Wednesday Question: Songs That Changed The World

For better or worse, some songs changed the course of history. Post your nominations and place your votes here, and we'll post the results on Friday.

Ultimate Guitar

Music has the power to change the world - and you're about to prove that.

There have been some wildly influential bands over the decades, but often their greatest success came from releasing a certain song at a particular moment in time.

Often by coincidence, they resonated with culture in a way they couldn't at any other time in history, and inspired an entire generations. Sometimes they have a negative effect, even when the artist never intended it. Either way, the world was never the same again.

This week's question is:

What songs have changed the world more than any other?

Stuck for ideas? How about the anti - monarchy anthem "God Save The Queen" by the Sex Pistols which inspired British teenagers to revolt against the upper classes; Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit" which became a call-to-arms for the independent music scene and nudged the major labels to invest in underground artists through the early 90s; John Lennon's "Imagine" which echoes through the decades and questions our relationship with God and each other.

You'll be hard pressed to find niche tracks for this question, but if you can make a case for a relatively unknown classic that you can justify as having a indirect influence on the world, go for it.

Post your nominations in the comments, and remember to upvote anything you agree with. We'll stack up the results and post them on Friday.

445 comments sorted by best / new / date

    Johnny B. Goode-Chuck Berry
    The entire time I was reading all these comments, I just kept thinking to myself why no one had mentioned Johnny B. Goode haha. +1
    Colors is your avatar, and you picked Johhny B. Goode. You win all the prizes sir.
    The song that started it all, without Robert Johnson there would be no rock music. Period.
    I am not sure how well my second choice will go down on UG, but here goes it... Miles Davis - So What Ask pretty much anyone who listens to Jazz "what got you into the genre?" and the majority will say Miles Davis... Or Cowboy Bebop. A Kind of Blue is widely regarded as the greatest album of all time by critics and introduced a huge number of people to Jazz music, So What being the most famous track off of the album.
    Without this album there would be far less 'Help Understanding Modes' threads on the forums. I'm gonna throw in Giant Steps by Coltrane because it tore harmony a new one
    ^ Fantastic album I agree, my favorite Coltrane album is A Love Supreme but I would probably have Giant Steps close second.
    I don't remeber from which song/artist I started listening to jazz. : d Ontopic: Over The Rainbow
    It was definitely Miles Davis for me, all the way. As far as jazz went, there was no other artist I found nearly as interesting.
    if peeing your pants is cool, then consider me miles davis lol (billy madison, anyone?)
    Glass Prisoner
    Crossroads - Robert Johnson
    Don't know how people didn't upvote this more, it basically paved the way for modern music.
    Sadly I don't think a lot of people know how much of a game changer this song was. But if I had to make the list then this would definitely be number #1
    As far as "songs that changed the world" this is it right here. This song is the blueprint for basically every rock song.
    Black Sabbath - Black Sabbath
    Also, Velvet Underground - Venus in Furs and Glenn Branca - Lesson No. 1
    Little Walter - Juke You might not know who he is, but he changed the face of popular music. With Juke he had the first (and so far only) instrumental harmonica song to reach the top of the charts. It was also the first song to use distortion, which every single guitar player in the world has used at some point in time.
    Good mention, too. Sadly, the retards commenting here are angry 12-year olds that think that only Led Zeppelin and Hendrix changed the world in music (see the multiple dislikes for the two posts above).
    One of the songs that influenced most of the artists that wrote the "mainstays" on this list. Very important to the advancement of what was to become the dominate form of music on the planet, rock n roll. Good suggestion, wish it actually got some up votes.
    A song totally deserving of this list, I do not understand why you got so many thumbs down, I'm guessing this is due to the plebs in the comments that think Dream Theater and Dethklok are important to musical history.
    Another Brick in the Wall
    Bohemian Rhapsody - Queen
