Stones
The song was released in 1971 on the album Sticky Fingers. It features a lengthy harmonica solo by Mick Jagger. The riff was inspired by the work of Jimmy Reed. The song was ranked at number 401 on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. It was also ranked at number 488 on NME’s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. The awards and recognition it has received over the years are a testament to its greatness.
5. Love Me Do – The Beatles
Released in October 1962, “Love Me Do” was The Beatles’ first single. It features harmonica played by John Lennon. This song is about the beginning of a relationship and has become one of The Beatles’ most popular songs. When asked about the harmonica solo, Lennon said it was inspired by Ray Charles’ “I Got a Woman.” The song managed to top the charts in the UK and peaked at number 17 in the US. It won different awards like the Grammy Hall of Fame and is considered one of The Beatles’ best songs.
4. La Bamba – Los Lobos
When most people think of the harmonica, they think of the blues. But this bouncy tune from Los Lobos proves that the instrument can be used in a variety of genres. The harmonica solo in La Bamba is truly infectiously happy. It was released in 1987 as part of the soundtrack for the film La Bamba, which tells the story of Ritchie Valens, a Mexican-American singer who rose to fame in the 1950s. It topped the charts in several countries, including the United States, and won a Grammy Award for Best Mexican-American Performance.
3. Crazy on You – Heart
The opening track from Heart’s debut album, 1976’s Dreamboat Annie, “Crazy on You” features some of the most memorable harmonica playings in all of rock music. The solo, which comes in at around the 2:40 mark, is played by Ann Wilson’s then-boyfriend Michael Fisher. It was able to drive the song to the top of the charts and has helped it become one of Heart’s most recognizable tunes. The song led to the winning of different awards for the group.
2. Cream – Rollin N Tumblin
Released in 1967, “Rollin’ N Tumblin’” was one of the first tracks recorded by Cream. It features a great harmonica solo from Jack Bruce. This song would go on to be a staple of Cream’s live performances. It managed to top the charts in both the US and UK. The awards it has received are: Grammy Hall of Fame in 1999 and this track is also ranked number 43 on Guitar World’s list of the “100 Greatest Guitar Songs of All Time.
1. The Doors – Roadhouse Blues
The Doors were known for their experimental and bluesy sound, and “Roadhouse Blues” is one of their best examples of this. It features a great harmonica solo from Ray Manzarek. It’s one of those songs that just makes you want to get up and move. It appeared on the top charts in 1970 and has been covered by many artists since. It is great music that won’t quit and it’ll keep you dancing all night long. Awards: Ranked #205 on Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.
Harmonica is a great instrument that can be used in a variety of genres. These are just 10 examples of awesome rock songs that feature harmonica. Keep your eyes peeled for more great tunes featuring this instrument. Who knows, maybe you’ll find a new favorite band or song.