Music does wonders for our soul. We can play records and immediately transport or transform to new or old places. For some, it is a connection to the past; to others, it is a leap into the future. But what makes music so compelling?
We have outlined some of the best bands in history. The list, which is based on a voting system from Ranker, was compiled by recording more than 3 million votes from 197,000 people. Do you agree with their decisions? Let’s tune in…
39. Iron Maiden
First up is Iron Maiden and considered the quintessential heavy metal band. If this kind of music is your thing, then you’ll definitely appreciate their place on the list and their place in music history.
Some of their biggest hits include Powerslave, Rime of the Ancient Mariner, and Hallowed Be Thy Name. They even have their own mascot: Eddie the Head – one of the most iconic drawings in music history! He has appeared on every Iron Maiden cover to date and will continue to do so
This Georgia-based band helped solidify alternative rock into the mainstream ever since the 1980s and 1990s. Although the performed all the way until 2011, it was in their first few decades that they really made an impact.
Most of R.E.M’s biggest hits include Fall on Me, Losing My Religion, and Everybody Hurts. Even today, most of their most famous songs are iconic among young people and evoke some of the most personal feelings. Click next to read more about this duo…
37. Simon and Garfunkel
We count Simon and Garfunkel as a band and will not consider Paul Simon’s solo work for the purpose of this list. These two had some of the best songs ever, including The Sound of Silence, The Boxer, and Bridge Over Troubled Water.
Simon and Garfunkel were originally together from 1956-1964, and then again for five years from 1965-1970. Nearly 50 years later, their music remains some of the most memorable and meme-worthy stuff out there.
36. Green Day
It’s not immediately obvious to most people, but Green Day actually has some of the most compelling lyrics from bands out there. They rose to prominence in the early 2000s during the War on Terror with their album, American Idiot.
It is wildly accepted that the album is a scathing review of the Bush administration and its response to the 9/11 attacks. Today, some of their biggest hits include Basket Case, Holiday, and Boulevard of Broken Dreams.
35. Foo Fighters
Dave Grohl, the former drummer of Nirvana, leads this group of talented musicians. While we’ve ranked his first band higher on this list, we had to include a mention of Foo Fighters and some of their biggest hits over the years.
Some of their classic hits include The Pretender, Best of You and Everlong. After founding in 1994, the band is still touring today – so feel free to book some tickets and see them live in a city near you!
Let’s go all the way back to 1974 and meet Ramones – the American punk rock band from New York City. Most music history fans will cite Ramones as the first ‘true’ punk band. They rocked the world all the way until 1996.
Their classic hits include Sheena Is a Punk Rocker, My Brain Is Hanging Upside Down, and Blitzkrieg Bop. Today, they rest in the good books of history since all of its members have moved on and died.
33. Dire Straits
Dire Straits are considered one of the most influential bands of all time. You might not hear them on the radio every day, but that doesn’t mean they haven’t left their impact on music. Between 1977-1988 (and again from 1991-1995), they became one of the most successful bands of all time selling more than 100 million records.
Some of their best albums include Love Over Gold, Brothers In Arms, and Dire Straits. In 2018, the band finally was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. According to the Guinness World Record, the band has spent 1,100 weeks in the UK album chart.
English band Radiohead released its first single, Creep, in 1992. It instantly became a critical and financial hit and is still considered one of their most successful songs.
In 2007, Radiohead released their seventh album, In Rainbows. It was the first time that fans could decide how much to pay for an album upon its download. It was a critical and financial success. Some other classic songs include Paranoid Android, No Surprises, and Karma Police. Which is your favorite?
Journey has been making waves ever since 1973 – with the exception of an eight-year hiatus between 1987-1995. Their biggest hit – Don’t Stop Believin’ – is a pop culture anthem all over films and television shows.
Journey has accomplished two gold albums, eight multi=platinum albums, and two diamond albums. If those sales don’t speak for their success, we don’t know what would! Their last album, Eclipse, was released in 2011 and features more classic hits from the original band members.
30. The Kinks
The Kinks are just one of the many British music bands we will find on this list. Between 1964-1996, the band released song after song resulting in many of the classic hits we know today. In fact, the band recently reunited in 2018!
