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100 Greatest Rolling Stones Songs

100 Greatest Rolling Stones Songs

The Rolling Stones

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From “Paint It Black” to “Shine a Light” – the hottest rocks from the Stones’ 50-year career, chosen by our expert panel of writers, critics and artists.

To make the list, we asked each of these Stones experts to rank their 50 favorite songs, then tabulated the results.

The Panel: Patrick Carney (the Black Keys), Jonathan Cott (contributing editor, Rolling Stone), Cameron Crowe (director), Anthony DeCurtis (contributing editor, Rolling Stone), Jon Dolan (contributing editor, Rolling Stone), David Fricke (Senior Writer, Rolling Stone), Robert Greenfield
(journalist and author), Will Hermes (contributing editor, Rolling Stone), Robert Hilburn (journalist and author), Howard Kramer (Director of Curatorial Affairs, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame), Chuck Leavell (musician), Jonathan Lethem (novelist), Martin Scorsese (director), Rob Sheffield (contributing editor, Rolling Stone), Lucinda Williams (singer-songwriter), Warren Zanes (the Del Fuegos)

The Rolling Stones

Gijsbert Hanekroot/Redferns

57

“Sweet Black Angel” (1972)

A tribute to Angela Davis, the Black Panther who was jailed for murder in 1970, this ballad is the band's most activist moment. Jagger sings, "Free the sweet black slave," framed by acoustic guitars, backwoods harmonica and a touch of calypso lilt. It may also be Jagger's least campy, most convincing country-folk performance.

Terry O'Neill/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

56

“Not Fade Away” (1964)

The Stones made this Buddy Holly standard sound demanding and desperate. "[We] put the Bo Diddley beat up front," Wyman said. Andrew Loog Oldham went so far as to say it was "the first song Mick and Keith wrote. The way they arranged it was the beginning of their shaping of them as songwriters."

The Rolling Stones

Fin Costello/Redferns

55

“Star Star” (1973)

As per the chorus, this tribute to groupies was titled "Starfucker," until label honcho Ahmet Ertegun stepped in. And it became even more infamous during the 1975 tour, when a 20-foot-tall penis was inflated alongside Jagger as he sang it. The line about "givin' head to Steve McQueen" had to be vetted with the actor, who was quite flattered.

The Rolling Stones

Gijsbert Hanekroot/Redferns

54

“Loving Cup” (1972)

"Loving Cup" closes the first half of Exile, punctuating a tumultuous, ragged half-hour of rock & roll with a shot of mountain-climbing redemption and lyrical warmth. Originally attempted at London's Olympic Studios during the Let It Bleed sessions, then revived and finished in early 1972 in Los Angeles, it's one of several gospel-steeped Exile songs that didn't come out of the band's hazy time at Nellcôte. This may account for its very un-basement-y maximalism: Nicky Hopkins' majestic piano comes on like clouds parting, and the song seems to gather momentum and emotional power as it gathers influences. Jagger goes from self-deprecating come-ons ("I am nitty-gritty and my shirt's all torn/But I would love to spill the beans with you till the dawn") to innocent elation ("Feel your mouth kissing me again/What a beautiful buzz") in a country drawl. The bright soul horns and a backing choir (which probably included an uncredited Gram Parsons) enhance the song's sense of deeply spiritual gratitude.

The Rolling Stones

Michael Putland/Getty Images

53

“All Down the Line” (1972)

"It's going to be the single," Jagger enthused about this breakneck rocker, the first song finished for Exile. They immediately took the demo to an L.A. DJ and drove around listening to their work. "It was surreal," recalled engineer Andy Johns. "Up and down Sunset Strip at nine on a Saturday night. The Strip was jumpin', and I'm in the car with those guys listening to my mixes."

The Rolling Stones

Michael Putland/Getty Images

52

“Worried About You” (1981)

A lush stax/volt soul ballad via Jamaican reggae, this may be best known for its music video, featuring Jagger and Richards playing with a bottle of Jack Daniel's close at hand. It was recorded in 1975, so although Wood appears in the clip, the scalding guitar solo was played by Wayne Perkins, one of the other candidates for Taylor's job.

The Rolling Stones

Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

51

“2000 Light Years From Home” (1967)

While other bands were singing about the joys of tripping through outer space, the Stones were already looking on the dark side. This song is a psychedelic nightmare, capturing the desolation ("It's sooo very lonely") of feeling lost in the cosmos, as Jones' Mellotron casts an ominous spell.

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