The best soft rock songs of all time are a unique topic when it comes to this genre. Most people and fans associate rock music with loud guitars and powerful vocals. Most fans want a lot of intensity in their music but slowing down is also an art.
The great thing about the best soft rock songs is the fact that they combine melody with a lot of atmosphere and feeling. It plays a huge role in a band’s success and can show a different side of their music. This is something that can be very meaningful and remain in people’s collective minds.
There are a lot of bands that are known because of slower songs and that is also quite significant. It also shows that there is a lot more to Rock music, which is worth taking into account.
Best Soft Rock Songs From the 70s 80s 90s
The criteria for this list of best soft rock songs are based on several factors. This includes achievements, popularity, and cultural impact over the years. These songs have played a massive role in each band’s career and rock music as a whole.
Which are the best soft rock songs of all time?
- The Eagles – Hotel California
- Elton John – Rocket Man
- Genesis – In Too Deep
- Foreigner – I Want to Know What Love Is
- Bonnie Tyler – Total Eclipse of the Heart
- Phil Collins – Another Day in Paradise
- America – A Horse With No Name
- Marillion – Kayleigh
- Kansas – Dust in the Wind
- Oasis – Wonderwall
- Pink Floyd – Wish You Were Here
- Bon Jovi – Always
- Whitesnake – Is This Love
- Eric Clapton – Tears in Heaven
- U2 – With or Without You
- Scorpions – Winds of Change
- Aerosmith – I Don’t Want To Miss A Thing
- Led Zeppelin – Stairway to Heaven
- The Goo Goo Dolls – Iris
- The Beatles – Here Comes the Sun
- R. E.M. – Everybody Hurts
- Guns N’ Roses – November Rain
1. The Eagles – Hotel California
“Hotel California” is without a doubt one of the best soft rock songs of all time. A song that achieved enormous fame and whose lyrics have led to a lot of interpretations. It is also the band’s most famous song of all time and has defined The Eagles’ career moving forward.
This is a song with a lot of charm and soul with a lot of atmosphere. It is also a great example of how a ballad can become a part of the entire music business.
2. Elton John – Rocket Man
Elton John gave us this great piece in the 70s, at the height of space travel. The Brit used a wonderful metaphor of space travel to talk about very human sensations. That makes it one of the best soft rock songs.
There is no denying that this is Sir Elton John‘s greatest song of all time and the one he is most known for. In fact, the movie that was made of John‘s career is named after this song, which is saying a lot.
3. Genesis – In Too Deep
A ballad with powerful lyrics that tells the story of a man trying to understand why his lover left him. One of the best songs in the Genesis discography, without a shadow of a doubt, and that is saying a lot.
The interesting part about this song is that it represents a certain point in the band’s career. They started in the 70s as an ambitious Progressive Rock group and in the 80s they became a Pop Rock outfit. This change hasn’t been well-received by most fans but it still plays a big role in their success moving forward.
4. Foreigner – I Want to Know What Love Is
At the time, it reached first place on billboards, however over time it has become part of popular culture. It is one of the best soft rock songs and this is reflected in the number of covers that other important artists such as Mariah Carey have made of it.
5. Bonnie Tyler – Total Eclipse of the Heart
This piece by Bonnie Tyler is considered among the best soft rock songs, however it has a deep and at the same time strong sound. Added to this is the powerful voice of the Welsh singer.
Tyler has had a lot of different periods in her career but there is no denying that the 80s was her peak. She made a ton of phenomenal songs but “Total Eclipse of the Heart” is a generational hit.
6. Phil Collins – Another Day in Paradise
Phil Collins wrote and produced this tremendous song that has a powerful message. One of the best soft rock songs talks about helping people in need and how we should not ignore those situations.
He built his career with Genesis since the mid-70s and it was in the 80s when they became huge. Collins seized this chance to build a career as a solo artist and this allowed him to become an even bigger musical figure in the business.
