What makes a track a great “bass song” is different for every one. For some, it’s all about that one riff that it commands our attention, and for others, it’s about a part so intricate that it brings the song to life. The perfect bass line can make you dance or reduce you to tears, and it can absolutely make or break a song. Here, I present to you the 100 Greatest Bass Songs Of All Time. These are all tracks where this one part was so flawlessly executed that it just can’t go without note. Please keep in mind, these tracks are ranked by their quality, importance, and impact strictly from a bass perspective, and not from an overall quality. Some of these songs are also incredible in other aspects, and some are completely lacking. It’s time to turn up the sub and get that bass pumping. I present to you, the 100 Greatest Bass Songs Of All Time:
100. “Smooth Criminal”
Aside from the hook after hook (after hook after hook) format, and a breathy vocal performance, the entire draw to the song is that unforgettable bass riff that simultaneously creates and aura of tension and commands you to dance.
099. “Beds Are Burning”
Midnight Oil’s politically driven anthem was far too catchy to ignore with a melody as powerful as the message driving it, but the height strikingly comes from bellow. The bass is subtle on the surface, but massive in power.
098. “I Am The Resurrection”
The Stone Roses
Widely considered one of the best closing tracks on any album ever, this 8 minute anthem features one of the most iconic bass riffs to come out the UK, thriving heavily on creating powerful peaks and valleys.
097. “Hollywood Swinging”
Kool & The Gang
The dancy-but-laidback groove in Kool & The Gang’s “Hollywood Swinging” is built almost exclusively around a bedazzled bass line that breathes life into an otherwise simple progression. We’re left with a funky masterpiece.
096. “Magic Man”
Heart’s breakthrough hit is perfect song to exemplify the vocal prowess of Ann Wilson and the virtuoso guitar skills of her sister Nancy, but the real “magic” in the track is Steve Fossen’s rumbling bass that remains a consistent punch of power throughout.
095. “Brass In Pocket”
Without this lick-heavy part, there would be little dynamic to the track. The line itself isn’t the melodic focus of “Bass In Pocket,” but it’s certainly the most important aspect of both the groove and the progressional drive.
094. “Rescue Me”
There’s nothing overly complicated about this classic, joyous Fontella Bass hit, but that infectious bass line grabs our attention right away. Before the melody kicks in, we’re already grooving to it.
One of George Harrison’s earliest and most recognized Beatles contributions, “Taxman” swirls around a groovy bass line that remains one of the group’s most memorable steps into psychedelica.
092. “Feel Good Inc.”
Gorillaz featuring De La Soul
Cartoon songsters Gorillaz’ “Feel Good Inc.” was a mindblowing juggernaut upon release. Outside of the great melodies and stellar rap verses from De La Soul, it’s the funky bass line that makes the song so incredible.
Edgar Winter Group
Edgar Winter’s immortal instrumental masterpiece, “Frankenstein,” is a riff-heavy composition all around. None of those riffs are as noticeable as what’s going on down below, and that’s what makes this monster come alive.
Say what you want about Pearl Jam, but they were a very important landmark in 90s rock. Their classic “Jeremy” had no quality more endearing than its roaring bass part that actually makes for an interesting listen.
089. “Orange Crush”
One of the last great 80s moments for R.E.M., “Orange Crush” was the missing link between their alternative reign and their “biggest band in the world” hey day. What makes the song so incredible? Yes, it’s that rousing bass line.
Of all Sade’s hits, none is more glorious in the bass department than “Paradise.” That riff is really the glue the holds the whole song together, and acts as an incredible counterpart to the light and sultry vocals.
Faith No More
“Epic” has become a classic in terms of 90s rock because of its genre-fusing arrangement. The funky, hip hop-y, metal track is probably most noted for its bassy verses that juxtapose strangely well with the army of guitars in the chorus.
