The blues is a genre that changed not only the history of music but of the world. If your knowledge of this leading style of music is lacking, it’s time to educate yourself. A good place to start is to sit back, relax, and listen to the best blues songs.
If you want to dive deeper into this influential style of music, sign up for Betterly’s They Got Blues series. In the meantime, dip your toes into the water with these famous blues songs.
The 25 Best Blues Songs You Must Listen to Today
Here are the best blues songs of all time that are compulsory listening.
25. Wang Dang Doodle – Koko Taylor
This is one of the genre’s quintessential party songs and Koko Taylor’s tough delivery of Wang Dang Doodle inspired future legends such as Bonnie Raitt and Janis Joplin.
24. Do The Rump – Junior Kimbrough
A more recent but still influential track, Do the Rump is a raw, elemental blues song from Junior Kimbrough, who took this sound from the juke joints of the Mississippi Delta in the 1990s to huge rock arenas.
23. Shave – Lucille Bogan
This track was truly groundbreaking when it was released in 1935, with sexually explicit lyrics. Bogan broke down boundaries and paved the way for female artists for decades to come.
22. I Can’t Quit You Baby – Otis Rush
Performed by Otis Rush but written by Willie Dixon, this twelve-bar blues is a true blues standard.
21. Red House – Jimi Hendrix
At a whopping 13 minutes long, this track showcases Hendrix’s guitar skills in a blues style.
20. Good Morning Little Schoolgirl – Sonny Boy Williamson I
First recorded in 1937, this track by Sonny Boy Williamson I inspired a number of young musicians at the time, including the legendary Muddy Waters. It’s a bouncy, up-tempo song that features Williamson’s incredible blues harp.
19. Mannish Boy – Muddy Waters
Muddy Waters is undeniably one of the most famous names in blues, and although it’s hard to pick just one track, Mannish Boy is definitely one of his best. This 1955 song has a hit at the time and has profound civil rights undertones.
18. Memphis Blues – W.C. Handy
W.C. Handy is an important figure in blues as a songwriter, artist, and musical historian who was one of the first people to publish blues songs, bringing them to a much wider audience. Memphis Blues was originally a political campaign song, and is now a blues standard.
17. Evil – Howlin’ Wolf
Evil is essential listening for its intense musicality that is something akin to heavy metal, even though this slow blues track dates back to 1954. This song remains highly influential for its dark, menacing vocals and hard rock sound.
16. Spoonful – Willie Dixon
Perhaps most famous as a songwriter, Willie Dixon proved himself as an artist too with Spoonful. You can enjoy the covers of this track, notably the 1960 one by Howlin’ Wolf, but be sure you check out the original.
15. Pride and Joy – Stevie Ray Vaughan
Stevie Ray Vaughan is a blues legend and his track Pride and Joy displays his prowess on the guitar with an incredible guitar solo.
14. Me and The Devil Blues – Robert Johnson
This track has been subject to much speculation since its release in 1938, with many wondering the meaning behind the words that talk about the devil coming to collect Johnson’s soul.
13. Dust My Broom – Elmore James
Dust My Broom was composed by blues legend Robert Johnson but it is Elmore James’ boisterous slide guitar that really makes this song stand out. Although not an instant hit when the single was released in 1951, it slowly built a strong following and became a blues classic that inspired countless guitar players.
12. Smokestack Lightnin’ – Howlin’ Wolf
Like many famous blues songs, this song has evolved over the years, and was later recorded by famous artists including Bob Dylan and The Who. The original by Howlin’ Wolf is compulsory blues listening.
11. I’m Tore Down – Freddy King
First recorded by Freddy King in 1961, this track was an instant hit at the time and is still fantastic listening today.
10. Sunshine Of Your Love - Cream
Arguably one of best-known blues songs, Sunshine Of Your Love also incorporates elements of hard rock, pop, and psychedelia.
9. I’d Rather Go Blind – Etta James
This blues and soul classic from one of the most famous female artists of the genre is beloved for its poetic and emotional qualities.
8. Stormy Monday – T-Bone Walker
This twelve-bar classic dates back to 1947 and inspired blues legends such as B.B. King. The slow track was radical at the time due to its use of electric guitar.
7. Big Chief – Professor Longhair
This legendary New Orleans track reflects that city’s rich cultural heritage, incorporating Caribbean rhumba and syncopated rhythms. This song can still be heard every year at Mardi Gras and laid the foundations for funk and R&B.
6. Born Under A Bad Sign – Albert King
British band Cream’s cover of this track found more mainstream fame, but the original by Albert King is a soulful, quintessentially blues song that also appeals to rock fans. It’s one of the reasons that King is known as one of the “Three Kings” of electric blues.
5. Crossroad Blues – Robert Johnson
This song is an important part of music history, with its exceptional slide guitar that inspired countless future blues artists and tracks. This tune was also covered in some famous versions in later decades, most notably by Eric Clapton with Cream.
4. Boogie Chillen’ – John Lee Hooker
Boogie Chillen’ by John Lee Hooker is one of the most famous blues songs in the history of the genre. One of the things that makes this stripped-back solo guitar song so famous is that legendary riff that’s been sampled in so many other songs.
3. Hellhound On My Trail – Robert Johnson
Robert Johnson is a blues legend not only for his amazing guitar, but also because of the famous ghost story that says his talent was all down to a deal he made with the devil. This tale fits in nicely with the chilling, smouldering blues of Hellhound on My Trail.
2. Hoochie Coochie Man – Muddy Waters
An undeniable blues standard, this Chicago-style electric blues track was a huge hit when it was released in 1954. Its stop-time riff was later sampled in a number of famous songs and is one of the most well-known phrases in the genre.
1. The Thrill is Gone – B.B. King
This slow, 12-bar blues song was actually originally recorded by Roy Hawkins in 1951. However, it was B.B. King’s 1969 version that took it mainstream and cemented it as one of the most famous blues songs of all time.
It’s hard to make a definitive list of the best blues songs of all time, with such a wealth of material as well as diversity in this genre. However, this list represents some of the best blues songs to introduce you to the style or simply relax and enjoy some incredible music.
We hope you enjoy these tracks and check out Betterly’s We Got Blues series for more!