The 50 Absolute Best Songs in History

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30. Surfin’ U.S.A.
> Artist: The Beach Boys
> Billboard Hot 100 entry date: March 23, 1963
> Total weeks on Billboard Hot 100: 25
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“Surfin’ U.S.A.” is a paean to carefree youth. In early 1960s America, who could ask for more? “Surfin’ U.S.A.” was the Beach Boys’ first top-10 hit, reaching No. 3 in March of 1963. It would be viewed as lampooned by the Beatles when they sang “Back in the U.S.S.R.” on the “White Album” in 1968.

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29. For What It’s Worth (Stop, Hey What’s That Sound)
> Artist: Buffalo Springfield
> Billboard Hot 100 entry date: Jan. 28, 1967
> Total weeks on Billboard Hot 100: 15
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Many people believe that “For What It’s Worth (Stop, Hey What’s That Sound)” is a song protesting the Vietnam War. However, Stephen Stills wrote it in the aftermath of clashes between young people and police who were enforcing a curfew in Los Angeles in 1966. The song was Buffalo Springfield’s biggest hit, reaching No. 7 in March of 1967. Members of the band would eventually form the folk-rock group Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young.

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28. Space Oddity
> Artist: David Bowie
> Billboard Hot 100 entry date: Jan. 27, 1973
> Total weeks on Billboard Hot 100: 15
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In early 1973, as America was still trying to understand the quirky act of the famously androgynous English rocker, David Bowie notched his first top 40 American hit, as “Space Oddity” rose to No. 15 on the Billboard Hot 100. The song was inducted into The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll. “Space Oddity” was about a forlorn astronaut dealing with the void of space. When Elon Musk sent his Tesla Roadster into space, “Space Oddity” was blasting from the vehicle’s speakers.

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27. Bridge Over Troubled Water
> Artist: Simon & Garfunkel
> Billboard Hot 100 entry date: Feb. 7, 1970
> Total weeks on Billboard Hot 100: 14
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The chart-topping title track of the folk-rock duo’s monumental album, and their final studio LP, won five Grammy Awards. Fifty years later, “Bridge Over Troubled Water” remains one of the most moving songs of the rock era. It became one of the most performed songs of the 20th century, with more than 50 artists, among them Elvis Presley and Aretha Franklin, covering the song.

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26. You Really Got Me
> Artist: The Kinks
> Billboard Hot 100 entry date: Sept. 26, 1964
> Total weeks on Billboard Hot 100: 15
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The Kinks, led by quarrelsome brothers Ray and Dave Davies, took the well-traveled British Invasion route to the United States in the mid-1960s. They scored five top-10 hits on American shores. “You Really Got Me” reached No. 7 on the Billboard Hot 100 in November of 1964.

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25. Born to Be Wild
> Artist: Steppenwolf
> Billboard Hot 100 entry date: July 13, 1968
> Total weeks on Billboard Hot 100: 13
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The Canadian-American band enjoyed success in the late 1960s with memorable rockers such as “Born to Be Wild,” an anthem about unfettered freedom. The song was Steppenwolf’s biggest hit, going to No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100. “Born to Be Wild” is heard during the beginning of the counterculture film “Easy Rider” starring Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper.

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24. Respect
> Artist: Aretha Franklin
> Billboard Hot 100 entry date: April 29, 1967
> Total weeks on Billboard Hot 100: 12
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One of only two No. 1 hits released by Aretha Franklin, “Respect” is one of the greatest R&B and rock songs of all time. The song was originally released by Otis Redding but it was Franklin, along with her sister Carolyn, who came up with the song’s famous “sock it to me” portion.

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23. All Along the Watchtower
> Artist: Jimi Hendrix
> Billboard Hot 100 entry date: Sept. 21, 1968
> Total weeks on Billboard Hot 100: 9
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Jimi Hendrix admired the work of Bob Dylan and brought his vision to the Dylan-penned song “All Along the Watchtower,” which continues to enjoy frequent airplay on classic rock radio stations. “All Along the Watchtower” was the most successful single for Hendrix, rising to No. 20 on the Billboard Hot 100.

Source: Michael Ochs Archives / Getty Images

22. Wipe Out
> Artist: The Surfaris
> Billboard Hot 100 entry date: June 22, 1963
> Total weeks on Billboard Hot 100: 30
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Every band worth its salt in the 1960s learned the guitar riff and the drum solo to “Wipe Out,” which reached No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100. The Surfaris were inducted into the Musicians Hall of Fame in 2019 for the instrumental song.

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21. I Get Around
> Artist: The Beach Boys
> Billboard Hot 100 entry date: May 23, 1964
> Total weeks on Billboard Hot 100: 15
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One of the great youth anthems of the 1960s, “I Get Around” was the first of four No. 1 singles for the band that symbolized the freewheeling California lifestyle.