086. “One Nation Under A Groove”
The second incarnation of George Clinton’s P-Funk collective was just as innovative as the first. One of Funkadelic’s most memorable tunes, “One Nation Under A Groove,” thrives heavily on one killer bass line for the ages.
The closing track to Steely Dan’s legendary Aja, “Josie,” lives on as one of their more recognized recordings. In addition to the jazz rock arrangement and memorable chorus, the bass part sticks out as its most endearing quality.
084. “Summertime Blues”
“Summertime Blues” is one rock and roll’s earliest classics. This Eddie Cochran hit revolves heavily around a jangly guitar riff that expertly rides on top of a killer bass part that adds a bit of intensity to the track.
Hall & Oates
Daryl Hall & John Oates were one of the few pop acts in the 80s who knew how to make catchy music with credibility. One of their biggest hits, “Maneater,” showcased their exemplary balance, thanks largely in part to that stellar bass riff.
082. “Get Up, Stand Up”
Bob Marley & The Wailers
This is one of Bob Marley & The Wailers’ most recognized hits for many reasons. Lyrically, this was one of their most political, but musically, this one of their bassiest. That line is so explosive, it almost borders on funk.
081. “Sloop John B”
The Beach Boys
One of the most flawlessly executed moments on a flawlessly executed album is the bass part in “Sloop John B.” For being one of the more popular tracks lifted from Pet Sounds, the part is so big it actually steals the show.
080. “You Can’t Hurry Love”
One of The Supremes’ most classic recordings kicks off with a bass riff more captivating than a siren’s song. It certainly carries the groove beyond the intro, but every time it’s isolated, you’re going to get chills.
079. “Electric Feel”
For being a relative-throwback, MGMT’s debut album was strikingly ahead of the times. One prime example was, “Electric Feel,” one of the record’s standout moments thanks to that thundering bass hook that shocks it to life.
078. “Cissy Strut”
The Meters are truly the unsung heroes of funk in many ways, but their classic “Cissy Strut” has kept them alive in the history books. The largely instrumental piece has an intricate, mood-setting bass part that makes the song what it is.
Alice In Chains
Alice In Chains is definitive of grunge. One of their most famous recordings, “Would?” represents their importance to their genre and era, but it doubles as one of the 90’s greatest bass moments. That part is vigorous, but endearing.
076. “I’ll Take You There”
The Staple Singers
This is one of those incredible feel-good tracks that generation after generation has called on for inspiration. “I’ll Take You There” remains one of Mavis Staples’ definitive vocal recordings, but the bass line is the true hero of the song.
The Four Tops
The Four Tops had a grittier catalog than most of their Motown brother and sister acts. “Bernadette” is a prime example of this, but it doubles as one of the fiercest bass songs the label has ever produced.
074. “When I Think Of You”
Janet Jacksons’ first US #1 hit is strangely not as notable of an all-around composition as its predecessors, but one thing it did have was a masterful bass line for the history books. That one flawless part absolutely took her to the top.
073. “The Boys Are Back In Town”
It’s a shame that a band as great as Thin Lizzy are internationally recognized for only a few tracks, if not just this one. “The Boys Are Back In Town” is pretty awesome, though, and the bass line is captivatingly great.
What really holds “Moondance” together is this incredibly intricate walking bass line. During the instrumental break, you can hum along to it like you would an epic guitar solo, despite the fact that it’s still attempting to hide in the background.
071. “(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher & Higher”
There’s a reason why this uplifting (pun intended) Jackie Wilson tune is remembered as his most famous. Outside of his incredible vocal performance, it all comes back to that driving bass riff that makes the track move.
One of Black Sabbath’s more popular recordings, “N.I.B.” roars so hard in the bass department that it actually turns the menacing track into a rousing stadium anthem. It’s so undeniably, ingeniously explosive.
069. “Play That Funky Music”
Whether or not this song is supposed to be a joke or not goes right out the window as soon as that deliriously awesome bass line comes flooding through. This white boy clearly has no problem playing that funky music.
