The 50 best songs of our boomer generation

This is fun: Hawthorne, New Jersey’s retired editor and writer Alan J. Paul has put together a list. It’s a list full of memories. And for baby boomers, good vibrations. He calls it “The 50 Best Songs Of My Generation.”

I have been working on “The 50 Best” for the past year or so, but the list remains fluid for the simple reason that I keep remembering other songs I’ve loved over the years and have to make adjustments. I purposely decided to limit the list to only one song per artist or group, since it would have been overrun by the likes of the Beatles, the Stones, Billy Joel, and a generous handful of others.

Alan J. Paul, writer and editor.

My other caveats were that there had to be a certain level of musical sophistication to the selections, and I tried not to include one-hit-wonders (though there have been several that I’ve liked, in spite of myself).

It is only as I’ve gotten older that I’ve come to realize the extent to which music has shaped, enriched, described, and defined my existence. This, then, is the soundtrack of my life, to this point in time. Let me know if there are any songs you think I might have overlooked, or others that really have no right being on “The 50 Best Songs of My Generation,” for whatever reason.

  1. Satisfaction (The Rolling Stones)
  2. Like A Rolling Stone (Bob Dylan)
  3. Eleanor Rigby (The Beatles)
  4. Stairway To Heaven (Led Zeppelin)
  5. God Only Knows (The Beach Boys)
  6. Imagine (John Lennon)
  7. Baba O’Riley (The Who)
  8. Billy Jean (Michael Jackson)
  9. Hotel California (The Eagles)
  10. Suite Judy Blue Eyes (Crosby, Stills and Nash)
  11. Johnny B. Goode (Chuck Berry)
  12. Born To Run (Bruce Springsteen)
  13. Can’t Find My Way Home (Blind Faith)
  14. Goodbye Yellow Brick Road (Elton John)
  15. Light My Fire (The Doors)
  16. Cowgirl In The Sand (Neil Young)
  17. Scenes From An Italian Restaurant (Billy Joel)
  18. Fire And Rain (James Taylor)
  19. You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling (The Righteous Brothers)
  20. Can’t Stop Believing (Journey)
  21. Respect (Aretha Franklin)
  22. American Pie (Don McLean)
  23. The Prayer (Andrea Bocelli & Celine Dion)
  24. Follow (Richie Havens)
  25. Turn, Turn, Turn (The Byrds)
  26. Losing My Religion (REM)
  27. Every Breath You Take (The Police)
  28. Be My Baby (The Ronettes)
  29. Bridge Over Troubled Water (Simon & Garfunkel)
  30. Bohemian Rhapsody (Queen)
  31. Up On The Roof (The Drifters)
  32. Georgia (Ray Charles)
  33. Superstition (Stevie Wonder)
  34. California Dreamin’ (The Mamas And The Papas)
  35. Landslide (Fleetwood Mac)
  36. House Of The Rising Son (The Animals)
  37. Born To Be Wild (Steppenwolf)
  38. Both Sides Now (Joni Mitchell)
  39. That’ll Be The Day (Buddy Holly & The Crickets)
  40. Bye Bye Love (The Everly Brothers)
  41. Earth Angel (The Penguins)
  42. Come Go With Me (Del Vikings)
  43. Will You Love Me Tomorrow (The Shirelles)
  44. Oh What A Night (The Four Seasons)
  45. Smoke On The Water (Deep Purple)
  46. The Way It Is (Bruce Hornsby)
  47. Don’t Be Cruel (Elvis Presley)
  48. I Can’t Make You Love Me (Bonnie Raitt)
  49. Don’t Know Much (Aaron Neville & Linda Ronstadt)
  50. The Barricades Of Heaven (Jackson Browne)

Crosby, Stills & Nash

There’s a “COMMENTS” section down below. Let me know if you’re on my musical soundtrack.

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73 Comments on "The 50 best songs of our boomer generation"

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John Stark
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Although it was mentioned in the title headline I was surprised to see that GOOD VIBRATIONS was not on the list. The technique in which Brian Wilson did the splicing and editing that was done was DECADES ahead of its time.
It is frequently referred to as one of the best engineered recordings of all time.

Alan Paul
Guest

Good point, John. That would have been my second Beach Boys song. Brian Wilson’s genius would have required several inclusions, had I chosen to have more than one song per artist or group.

