Everybody’s got a favorite. Couples almost always have one that reflects the defining moment their relationship began. People argue over which are the best and which versions of those top them all. We’re talking about the best rock love songs, a subject nearly everyone has an opinion on.
Many memorable songs have been written on the subject from many different views.
Whether you like your love songs upbeat and full of positive energy, or anguished and raw, somebody’s cut a single you can relate to. With that in mind, we’ve put together an eclectic mix of tunes a lot of people will be able to identify with.
Because rock-n-roll has been popular since the 1950s, we’ve broken it down into decades to offer you a glimpse of the best of the genre by era.
Just to clarify, the songs listed are by the year they were recorded or released. Their order bears no reflection on their popularity or importance. Now that you’re up to speed let’s rock.
Best Rock Love Songs of the 1950s
No list of rock love songs would be complete without the one and only Elvis Presley, the King of Rock and Roll. While “Love Me Tender” is probably the first one that comes to mind, it’s performed as more of a crooner ballad.
1. My Baby Left Me — Artist: Elvis Presley; Year: 1956
A rhythm and blues song originally written and performed by blues singer Arthur Crudup in 1950, Elvis brought it to national attention in 1956 with a bit of rockabilly style. The B-side tune on the 45 “I want you, I need you, I love you,” was covered in the 1970s by Creedence Clearwater Revival, John Lennon, and Slade.
2. Don’t Be Cruel — Artist: Elvis Presley; Year: 1956
Another popular hit for the King, Otis Blackwell wrote this one. After Elvis recorded it in ‘56, it was declared the 6th Best Song of the year. In 2002, the song got inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame. In 2004, it was listed No. 197 on “Rolling Stone” magazine’s list of 500 Greatest Songs of All Time (500GSAT). “Acclaimed Music” currently ranks it as the 173rd Greatest Song of All Time.
“Don’t Be Cruel” has been covered by The Beatles, Devo, Cheap Trick, Jerry Lee Lewis, Neil Diamond, Jackie Wilson, The Judd’s, and others.
3. Everyday — Artists: Buddy Holly & the Crickets; Year: 1957
Written by Buddy Holly and producer Norman Petty, it was recorded and released as the
flip side of another even bigger hit, “Peggy Sue.” “Everyday” is No. 238 on “Rolling Stone’s” list of the 500GSAT. Covers of the catchy tune have been recorded or performed by Don McLean, James Taylor, Fiona Apple, Pearl Jam, and many others.
4. Lonely Tear Drops — Artist: Jackie Wilson; Year: 1958
Written by Berry and Gwen Gordy, along with Tyran Carlo, it was recorded and released as a single by singer Jackie Wilson. The song became a national Top 10 pop hit as No. 7 on the “Billboard” Singles Chart, No. 1 on the R&B charts, and the 57th biggest hit in the U.S. for 1959. It made the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll (500SSRR), and in 1999 it was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.
Best Rock Love Songs of the 1960s
5. The First Cut is the Deepest — Artist: Cat Stevens; Year: 1967
A demo recording in 1965, Stevens wrote the song to promote it to other artists. After releasing it himself in December 1967, he eventually sold the piece to P.P. Arnold for £30.
Not only did it become a big hit for her, but over the years it went on to be an international hit for performers Rod Stewart, Keith Hampshire, and Sheryl Crow. In 2005 and ’06, Stevens won two consecutive ASCAP awards for Songwriter of the Year for it.
6. Sunshine of Your Love —Artist: Cream; Year: 1967
Composed by Jack Bruce and Eric Clapton with lyrics written by Pete Brown, the influential and psychedelic hit has been placed on numerous greatest song lists. They include “Rolling Stone’s” 500GSAT, “Q” magazine’s 100 Greatest Guitar Tracks Ever and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s list of the 500SSRR. VH1 tipped their hat to it as well.
7. Piece of My Heart — Artists: Big Brother & the Holding Company; Year: 1968
Written by Jerry Ragovoy and Bert Berns and originally recorded by Erma Franklin (Aretha’s sister) in 1967, the bluesy rock love song spawned covers by Dusty Springfield, Bryan Ferry, Sammy Hagar, Melissa Etheridge, Shaggy, and Faith Hill. The song, in its many reiterations, has made several charts and lists.
8. Touch Me — Artists: The Doors Year: 1968
Released as a single, band member Robby Krieger wrote the explosive hit in December of ’68. By early ’69, the song had reached No. 3 on the “Billboard” Hot 100 and No. 1 on “Cashbox’s” U.S. Top 100. The band’s third American No. 1 single, it peaked at No. 1 on the RPM Canadian Singles Chart and No. 10 on Australia’s “Kent Music Report.”