068. “Love Is The Drug”
Glam rock owes a great debt to Roxy Music and their indulgently bassy “Love Is The Drug.” The track swirls around a hypnotic line pulses and grooves in a way that guiltlessly walks the tightrope between funk and rock.
067. “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin'”
The opening track to Michael Jackson’s immortal Thriller just so happens to be one of his most bass-tastic. Throughout the many phases of “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’,” that riff remains one of the track’s most special qualities.
066. “Golden Years”
During Bowie’s funky reinvention, he gave us some of his most compelling material to date, namely his hit “Golden Years.” The funky groove is one of his bassiest on record, and it’s deliriously awesome to dance to.
065. “Whipping Post”
The Allman Brothers Band
As soon as “Whipping Post” starts, you’re hooked. That menacing bass part is completely captivating and will lure you in to one of the Allman Brothers’ most classic blues rock masterpieces on record, and it won’t stop.
064. “Sympathy For The Devil”
This is one of the last obvious great bass moments in rock history. “Sympathy For The Devil” is a classic tune, but it isn’t totally apparent that it’s the bass in the drivers seat until you really think about it. The part is genius.
063. “Fools Gold”
The Stone Roses
“Fools Gold” may be one of the most important records to ever come out of Manchester, thanks to it dancy, psychedelic rock groove and daringly trippy bass part. Everything else just falls into place because of it, really.
062. “Around The World”
This was the moment we all realized Daft Punk were game-changing geniuses. In a time when dance music was a dime a dozen, this French duo marched in with one bass line so hypnotic that the genre was rewritten forever.
061. “Should I Stay Or Should I Go?”
It might not be as obvious until you think about it, but “Should I Stay Or Should I Go?” is all bass. The whole punch of the song comes from that counterpart that really cuts through everything to make itself known.
060. “Another Brick In The Wall (Part 2)”
The second part of Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick In The Wall” trilogy has an unconventional structure and lyrical content for something that became such a pop hit, that funky, disco-inspired bass line makes it unmissable.
059. “Papa Was A Rolling Stone”
The Temptations’ last true classic, goes down in history as one of the best, most audacious songs ever recorded by a vocal group, thanks largely in part to its 11 minute arrangement that is almost entirely built around that gripping bass line.
058. “Low Rider”
As soon as that cowbell comes in, everyone knows what song is about to roll out. War’s “Low Rider” is really that good of a song, but you have to admit, that the bass line is what makes us want to come out and play.
057. “Walking On The Moon”
For a trio fronted by bass player, they have a striking lack of bass-centered compositions this noteworthy. Luckily, “Walking On The Moon” completely makes up for that. Sting’s part is the real meat and bones of the song.
056. “Shining Star”
Earth Wind & Fire
“Shining Star” may be one of Earth Wind & Fire’s most famous songs, but it’s partly because it’s one of their most complete. The intro alone is enough to win you over, but that bass riff carries the whole track to a magical place.
“Rapture” was one of rock’s first embracements of hip hop. Outside of Debbie Harry’s “getting away with it” rapping, it’s that incredible bass riff that makes the song so infectious and noteworthy.
054. “Sweet Emotion”
Aerosmith has a catalog jam-packed with stadium-ready anthems, but “Sweet Emotion” is their most alluring all around. Every part is well-structured, but the rumble created underneath is stunningly brilliant. The intro alone is chilling.
053. “Monkey Gone To Heaven”
Kim Deal is one of the most important ladies in the history or rock, and one of the most important bass players ever. Her mastery of the instrument is exemplified brilliantly as the main focus of the group’s wildly important “Monkey Gone To Heaven.”
Green Day were one of the most fearless bands to launch their career in the 90s. One of their signature songs, “Longview” is so much more than an ode to laziness, it’s a full-fledged ode to the bass guitar. That line is magical.
051. “Down By The River”
Neil Young’s 9 and a half minute epic has many outstanding qualities to it, but there’s something particularly striking about the way the bass consistently acts as a binding agent for it all that makes it particularly awesome.
