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.


  1. 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.

    1. 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.

      1. 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…

        1. Of course these lists include some songs that we would all agree on, however, as our personal experiences relative to these songs and how certain songs resonate with us more than others is where the variation arrives. My favorite Beatles song is still “lovely Rita”. What makes it a favorite with me is that I can listen to it every day, even now and still not get tired of hearing it!

          1. Alan, that was exactly my point. My list was “one person’s opinion.” As you correctly point out, some songs are universally agreed upon; others are a matter of personal preference. If I had more than one “favorite” from a particular artist or group, I leaned toward the more generally accepted “best.”

      2. Here are my favorite group,band,duo,solo and composer that affected my life till now as a baby boomer: The Beatles , Rolling stones,The Moody Blues,The Doors,The Monkeys,Crosby Stills Nash and Young, Peter Paul and Mary,Bob Dylan,The Temptations, The supremes,Otis Redding,Michael Jackson,Stevie Wonder,Simon and Garfunkle, neil diamond,barbara streisand,carlos jobim, santana,Willie Nelson, The Carpenters,John Denver,Smokey Robinson and the Miracles,The Bee Gees,The Associations, The Lettermen,The Critters,The Zombies,Matt Monroe,Elvis Presley, Tony Bennet ,Johnny Mathis,Van Morrison,Cliff Richard, YoYoMa,Ennio Morricone,James Taylor,Chad and Jeremy,Led Zepellin, Iron Butterly,Roberta Flack, Don Mclean,The Everly Brothers,Roy Orbison,Fat Diamond,Placido Domingo,Bob Marley, Miles Davis and Chet Baker….I still do listen to their music…..

        1. What a great list. Can’t find fault Sorry i did not find Ennio nor Iron Butterly.
          I like the Jazz inclusions though you could add quite a few here.
          Also I think Buddy Holly should make your list.

  2. 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 the Vietnam War … lives that held so much potential and promise in our world. The piece ended:

    A bullet had found him
    His blood ran as he cried
    No money could save him
    So he laid down and he died

    1. 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.

      1. 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!

  3. 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.

    1. 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.

    2. 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?

  4. 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.

    1. 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!

    2. 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.

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

  5. 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.


    1. 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.)

      1. 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.


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

        1. 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!

  6. 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!

    1. 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.

  7. 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 You – Dusty Springfield
    This Magic Moment – Jay and the Americans
    One Less Bell to Answer – The 5th Dimension
    Time in a Bottle – Jim Croce
    Outside of a Small Circle of Friends – Phil Ochs
    Slow Hand – The Pointer Sisters
    Ferry Across the Mercy – Gerry & the Pacemakers
    Leader of the Pack – The Shangri-Las
    When I Die – Motherlode
    Good Morning Sunshine – Oliver
    Changes – David Bowie
    Footloose – Kenny Loggins
    A Beautiful Morning – The Rascals
    Reach Out I’ll be There – The Four Tops
    Flashdance – Irene Cara
    Boogie Wonderand – Earth, Wind & Fire
    Wing Beneath My Wings – Bette Midler
    Dreams – Fleetwood Mac
    You’ve Got Your Troubles – The Fortunes
    Indian Reservation – Paul Revere & The Raiders

    1. 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!

  8. 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.

    1. 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!

    2. 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 .

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

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

  10. 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 discussion, but the question will have a different answer for each of us, and it may even be a different question for each of us!

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

  12. 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…)

  13. 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”
    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!

    1. 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!

    2. 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!

  14. 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!

  15. 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 Sun – The Animals
    09 Run Through the Jungle – Creedence Clearwater Revival
    10 Radar Love – Golden Earring
    11 Spirit in the Sky – Norman Greenbaum
    12 Wooly Bully – Sam The Sham & the Pharaohs
    13 Wipe Out – The Surfaris (1962)
    14 White Rabbit – Jefferson Airplane
    15 Who’ll Stop the Rain – Creedence Clearwater Revival
    16 Baby Please Don’t Go – Van Morrison & Them
    17 California Sun – The Rivieras
    18 All Along the Watchtower – The Jimi Hendrix Experience
    19 American Woman – The Guess Who – 1970
    20 The Star Spangled Banner – Jimi Hendrix
    21 I-Feel-Like-I’m-Fixin’-to-Die Rag – Country Joe and the Fish – 1967
    22 Suzie Q – Creedence Clearwater Revival
    23 The Times They Are a-Changin’ – Bob Dylan
    24 PAINT IT BLACK – Rolling Stones
    25 Hey Joe – The Jimi Hendrix Experience
    26 Rescue Me – Fontella Bass
    27 We Gotta Get Out Of This Place – The Animals – 1965
    28 Sky Pilot – Eric Burdon & The Animals – 1968
    29 Nowhere to Run – Martha & The Vandellas (1965)
    30 Let’s Live for Today – The Grass Roots (1967)
    31 Hush – Deep Purple
    32 Eve Of Destruction – Barry McGuire – 1965
    33 Volunteers – Jefferson Airplane
    34 War – Edwin Starr – 1970
    35 Sympathy for the Devil-Rolling Stones
    36 Ohio – Crosby, Stills, Nash, & Young – 1970
    37 Apocalypse Now Intro (The Doors – The End)

    1. 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).
      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.

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

    2. Great additions…I see some of those that would make my top 50 list here! Especially Marvin Gaye given “what’s going on” in the country today.