    Elvis - Jailhouse Rock (One of the first Rock n Roll songs) Chuck berry - Rock n Roll Music (Made rock n roll a genre, also covered by The Beatles) The Beatles - She Loves You (Beggeing of Beatle-Mania) Pink Floyd - Another Brick in the wall (Still played to this day, no . 1 anthem for rebellion) MJ - Thriller (Made MJ a house hold name) Nirvana - SLTS (Change Rock music as we knew it) Gangman Style - Made us re-affirm that music is now just a bunch of horrible cr@p
    hey hey, what about We're Not Gonna Take It?
    Great point. But it is not a world changing song. It has its own share of fame but it simply cannot compare to Another Brick on the Wall
    MJ was already a household name. Thriller made him a legend
    I am not sure about this. The Jackson 5 were quite popular but not as nearly as popular as MK in the thriller era.
    I mean a "household name" isn't something that you can really measure. But he had hits before Thriller as a solo artist and in the Jackson 5, so it's not like he wasn't already a star. I'm not saying Thriller (especially the music video) wasn't influential and didn't change the world. All I'm saying is I don't think that was the thing that made him a household name. I think that already happened. That whole album changed the world.
    Stairway to Heaven-Led Zeppelin
    thumbs down a thousand times! this song is the most overrated thing going...
    Overrated and overplayed are different. Imagine hearing stairway for the first time. Pretend you have no idea where the song is going from the start...the finger-picked guitar with Plant's ridiculous voice, to when the drums come in, to the change into the final verses. Then smash your face into the nearest wall for disrespecting zeppelin!
    You do know that most of the guitar parts for Stairway To Heaven were stolen from another band that Led Zeppelin toured with right? You also know that, although it's a great song, there's nothing particularly revolutionary about it. They didn't bring hard rock to the mainstream (Cream did) and they didn't bring the long form song to the mainstream (most progressive rock bands were doing it at the time) so therefore it didn't change the world, it just became extremely popular. Just cause it's popular does not mean it's revolutionary.
    everyone knows Zeppelin ripped off stairway from the black keys' Little black submarines.
    who gives a ****? Does that change the song in any way, does it make it any less impactful, does it change the popularity or legacy of the song? I personally don't care for the song, I prefer Kashmir or Fool in the Rain over this, but this is still the most important of their songs, so yes, this song.
    I'm still waiting for the day that people will understand that music isn't a cult and therefore you don't need to idolize bands like they're gods or anything. Also, waiting for people to understand that, despite being a great band, Led Zeppelin revolutionized music just as much as Dane Cook revolutionized the stand up comedy shows.
    Agreed, the most overrated song by the most overrated band. The musical landscape would not be any different if Led Zeppelin never existed, same with Queen for that matter.
    >Coming from the guy with the GY!BE avatar. They're all great bands, and they've each influenced countless other artists. Move along.
    honestly, you just described two of the most influential bands in the history of music. nearly every musician dreams of being in a band as successful and connected as Led Zeppelin, same with Queen for that matter. way to go.
    I guarantee almost all the artists and bands you like were influenced directly or indirectly by one of the two
    You clearly have no concept of the influence that Led Zeppelin had on rock music. Just stop.
    ^ Just because they are influential does not mean they are not overrated, Radiohead are influential as well (I ****ing love Radiohead) but are ungodly overrated (OK Computer Pitchforkmedia's greatest album? Please, I can name 100 better albums including Kid A). PS. I like both Led Zeppelin and Queen
    no way!!! Radiohead are not overrated, they deserve every single bit of praise they have ever gotten!!! with each album they released they completely revolutionised music! with Amnesiac they created a whole new genre which now just happens to be the most popular genre around... I'll let you guess what that is... honestly, I don't see where they can go form TKOL.
    Yeah, I love Radiohead but up until OK Computer they were indistinguishable from alot of other 90's bands, Kid A is one of my favourite albums but both TKOL and Pablo Honey are bad releases in my opinion. The band gets so much praise that they are very obviously going to be overrated, even GY!BE (my avatar) are overrated because of the amount of praise they get.