050. “Could You Be Loved”
Bob Marley & The Wailers
The track is one of Bob Marley & The Wailers’ most rousing and upbeat numbers, and it really all comes down to that deliriously incredible bass line that pumps life into the track. It’s the crowning jewel of their many bass songs.
049. “Tell Me Something Good”
Rufus & Chaka Khan
Rufus & Chaka Khan’s signature song really pushes the limits of the bass guitar. None of the guitar nuances or light drum rolls are any match for the funky, understated, deliriously groovy bass line.
048. “(Sittin’ On) The Dock Of The Bay”
Otis Redding’s posthumous megahit, “(Sittin’ On) The Dock Of The Bay” would have been important irregardless of his passing. The lightness of the memorable bass part adds a notable poignancy to the track that exemplifies his immortality.
047. “Blue Monday”
It may be one of the most synthesized songs in the history of rock, but New Order’s “Blue Monday” is a tour de force cemented in the history books. It all comes down to that awe-inspiring “oompa oompa” bass line.
046. “Give It Away”
Red Hot Chili Peppers
“Give It Away” truly encompasses every reason the Red Hot Chili Peppers are so important. The track is funky, spitfire rock and roll, and Flea’s legendary riff is a gritty, bold, unrelenting explosion of bass heaven.
045. “I Got You (I Feel Good)”
James Brown is no stranger to crafting the perfect bass line, but there’s one song that truly shines above the rest. “I Got You (I Feel Good)” swirls with groovy horns and guitar, but the bass line is the main attraction.
044. “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough”
Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell
There may be to two very (very) famous Motown recordings of this track, but Marvin and Tami’s original rendition goes down as the most important. The way the bass line moves the track is its most astounding quality.
043. “This Charming Man”
“This Charming” is one of the group’s more upbeat moments, with an incredible bottom line that moves it along so brilliantly that it totally steals the spotlight away from the usual suspects (Morrissey and Johnny Marr.)
042. “Green Onions”
Booker T & The M.G.’s
While the organ tends to steal the spotlight, it is indeed the bass that makes this legendary Booker & The M.G.’s instrumental composition such a noteworthy piece. It’s a masterclass in crafting the perfect balance.
This iconic Cream recording is short, sweet, and to the point, and we’re left one of Jack Bruce’s most decorative bass performances to date. Even a little help from George Harrison was no match for that incredible part.
040. “Radar Love”
Pretty much the entire draw to “Radar Love” is that perfectly pulsing bass line that creates an energetic bed for touches of guitars and horns, and a climactic melody. The riff is completely classic.
039. “Brick House”
What that riff comes plowing in? Forget about it. You’re going to be dancing and grooving for the next three and a half minutes without question. The Commodores’ mega hit is really just that awesome and bass-tastic.
038. “Give It To Me Baby”
I’m not sure anyone has ever been able to resist the infectious bass line that kicks off “Give It To Me Baby.” This funky attention grabber goes right for the jugular; by the time the horns kick in, you’re already totally hooked.
037. “The Joker”
Steve Miller Band
You really have to give it up for just how guiltlessly laidback “The Joker” is without crossing over into becoming a total snooze-fest. What keeps it alive is undeniably that simple, repeated, but disgustingly catchy bass riff.
036. “You Can Call Me Al”
You know a bass part is good when it overshadows a horn riff as iconic as the one in “You Can Call Me Al.” The worldly slap-bass technique creates a texture so perfect that it turns an otherwise straight-foward sound into something far more creative.
This bass line is one of the most sampled in the history of soul music, and it’s audibly clear why. There is such an understated power lying inside the bottom of this Curtis Mayfield hit that it’s pretty damn hard to resist.
034. “It’s Your Thing”
The Isley Brothers
It’s hard to find a track as euphorically groovy as this. One of the Isley Brothers’ most famous tunes, that bass line ingeniously doubles as a melodic chess piece and a progression-mover, and it really works on both levels.
