Home Music Music Lists

Rolling Stone Readers Pick the Best Ballads of All Time

Watch clips from the winners, including Prince, Pearl Jam, Marvin Gaye and Led Zeppelin

Ian Dickson/Redferns/Getty Images

Last week we asked our readers to vote for their favorite ballad or slow jam of all time. Votes were all over the place – from tracks by Pearl Jam to Elvis Presley to Lionel Richie. In the end it was very close, and there was a tie so we had to expand our standard top 10 to a top 12. If this survey has reinforced anything, it's that our readers really, really love Led Zeppelin.

By Andy Greene


Photos: Rolling Stone Readers Pick the Top 10 Greatest Cover Songs

Photos: Rolling Stone Readers Pick the Top 10 One-Hit Wonders of All Time

Play video

4. ‘November Rain’

Guns N' Roses didn't release their Elton John-inspired epic "November Rain" until 1991, but by that point Axl Rose had been picking away at the work for at least eight years. Former bandmate Tracii Guns says he remembers Axl working on the piece during their early days together, claiming he didn't have it quite right. The band tried to cut it for 1987's Appetite For Destruction, but they held back until the sessions for Use Your Illusion. The song has proved to be one of their most enduring works, and one of the few tracks from the bloated Use Your Illusion albums that Axl's new incarnation of Guns N' Roses play in their set. They played a powerful version of the song with Elton John at the 1992 MTV Video Music Awards.

Photos: Axl Rose's Paparazzi Punch-Out

Rolling Stone's 100 Greatest Artists of All Time: Guns N' Roses

Play video

3. ‘Wild Horses’

The Rolling Stones cut "Wild Horses" at Alabama's Muscle Shoals studios during their 1969 American tour. "It almost wrote itself," Keith Richards wrote in his memoir Life. "Once you've got the vision in your mind of wild horses, what's the next phrase you're going to use? It's got to be 'couldn't drag me away.' That's one of the great things about songwriting; it's not an intellectual experience. One might have to apply the brain here and here, but basically it's capturing moments."

Keith Richards on His Remarkable New Memoir, 'Life'

A Herd of "Wild Horses": Susan Boyle and More Cover the Classic

Play video

2. ‘Something’

The Beatles only allowed George Harrison to contribute one or two songs per album, but he always made them count. His 1969 love song "Something" has proved to be one of his most enduring works.  "I wrote it at the time when we were making the last double album," Harrison said in 1969. " And it's just the first line, 'Something in the way she moves' which has been in millions of songs. It's not a special thing. But it just seemed quite apt. I usually get the first few lines of lyrics and melody both at once. And then I finish the melody usually first and then I have to write the words…But John gave me a handy tip once, which is, once you start to write the song, try and finish it straight away while you're in the mood. And I've learned from experience. Because you go to back to it and then you're in a whole different state of mind and it's more difficult. Sometimes it's easier but on the whole it's more difficult to come back to something. So I do it now, try and finish them straight away."

Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Albums of All Time: The Beatles' 'Abbey Road'

Photos: The Beatles Romp Through London in 1968

Play video

1. ‘Stairway To Heaven’

If the entire genre of Classic Rock had to be reduced to one song it would probably be "Stairway To Heaven." It's been played a squajillion times on the radio since it came out in 1971, and it doesn't show any signs of going away – much to the chagrin of Robert Plant who has repeatedly said that some of the lyrics make him squirm. He's only played it handful of times since Led Zeppelin split in 1980, even refusing to bust it out on Page & Plant's reunion tours in 1995 and 1998. At Led Zeppelin's one-off gig in 2007 he did agree to revive the song, but don't expect the words "bustle in your hedgerow" to ever leave his lips again.

Photos: Rarely Seen Photos From Led Zeppelin Book 'Good Times, Bad Times'

Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Albums of All Time: Led Zeppelin's 'IV'

Show Comments