The 25 best rock ‘n’ roll anthems

Plenty of rock songs are worthy of raising your fist and punching the air. Some have an anthemic sound, complete with power and passion. Here’s a look at 25 of such songs that have graced our lives over the decades.


1 of 25

“Rock Around The Clock” by Bill Haley & His Comets (1954)

"Rock Around The Clock" by Bill Haley & His Comets (1954)

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In the 1950s, “rock and roll” music was heating up and more than just about rebellion from your parents. It was becoming a way of life for the youth and young adults. One of its signature representations was this classic made famous by Bill Haley. Even today, it’s hard to find a song that captures what “rock and roll” meant to listeners back then.


2 of 25

“My Generation” by The Who (1965)

"My Generation" by The Who (1965)

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Considered one of the great rock songs of all time. “My Generation” might be The Who’s most recognizable tune, which is saying a lot. It became something for the youth to rally around and proudly celebrate. It’s also one of the most covered songs in rock history. Teen angst is totally rock and roll. 


3 of 25

“Born to Be Wild” by Steppenwolf (1968)

"Born to Be Wild" by Steppenwolf (1968)

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A popular track in the biker culture (maybe because it was featured in the cult film Easy Rider). “Born to be Wild,” in some circles, is also considered one of the first heavy metal songs, perhaps because “heavy metal” is part of the lyrics. 


4 of 25

“Baba O’Riley” by The Who (1971)

"Baba O'Riley" by The Who (1971)

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The opener to the stellar Who’s Next album, many fans think it’s called “Teenage Wasteland.” From its memorable beginning to its crescendo of a finish, “Baba O’Riley” is always a crowd favorite. Bands like Pearl Jam have regularly incorporated the cover into live sets. It might be one of the best opening tracks to any album. 


5 of 25

“Won’t Get Fooled Again” by The Who (1971)

"Won't Get Fooled Again" by The Who (1971)

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While “Baba O’Riley” is the perfect opening song, not many songs close an album better than “Won’t Get Fooled Again.” At 8 1/2 minutes, this classic is pure rock. All killer, no filler. It’s a song where all four band members mightily contribute — none more so than drummer Keith Moon, whose well-orchestrated solo leads us brilliantly into Roger Daltrey’s famous “Yeah!!!!” It doesn’t get much better than this.


6 of 25

“American Pie” by Don McLean (1971)

"American Pie" by Don McLean (1971)

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There’s a good chance plenty of fans of the song don’t know who sings it. McLean wasn’t and still isn’t a household musical name, but his epic tune about “the day the music died” is one of the most popular of all time. It’s an ode to Americana and a loss of innocence. To this day, it should be considered an extremely well-written and important rock classic.


7 of 25

“We’re An American Band” by Grand Funk Railroad (1973)

"We're An American Band" by Grand Funk Railroad (1973)

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There’s just something cool about songs sung by drummers. Written and sung by Grand Funk drummer Don Brewer, this hit is probably played at least once or twice a day on those classic rock radio stations. The song is a celebration of the band itself. 


8 of 25

“Free Bird” by Lynyrd Skynyrd (1974)

"Free Bird" by Lynyrd Skynyrd (1974)

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It really doesn’t matter what type of concert you’re attending. At some point, a drunk fan will just yell “Free Bird.” It’s disappointing if someone doesn’t. The song is synonymous with Skynyrd and is joked about plenty in classic rock circles. It’s an epic song because it’s long (9:08 on the album version) and an emotional example of musical freedom


9 of 25

“Sweet Home Alabama” by Lynyrd Skynyrd (1974)

"Sweet Home Alabama" by Lynyrd Skynyrd (1974)


The song of the South, even during these volatile times with social justice and racism at the forefront in the United States. To the band, it was a response to Neil Young’s “Southern Man,” which touched on racism and slavery. Within the Skynyrd legacy, it shines bright and is played with plenty of pride over the various lineup changes and years piled up by the band.


10 of 25

“Rock and Roll All Nite” by Kiss (1975)

"Rock and Roll All Nite" by Kiss (1975)

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By far, Kiss’ most well-known tune. Kiss was camp at its finest, especially in their early years, and this remains the anthem of the band’s legacy. With Gene Simmons handling most of the vocals, the song celebrates good times. Its release on the band’s stellar Alive live album boosted the song’s popularity.


11 of 25

“Born to Run” by Bruce Springsteen (1975)

"Born to Run" by Bruce Springsteen (1975)

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Bruce needed a breakout. Not just a single, but an album. Born to Run delivered both. Now, some can argue that “Thunder Road” is the anthem of young life and love, but the title cut is the unbridled celebration of promise against the odds that Springsteen was hoping to find from his music. Or at least, a song that critics and fans could appreciate in the same light. 


12 of 25

“Come Sail Away” by Styx (1977)

"Come Sail Away" by Styx (1977)

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13 of 25

“We Will Rock You””We Are the Champions” by Queen (1977)

"We Will Rock You"/"We Are the Champions" by Queen (1977)


It might not get more anthemic than this twofer. “We Will Rock You” flows right into “We Are the Champions” to kick off Queen’s News of the World LP. Whether played at sporting events, on TV shows, or in film, these back-to-back gems are two of the first songs even casual Queen fans think of when the band comes to mind. 