Best Rock Love Songs of the 1970s
9. Color My World — Artists: Chicago; Year: 1970
“The” song at proms everywhere in the early ‘70s, it was written by founding band member James Pankow and reached No. 7 on the U.S. “Billboard” Hot 100 after being re-released in ‘71.
Frank Sinatra wanted to record his rendition on the condition Pankow write an additional verse. Apparently, Pankow declined to take him up on it.
10. You Wear it Well — Artist: Rod Stewart; Year: 1972
On the heels of “Maggie May,” Stewart was on fire at this point in his career. Co-written with Martin Quittenton, “You Wear it Well” was another international hit, reaching No. 1 on the U.K. Singles Chart.
While in the States it peaked at No. 13 on the Hot 100, the song made it onto two different charts in three countries and charted singly in five more.
11. You Are So Beautiful — Artist: Joe Cocker; Year: 1974
Written by Billy Preston and Bruce Fisher, Cocker later released his own slower version of the song. Produced by Jim Price, it became one of his biggest hits, climbing to No. 5 on the U.S. “Billboard” Hot 100 and No. 4 on Canada’s Top Singles Chart. The song saw covers by The Beach Boys, Kenny Rogers, Bonnie Tyler, and many others.
12. Wonderful Tonight — Artist: Eric Clapton; Year: 1977
A slow dance ballad written in 1976 by Clapton about partner Pattie Boyd, it made the charts in nine countries (hitting two charts in four of them) between 1978 and 2009.
It’s gone double Platinum in five countries, Gold in five more, and Silver in France. Worldwide, at least 14 million copies have been sold, with a million in Japan alone.
Best Rock Love Songs of the 1980s
The ‘80s was a decade of power ballads, and there were scads of them. In fact, there were so many that it made the task of narrowing them down incredibly difficult.
13. Keep on Loving You — Artists: REO Speedwagon; Year: 1980
Written by Kevin Cronin, the hit appeared on REO’s 1980 album “Hi Infidelity” featuring the work of lead guitarist Gary Richrath. It was the group’s first single to break the Top 50 on “Billboard’s” U.S. Hot 100 and ultimately reached the top spot in March of ‘81.
It peaked at No. 7 on the U.K. Singles Chart that same year, and would later be certified Platinum in the U.S.
14. Heaven — Artist: Bryan Adams; Year: 1983
Written by Bryan Adams and Jim Vallance, “Heaven” was first released in ’83 and then again in ’84 as the third single off of Adams’ “Reckless” album. It wasn’t until 1985 that it reached No. 1 on the U.S. “Billboard” Hot 100 and the single was certified Gold in Canada. The touching love song would become one of three Top 10 hits for the Canadian singer on the Hot 100 chart.
15. Against All Odds (Take a Look at Me Now) — Artist: Phil Collins; Year: 1984
Recorded for the movie soundtrack of the same name, the single was a huge success, reaching No. 1 on “Billboard’s” Hot 100and No. 2 in the U.K. It would be the first of seven U.S. No. 1s for Collins as a solo artist.
The song received nominations for a Golden Globe, an Academy Award, and a Grammy. For some, it’s the quintessential rock love song.
16. Is This Love? — Artist: Whitesnake; Year: 1987
Co-written by band members David Coverdale and John Sykes, this power ballad was considered initially for Tina Turner before Whitesnake decided to record it themselves. It was a smart move. The song was a major hit and ended up going to No. 2 in the U.S. on “Billboards” Hot 100 and No. 9 on the U.K. Singles Chart. In total, it made nine charts between 1987 and 1988.
17. When it’s Love – Artist: Van Halen; Year: 1988
Originally released as a single from the album “OU812”, it was written by Eddie and Alex Van Halen, along with band members Sammy Hagar and Michael Anthony.
After initially receiving a lukewarm reception from critics, the “Van Hagar” collaboration went on to become the most popular song on the album, hitting No. 1 on “Billboard’s” Mainstream Rock Chart and No. 5 on its Hot 100.
Best Rock Love Songs of the 1990s
18. Nothing Compares 2 U — Artist: Sinéad O’Connor; Year: 1990
Written and composed by Prince in 1985 for another project, it was later made famous by O’Connor, who turned it into an anguished love ballad. It topped the charts in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Ireland, Australia, Austria, Germany, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom.
19. November Rain — Artist: Guns n Roses; Year: 1992
Written by frontman Axl Rose, the song was released as a single in 1992 before climbing to No. 3 on “Billboard’s” U.S. Hot 100 Chart. It was distinguished as the “longest song in history” to enter the Top 10 of the Hot 100.