  16. 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.

  17. 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.

  18. 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

  19. 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.

  20. 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!

  21. 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

  22. If we listed the thousands of songs we all like, we’d die before we listened to the m all. Your list is spot on, we lived through the birth of rock & roll. What a long strange trip it’s been…

  23. I was reading A Generation of Sociopaths by Bruce Gibney, and I just had to look up this comment he made in his book. “Then the War in Viet Nam happened and while some served honorably most dodged the draft and protested and took drugs and had awful kinky sex. They played awful guitar music while they were stoned on acid and they still insist that horrible stinky bands like the Beatles, Rolling Stones and Pink Floyd were somehow anything but terrible. ” I just had to get a statistic on how many Baby Boomers served in Vietnam; died in Vietnam; served in the military as a whole, etc. when I came upon this list of music for “my generation” I forgot about a lot of these musicians/ singers so thanks; of course, my favorite band Chicago is missing from the list. Nevertheless, anyone who thinks the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and Pink Floyd are “stinky” has a lot of nerve writing about the Baby Boomers. I am in the process of writing my own book on “my generation” and we are not a “Generation of Sociopaths.”

    1. We’ll said, Sharon. Chicago also a fave of mine. Saw them recently at Bethel Woods. As great as ever. Thanks.

  24. Cool idea (and one that leads to interminable “fun” arguments), but how about a list of the best remakes of popular songs? I would nominate Humble Pie’s version of Ray Charles’s “I Don’t Need No Doctor” or Vanilla Fudge doing “You Keep Me Hangin’ On” as the first two candidates (although The Clash’s version of “I Fought the Law” also is near and dear–but perhaps too late in the game)

    1. Interesting idea, Bill. It would require some serious research, since I would venture that the vast majority of originals are hard to beat. Recently, though, I heard John Legend’s version of Joni Mitchell’s “Woodstock.” Pretty darn good interpretation.

  25. It’s interesting that this board’s still active a couple years after the original article (others must be stumbling upon it, same as myself). Thanks for the picks, Alan. I agree with many of your selections! The Beatles recorded over 200 songs and almost all are excellent. If you randomly selected any 20 Beatles songs and credited them to any other recording artist — not a random selection from those conventionally considered to be “great”… but ANY 15 Beatles songs — today that artist would be considered one of the all-time greatest. The breadth and depth of the Beatles’ catalog is astounding. My personal pick for best is “A Day in the Life”, but Eleanor Rigby is surely in the top 10. Both songs, pure genius.

    1. Thanks, John. As you point out, a real 50 Best list would include numerous Lennon/McCartney compositions, which is why I limited my selections to one song per artist/group. There’s been a lot written lately about how the Beatles are overrated. Sorry, I don’t agree; not at all.

  26. Just spent the last hour going through all the lists and comments….”O What a Rush!”
    I feel younger than my 70 yrs and now have completed another top 100 for a friend who did the same as you, Alan. Picking only one song for each is the tough part for sure. His lists from several sources would make you drool….Suffice to say, the music never stops…..

    1. Thanks, Nair. It was definitely rush to compile, and I could clearly do a better one now with all the feedback I’ve gotten from my many Boomer friends.

  27. Well, who could forget the Lonnie Donegan song Does Your Chewing Gun Lose It’s Flavor [on the bedpost overnight]? {{LOL}} I’m at the early part of the Boomers, and growing up I adored a song my mother listened to and sang a lot. It was Close The Door They’re Coming In The Window! It made me laugh every time I heard it.

  28. Oh my .. just spent two glorious hours (of my diminishing remainder) lost in the memories this thread re-awoke. Thanks … a lot.

  29. Superb list; like all the adds, too. But no “Layla” by Derek and the Dominos or “My Girl” by the Temps? Linda Ronstadt? More Eagles and Jackson Browne? Too many to name…

    1. Loved all of the above and more, Diane, but I purposely limited the list to 50 songs, with only one from each artist or group. Could have easily done a “Best 1,000” list otherwise.

    1. True, Jason. But as I said previously, I figured that songs which come out while I’m still alive are fair game.

  30. Hi Alan, thank you for taking the time to respond to me. I’m a Gen X-er myself (1976) and I’m just really “protective” of the music and art that was big during my formative years.

    On the one hand, I feel like music made from roughly (1981-1995) has been largely forgotten, especially some of the underground music. And on the other, some of it has been poached as belonging to other generations.

    Basically, I’m just an overly sensitive Gen-X’er. 🙂

    Best regards

    1. I understand how you feel completely, Jason. I used to get annoyed hearing Millennials, for example, using the word “cool” is though they had invented it. When, of course, Baby Boomers invented it. What I didn’t realize was that some words transcend generational tags. And so, too, does some music. Thanks much for your feedback!

  31. All teenagers should be forced to listen to “Ode to Billy Joe”, by Bobby Gentry, before they are allowed to leave home.

    1. A wonderful song with a profound message, Dave. And it is on Rolling Stone’s list of the “500 Greatest Songs of All Time.” Thanks much for your feedback.

  32. John Lennon & Bob Dylan, like many, even most of the most iconic Classic Rock legends of the late 60s, technically were/are not Boomers. Dylan was born in 1941 and Lennon, in 1940. Mick Jagger and Keith Richards are much younger either, both being born in 43. There really should be a sub-generation for those born around and during WW2 like there is with Xennials.

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