Some of their most iconic tunes include Sunny Afternoon, Waterloo Sunset, and You Really Got Me. The Kinks are widely considered to be one of the most prominent members of ‘The British Invasion’ to American charts.
29. Pearl Jam
Pearl Jam formed in 1990 and are still going strong nearly 30 years later. The band can be credited for its introduction of grunge music to mainstream audiences across the United States. According to a Rolling Stone poll, they rank number 8 in its ‘Top Ten Live Acts of All Time’.
Classic Pearl Jam songs include Yellow Ledbetter, Better Man, and Alive. As of 2018, they have sold more than 85 million records around the world. Here’s to many more years!
28. The Clash
Between 1976 and 1986, The Clash was one of Britain’s biggest bands. Today, it is considered one of the key players in building up original punk rock. It wasn’t until their third album, London’s Calling, that they earned recognition across the pond in the United States.
Some of their biggest hits include Should I Stay or Should I Go?, Train In Vain, and I Fought The Law. Today, London’s Calling is used in pop culture to reflect the booming city.
27. ZZ Top
Amazingly, ZZ Top has been going strong for the better part of 50 years! The music band formed in 1969 and they’ve been recording and performing ever since. Their first album, released in 1971, was blues-inspired rock but things were about to change…
Over time, their music would shift to new wave, punk rock, and dance-rock. Often, their songs have a reputation of containing innuendo and double entendres. Some of their hits include La Grange, Tush, and Sharp Dressed Man.
26. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
Is there a more classic American band than Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers? The Floridian band went strong from 1976-2017 and are behind some of the most ‘Americana’ anthems of the 20th century.
Hits include American Girl, Breakdown, Listen To Her Heart, and I Need To Know. The band went strong until Petty’s death in 2017. While no immediate statement was made by the remaining band members, it was decided that they would not continue.
25. Deep Purple
Deep Purple has been going pretty strong for 51 years, with the exception of a brief hiatus between 1976-1984. They’ve often been credited as a pioneer in heavy metal and modern hard rock music.
Classic hits include Smoke on the Water, Child In Time, and Highway Star. Deep Purple is currently undergoing a ‘Long Goodbye Tour’ which is running from 2017-2019. It is expected they will finally retire once they finish it later this year. Are you a fan of the band?
This British band formed way back in 1966 – in the peak of Rock and Roll. It describes itself as being ‘phychedelic rock’ and ‘acid rock’. Even though they were only together for two years, the band was largely described as the world’s first ‘superband’.
Some of Cream’s biggest hits include I Feel Free, Sunshine of Your Love, and White Room. Cream briefly reunited in 1993 for a reunion, and then again in 2005. Its most famous member, Eric Clapton, is still performing today.
23. The Police
Headed by Sting, The Police are a British rock band that formed in 1977. During the 1980s, their popularity reached global heights as they traveled around the world performing some of their biggest hits. These included Roxanne, Message In A Bottle, and Every Step You Take.
Even though they technically disbanded in 1986, the members still reunite every so often. In 2008, they went on a one-off world tour. All in all, they have sold more than 75 million records.
22. Red Hot Chilli Peppers
Amazingly, the Red Hot Chili Peppers have been going strong since 1983. Their unique mix of funk-rock and alternative rock garnered them audiences all over the world. As well as producing some of the most popular albums in modern times, they also pride themselves on their activism work.
Some of their most loved records include Give It Away, Californication, and Under The Bridge. Often, they use their fame to promote humanitarian aid around the world. They are also still touring today – so book some tickets and see them soon!
One of the few Canadian bands to make our list, Rush was formed in Toronto in 1968. Described as a Hard Rock and Heavy Metal band, Rush actually went through quite a few formations before getting to its longest line-up in 1974.
Rush draws much of its inspiration from science fiction, fantasy, and philosophy. After 19 studio albums, Rush finally disbanded in 2018. They are often noted as the influencers behind other bands, including Foo Fighters, Metallica, and Red Hot Chili Peppers.
