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Rolling Stones Stories

100 Greatest Rolling Stones Songs

100 Greatest Rolling Stones Songs

From "Paint It Black" to "Shine a Light" – the hottest rocks from the Stones' 50-year career, chosen by our expert panel of writers, critics and artists.

To make the list, we asked each of these Stones experts to rank their 50 favorite songs, then tabulated the results.

The Panel: Patrick Carney (the Black Keys), Jonathan Cott (contributing editor, Rolling Stone), Cameron Crowe (director), Anthony DeCurtis (contributing editor, Rolling Stone), Jon Dolan (contributing editor, Rolling Stone), David Fricke (Senior Writer, Rolling Stone), Robert Greenfield

(journalist and author), Will Hermes (contributing editor, Rolling Stone), Robert Hilburn (journalist and author), Howard Kramer (Director of Curatorial Affairs, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame), Chuck Leavell (musician), Jonathan Lethem (novelist), Martin Scorsese (director), Rob Sheffield (contributing editor, Rolling Stone), Lucinda Williams (singer-songwriter), Warren Zanes (the Del Fuegos)

100 "Prodigal Son" (1968)

100 Greatest Rolling Stones Songs

The Stones cut plenty of blues covers but rarely sounded this authentic: an unplugged, acoustic-slide-guitar-driven cover of the Rev. Robert Wilkins' country blues about a boy who returns home after venturing out into the world on his own. Considering that the Stones began as blues purists, they were making a kind of homecoming too.

99 "How Can I Stop" (1997)

100 Greatest Rolling Stones Songs

Richards showed rarely seen romantic maturity and musical subtlety on this haunting gospel hymn. It features a sax solo by Wayne Shorter, recorded at 5:30 a.m. during the last Bridges to Babylon session. "I wouldn't have been able to write songs like that 10, 15 years ago," he said. Don Was agreed: "It's the most radical thing on the album. Keith really wrote a sophisticated piece of music."

98 "Let Me Go" (1980)

100 Greatest Rolling Stones Songs

A simple power-chord rocker telling a clueless lover to get lost. But what "Let Me Go" lacks in depth, it makes up for in punk-rock attitude. Richards slashes away and Wood provides Creedence-y licks, while Jagger contemplates hanging out at gay bars and tells his soon-to-be ex-lover, "Can't you get it through your thick head this affair is dead as a doornail?"

97 "Slave" (1981)

100 Greatest Rolling Stones Songs

Like almost everything on Tattoo You, this grunting, growling stomp was recorded years earlier – in Rotterdam, during the Black and Blue sessions. It's a five-minute, cowbell-thwacking jam, with funky organ from Billy Preston and the great Sonny Rollins on sax. It's also a superb showcase for the range of Jagger's voice, which leaps from soul-man falsetto to bluesy moans.

96 "Mother's Little Helper" (1966)

100 Greatest Rolling Stones Songs

A huge hit about a pill-popping mom, propelled by an electric guitar imitating a sitar. "Very strange number," Jagger observed "Like a music-hall number." Richards had no problem with his partner's lyrics: "A lot of the stuff Chuck Berry and early rock writers did was putting down that other generation. We used to laugh at those people."

95 "Little T&A" (1981)

100 Greatest Rolling Stones Songs

Who else could smuggle the word "tits" onto the radio in 1981? Right next to the word "ass"? Only one band, and only one man: Keith Richards, who snarls, chants and wheezes his way through a celebration of his callipygian muse. Of course, he's still married to the woman he was with when it came out – and their two daughters happen to have the initials T and A.

100 Greatest Rolling Stones Songs

The Stones delved into Watergate-era paranoia on this post-Sly Stone funk workout, in which Jagger sings about "some little jerk in the FBI" with a stack of papers on him "six feet high." It was cut during their last sessions with Taylor, who played bass while Wyman switched over to synthesizer; Taylor laid down what may be the only bass solo on a Stones song.

100 Greatest Rolling Stones Songs

Written on the same early-1969 Italian vacation that "Midnight Rambler" was written, "Monkey Man" is nearly as menacing. Wyman's spine-crawling vibraphone and mordant bass line have an air of creepy mystery, and Richards plays a piercing riff as Jagger offers the sulfuric disclaimer: "I hope we're not too messianic or a trifle too satanic." Not at all, Your Majesties.

100 Greatest Rolling Stones Songs

Few Stones tracks are as atmospheric as this gauzy, left-field gem; Jagger strums an electric guitar while woozily crooning lines like "Nothing will harm you/Nothing will stand in your way," over a restrained, bare-bones accompaniment. This fever dream set to music inspired multiple EDM remixes 30 years later.

100 Greatest Rolling Stones Songs

The working girl in this song must be one of the Stones' toughest and most formidable female characters: She takes the bus to the factory by day, she parties hard and starts fights by night, she makes Jagger wait in the rain for her to get off work. It's an acoustic Beggars Banquet oddity that feels like a country song yet incorporates tablas, mandolins and a fiddle solo.

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