Home Music Music Lists

100 Greatest Rolling Stones Songs

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

The Rolling Stones

Terry O'Neill/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

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)

Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

3

“Sympathy for the Devil” (1968)

No band ever summed up its mission on Earth as perfectly as the Stones did here. "Sympathy for the Devil" was a shot at their critics that also mirrored real-world evil. (Jagger had to change the lyric "who killed Kennedy" to "who killed the Kennedys" when news of Robert F. Kennedy's assassination reached the Beggars Banquet sessions in June 1968.) Originally written as a Dylan-esque folk song, it rolls forward like a storm front, driven by a menacing samba-funk groove from Watts and African percussionist Rocky Dijon and piano and bass (played by Richards), with a wicked guitar solo midway through. The unrepentant whoo-whoo backing vocals were sung by a crowd that included Watts, Jones (who would be dead in a year) and his ex-girlfriend Anita Pallenberg, who was keeping company with Richards. Jagger based his portrait of Satan as "a may-yun of way-elth and tay-ste" in part on Mikhail Bulgakov's satirical novel The Master and Margarita. But he made the role his own.

Val Wilmer/Redferns

2

“(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” (1965)

Built on the Stones‘ greatest riff, “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” near-singlehandedly turned “rock & roll” from a teenage fad into something far heavier and more dangerous. The guitar line was conjured by Richards while he was asleep. “I had no idea I’d written it,” he recalled in his memoir, Life, explaining how he awoke to discover the bones of the song – evidently recorded the previous night with his acoustic guitar – on a bedside cassette machine. Jagger thinks his partner got the title from a line in Chuck Berry‘s 1955 single “30 Days” (“I don’t get no satisfaction from the judge”); the singer wrote the remaining lyrics sitting next to a hotel pool in Clearwater, Florida, in early 1965, during the band’s third U.S. tour, distilling his “frustration with everything,” especially with “America, its advertising syndrome, the constant barrage.” The verses took him all of 10 minutes. It ended up being the band’s first Number One in America.