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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

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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

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34

“Waiting On a Friend” (1981)

Speaking of waiting, the Stones kept this song in the vaults for almost a decade before releasing it as the grand finale on Tattoo You. They originally cut it in Kingston, Jamaica, during the 1972 sessions for Goats Head Soup, with Nicky Hopkins playing graceful piano runs against Richards' fragile strumming. Jagger went back years later, finished up the lyrics and delivered one of his masterfully soulful vocal performances, ruminating over a case of grown-up loneliness. "The lyric I added was very gentle and loving," Jagger said years later. "About friendships in the band." The Stones invited one of their all-time heroes to do the sax solo, jazz legend Sonny Rollins. As Jagger recalled, "I said, 'Would you like me to stay out there in the studio?' He said, 'Yeah, you tell me where you want me to play and dance the part out.'" So Jagger danced, Rollins translated the moves into sax glory and "Waiting On a Friend" closes out Tattoo You in style. The famous video features Jagger and Richards hanging out with some buddies (including reggae great Peter Tosh) on a stoop on New York's St. Mark's Place – in front of the same building Led Zeppelin put on the cover of Physical Graffiti.

The Rolling Stones

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33

“Have You Seen Your Mother, Baby, Standing in the Shadow?” (1966)

"The ultimate freakout," Jagger said of this single. It still sounds impressively nuts – from its long, vaguely scandalous title to its five-alarm horn blasts to its early use of guitar feedback to its haywire tempo to its decadent noir-psych lyrics. It was especially controversial for its cover, an image of the bandmates dressed in drag. After they shot it, they went to a bar, still dolled up in dresses and wigs. "No one said anything," Richards recalled.