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Consider this our petition to re-name the entire Classic Rock genre as Dad Rock. This playlist is permission to put on your New Balance 990s, pull up your crew socks, and tackle some chores around the house. Maybe reorganize the dishwasher, alphabetize the vinyl, or head to a home improvement store for some plumbing parts. There’s something unabashedly optimistic about classic rock. It’s a holdover from a time when the American Dream was still possible. The white picket fence, 9 to 5 reliable job, partner, and 2.5 children all required rebelling against, but without vitriol or resentment. Classic rock just feels good, and none feels better than these ten best classic rock songs of all time.
#1. “Purple Haze” | Jimi Hendrix
The rock god will forever reign as #1 on classic rock lists. Jimi Hendrix said he wanted people to play his music and freak out, which Purple Haze makes you do on several levels. The guitar riffs grab hold of your little music-loving soul and suck you into Jimi’s world. We don’t blame you if this one sits on repeat for a little while.
#2. “Fortunate Son” | Creedence Clearwater Revival
There’s a reason musical directors reach for Creedence Clearwater Revival for every movie about or around the Vietnam War. Fortunate Son was an anti-war classic rock song of 1969. Next, it appeared on every notable list of 20th century music ever. You don’t have to know its history or cultural significance to just feel the “fuck war, let us live” energy radiating out of the melody.
#3. “Under Pressure” | David Bowie & Queen
How blessed were we to share this planet with David Bowie? While he and Freddie Mercury have returned to stardust, they left us this absolute treasure of a rock song. These two rock gods looked right into our poor mortal hearts and sang out the universal human condition. Whether your preferred listening is pre-work hype up, your go-to karaoke duet, or jukebox must-play, we dare you to listen without belting out; why can’t we give love a chance?
#4. “Edge of Seventeen” | Stevie Nicks
You want to hype-up for your weekend chores, get these driving guitar riffs into your headphones. Stevie Nicks plays this song like she’s doing it a favor. Even though Stevie’s vocals were mature when she recorded Edge of Seventeen on her debut album, she captures the ache of being seventeen in this classic rock song when she sings about the days going by.
#5. “Dream On” | Aerosmith
If dads had emo-rock, the genre would be born from and die on this power ballad. You couldn’t get away with imploring the audience to sing with you these days, but it’s just so goddamn earnest you can’t hate it. It makes you wonder if cynicism was invented in the 80s along with cocaine (probably).
#6. “Piece of My Heart” | Janis Joplin
Now c’mon. Janis Joplin was such a rare, exceptional talent in the pantheon of rock gods. Erma Franklin originally wrote Piece of My Heart, but Joplin brought it to mainstream attention when she wailed and thrashed her way through it. She and the yowling guitar riffs encapsulate the anger, daring, and lament of the lyrics.
#7. “Baba O’Riley” | The Who
When has a synthesizer ever made you feel like the opening of Baba O’Reily? It’s indecent to feel seen by such a corny instrument, especially one set to “marimba repeat” to generate the iconic sound. If this classic rock song comes on the jukebox (or Spotify playlist, more likely), you should stand on your chair and belt it out.
#8. “You Really Got Me” | The Kinks
If this list hasn’t already made it clear, we love driving guitar riffs layered with building vocals that express something about the human conditions. You Really Got Me does it all, plus a chorus simple enough to sing along. As far as dads are concerned, it’s the perfect classic rock song to espouse your theories about rock-and-roll to your offspring, no matter the generational divide.
#9. “Freebird” | Lynryd Skynrd
If you’re at a rock concert and someone doesn’t shout “FREEBIRD,” you aren’t at a rock concert. It is the classic rock song.
#10. “You Shook Me All Night Long” | AC/DC
If it comes on the radio while you’re driving carpool, you roll down the window, turn the volume up, and tell the story about how you snuck into an AC/DC concert in high school while your kids scootch down a little more in their seats. Does it still hold up? Now that AC/DC is working on a beverage empire that includes Thunderstruck Tequila, they’ve tarnished their classic cool reputation. But the song still rocks.
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