The 100 Absolute Best Songs in History

May 24, 2019 by Steven M. Peters

Source: Ed Uthman / Flickr
While the world of recorded music is filled with hidden treasures, some songs are universally loved. These gems have remained popular throughout the years, even as perhaps newer music temporarily grabbed the limelight.

The best songs become musical touchstones, embedded so deeply in our culture that it’s impossible to imagine a world without them. Aside from the rare detractor, these are the tracks that unite us when we hear them, the ones that excite a similar reaction from all — “oh, I love this one” — no matter how many times we hear them.

By creating an index based on sales from Recording Industry Association of America, Billboard performance, number of cover versions, and recognition among music fans, 24/7 Wall St. has determined the 100 absolute best songs of all time.

Click here to see the 100 best songs in history.
Click here to see our detailed findings and methodology.

Source: Courtesy of 20th Century Records

100. Kung Fu Fighting
> Artist: Carl Douglas
> Year: 1974
> Total weeks on Billboard Hot 100: 18
> Number of times covered: 41

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Source: Lawren / Flickr

99. Spirit In The Sky
> Artist: Norman Greenbaum
> Year: 1970
> Total weeks on Billboard Hot 100: 15
> Number of times covered: 35

Source: Central Press / Getty Images

98. Everyday People
> Artist: Sly & The Family Stone
> Year: 1968
> Total weeks on Billboard Hot 100: 19
> Number of times covered: 0

Source: Kevin Winter / Getty Images

97. Jump
> Artist: Van Halen
> Year: 1984
> Total weeks on Billboard Hot 100: 21
> Number of times covered: 39

Source: Frazer Harrison / Getty Images

96. Africa
> Artist: Toto
> Year: 1982
> Total weeks on Billboard Hot 100: 21
> Number of times covered: 72

Source: Scott Gries / Getty Images

95. Kiss Me
> Artist: Sixpence None The Richer
> Year: 1998
> Total weeks on Billboard Hot 100: 33
> Number of times covered: 13

Source: Alberto E. Rodriguez / Getty Images

94. Band Of Gold
> Artist: Freda Payne
> Year: 1970
> Total weeks on Billboard Hot 100: 20
> Number of times covered: 22

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Source: Steve Wood / Getty Images

93. I Honestly Love You
> Artist: Olivia Newton-John
> Year: 1974
> Total weeks on Billboard Hot 100: 24
> Number of times covered: 42

Source: Atco Records / Wikimedia Commons

92. Sweet Soul Music
> Artist: Arthur Conley
> Year: 1967
> Total weeks on Billboard Hot 100: 15
> Number of times covered: 25

Source: ABC / Dunhill Records / Wikimedia Commons

91. Dizzy
> Artist: Tommy Roe
> Year: 1969
> Total weeks on Billboard Hot 100: 15
> Number of times covered: 22

Source: Tim Graham / Getty Images

90. Brand New Key
> Artist: Melanie
> Year: 1971
> Total weeks on Billboard Hot 100: 18
> Number of times covered: 21

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Source: Brian Bahr / Getty Images

89. My Girl
> Artist: The Temptations
> Year: 1965
> Total weeks on Billboard Hot 100: 13
> Number of times covered: 155

Source: Gaye Gerard / Getty Images

88. Dreams
> Artist: Fleetwood Mac
> Year: 1977
> Total weeks on Billboard Hot 100: 19
> Number of times covered: 54

Source: Douglas Miller / Getty Images

87. I Got You Babe
> Artist: Sonny & Cher
> Year: 1965
> Total weeks on Billboard Hot 100: 14
> Number of times covered: 40

Source: Bryan Bedder / Getty Images

86. Crazy
> Artist: Gnarls Barkley
> Year: 2006
> Total weeks on Billboard Hot 100: 29
> Number of times covered: 61

Source: Evening Standard / Getty Images

85. Fame
> Artist: David Bowie
> Year: 1975
> Total weeks on Billboard Hot 100: 21
> Number of times covered: 36

Source: Wikimedia Commons

84. Cherish
> Artist: The Association
> Year: 1966
> Total weeks on Billboard Hot 100: 14
> Number of times covered: 31

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Source: Fox Photos / Getty Images

83. Another One Bites The Dust
> Artist: Queen
> Year: 1980
> Total weeks on Billboard Hot 100: 31
> Number of times covered: 45

