The Rolling Stones is a rock band formed in London in 1962. The original line-up of the group was vocalist Mick Jagger, guitarist Keith Richards, drummer Charlie Watts, bassist Bill Wyman, and multi-instrumentalist Brian Jones. Over the years, others who were in the group included Ian Stewart, Mick Taylor, and Ronnie Wood. The current line-up includes Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, and Ronnie Wood. This band has recorded and performed music for a period spanning seven decades, and they have won three Grammy Awards and a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award during that time. They have sold more than 200 million records, which means they are one of the best-selling bands of all time. During their career, the Rolling Stones have recorded 30 studio albums, 33 live albums, 48 video albums, 77 music videos, 29 compilation albums, three Eps, 15 box sets, 17 reissue box sets, 21 official bootlegs, and 121 singles. Here are the 20 best Rolling Stones songs of all time.
20. Street Fighting Man (1968)
Due to the theme of this rock song being about street fighting, it may seem strange that it features acoustic guitar and sitar rather than the more obvious rock song choice of electric guitar. However, the choice of instruments works, and it is a rousing song. Although street fighting is the main theme, it is also about starting a rock band. One of the countries where this song was most successful was Switzerland, where it reached number four in the charts.
19. Midnight Rambler (1968)
In most instances, the best songs that a band records are their A-side tracks, although this only applied before the invention of CDs. However, there are plenty of Rolling Stones B-side tracks that fans love just as much as their A-side counterparts. One example is ‘Midnight Rambler,’ which was the B-side to the 1968 single ‘Let It Bleed.’ It features Jagger on vocals and playing the harmonica, and there is a tempo shift leading to a funkier section of the song.
18. Honky Tonk Women (1969)
Although the Rolling Stones are best known as a rock band, many of their songs were influenced by other music genres, and this resulted in various hybrid songs. ‘Honky Tonk Women’ is a fine example of one of the band’s crossover songs, as it has elements of country, rock, and rhythm and blues. It is a song that appealed to both genders, and it became both a feminist and a gay anthem. It was a number one hit in the United States, the UK, France, and Australia.
17. Fool to Cry (1976)
In the lyrics of this song, Jagger is troubled and seeking comfort from friends and lovers, and everyone tells him he is a fool to cry. ‘Fool to Cry’ was one of two singles released from the 1976 album ‘Black and Blue.’ It was a top ten hit in Ireland, the Netherlands, Norway, the UK, and the United States.
16. Let’s Spend the Night Together (1967)
While the name of this song may suggest it is about a couple spending the night together, it is actually about having a lads’ sleepover so that a group of men can have a night of fun. The song featured on the album ‘Between the Buttons.’ It was a top ten hit in the UK, Germany, the United States, and France.
15. Moonlight Mile (1971)
Jagger wrote ‘Moonlight Mile’ to reflect his experience of touring as a band. It featured on the album ‘Sticky Fingers.’ Paul Buckmaster added a string section to the song while their usual trumpeter, Jim Price, plays the piano. Music critics have described ‘Midnight Mile’ as one of the most underappreciated Rolling Stones ballads.
14. Doo Doo Doo Doo Doo (Heartbreaker) (1973)
There are different theories about the meaning of and inspiration behind this song. Some people say it is linked to Dirty Harry, who was released just before the release of this song. Others say that it has a more general message about urban police brutality. It featured on the album ‘Goat’s Head Soup,’ and it was most successful in Canada, where it reached number five on the charts.
13. Time Is on My Side (1964)
Many of the songs released by the Rolling Stones were original hits, but ‘Time Is on My Side’ had previously been released by another artist. It was originally recorded by jazz trombonist Kai Winding in 1963. Winding played the verses of the song, while the choruses were sung by Dionne Warwick, Cissy Houston, and Dee Dee Warwick. A year later, Irma Thomas recorded a version of the song. Only a month after Thomas released her version, the Rolling Stones released the track and completely overshadowed Thomas’ efforts. It became the first top ten hit in the United States for the Rolling Stones.
12. Brown Sugar (1971)
Over the years, Brown Sugar has faced criticism due to its theme of a slaver having an interracial physical relationship with a slave. The song featured on the album ‘Sticky Fingers.’ Despite the controversial nature of this song, it topped the charts in the United States and Canada and was a number two hit in Ireland and the UK.