Ed Kirkpatrick
Guest

Great list but it’s clear we need a longer list, maybe best 500 or so… 😉 I was surprised by your selection of Eleanor Rigby for the Beatles song though…

David H.
Guest
I would add David Crosby’s original recording of “Laughing” that included cameos from an unprecedented gathering of icons in rock — background vocals by Joni Mitchell, Graham Nash, Stephen Stills, and Neil Young. An unbelievable and unrehearsed soaring pedal steel guitar riff at the end by the late Jerry Garcia. “Laughing” was featured on Crosby’s album, If I Could Only Remember My Name,” a phrase many in the boomer generation were asking at the time. I would also add “Lucky Man” by Emerson, Lake & Palmer. I thought it sort of a theme about the loss of American lives in… Read more »
Alan Paul
Guest

Completely forgot about ELP, David. Senior moment… And CSN(Y) is/are my all-time fave. Could have had a dozen of theirs on this list.

Roger Bebow
Guest

Alan,
You may have to increase the size of your list. Here are a couple suggestions:
“Free Bird” Lynyrd Skynyrd
“Low Spark of High Heeled Boys” Traffic

Your list is spot on. I’m sure most of us have a list of 100 tops songs. Imagine the length of thousands of songs. What a glorious list that would be!

Sandy
Guest

When a Men Loves a Women, Dock of the Bay, something by the Supremes, DownTown, Something by Dusty Springfield. I didn’t see Santana on the list.

I don’t consider Queen and Journey to be part of the boomer generation music. I know I was in my early to mid 20’s when they were popular.

Alan Paul
Guest

Good songs/artists, Sandy. And, just for the record, I consider my generation to be the one I’m currently living in. Thanks for the feedback.

Cheryl
Guest

Sandy, the Baby Boomer generation is officially anyone born between ’46 and ’64. A person born in 1964 graduated in 1982. Queen and Journey both came into popularity before that. Besides, were you really all done with current music by your mid 20’s?

allan crowder
Guest

The Supremes?

David Henderson
Guest

The Supreme were terrific. What’s your favorite song by them?

Uncle Albert
Guest

Nicely done for the most part! No. 23 completely baffles me cos I have never heard it and am not sure the artists are representative of us in any way. Not enuff Motown or Soul music. What about Marvin Gaye’s cover of “I HeardI It Through The Grapevine”? IMHO, a glaring miss is not including “Somebody To Love” by The Jefferson Airplane. You got Blind Faith dead solid perfect but no Cream? Enuff for now but all in all, a worthy endeavor, well executed, giving us much food for thought.

Alan Paul
Guest

All good points. Just understand that this list is only one man’s opinion. It was fun to do, but very difficult, and I’m so glad that it has inspired a bit of discussion. Thanks!

Alan Paul
Guest

These omissions are duly noted, Uncle Al; there are difficult choices to be made when one puts a number on a list. Some of my faves might not be yours, and vice versa. Do yourself a favor, though, and You-Tube “The Prayer,” as performed by Bocelli and Celine; it’s a classic, no matter the generation. Thanks.

Barbara J Neumayer
Guest

Please do You-Tube “The Prayer” by by AndreavBocelli and Celine Dion. I have never heard of it either.
Class of 1966.

Eric Mondschein
Guest

Great post! It brought back so many great memories. And yes, the music of our time was incredible! Thank you.

Alan Paul
Guest

Thank you, Eric. Now, if I could only remember more of those memories…

David H.
Guest

There is so much terrific music of the baby boomer generation. And, Alan is correct — this is his top 50 list. We invite you to come up with your own personal list of hits, check our submission guidelines, and give us your own take on the music of the boomer generation.

Has anyone mentioned Hendrix? Or, “I Only Have Eyes For You” by The Flamingos. Or, my personal favorite, “Mustang Sally” by the late great Wilson Pickett.

David

Alan Paul
Guest

Thanks, David. As previously mentioned, you are a gentleman and a scholar. And good lookin’ besides. ‘Purple Haze,” for sure; and who could forget the Flamingos? (Well, I guess I did.)

David H.
Guest

Alan,

Hey, you limited your list to the 50 best when we all know there are hundreds of memorable, meaningful and terrific songs and pieces of music.

How about we just kibitz away until someone decides to have a best 51-100 songs?

And, yeah, I think I am still devastatingly good-looking even though I might be an audience of one.

David

Alan Paul
Guest

Right on, David! Isn’t that what we used to say, back in the day?

John Cergol
Guest

Gimme Shelter

Roz Warren
Guest

Instant Karma!

Alan Paul
Guest

Namaste.

Jerry
Guest

You a) have mentioned some greats but I’m a little disappointed that Pink Floyd, Janis Joplin, and others are left out.

Scott O.
Guest

Absolutely! Pink Floyd, Janis Joplin, Alan Parsons all should be in there. Maybe it should be a top 100?

