If you define the “Rock Era” of music to include the period between the mid-1950s to the end of the twentieth century, that gives you five decades in which to determine the five top rock and roll songs.
With that in mind, here are five songs, one from each decade of the rock era, that made the most important inroads into rock music.
The 50s: “Rock Around the Clock” by Bill Haley and the Comets. It didn’t “start” Rock and Roll but it gave the movement the kick in the pants it needed to inspire Chuck Berry and all the other pioneers.
The 60s: “I Want To Hold Your Hand” by the Beatles. It’s the song that brought Beatlemania to America and the rest of the world.
The 70s: “Stairway to Heaven” by Led Zeppelin. Say what you want about how sick of it you are, but there is not a person alive who has picked up the guitar and hasn’t tried to play this song.
The 80s: “Sledgehammer” by Peter Gabriel. With the advent of MTV, Gabriel set the bar high by taking one of his best songs and creating one of the best videos ever.
The 90s: “Smells Like Teen Spirit” by Nirvana. Curt Cobain screaming “Here we are, now entertain us” summed up the bored, hopeless attitude of 90s teens as effectively as Pete Townshend did for kids in the 60s.