20. Lynyrd Skynyrd
In the 1970s, Lynyrd Skynyrd was responsible for catapulting southern rock into the mainstream music industry. Suddenly, fans everywhere were opening up to some of the classics like Sweet Home Alabama – a hit still enjoyed today.
Sadly, their time on this Earth came to an end all too soon when many members of the band died in a plane crash in 1977. Since then, their music has lived on in future generations. More of their hists include Simple Man and Free Bird.
19. Fleetwood Mac
Is there a music band with a more fraught history among its members? Over 40 years, all of the Fleetwood Mac members have been lovers, fighters, married, and divorced – yet the music always kept coming.
It’s amazing how the band members could collaborate at all – let alone create one of the best albums ever made. Rumors was released in 1977 and has sold more than 40 million copies. Songs like The Chain and Dreams are still some of the most popular songs in the world.
18. Van Halen
Anyone who was around in the 1970s and 1980s can attest: Van Halen was the ultimate party music. David Lee Roth and Eddie Van Halen practically transformed guitar heroes at the time. Amazingly, they made great music outside of their feuds – which came often and hard.
Some of their biggest hits include Panama, Unchained, and Runnin’ with the Devil. Even though the band was together more than 40 years ago – they entered the Hall of Fame in 2007.
17. The Beach Boys
The Beach Boys represent some of the most iconic music of the 1960s. The hippie era was in full swing and most of their songs tapped into the ‘good vibrations’ of the times. Their classic songs include God Only Knows, Wouldn’t It Be Nice, and I Get Around.
Today, much of their music is reminiscent of calmer, more carefree times. Once in a while their songs are played and fondly mentioned as some of the most enjoyable music of the era.
This Irish band has made waves around the world due to their charm and international appeal. Led by the glasses-wearing Bono, U2 has had some classic hits including One, With or Without You, and I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For.
They garnered worldwide fame with their partnership with Apple and they both helped each other in the music industry. Today, U2 is one of the most impactful and influential bands in rock. What’s your favorite U2 song?
15. Guns N’ Roses
This band is certainly known for their stellar guitar riffs and melodic anthems. Slash and Axl Rose together created some of the most memorable songs in history, including Sweet Child O’ Mine and November Rain.
Having entered the music industry in 1987, they remained popular and quickly became somewhat of industry legends. Today, they have left their mark as one of the most popular rock bands in history. More amazingly, Rose and Slash are still touring the world with their band member Duff McKagan.
14. Black Sabbath
From all the members of this English rock band, you’re probably most familiar with Ozzy Osbourne. The wacky dad is married to The X Factor judge Sharon and the two appeared as themselves on the inexplicably popular reality show, The Osbournes.
Well, before the show there was the band. Black Sabbath was formed way back in the 1960s and had mega hits including War Pigs, Paranoid, and Iron Man. In total, the band has sold an impressive 70 million records.
13. Creedence Clearwater Revival
Having exploded onto the music scene in the 1960s, Creedence Clearwater Revival has aged as one of the best rock bands of all time. Although they don’t have a specific style, their music dabbled in variations of blues rock, swamp rock, and roots rock.
One of their most popular albums came around in 1970. Cosmo’s Factory has hits such as Ramble Tamble, My Baby Left Me, and I Heard It Through The Grapevine. Are you a fan of Creedence Clearwater Revival?
Aerosmith was led by the famous Steven Tyler and Joe Perry, who ultimately turned it into one of America’s biggest and brightest hard-rock acts. Even if you’re not familiar with most of their music, you’ll recognize some of the biggest hits, including Dream On and Walk This Way.
Since 1970, Aerosmith has released 15 studio albums and sold more than 31 million copies in the last 28 years. In January 2019, it was announced that Aerosmith was working on a 16th studio album.
Metallica has sold an amazing 120 million records – earning them a space on our list. If you look over the last 30 years, it’s impossible to look at the music industry without notice the impact they’ve had on it.
Some of Metallica’s biggest hits include Master of Puppets, One, and For Whom the Bell Tolls. Heavy Metal might be an acquired taste, for most, but the fans out there are dedicated and passionate enough to keep the band alive since 1981.