Scott O.
Guest

Wow! I’m just getting started with Alan Parsons. There is Roy Orbison, Jeff Lynne (ELO), Ricky Nelson, James Brown, Rita Coolidge, Tom Petty, Elvin Bishop, Natalie Cole, Bonnie Raitt, Ian Anderson (Jethro Tull), The Winter Brothers Johnny and Edgar, Steve Winwood, Procol Harum, Moody Blues, Stevie Ray Vaughn and I’m sure I’m only scratching the surface!

Denver M.
Guest

Excellent work Alan! While all of us would add a song or two, a list like this (as David indicated) is intensely personal; a reflection of your personal journey through life. I applaud the hair-splitting it took to narrow it down to 50!

Alan Paul
Guest

Thank you, Denver. (Probably should be a John Denver song on here…) It started out as a Top-10, and I was finally forced to cut it off at 50, so that I could resume my relatively normal life.

Ria Stone
Guest
Alan: I think you struck a chord. Here’s are some of my favorites: A Horse with No Name – America It’s Too Late – Carole King Teach Your Children – Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young Your Love is King – Sade Somebody to Love – Jefferson Airplane It’s in His Kiss – Betty Everett For What’s it’s Worth – Buffalo Springfield Tears of a Clown – Smokey Robinson & the Miracles If – Bread All of a Sudden My Heart Sings – Mel Carter Sunlight – The Youngbloods Easy to be Hard – Three Dog Night All I See is… Read more »
Theresa Finney
Guest

While I love all of Alan’s list, I feel like Ria’s was spot on for me with 1 exception. Where is Janis Joplin? LOVED Me and Bobby McGee or Mercedes Benz!

Ria Stone
Guest

Yeah Theresa, spot on…

Alan Paul
Guest

Thank you, Ria. Many of yours would make my Top 100.

Kelly
Guest

Our generation had the best!! The newbies remake our music, NOT the music of the Gen X kids .)

Jeff H
Guest

This list should not have been limited to one song per group. Both the Beatles and the Beach Boys clearly had more than one song that should have made the list. Great idea, but flawed results.

Alan Paul
Guest

Don’t agree that the results were flawed, Jeff. I chose the parameters of my list because I wanted to include as many of the artists I loved as possible. As you point out, had I not chosen these constraints, the list would have been mostly Beatles, Stones, Beach Boys, Billy Joel, etc. This worked for me, but I understand that it wouldn’t work for everyone. Thanks for the feedback!

TASOS POIRAZIS
Guest

Yes,that is. And where is Dee purple,Doors,the who,The animals,Aretha Franklin,James Brown?And others All these above they give us diamonts for ever and ever. Alan , believe your 50s more lovely songs memories should be 100 or 150 .

Steven H.
Guest

“Tracks of my Tears”
Smokey Robinson

Ria Stone
Guest

Yes, Steven! — this post brings back great memories!

Alan Paul
Guest

My first girlfriend hated Smokey, Steven. One of the reasons why we didn’t last. Thanks.

Sam
Guest

Great list! Mine would have to include The Weight by The Band or something from Lynyrd Skynrd. But, yours is pretty good.

Sam
Guest

And how could I forget Van Morrison!

Alan Paul
Guest

Unfortunately, it’s what we Boomers do, Sam. I mean forget. It’s why my 50 Best is an ongoing project. Thanks.

Pat
Guest

The Weight by The Band. Something by The Amazing Rythm Aces

Augie
Guest
Great lists, team. If the goal is to list songs that were anthems of the generation – widely known and loved — I couldn’t improve much on either Alan’s or Ria’s list. I do agree that Janis and Gracie need to be there. The music that I listened to more than most of those songs, though, was music by artists who never really caught on with the general public, like the great songwriter (and, IMHO, equally great singer/pianist) Laura Nyro; singer/songwriter Steve Goodman (“City of New Orleans,” “You Never Even Call Me By My Name”); Paul Butterfield; and more. Great… Read more »
Alan Paul
Guest

Great points, Augie; and well said. Thanks.

Jim
Guest

My Girl and Ain’t To Proud To Beg by the Temptations. Neither can make the list? Impossible in my opinion.

Heath
Guest

For What It’s Worth by Buffalo Springfield …

Ria Stone
Guest

Heath – great one, loving all the comments.

Karen
Guest

My all time favorite of the 60s was Eve of Destruction followed by Jefferson Airplanes White Rabbit

Ramona Bishop
Guest

No Credence Clearwater Revival ? Or even BTO?

Rosemary Lee
Guest

Well, I guess this means the list should be expanded to the 100 greatest songs of the Boomer Generation.

Erin
Guest

Freebird!