033. “Rock Steady”
“Rock Steady” was Aretha’s stab at funk, and the end result was far more bass-tastic than anyone could have hoped for. When the lead vocalist of a track is Aretha (F’ing) Franklin, and the bass is the highlight, you know it’s special.
032. “For The Love Of Money”
This Gamble & Huff composition/production remains one of The O’Jay’s most famous recordings thanks largely in part to its iconic phased-out bass line. Very few parts are this noted for both its recognizability and its sonic quality.
031. “White Rabbit”
“White Rabbit” was an important landmark for psychedelic rock and its associated drug culture, but also an important moment for bass lines of the non-drug variety. It’s one of the most influential parts ever.
030. “Dazed And Confused”
“Dazed and Confused” continues to be heralded as one of Led Zeppelin’s most important recordings, thanks to the caramel-like ooze in its groove. JPJ’s bass gives it the kind of character it needed to be successful.
029. “Higher Ground”
Red Hot Chili Peppers
Yes, this is a cover song. Yes, Stevie Wonder’s original is legendary. However, this is one of the most epic bass recordings in the history of rock. Flea’s grimy slap bass sound became iconic because of his performance on this very track.
028. “I Feel Love”
Donna Summer’s “I Feel Love” is arguably the most influential dance record ever recorded.It would be hard to isolate one particular part to call epic, simply because the entire groove of the track is bass. The combination of arpeggiated pulses and intricate nuances is classic.
027. “Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler)”
Marvin Gaye closed out his immortal What’s Going On? LP with one of his most understated tracks. The bass acts a vital bonding agent between the strings and percussion, creating a groove that only Marvin could vocalize on top of.
026. “London Calling”
“London Calling” is a perfect recording on every level, but, more than anything, it’s the “bottom” that truly brings it to life. The part roars with an angst so palpable that it unleashes the joyous anarchist inside all of us.
025. “I Wish”
Stevie Wonder’s “I Wish” is truly something special. One of his most popular recordings, that rolling opening riff elevates the groove to a supreme level that truly makes it a stand out in an enviable catalog of masterpieces.
024. “Brown Eyed Girl”
Van Morrison’s inescapable hit has been overplayed to hell and back, but there’s something so universally endearing about it that continues to keep it alive. My guess would be its truly exemplary throbbing bass part.
023. “Under Pressure”
Queen and David Bowie
On two separate occasions, this was one of the most important bass lines on the radio. While we’re still doing our best to forget “Ice Ice Baby,” this Queen and Bowie collabo works on every level imaginable (and then some.)
022. “Stand By Me”
Ben E. King
“Stand By Me” is one of the most famous songs ever written and recorded. Aside from light touches of percussion, the nuance of strings, and a melody most songwriters would kill for, it’s that incredible bass line that brings it to life.
021. “Town Called Malice”
It’s easy to hear why “Town Called Malice” is one of the most famous songs in The Jam’s awesome catalog. It’s upbeat, fun, and dancy, but you have to give it up for that bass part that unapologetically lures us in.
020. “Ball Of Confusion (That’s What The World Is Today)”
At the peak of The Temptation’s psychedelic era, “Ball Of Confusion” was unleashed and quickly become one of their most incredible recordings. The bass line is simple, repeated, and unwavering, but it is incomprehensibly good.
019. “New Years Day”
Back when U2 was the coolest thing happening to the microcosm that is alternative music, they birthed one of the most immaculate bass songs ever. “New Years Day” looms with weary excitement, thanks entirely to that one part.
018. “Billie Jean”
The King of Pop’s opus has many iconic parts, but it’s the bass that we all remember most. The simple, repetitious part adds a texture that somehow bridges the gap between funk, rock, soul, and pop better than anyone has before or since.
017. “The Chain”
What makes “The Chain” one of the greatest bass songs ever all comes down to one moment. Every time that one simple bass line comes pulsing out like a hellish herald to drive the rest of the song, rock history is rewritten.