    yeah, Almost every hard rock band's influences that i have seen have said they'd been influenced by Zeppelin. You may not like them, but don't go around spouting angry bull shit, that has absolutely no basis in fact
    Read my comment again, I did not say I dislike either band, in fact I own the first 5 Zeppelin albums. They may have been influential, but if LZ never existed there would of been a band to fill the void (most likely Blue Cheer or a continued Yardbirds). Led Zepplin's musical importance is greatly exagerrated, especially as Can, Frank Zappa, Faust and Soft Machine etc were pretty much reinventing peoples perception of music at the same time Zeppelin were around.
    you just contradicted yourself. your original comment said that Led Zeppelin didn't change the musical landscape whatsoever and here you just said that they were definitely influential...which means that they did, in fact, change the musical landscape very much.
    Guys guys....Free Bird.
    another stupidly overrated piece of drivel and possible the worst and most boring solo ever performed, its the same god damn notes over and over again for 5 mins!
    Yeah, but you're missing the important part... ITS 5 FUCKING MINUTES!!
    Anyone can bend the 15th fret for 5 minutes with the occasional 12th fret thrown in there its such a poor solo and for some reason everyone loves it and I don't get why..
    The fact that it is easy has absolutely to do with how good it is
    You might not like Freebird, but they're not asking what your favorite song is. They are asking what songs changed the world.
    The Beatles- Helter Skelter I've heard a lot of people and other musicians say they consider this song to be a prominent precursor to Hard Rock
    more like heavy metal, in a way this is still one of the heaviest songs around!
    Any thing on Sgt. Pepper's would be world altering. 1967, Beatles change the world. There is just a clear division of what as before and after that. They made rock art. Glam, art, prog,acid, everything comes out of Sgt. Pepper's or what comes out of what comes out of Sgt. Pepper's. Even metal comes from Sgt. Pepper's, Sabbath and early metal groups were reacting to the love and sunshine the Beatles and their fans were yelling about. I'm not going to tell you that the Beatles we being original or not playing it safe but they took up the hippie aesthetic and a lot of what was going on musically underground and threw it into the public eye and inspired the music of the 70s. Technically since Sgt. Pepper's is a concept album you can regard the whole thing as one song even. Eruption- Van Halen. People went to sleep the night before hearing that and thought one group of player was awesome, woke up, heard Eddie, and then suddenly thought people tey like the day before sucked.
    Any of the songs the Beatles played at their first appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show. I have heard from countless future rockers and many other people that their performance changed their lives. I haven't really seen anything since to have that big an affect on the world.
    That performance was said to have launched the garage band craze. Also was referred to as "The performance that launched a million bands!" The Beatles literally have to be #1. I mean a band that held down the top 5 singles at one time in 1964, including a few other singles that were on the charts as well. Amazing band Changed everything for music and musicians.
    I remember seeing the Four Seasons perform live on a special on t.v. showing classic performances on the Ed Sullivan show. I remember being spellbound by the performance, but I can't remember what exactly captivated me about it. It didn't change music, but it certainly changed my view on how a live performance can change your perspective on a particular band.
    While that could definitely be true, there is no comparing the two bands or performances in terms of the question asked.
    Ludwig Van Beethoven - Fur Elise
    I am very surprised that it has taken this long for someone to mention Classical music, bravo my good sir. I would choose Moonlight Sonata personally though, those feels man.
    His 9th Symphony has had a far more profound effect than either of those combined as well as most if not all of the music mentioned already. The 9th changed the way music was written and structured, Fur Elise is kind of a fluff piece for piano students (not that it isn't beautiful) The only problem is that the larger scale works aren't really considered 'songs.' That being said. . . Wagner - The Ring Cycle (as much as I hate him) Stravinsky - Rite of Spring Bach - The Well-Tempered Clavier