If I stay here with you girl
Things just couldn’t be the same
Cause I’m as free as a bird now
And this bird you cannot change…

(…and suddenly I’m back at my high school gymnasium dance…)

Cindy N
Guest

Some monumental songs, similar to Davis H’s suggestion of ELP’s “Lucky Man”,
are noteworthy too:
Iron Butterfly’s “In A Gadda Da Vida”
And
Arlo Guthrie’s “Alice’s Restaurant”.
Unique beyond measure.
To this day, still hear about Alice every year on the radio on Thanksgiving Day, no matter where I am in. America!

Alan Paul
Guest

In A Gada Da Vida played non-stop, full volume on the stereo in my college fraternity house, Cindy. How could I forget it? Ditto Alice’s Restaurant; a true classic. Thanks!

Ria Stone
Guest

I wish Boomer Cafe had a “Like” button. I would “Like” so many of these replies. Thanks for the memories – In A Gadda Da Vida and Alice’s Restaurant – milestones!

Cheryl
Guest

Love the list Alan, although mine might be a bit different. Your list, and the suggestions in the comments, gives me lots of ideas for my next music purchases!

LariAT
Guest
A couple of months ago I created this playlist of songs that revisited the Viet Nam era. (Something I guess only a baby boomer would do.) Because Viet Nam was a big part of our formative years (’62-’75), I hope you don’t mind my sharing. 01 Ride Of The Valkyries – Richard Wagner 02 Born To Be Wild – Steppenwolf 03 For What It’s Worth – Buffalo Springfield 04 In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida – Iron Butterfly 05 Fortunate Son – Creedence Clearwater Revival 06 Riders On The Storm – The Doors 07 What’s Going On – Marvin Gaye 08 House Of The Rising… Read more »
LariAT
Guest

Alan – Great “conversation” with a lot of good response.
Note: This list was limited to what I could get on two CDs in recognition of the 50th Commemoration of the Vietnam War (5/28/2012 – 11/11/2025).
http://www.vietnamwar50th.com/about/proclamations/
After seeing your list and all the great input, I may have to produce a “Redux” CD.
PS: David H. – I’m revising my list to include “Lucky Man” by Emerson, Lake & Palmer.

AlanPaul
Guest

Terrific list, LariAT! I could almost hear “Ride of the Valkaryies” blaring over the whoop of the chopper blades. Loved it. Thanks.

Harlan
Guest

My Generation by The Who has to be on someone’s list besides mine.

Alan Paul
Guest

Definitely, Harlan; a true Boomer classic.

Kathy Bailey
Guest

Alan, this is fabulous. Would like to have seen more Beatles and Beach Boys, Brian was an is a genius, and more Motown, but this is your list, not mine, and most of those songs mean something to me too. Music has really defined our generation, from the jukebox and sock hops to Woodstock and beyond. A worthy effort, I’ll be working on mine.

Alan Paul
Guest

Thanks, Kathy. It was difficult to put together, but also lots of fun!

Kathy Bailey
Guest

Seriously, I could do this all day. We had and have the Best Music Ever. Alan, I’m glad you didn’t include the one-hit wonders or novelty songs, although they were fun. This week I’ve had the Royal Guardsmen’s Snoopy and the Red Baron Christmas song running through my head, and I’m hoping something from your list will knock it out.

Sean Mathews
Guest

How about “Poetry in Motion” by Johnny Tillotson?

BRIAN McCAFFREY
Guest

Here are three of my favorites: Room To Move by John Mayall (got me to take up harmonica), Only You Know…by Delaney and Bonnie, and Everyday People by Sly and the Family Stone

BRIAN McCAFFREY
Guest

That’s got me thinking of Leon Russell, Joe Cocker, and Richie Havens

Allison Hinde
Guest

Thank you so much for this Alan. You know I dont even think you could do favorite group, band, singer of this age and limit it to 50, But is so great to do this. i was listening to songs I have not heard from awhile just by mentioned in this by everyone.

Louise H
Guest

I was an au pair in Holland back in 1972, and the song that invariably runs through my mind is School’s Out by Alice Cooper.
Girl and boy bands today have nothing over Our Generation!

Cindy R.
Guest

I was only 10 years old when Pretty Woman by Roy Orbison was released. But it is definitely my favorite song of all time!

Phil B
Guest

Graceland (or something) by Paul Simon
Voodoo Child by Jimi Hendrix
I’m a Man by Muddy Waters
My Sweet Lord (despite the plagiarism charge) by George Harrison
Just about anything by Buddy Guy
Crossroads or Layla by Derek and the Dominoes
Ohio by Neil Young

Gavin Lakin
Guest

Righteous list, Alan. Try this: What are the WORST songs of our generation! See CNN (2006): http://www.cnn.com/2006/SHOWBIZ/Music/04/25/worst.songs/index.html

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