11. Shine a Light (1972)
The influence of Leon Russell, who co-wrote the song with Jagger and Richards, is hugely apparent. At the beginning of the song, there is a eulogy for Brian Jones, and then the track becomes a gospel-inspired goodbye to their friend. Although the writing of this song began before Jones died, it was not finished until after he had died. The song featured on the album ‘Exile on Main Street.’ The name of the song was used for the title of the 2008 Martin Scorsese film, which is about the band’s Beacon Theater performances on tour, and the song is included in the film’s soundtrack.
10. Angie (1973)
Many music lovers believe that ‘Angie’ is about a specific woman. Fans have tried to link this song to Angela Bowie, Angie Dickinson, and to Keith Richards’ daughter, who is called Angela. However, Keith Richards, who wrote the song, says that is not the case. In his memoir, Richards explained that the song is not about a particular woman. It was just a name that they chose. This ballad went straight to the top of the Billboard Hot 100.
9. Tumbling Dice (1972)
‘Tumbling Dice’ was the lead single from the 1972 album ‘Exile on Main Street.’ It was a top ten hit in several countries, including Canada, the UK, the United States, and the Netherlands. The song is about a gambler who cannot remain faithful to women. Prior to writing this song, the Rolling Stones had recorded an earlier version of the song called ‘Good Time Women’ in 1970. They then used ‘Good Time Women’ as a base that they developed to create ‘Tumbling Dice.’
8. You Can’t Always Get What You Want (1968)
‘You Can’t Always Get What You Want’ was the closing track on ‘Let It Bleed.’ Jagger said that he was inspired to write this song by the end of the Beatles’ hit song ‘Hey Jude.’ The London Bach Choir features in this track, and it starts big. In the middle section of the song, it settles down with a French horn and acoustic guitar playing. It then builds back up again towards the end of the single. This song was used in the film ‘The Big Chill’ and became an anthem for settling.
7. Can’t You Hear Me Knocking (1971)
Keith Richards and Charlie wrote the music for the beginning of this song while jamming together. Richards tuned his guitar and started to riff, and then Charlie Watts joined in. Later in the track, there are congas from Rocky Dijon, organ from Billy Preston, Bobby Keys on the saxophone, and additional percussion from Jimmy Miller. The song featured on the album ‘Sticky Fingers.’
6. Jumpin’ Jack Flash (1968)
‘Jumpin’ Jack Flash’ was one of the Rolling Stones’ most successful songs of the late 1960s. It was a non-album single that was written by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards. Not only is it one of the Rolling Stones’ most successful and popular songs, but it is also considered one of the greatest rock songs of all time. One fact that fans might not know is that the song was inspired by Jagger’s gardener, who was called Jack. The gardener woke Richards when he was staying at Jagger’s country home by making noise outside the window.
5. Wild Horses (1971)
Even though Gram Parsons does not play on the studio recording of ‘Wild Horses,’ it is evident that he had an influence on this song as he was jamming with the Rolling Stones at the time. Jagger wrote the song’s lyrics, and they are some of his best. It is a song about regret that manages to have a sentimental feel without gushing. Another topic covered is not wanting to be away from home while on tour. This track featured on the album ‘Sticky Fingers.’
4. (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction (1965)
According to Yardbarker, one of the best Rolling Stones songs of all time is ‘(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction.’ It is considered one of the best rock songs of all time. The song topped the charts in the United States, the UK, Australia, and the Netherlands. It also reached number three on the charts in France and Canada. Jagger’s performance of this song is what made him famous for having the ‘Jagger Swagger.’
3. Paint It Black (1966)
‘Paint It Black’ is probably one of the most despondent sounding songs by the Rolling Stones, and it has the lyrics to match. Although there was no specific event that inspired the song, Jagger sings about the funeral procession of a friend who has died. It was a number one hit in the UK, the United States, Germany, France, and Switzerland. ‘Paint It Black’ featured on the US version of the album ‘Aftermath.’
2. Sympathy for the Devil (1968)
When ‘Sympathy for the Devil’ was released in 1968, many people were shocked, and it even provoked charges of Satanism. Although the song is not particularly deep, there is a serious meaning behind the lyrics, as they talk about how the Devil’s work has been done by humanity. Some consider it prophetic, considering the damage humans have done to the planet and to society since the song was released. This song was the second single released from the album ‘Beggars Banquet.’
1. Gimme Shelter (1968)
In a Rolling Stone readers’ poll, the song that readers decided was the best Rolling Stones song of all time was ‘Gimme Shelter.’ It has been used in various television series and films, including Chris Columbus’ ‘Adventures in Babysitting’ and three Martin Scorsese films. The song is about the social unrest at the time, such as the Vietnam War, cult leader and murderer Charles Manson, and the race riots. Mary Clayton provided backing vocals for the track.