Source: Kevin Winter / Getty Images

82. Like A Virgin
> Artist: Madonna
> Year: 1984
> Total weeks on Billboard Hot 100: 19
> Number of times covered: 61

Source: Phil Walter / Getty Images

81. Thriller
> Artist: Michael Jackson
> Year: 1984
> Total weeks on Billboard Hot 100: 18
> Number of times covered: 65

Source: Michael Webb / Getty Images

80. Get Back
> Artist: The Beatles
> Year: 1969
> Total weeks on Billboard Hot 100: 12
> Number of times covered: 137

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Source: Central Press / Getty Images

79. Got To Get You Into My Life
> Artist: The Beatles
> Year: 1966
> Total weeks on Billboard Hot 100: 16
> Number of times covered: 108

Source: Keystone / Getty Images

78. Baby Love
> Artist: The Supremes
> Year: 1964
> Total weeks on Billboard Hot 100: 13
> Number of times covered: 38

Source: Wikimedia Commons

77. Green Onions
> Artist: Booker T. & The MG’s
> Year: 1962
> Total weeks on Billboard Hot 100: 16
> Number of times covered: 58

Source: Fox Photos / Getty Images

76. Paperback Writer
> Artist: The Beatles
> Year: 1966
> Total weeks on Billboard Hot 100: 10
> Number of times covered: 62

Source: Keystone / Getty Images

75. Angie
> Artist: The Rolling Stones
> Year: 1973
> Total weeks on Billboard Hot 100: 16
> Number of times covered: 64

Source: Jim Dyson / Getty Images

74. Theme From Shaft
> Artist: Isaac Hayes
> Year: 1971
> Total weeks on Billboard Hot 100: 13
> Number of times covered: 57

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Source: Express Newspapers / Getty Images

73. Chain Of Fools
> Artist: Aretha Franklin
> Year: 1967
> Total weeks on Billboard Hot 100: 12
> Number of times covered: 61

Source: Hulton Archive / Getty Images

72. Beat It
> Artist: Michael Jackson
> Year: 1983
> Total weeks on Billboard Hot 100: 25
> Number of times covered: 77

Source: George Freston / Getty Images

71. Georgy Girl
> Artist: The Seekers
> Year: 1966
> Total weeks on Billboard Hot 100: 16
> Number of times covered: 47

Source: Steve Wood / Getty Images

70. Let’s Dance
> Artist: David Bowie
> Year: 1983
> Total weeks on Billboard Hot 100: 20
> Number of times covered: 65

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Source: Frazer Harrison / Getty Images

69. Heart Of Gold
> Artist: Neil Young
> Year: 1972
> Total weeks on Billboard Hot 100: 14
> Number of times covered: 64

Source: Fox Photos / Getty Images

68. And I Love Her
> Artist: The Beatles
> Year: 1964
> Total weeks on Billboard Hot 100: 9
> Number of times covered: 320

Source: Wikimedia Commons

67. Time In A Bottle
> Artist: Jim Croce
> Year: 1973
> Total weeks on Billboard Hot 100: 15
> Number of times covered: 74

Source: Antonio Scorza / Shutterstock.com

66. How You Remind Me
> Artist: Nickelback
> Year: 2001
> Total weeks on Billboard Hot 100: 49
> Number of times covered: 12

Source: Mike Coppola / Getty Images

65. Heart Of Glass
> Artist: Blondie
> Year: 1979
> Total weeks on Billboard Hot 100: 21
> Number of times covered: 69

Source: BIPS / Getty Images

64. Nowhere Man
> Artist: The Beatles
> Year: 1966
> Total weeks on Billboard Hot 100: 9
> Number of times covered: 95

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Source: Courtesy of Real Gone Music

63. 96 Tears
> Artist: ? & the Mysterians
> Year: 1966
> Total weeks on Billboard Hot 100: 15
> Number of times covered: 42

Source: Clive Limpkin / Getty Images

62. I Get Around
> Artist: The Beach Boys
> Year: 1964
> Total weeks on Billboard Hot 100: 15
> Number of times covered: 43

Source: Hulton Archive / Getty Images

61. Whole Lotta Love
> Artist: Led Zeppelin
> Year: 1969
> Total weeks on Billboard Hot 100: 15
> Number of times covered: 79

Source: Christopher Polk / Getty Images

60. Gold Digger
> Artist: Kanye West Featuring Jamie Foxx
> Year: 2005
> Total weeks on Billboard Hot 100: 39
> Number of times covered: 0

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Source: Keystone Features / Getty Images

59. Stop! In The Name Of Love
> Artist: The Supremes
> Year: 1965
> Total weeks on Billboard Hot 100: 12
> Number of times covered: 72