016. “Walk On The Wild Side”
Beyond the audacious lyrics, Lou Reed’s signature solo tune, “Walk On The Wild Side” is most noted for its simple, yet effective bass part, which showcases how “basic” can simultaneously be “wild.”
015. “My Generation”
There are very few rock recordings as important as The Who’s “My Generation,” which, at the time, was harder and grittier than anyone could have imagined. John Entwhisle is truly the one who makes it come alive, though.
014. “Sunshine Of Your Love”
This trio had an incredible knack for creating a sound twice as large as they were. Their most famous song is built around a now-iconic riff that Eric Clapton wails on, but the way Jake Bruce doubles the part makes it one of the best bass tracks ever.
013. “Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)”
Sly & The Family Stone
Sly & The Family Stone’s “Thank You” was a genre-busting juggernaut that remains one of their most famous recordings to this day. That bass line is so funky and authoritative, that it’s no surprise why that is.
012. “Super Freak”
Despite how hard MC Hammer tried, this is one bass line that “u can’t touch.” “Super Freak,” is one explosive, funky track built around one of the most famous bass riffs in the history of modern music. Just try and not dance.
011. “Seven Nation Army”
The White Stripes
It almost goes without saying that the true highlight of the greatest rock song of the 2000s was Jack White’s unstoppable bass line that was essentially just garnished by Meg’s on point beat-keeping and a touch of guitar and melody.
The Jimi Hendrix Experience
It can be a difficult to remember that this guitar god has an incredible bass track in his catalog. “Fire” is a complete musical Experience all around, but even Jimi’s inferno of guitar aerobics are no match for that roaring bass line.
009. “I Want You Back”
The Motown songwriters gifted us with many a legendary bass part, but none was more epic than the Jackson 5’s debut single, “I Want You Back.” As soon as the intro kicks in, there’s a captivating energy that rips right out of the bottom and never stops.
008. “Come As You Are”
One of Nirvana’s most famous pieces, “Come As You Are” doubles as an iconic ode to bottom heavy rock. Yes, that famous riff is actually played on by Kurt Cobain on guitar, but it’s as low as the instrument can possibly go; it’s a bass track.
One of Yes’ most recognized songs, “Roundabout” is an authoritative unleashing of bass glory for a solid 8 and a half minutes. It goes without saying that the track is one of the most important masterworks in the history of the instrument.
006. “Psycho Killer”
All you need to do is listen to “Psycho Killer” once to realize how important the Talking Heads really were. One of their most famous tunes, the pulsing bass line is the undeniable star in a highly-competitive sea of “fa-fa-fa-fa”ntastic parts.
005. “Come Together”
In a catalog like The Beatles’, you don’t have to look very far to find a “greatest” anything or two. As far as bass songs go, “Come Together” is on a completely different level. This may be a Lennon composition, but McCartney steals the show here.
004. “Flash Light”
The synthesized bass line in “Flash Light” is so explosive that when it pulses in, it actually feels like being kicked in the gut. Normally, that wouldn’t be such a good thing, but in the world of P-Funk, it honestly doesn’t get much better than that.
Pink Floyd’s “Money” would be shortlisted on pretty much any “Greatest Songs” list you could imagine, but none would place it higher than one honoring the bass. This particular line is simple and repetitive, but unimaginably genius.
002. “Good Times”
This was the bass line that created an art form. This one, simple part has influenced every genre from rock to hip hop (ahem “Rapper’s Delight”) in a big way. The only reason it’s not number one is because it went on to influence a track that somehow managed to outdo it!
001. “Another One Bites The Dust”
Undeniably, this is the most immortal bass line in rock history. John Deacon’s legendary part packs so much punch that none of his band mates could do much more than structure a song around it to give it life. Sonically speaking, making the bass the lead instrument has never been this successful, unapologetically leaving all other songs in “the dust.”