10. The Eagles
This American band was formed in 1971 and has had a rollercoaster of a journey. At first, they were together for nine years until 1980. They then reunited in 1994 for 22 years until 2016. Then they took a few months off and have been going strong since 2017.
That’s a long history! Their most famous songs include Hotel California, Take It Easy, and Desperado. When was the last time you went camping and DIDN’T hear one of their classic tunes?
There’s no telling what could have become of Nirvana had it not been for the tragic death of Kurt Cobain. Today, history has named them as one of the most iconic and impactful bands of the 1990s.
Some of their biggest hits include Come As You Are, Heart-Shaped Box, and About a Girl. Their album Nevermind is widely considered to be one of the catalysts to bring grunge into the limelight. Where were you when you found out Kurt Cobain had died?
8. The Doors
The Doors is another example of an American band to bring new sounds and styles to mainstream audiences. Jim Morrison was the front and center of the band that blended rock, poetry, and rhythm all in one place.
Sadly Morrison was destined to join the 27 Club and tragically died of a drug overdose at the young age of 28. Today, The Doors lives on as one of the most impactful bands in history. Some of their classic albums include The Doors and LA Woman.
AC/DC’s iconic, yet demonic, undertones crashed onto the music scene in 1973 and have been going strong ever since. With classic songs like Back in Black and Highway to Hell, audiences today have grown up with their music in pop culture.
AC/DC was founded by two Scottish brothers – Malcolm and Angus Young – and can be described best as a blues rock and heavy metal band. What do they call themselves? Well, Rock and Roll, of course!
6. The Who
Anyone who loves Rock will undoubtedly agree with The Who deserves to be on this list. With hits like Baba O’Riley, Pinball Wizard, and Who Are You?, they’ve provided some of the best songs of the decade.
The Who was founded in London back in 1964 and some of its members still perform today. The Who was also the mastermind behind Tommy – the album about a blind, deaf, and dumb boy. It became one of the best music films in history.
As we get closer to the end of our list, it makes sense that we would pay a visit to Freddie Mercury et al. Queen helped define the sound of the 1970s and 1980s with iconic vocals and guitar performances from the members.
Classic Queen hits include Bohemian Rhapsody, Don’t Stop Me Now, and Somebody To Love. Today, young people everywhere are enjoying their music 40 years later. Sadly, Mercury died in 1991 of AIDS. Their recent biopic reignited their love for future generations.
4. The Rolling Stones
Another English band has come close to the top of our list: The Rolling Stones. With hits like Sympathy for the Devil, Gimme Shelter and I Can’t Get No (Satisfaction), the rock band has made music that transcends age and gender.
The band first formed way back in 1962 and are still going strong today. Today, its current formation includes Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Charlie Watts, and Ronnie Wood. Together, these four travel the world and perform to three generations of fans.
3. Pink Floyd
Pink Floyd is considered one of the best progressive rock bands, deserving of its place as number three on our list. In total, the band has sold more than 250 million records over 14 studio albums. Dark Side of the Moon is still considered one of the best albums ever recorded, 46 years later.
Even though Pink Floyd technically disbanded in 1994, Roger Waters still tours and performs the band’s biggest hits. These include Wish You Were Here, Time, and Money. Their album, The Wall, also became a musical film and is critically acclaimed.
2. The Beatles
Many of you are probably wondering why The Beatles is ONLY number two on our list. Many millions around the world will call the British band the definitive greatest group of all time. Childhood friends John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, and Geroge Harrison formed The Beatles in 1960 and were together for 10 years.
Today, The Beatles are credited for ‘creating modern music’ and was generally considered one of the best bands ever formed. But who took the number one spot?
1. Led Zeppelin
With a total of 30,000 votes, Ranker has claimed that Led Zeppelin is the world’s greatest band. It’s almost impossible to name a few of their best songs without naming their entire discography, but let’s give it a try.
Between their time together from 1968-1980, Led Zeppelin released eight studio albums with songs like Stairway to Heaven, Kashmir, and Whole Lotta Love. To date, they have sold more than 330 million records, making them the fourth-highest selling band of all time.
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