Judas Priest frontman Rob Halford has always stuck up for heavy metal’s place in pop culture. So it was no surprise that when the singer, known to his fans as the “Metal God,” submitted his ballot for Rolling Stone’s new 500 Greatest Songs of All Time rankings, nearly all of his Top 10 tunes were certified headbangers. Halford was one of more than 250 artists, journalists, and industry figures to weigh in on the new list.
He recently caught up with Rolling Stone to break down his picks, singing the praises of Ozzy Osbourne, Ronnie James Dio, and Motörhead’s Lemmy Kilmister, among others. Many of his picks echo his selections for his Top 10 favorite albums, which he sent to Rolling Stone last year when we re-ranked the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.
Regarding his Number One song, Black Sabbath’s “Paranoid,” Halford praised the tune’s pioneering spirit. “For me, it was one of these game-changing moments that we have in music, because it brought out and brought forth a genre and a style of music that lit up the world,” he said. “‘Paranoid’ just took off like a heavy-metal rocket.”
Some of Halford’s other favorite songs include Slayer’s “Angel of Death,” Dio’s “Holy Diver,” Metallica’s “Ride the Lightning,” and Motörhead’s “Ace of Spades.” His sole non-metal selection was David Bowie’s “Space Oddity.” “I saw the Ziggy Stardust [tour] in the U.K., in Wolverhampton, and I’m so thrilled that I have the memory of watching him walk out onstage and doing the whole Ziggy Stardust album,” he says. “Out of all of the people that we talked about, Bowie as a musician …man, there’s no one like him.”
Halford and Judas Priest are currently touring the U.S. to celebrate their 50th anniversary. Next month, they’ll release a 42-CD box set, 50 Heavy Metal Years of Music, that includes 13 discs of previously unreleased material.