Source: Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

58. 50 Ways To Leave Your Lover
> Artist: Paul Simon
> Year: 1975
> Total weeks on Billboard Hot 100: 17
> Number of times covered: 77

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

57. Annie’s Song
> Artist: John Denver
> Year: 1974
> Total weeks on Billboard Hot 100: 17
> Number of times covered: 92

Source: John Sciulli / Getty Images

56. Hello
> Artist: Lionel Richie
> Year: 1984
> Total weeks on Billboard Hot 100: 24
> Number of times covered: 77

Source: Jamie McCarthy / Getty Images

55. Call Me
> Artist: Blondie
> Year: 1980
> Total weeks on Billboard Hot 100: 25
> Number of times covered: 63

Source: Clive Limpkin / Getty Images

54. To Sir With Love
> Artist: Lulu
> Year: 1967
> Total weeks on Billboard Hot 100: 17
> Number of times covered: 43

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Source: Evening Standard / Getty Images

53. Proud Mary
> Artist: Creedence Clearwater Revival
> Year: 1969
> Total weeks on Billboard Hot 100: 14
> Number of times covered: 203

Source: Kim Cook / Getty Images

52. How To Save A Life
> Artist: The Fray
> Year: 2006
> Total weeks on Billboard Hot 100: 58
> Number of times covered: 18

Source: Wikimedia Commons

51. Wooly Bully
> Artist: Sam the Sham & The Pharaohs
> Year: 1965
> Total weeks on Billboard Hot 100: 18
> Number of times covered: 58

Source: Michael Ochs Archives / Getty Images

50. Born To Be Wild
> Artist: Steppenwolf
> Year: 1968
> Total weeks on Billboard Hot 100: 13
> Number of times covered: 90

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Source: Hulton Archive / Getty Images

49. A Hard Day’s Night
> Artist: The Beatles
> Year: 1964
> Total weeks on Billboard Hot 100: 13
> Number of times covered: 227

Source: Michael Ochs Archives / Getty Images

48. Please Mr. Postman
> Artist: The Marvelettes
> Year: 1961
> Total weeks on Billboard Hot 100: 23
> Number of times covered: 52

Source: John Pratt / Getty Images

47. Yellow Submarine
> Artist: The Beatles
> Year: 1966
> Total weeks on Billboard Hot 100: 9
> Number of times covered: 125

Source: Courtesy of United Artists

46. I Feel Fine
> Artist: The Beatles
> Year: 1964
> Total weeks on Billboard Hot 100: 11
> Number of times covered: 100

Source: Central Press / Getty Images

45. Light My Fire
> Artist: The Doors
> Year: 1967
> Total weeks on Billboard Hot 100: 23
> Number of times covered: 187

Source: Wikimedia Commons

44. Lean On Me
> Artist: Bill Withers
> Year: 1972
> Total weeks on Billboard Hot 100: 19
> Number of times covered: 103

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Source: Getty Images Latam / Getty Images

43. Honky Tonk Women
> Artist: The Rolling Stones
> Year: 1969
> Total weeks on Billboard Hot 100: 15
> Number of times covered: 93

Source: Wikimedia Commons

42. King Of The Road
> Artist: Roger Miller
> Year: 1965
> Total weeks on Billboard Hot 100: 13
> Number of times covered: 132

Source: Hulton Archive / Getty Images

41. Penny Lane
> Artist: The Beatles
> Year: 1967
> Total weeks on Billboard Hot 100: 10
> Number of times covered: 136

Source: George Rose / Getty Images

40. Billie Jean
> Artist: Michael Jackson
> Year: 1983
> Total weeks on Billboard Hot 100: 25
> Number of times covered: 113

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Source: Dia Dipasupil / Getty Images

39. The Rose
> Artist: Bette Midler
> Year: 1980
> Total weeks on Billboard Hot 100: 25
> Number of times covered: 137

Source: Theo Wargo / Getty Images

38. Pumped Up Kicks
> Artist: Foster The People
> Year: 2010
> Total weeks on Billboard Hot 100: 40
> Number of times covered: 37

Source: Mike Coppola / Getty Images

37. Will You Love Me Tomorrow
> Artist: The Shirelles
> Year: 1960
> Total weeks on Billboard Hot 100: 25
> Number of times covered: 269

Source: NBC Television / Getty Images

36. I’m A Believer
> Artist: The Monkees
> Year: 1966
> Total weeks on Billboard Hot 100: 15
> Number of times covered: 98