    I posted it because everyone knows that tune, whether they realize it or not. If you want influence, though, Mozart is probably a better place to look. So many modern guitarists are influenced by him and don't even realize it.
    Y'all are forgetting Tchaikovsky. The dude was heavy as shit.
    Like a Rolling Stone - Dylan Killing in the name - ratm Imagine - John Lennon
    Agree with both except the Rage one...
    I didn't have my mom drive me all the way to the Hot topic in the mall to buy a rage against the machine t shirt so that I can sit here and listen to you bad mouth them sir.
    The Beatles: A Day In The Life- expanded all notions of what a rock n' roll song could be. The Beatles always had a way of incorporating so much and making it sound so natural.
    Not really a song...but Symphony No. 9 by Beethoven motherf***ers. Beethoven challenged decades of theory and rules, and did it while he was deaf. Genius.
    Franko 316
    Love Me Do - The Beatles - first official song for the prime British invasion band, cant get more ground breaking than that (as always in my own opinion, everyone else has different opinions).
    Seven Nation Army-White Stripes: Started the lo-fi guitar revolution. Black Sabbath-Black Sabbath: The first metal song that mattered. Still probably the scariest. Good Times, Bad Times- Led Zeppelin: Imagine if this was the first song anyone who bought your album would ever hear from you? Sweet Child of Mine-Guns n Roses: As hard as it is for some of you to admit, How many of you picked up a guitar, or had a friend play this for you when you started your first band? Smoke on the Water-Deep Purple: It took years and songs like Seven Nation Army to knock this out of the no 1 spot first song anyone learns list. Dark Side of the Moon-Pink Floyd: One of the most important albums ever written is also JUST ONE SONG. Do I need to defend it?
    Dream Theater Metropolis I Metallica Master of Puppets or Enter Sandman
    Sound of Silence - Simon and Garfunkel. One of the first truly deep and thoughtful songs in pop music. Also My Generation by The Who has to be in the mix
    black sabbath, black sabbath
    and gangnam style
    You know, Gangham Style would be a worthy contender when you think about the current shift in major label interest to Eastern music. It'll be more apparent over the coming years.
    I just voted down that entire comment chain under 'Gangam Style'. Gotta stay consistent
    Its popular now... i give gangam style a couple months of fame before people forget about it. just like everything else coming out these days
    Because UG never reads bottom comments. I would like to say Colors by BTBAM. The album itself plays as one song, is a different type of concept album and shows that Prog music is alive and well.
    enter sandman
    enter sandman is a really important song. Mayority of metal artist give credit to enter sandman to make them get into metal
    The majority of metal artists got into metal from Enter Sandman? Please link me to this fact.
    When I was 11, I saw the video on tv. I thought it was the badass thing I had ever seen. It made me want to play guitar and start a band.
    if i really had to narrow it down to one Pantera song, i guess it'd be Cowboys From Hell. other than that, Smells Like Teen Spirit, Stairway to Heaven and Billie Jean. I can't really narrow down anything from Pearl Jam's first album. Oh, and Free Bird.
    Ohio, Neil Young
    Yeah this, Crosby said that Young calling out Nixon was the bravest thing hes ever seen
    very much this, lots of people dont know the story behind it
    Then maybe it didn't change the world!
    Your logic is flawed. People may not be familiar with the song, but they can sure see the impact. This was probably the first time a popular song called out a sitting president by name [not sure how many since have done it either, usually there are just indirect references], and it helped shape the national discourse around civil protest, involvement in Vietnam, etc. during the following years. There aren't too many songs suggested here with any impact beyond the musical community - this one had a far-reaching impact on American society.
    "That's All Right (Mama)" really got Elvis' career rolling, and I can't imagine a world without Elvis.
    Also, "You Really Got Me" by The Kinks was probably the most important garage rock/proto-punk song. "Blitzkrieg Bop" was probably super important for American punk rock, which definitely changed the world.
    Welcome To The Jungle, Guns 'n' Roses
    Surprised by all the downvotes.... I've always thought Welcome To The Jungle marked the real turning point in moving away from hair metal to '90s rock, way before Teen Spirit.