14 of 25

“Time for Me to Fly” by REO Speedwagon (1978)

"Time for Me to Fly" by REO Speedwagon (1978)

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Not necessarily the most popular REO song, but many frat parties during the 1980s and 1990s busted out this tune when in need of an alcohol-infused group sing-a-long. It should also go down as one of the great break-up songs of all time because it’s the epitome of a classic rock ballad that isn’t as schlocky as what would follow from the emergence of the ’80s hair bands.


15 of 25

“Old Time Rock and Roll” by Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band (1979)

"Old Time Rock and Roll" by Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band (1979)

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An unabashed celebration of the rock-and-roll sound. This Seger classic was made more popular because it appeared in Risky Business when a young Tom Cruise danced around in his underwear. The song received enough airplay to be considered the highlight of Seger’s extensive and successful catalog.


16 of 25

“Highway to Hell” by AC/DC (1979)

"Highway to Hell" by AC/DC (1979)

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From Angus Young’s memorable riff to Bon Scott’s whiskey-fueled howl, “Highway to Hell” arguably stands tall above the rest of AC/DC’s many anthemic tunes. A song about the rigors of touring and not really an ode to Satan, it’s one of the most beloved tracks for its overall tightness. It’s a song that does not waste any time, has great pace, and encapsulates the band.


17 of 25

“Another Brick In The Wall, Pt. 2” by Pink Floyd (1979)

"Another Brick In The Wall, Pt. 2" by Pink Floyd (1979)

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The most recognized of the three parts from Floyd’s conceptual gem, The Wall. Most notably because of the famed line, “We don’t need no education.” How many kids around the world are thinking the same thing? It’s probably the track Pink Floyd is known best for, even among the band’s countless exceptional titles during its lengthy run.


18 of 25

“Another One Bites the Dust” by Queen (1980)

"Another One Bites the Dust" by Queen (1980)

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Another Queen classic that’s been a staple in sports arenas and stadiums over the decades. It was written by bassist John Deacon and featured perhaps the most famous bass line in classic rock history. The song is a big favorite among the funk community, likely because Deacon was heavily influenced by the genre when putting the track together. 


19 of 25

“Don’t Stop Believin'” by Journey (1981)

"Don't Stop Believin'" by Journey (1981)

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At the time, the opening track of Journey’s massively successful Escape album was sandwiched between ballads “Who’s Crying Now” and “Open Arms.” However, the song has enjoyed a revival in popularity over the years. From the theme of the Chicago White Sox’s run to the 2005 World Series to its role in the popular TV series Glee, “Don’t Stop Believin'” has earned classic status.


20 of 25

“I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll” by Joan Jett and the Blackhearts (1982)

"I Love Rock 'n' Roll" by Joan Jett and the Blackhearts (1982)

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Joan Jett’s cover of this 1970s tune by little-known English rockers the Arrows was another track that benefited from plenty of radio airplay and MTV. Jett is punk at her core, but following the demise of The Runaways, she hit the pop stage, and this track, which she first recorded in 1979, made her one of the biggest visual stars of the early 1980s.


21 of 25

“We’re Not Gonna Take It” by Twisted Sister (1984)

"We're Not Gonna Take It" by Twisted Sister (1984)

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There’s plenty of campiness to be had from this Twister Sister favorite. It also helped the band that MTV took the video and ran with it. Nothing seems to strike a chord better than teen angst and rebellion. This tune offered both and became a rallying cry for youngsters during the 1980s. 


22 of 25

“Born in the U.S.A.” by Bruce Springsteen (1984)

"Born in the U.S.A." by Bruce Springsteen (1984)

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Plenty of rock and pop fans missed the boat when it came to the true meaning of this Springsteen hit. The chorus is loud, powerful, and certainly anthemic. It’s a subtle protest song, specifically calling attention to the difficult plight of some Vietnam veterans returning to a normal life after the war. Absorbing the true purpose of the song makes it much more powerful. 


23 of 25

“Livin’ on a Prayer” by Bon Jovi (1986)

"Livin' on a Prayer" by Bon Jovi (1986)

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Another massive sing-a-long favorite, especially in a crowded bar when turning down the volume during the chorus. It’s a song that has truly spanned decades and held up extremely well. The hopeful tale of Tommy and Gina trying to make it through life is Bon Jovi’s most recognized hit.


24 of 25

“Rockin’ in the Free World” by Neil Young (1989)

"Rockin' in the Free World" by Neil Young (1989)

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Neil Young is not happy with Donald Trump using this song at his events. And like most casual fans of the tune, Trump and his people probably don’t get its true meaning. The song was aimed to be critical of President George H. W. Bush but has an anthem-like quality that makes it one of Young’s most popular offerings. The song is also a longtime live favorite for Pearl Jam to cover.


25 of 25

“Alive” by Pearl Jam (1991)

"Alive" by Pearl Jam (1991)

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For a good number of Gen X and grunge fans, this song still resonates from that era. Even though the track offers a confusing and somewhat dark take on the traditional family dynamic, it remains a sing-a-long staple at Pearl Jam shows. It’s also a song that has stood the test of musical time quite well, especially within a catalog as expansive as these Seattle rockers’.

A Chicago native, Jeff Mezydlo has professionally written about sports, entertainment and pop culture for nearly 30 years. If he could do it again, he’d attend Degrassi Junior High, Ampipe High and Grand Lakes University.