Source: Express / Getty Images

35. What A Wonderful World
> Artist: Louis Armstrong
> Year: 1967
> Total weeks on Billboard Hot 100: 11
> Number of times covered: 405

Source: Clive Limpkin / Getty Images

34. Oh, Pretty Woman
> Artist: Roy Orbison
> Year: 1964
> Total weeks on Billboard Hot 100: 15
> Number of times covered: 108

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Source: Keystone Features / Getty Images

33. We Can Work It Out
> Artist: The Beatles
> Year: 1965
> Total weeks on Billboard Hot 100: 12
> Number of times covered: 133

Source: Stephen Lovekin / Getty Images

32. Mrs. Robinson
> Artist: Simon & Garfunkel
> Year: 1968
> Total weeks on Billboard Hot 100: 13
> Number of times covered: 132

Source: Harry Benson / Getty Images

31. Imagine
> Artist: John Lennon
> Year: 1971
> Total weeks on Billboard Hot 100: 9
> Number of times covered: 331

Source: Reg Lancaster / Getty Images

30. Downtown
> Artist: Petula Clark
> Year: 1964
> Total weeks on Billboard Hot 100: 15
> Number of times covered: 119

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Source: Rick Diamond / Getty Images

29. When A Man Loves A Woman
> Artist: Percy Sledge
> Year: 1966
> Total weeks on Billboard Hot 100: 13
> Number of times covered: 148

Source: Ron Case / Getty Images

28. I Can See Clearly Now
> Artist: Johnny Nash
> Year: 1972
> Total weeks on Billboard Hot 100: 20
> Number of times covered: 132

Source: Theo Wargo / Getty Images

27. Lose Yourself
> Artist: Eminem
> Year: 2002
> Total weeks on Billboard Hot 100: 23
> Number of times covered: 12

Source: Keystone / Getty Images

26. The Letter
> Artist: The Box Tops
> Year: 1967
> Total weeks on Billboard Hot 100: 16
> Number of times covered: 126

Source: Staffan Vilcans / Wikimedia Commons

25. Eye Of The Tiger
> Artist: Survivor
> Year: 1982
> Total weeks on Billboard Hot 100: 25
> Number of times covered: 54

Source: Noam Galai / Getty Images

24. Time After Time
> Artist: Cyndi Lauper
> Year: 1984
> Total weeks on Billboard Hot 100: 20
> Number of times covered: 177

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Source: Debby Wong / Shutterstock.com

23. Just The Way You Are
> Artist: Billy Joel
> Year: 1977
> Total weeks on Billboard Hot 100: 27
> Number of times covered: 172

Source: Keystone / Getty Images

22. Come Together
> Artist: The Beatles
> Year: 1969
> Total weeks on Billboard Hot 100: 16
> Number of times covered: 297

Source: Scott Gries / Getty Images

21. These Boots Are Made For Walkin’
> Artist: Nancy Sinatra
> Year: 1966
> Total weeks on Billboard Hot 100: 14
> Number of times covered: 165

Source: Fox Photos / Getty Images

20. Can’t Buy Me Love
> Artist: The Beatles
> Year: 1964
> Total weeks on Billboard Hot 100: 10
> Number of times covered: 192

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Source: Michael Buckner / Getty Images

19. Wichita Lineman
> Artist: Glen Campbell
> Year: 1968
> Total weeks on Billboard Hot 100: 15
> Number of times covered: 183

Source: Michael Ochs Archives / Getty Images

18. Stand By Me
> Artist: Ben E. King
> Year: 1961
> Total weeks on Billboard Hot 100: 35
> Number of times covered: 241

Source: Keystone / Hulton Archive / Getty Images

17. Help!
> Artist: The Beatles
> Year: 1965
> Total weeks on Billboard Hot 100: 13
> Number of times covered: 178

Source: Harry Benson / Express / Getty Images

16. Something
> Artist: The Beatles
> Year: 1969
> Total weeks on Billboard Hot 100: 6
> Number of times covered: 338

Source: Getty Images

15. Eleanor Rigby
> Artist: The Beatles
> Year: 1966
> Total weeks on Billboard Hot 100: 8
> Number of times covered: 452

Source: Mauricio Santana / Getty Images

14. Happy
> Artist: Pharrell Williams
> Year: 2013
> Total weeks on Billboard Hot 100: 47
> Number of times covered: 58

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Source: Frazer Harrison / Getty Images

