Greatest hits albums have been around since the late 50s. Johnny’s Greatest hits was the first greatest hits album, peaking at number one on Billboard’s Best Selling Pop L.P.’s chart. The two top-selling greatest hits albums were Eagles’ Their Greatest Hits (1971-1975) and Elton John’s Greatest Hits. During the 60s and 70s, greatest hits albums started becoming more popular. Many artists had such a large fan base they released multiple greatest hits albums during their career. The popularity of greatest hits albums became an artist staple in the 90s. Additionally, many artists released a music video collection along with the album. Moreover, it was a way for record labels to boost an artist’s career when their popularity was waning. Sony Music Entertainment capitalized on the Greatest Hits format in 2000, releasing
The Essentials series, starting with Bob Dylan. Since then, they have released dozens of albums from artists in a myriad of different genres. Once streaming services became available, greatest hits albums began to dwindle since listeners could simply build a playlist of their favorite songs from a specific artist or any compilation of greatest hits from a genre. However, some artists like the Weeknd carried on the tradition of greatest hits albums. Now that artists’ greatest hits albums have waned, T.V. shows like Bones are starting to create compilation albums of the show’s most memorable songs. Nonetheless, there are still musical albums that stand out as the best in the last 50 years. These are the top twenty best Greatest Hits Albums of All Time.
20. All-Time Greatest Hits – Lynyrd Skynyrd
This album is an excellent introduction to the group’s Southern rock classics. Yet, hardcore Skynyrd fans may find it lacking since a few of their greatest songs are missing or are outtakes or acoustic versions. Moreover, the lilting studio version of Free Bird is absent, but the album’s performance is solid. Additionally, according to Discogs, it was certified Gold on March 24, 2003, and Platinum on June 20, 2005, by the RIAA.
19. Greatest Hits – Blink 182
Blink 182 broke up in 2005, and shortly after that, Geffen Records released a greatest hits album. All of the group’s best songs are on this album, with one previously unreleased track. The album peaked at number six on the Billboard 200, and even though the group was nearly a one-hit-wonder, the album was well-received by critics. Blink 182’s most popular song still remains the punk anthem What’s My Age Again.
18. Rotten Apples – Smashing Pumpkins
In 2001, this album was released alongside a bonus disc, Judas O. The last track was called Untitled and was the group’s final recording before they disbanded; it finished less than a week before they finished their career at a farewell tour in Chicago. Additionally, there was an unreleased track, Real Love, a compilation of factory master tapes slated for their album Machina II/The Friend’s & Enemies of Modern Music. Yet, many fans thought it lacked the punch from other songs on that album.
17. Greatest Hits – Journey
In 1988, Columbia records released this album which was the group’s best-selling album. It spent five hundred and fifty-four weeks on the Billboard 200 chart. This record was only topped by Bob Marley’s Legend Disc. Additionally, by 2014 the album had remained on Billboard’s Catalog albums chart. Moreover, twenty-three years after its release, it still sells half a million copies a year.
16. Creedence Clearwater Chronicle: The 20 Greatest Hits
According to All Music, this album offers unequivocal proof that C.C.R. was one of the standouts in the 60s for singles. The album has each of the group’s nineteen singles. When it was released, the song I Heard It Through The Grapevine had just become a hit. Start to finish, it is a well-rounded chronicle of the group’s best songs.
15. In Time The Best of R.E.M. (1988-2003)
This was the second greatest hits album released by the group. Most of the songs are from their Warner Bros. days. Additionally, there are several fresh tracks as well as several from movie soundtracks. During the 2000s, it was one of the best-selling albums in the United Kingdom. Additionally, it was certified Platinum in the United States.
14. Greatest Hits – Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers
Each song lived up to the title’s greatest hits. During the 70s and 80s, the group hit its heyday, releasing their most memorable songs, so several may not fit the disc. Yet, all of the classics, including the amazing breakup song, Stop Draggin’ My Heart, a duet with Stevie Nicks. Geffen released the album in 1993.
13. Mothership – Led Zeppelin
In 2007, Led Zeppelin reunited for a concert at Ahmet Ertegun, which coincided with the release of this album. The Song Remains The Same was released first on CD and DVD, followed by this double-disc release of Led Zeppelin’s greatest hits. Much like the earlier days of the group’s career, several other releases during this time felt like go big on the go home.
12. The Best of 1980-1990 – U2
According to U2, this album had two discs, The Best of and The B-Sides. It’s a collection of songs from their albums Boy to Rattle and Hum. Additionally, the B-Sides disc has many pieces never made it onto the charts. The Best of 1980-1990 was released in 1998 and peaked at number 5 on the Canadian album charts and number four o the United States album charts. The album still holds the record for the volume of sales in a week in Ireland. Moreover, in Ireland, the album hit number one and remained there for seventy-six weeks.