It reached No. 1, 4, and 5 on charts in Poland, the U.K., and Australia, respectively, and found its way into the Top 10 on several other charts around the world.
20. Linger — Artist: The Cranberries; Year: 1993
Composed by the incomparable Dolores O’Riordan and bandmate Noel Hogan, the song was the band’s first big hit, reaching No. 3 in the Republic of Ireland, No. 8 in the States, and No. 14 in the U.K.
It remained on “Billboard’s” Hot 100 for 24 weeks, and was propelled to No. 3 on the “Triple J” Hottest 100 Chartby listeners.
21. I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing — Artist: Aerosmith; Year: 1998
Featured in the 1998 blockbuster “Armageddon,” it was written by Diane Warren. The song debuted at No. 1 on the U.S. Hot 100, staying there for four weeks, and provided Aerosmith with their only No. 1 single for the chart.
It was also No. 1 in Norway, Ireland, and Australia, and sold more than a million copies in the U.K., where it reached No. 4 on the Singles Chart.
Best Rock Love Songs of the 2000s
22. Fell in Love with a Girl — Artist: The White Stripes; Year: 2001
Written and produced by Jack White in 2001 for the band’s third studio album, the group re-released it in 2002 before peaking at No. 21 on both the U.S. “Bubbling Under” Hot 100Singles Chart and the U.K. Singles Chart. In 2007, “Rolling Stone” listed it as “one of the 40 songs that changed the world.” Joss Stone, Richard Cheese, and Weird Al Yankovic have produced covers.
23. Bring Me to Life — Artist: Evanescence; Year: 2003
Almost everyone who knows the song remembers the first time they heard lead singer Amy Lee’s incredible pipes. The girl can sing.
Written by Lee and band members Ben Moody and David Hodges, it peaked on Top 10 charts in over 15 countries and the Top 20 of several more. The song went Platinum, and the group won for Best Hard Rock Performance at the 46th Grammy Awards.
24. Sideways — Artist: Citizen Cope; Year: 2004
Clarence Greenwood, aka Citizen Cope, wrote this moving indie song. And while it’s never charted, like the rest of these melodies, it’s been widely circulated through pop culture.
Often referred to as “These feelings won’t go away,” the song’s chorus, the tune has been covered by Sheryl Crow, Corey Taylor, and included on Santana’s “Shaman” album.
25. I’m Yours — Artist: Jason Mraz; Year: 2008
Released as a limited demo in 2005, Mraz’s catchy Top 10 single was already bopping along before officially going public. Reaching No. 6 in the U.S. on “Billboard’s” Hot 100, it stayed there for 76 weeks, surpassing the previous record of 69 weeks. “I’m Yours” was nominated for Song of the Year and Best Male Pop Vocal Performance at the 51st Grammy Awards.
Best Rock Love Songs of the 2010s
26. Home — Artist: Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros; Year: 2010
Not your typical love song, but the fun, bouncy message is the same. The song is a duet between band members Alex Ebert and Jade Castrinos, who also happen to be the writers. Besides being featured in numerous commercials, TV shows, and movies, “Home” landed on music charts in 11 countries.
27. Angels Fall — Artists: Breaking Benjamin; Year: 2015
Written by frontman Ben Burnley, whose explosive vocals carried the song to the top of the charts, it became a hit single soon after its release. The tune would go on to No. 1 on “Billboard’s” U.S. Mainstream Rock Chart, along with three other charts among the music ranker’s many lists. The Recording Industry Association of America certified it Gold in the U.S.
28. Wish that You Were Here — Artist: Florence & the Machine; Year: 2016
Haunting and driven, this melancholic song from Tim Burton’s “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children” soars with an achingly beautiful passion. Excited to collaborate with Burton, lead singer Florence Welch and bandmates Emile Haynie and Andrew Wyatt co-wrote the song, which would end up on the U.K. Singles Chart.
29. When the Night Is Over — Artist: Lord Huron; Year: 2018
Another indie band, the video has a deliciously campy noir feel to it, and the sound instantly brings to mind the moody, ambient dream music that embodied “Twin Peaks.”
With lead singer and founder Ben Schneider’s wistful, almost hypnotic delivery, the result is mesmerizing. You’ll be hitting replay more than once.
And there you have it, 29 of the very best rock love songs in chart-topping history.
You can go ahead and admit it now: you found at least one song on our list that rocked your world, past or present.
Hopefully, you found one or two more you weren’t formerly acquainted with before today. To that, we say, “you’re welcome.”