13. The Sound Of Silence
> Artist: Simon & Garfunkel
> Year: 1965
> Total weeks on Billboard Hot 100: 14
> Number of times covered: 201

Source: Keystone / Getty Images

12. I Want To Hold Your Hand
> Artist: The Beatles
> Year: 1963
> Total weeks on Billboard Hot 100: 15
> Number of times covered: 173

Source: Keystone / Getty Images

11. Can’t Help Falling In Love
> Artist: Elvis Presley
> Year: 1961
> Total weeks on Billboard Hot 100: 14
> Number of times covered: 365

Source: Theo Wargo / Getty Images

10. Ain’t No Sunshine
> Artist: Bill Withers
> Year: 1971
> Total weeks on Billboard Hot 100: 16
> Number of times covered: 231

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Source: Hulton Archive / Getty Images

9. Let It Be
> Artist: The Beatles
> Year: 1970
> Total weeks on Billboard Hot 100: 14
> Number of times covered: 316

Source: Piotr Zajac / Shutterstock

8. Bohemian Rhapsody
> Artist: Queen
> Year: 1975
> Total weeks on Billboard Hot 100: 41
> Number of times covered: 121

Source: Keystone / Getty Images

7. (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction
> Artist: The Rolling Stones
> Year: 1965
> Total weeks on Billboard Hot 100: 14
> Number of times covered: 243

Source: Ronald Martinez / Getty Images

6. Bad Romance
> Artist: Lady Gaga
> Year: 2009
> Total weeks on Billboard Hot 100: 35
> Number of times covered: 44

Source: Ian Gavan / Getty Images

5. All Of Me
> Artist: John Legend
> Year: 2013
> Total weeks on Billboard Hot 100: 59
> Number of times covered: 88

Source: William Lovelace / Express / Getty Images

4. Hey Jude
> Artist: The Beatles
> Year: 1968
> Total weeks on Billboard Hot 100: 19
> Number of times covered: 330

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Source: Gareth Cattermole / Getty Images

3. Rolling In The Deep
> Artist: Adele
> Year: 2010
> Total weeks on Billboard Hot 100: 65
> Number of times covered: 84

Source: Rick Diamond / Getty Images

2. Bridge Over Troubled Water
> Artist: Simon & Garfunkel
> Year: 1970
> Total weeks on Billboard Hot 100: 14
> Number of times covered: 411

Source: Central Press / Getty Images

1. Yesterday
> Artist: The Beatles
> Year: 1965
> Total weeks on Billboard Hot 100: 11
> Number of times covered: 665

Detailed findings

Slightly more than half of the best songs on our list were released during the 1960s, a period of great talent and creativity in popular music. While rock music may have been the dominant genre of the decade, our list includes soul, folk, and pop songs from the 1960s as well, featuring prolific hitmakers like the recently passed Aretha Franklin, the Queen of Soul.

Many of these older songs have had more time, and therefore opportunities, to be covered or recorded by other artists – a key metric in our ranking. Eighteen of the 100 best songs have been covered or adapted over 200 times, and all but four of those 18 were released in the 1960s. Those four outliers were all released during the early 1970s.

Some performers, such as Michael Jackson, one of the best-selling Grammy Award winners of all time, and Simon & Garfunkel, have multiple songs on the list. The most dominant group, by far, is the Beatles. The Fab Four wrote memorable songs like few other artists and have had more No. 1 singles on the Billboard Hot 100 than any other performer, with 20 hits. The consistent quality and creativity of the Beatles – largely driven by lead songwriters John Lennon and Paul McCartney – are the primary reasons for their lasting legacy as one of the 100 most popular bands of all time.

Methodology

To determine the 100 absolute best songs in history, 24/7 Wall St. generated an index based on rankings on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, lifetime U.S. single sales, and the number of times a song has been covered or adapted. To be included, a song must appear on Ranker.com’s user-generated list of the best songs.

A band’s total certified U.S. single sales came from the Recording Industry Association of America and was given half weight in the index. The RIAA tracks album sales released in the American market with a threshold of 500,000 units sold. How well a song performed on the Billboard Hot 100 was determined by awarding points based on the number of weeks it was on the list and its rank for each week. This measure was given half weight in the index. A song’s peak position on the Billboard Hot 100 was also given a full weight in the index. Data on the estimated number of times a song has been covered was provided by SecondHandSongs and was given full weight in the index.

Novelty songs such as “Monster Mash” by Bobby “Boris” Pickett & The Crypt Kickers were removed at 24/7 Wall St.’s discretion.