11.Rearviewmirror (Greatest Hits 1991-2003) – Pearl Jam
Epic Records released this album in 2004, and it was re-released in 2013 as The Essential Pearl Jam. The RIIA certified its Platinum after it sold ninety-six thousand copies the first week it was released. Pearl Jam has an eclectic catalog of songs ranging from Dissident to Better Man. So, the group released this as two albums called Up Side, which were more intense, and Down Side, with slower songs like Yellow Ledbetter.
10. Queen’s Greatest Hits
Queen had many iconic songs with a large fanbase. Undoubtedly, this led to the album debuting at number one and spent seven hundred weeks in the United Kingdom. Queen’s Greatest Hits, Volume was certified Platinum eight times, making it the most successful album worldwide with over 25 million copies sold.
9. The Police Best Songs
According to the Police, fifteen of the sixteen songs on this album were top 20 hits, and five were number one. Even though Sting wrote each song, they would never have been hits without Stewart Copeland and Andy Summers. Even though the Police have somewhat faded from the spotlight and do not plan on a reunion, this album is a collection of songs to remember when they were a chart-topping success.
8. The Best Of – Leonard Cohen
Cohen began his career as a writer, not a musician, evidenced in his thoughtful, introspective songs. The switch from prolific songwriter and singer happened in his twenties when he realized he had reached the end of his writing career after two novels. Nonetheless, his voice and lyrics make each song sound like a poem set to music. Even though Cohen isn’t remembered for being a chart-topper because his style of music never fit the current styles, his music is still masterful.
7. My Sister Thanks You And I Thank You – The White Stripes
On October 6, 2020, Third Man Records, Jack White’s label, announced the December release of The White Stripes Greatest hits. The group was Jack White’s project, even though he later went on to form the Raconteurs and performed solo. The album was a collection of 26 songs from the late 90s to the turn of the twenty-first century. Not only did they release it as CD, but they also released it only vinyl.
6. Greatest Hits – Foo Fighters
On November 3, 2003, the group released a compilation of their greatest hits. Even though it was a solid album highlighting the group’s catalog, Dave Grohl was highly critical. According to Genius, he wished Foo Fighters waited until they retired to release a greatest hits album. Additionally, he said, “these sixteen songs are what we’re calling our ‘Greatest Hits.’ Not to be confused with ‘Our Favorite Songs,’ it is a collection of songs that have defined our band’s identity to most people over the years.
5. Greatest Hits (& Some That Will Be) – Willie Nelson
Seven years after Nelson released his first album, Red Headed Stranger, Columbia Records released this album to celebrate his success. It became a huge hit almost immediately released and secured Nelson’s place in country music history. Throughout his career, he has played with artists in every genre of music, including Snoop Dogg and the Grateful Dead.
4. Greatest Hits: King of Cool – Dean Martin
Dean Martin’s estate agreed to let Capitol Records release this album since both share control of the late singer’s catalog. The album has eight tracks from Capitol and eight from Reprise. It is not a chronicle of hits. Instead, it’s a collection of his eclectic recordings from the 50s and 60s. Moreover, it was the first time all of Martin’s seven top ten tracks and gold were on the same album.
3. Greatest Hits Volumes 1&2 – Billy Joel
Almost every track until 1983 is on this double CD collection of Joel’s greatest hits. Additionally, there were two new tracks, You’re Only Human (Second Wind) and The Night Is Still Young which became additional hits for the singer. Interestingly, there are several versions of this album. The first release has a live performance of Say Goodbye to Hollywood and a New York State Of Mind that adds additional saxophone. When the CD was released, the tracks Captain Jack and The Entertainer were added alongside the 1981 live version of She’s Got A Way which replaced the live version of Say Goodbye to Hollywood.
2. The Legend of Johnny Cash
This album encompassed Cash’s career and was released on October 25, 2005. Additionally, it was the only album released that chronicled his entire career. Walk The Line was an Academy Award-winning movie, and the album was released to capitalize on its success. It was well-timed since it was certified Gold on December 7, 2005, and Double Platinum on May 19, 2006. As of November 2017, The Legend of Johnny Cash has sold almost four million copies. The album featured songs from his popular America sessions and several tracks recorded when he worked with Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, and Kris Kristofferson. It’s an excellent balance between his early work in the 50s and 60s and newer songs that crossed genre lines.
1. Bruce Springsteen’s Greatest Hits
Before this album, Springsteen had never recorded a compilation album. Columbia Records released this incredible collection on February 27, 1995. Many of the songs on this album were recorded with the E-Street Band. Several of the tracks were radio edits instead of studio versions. Additionally, the last tracks on the album were four previously unreleased tracks that were later featured in the documentary Blood Brothers. Previously unreleased tracks from the Born in the U.S.A. sessions were also added. One of the songs on the album was nominated for an academy the same year, Streets of Philadelphia. The album debuted at number one on the Billboard, where it stayed for forty-three weeks and sold a quarter of a million copies. Another track Secret Garden became famous on the Cameron Crowe-directed movie Jerry McGuire.