7. America – A Horse with No Name
“A Horse with No Name” is about heroin use and this topic caused him to be banned from some radio stations. Ironically, this made it more popular and, along with its simple lyrics, made it more accessible to the public.
8. Marillion – Kayleigh
The song’s writer and Marillion singer at the time, Fish, wrote “Kayleigh“. The song is an apology from Fish to his previous partners because he prioritized his musical career first and foremost. A simple melody accompanied with a lot of feeling makes it one of the best soft rock songs.
Marillion raised the flag for Progressive Rock in the 80s when the subgenre was mostly dead at the time. They were brilliant in combining more commercial elements with Progressive elements, which led to their legendary 80s period.
9. Kansas – Dust in the Wind
“Dust in the Wind” marked a change from the Kansas style up to that point. A slow melody and nostalgic lyrics add a classic touch to a song that has stayed alive throughout the decades.
Kansas were always more of a Progressive Rock band but this song cemented their role as one of the best groups of the 70s. It also played a huge role in them often not getting the recognition they deserve for the rest of their catalog.
10. Oasis – Wonderwall
We are basically talking about an anthem in the UK, known worldwide. “Wonderwall” has lyrics whose interpretation has varied over time. Although at first it seemed that it was about Noel Gallagher’s wife, after his divorce, Noel himself said that it was about an imaginary friend. In any case, it is one of the best soft rock songs.
11. Pink Floyd – Wish You Were Here
Pink Floyd was known for playing complex themes in their songs and with “Wish You Were Here” there was no exception. The song talks about Syd Barrett‘s departure from the band due to problems caused by drug use. However, the feeling of nostalgia for the lack of a loved one is universal and that allowed it to reach many people and of course to the list of best soft rock songs.
It’s true that Pink Floyd were never a very commercial band but had a lot of heart and their music was quite relaxed. This is pivotal because they could be defined as the greatest soft Rock band of all time.
12. Bon Jovi – Always
Bon Jovi has always been known for making great romantic ballads and we can say that “Always” is one of the best. It is one of the best soft rock songs for its quality as well as its commercial success.
The band started in the 80s as a heavier Hard Rock group but the 90s saw them making a lot of changes in their sound. This allowed them to survive in the ever-changing music business and “Always” was arguably their most successful song of all time.
13. Whitesnake – Is This Love
Whitesnake vocalist and main songwriter David Coverdale was the one who wrote the song and recently revealed that it was originally for Tina Turner. Finally, the song came out as part of Whitesnake‘s discography to become one of the best soft rock songs.
Coverdale always wanted to conquer the American market and the 1987 album was the master struck for that success. This is when Whitesnake embraced 80s Heavy Metal with mixes of Pop and “Is This Love” shows them at their most commercial. A timeless classic of 80s music.
14. Eric Clapton – Tears in Heaven
One of the saddest and at the same time powerful songs on the list of best soft rock songs. The song is dedicated to Clapton‘s deceased son who died at the age of four after falling from a skyscraper.
Eric Clapton‘s solo career is somewhat underrated because of how big this song has been over the years. Be that as it may, this is a very good starting point to get into his career and then people can give the rest of his catalog a chance.
15. U2 – With or Without You
It’s difficult to choose the best U2 song, but there is no doubt that “With or Without You” is in that discussion. The song talks about sharing the life of a music star with that of being a husband.
It is a song that has defined the band’s career and has been displayed in movies, TV shows, and a lot more. It is one of the most popular songs in the band’s history and the entirety of the 80s.
16. Scorpions – Winds of Change
“Winds of Change” has become over time a kind of anthem for humanity in transcendent moments. Originally, vocalist Klaus Meine wrote it after a visit to the Soviet Union, however it has been related to the main important political moments in recent human history. Hence, due to its importance, it is included among the best soft rock songs.
17. Aerosmith – I Don’t Want to Miss A Thing
Aerosmith‘s list of romantic songs is extensive, but “I Don’t Want to Miss A Thing” is probably the band’s highest point. It was originally recorded as a soundtrack for the movie Armageddon, although it is already one of the references for romantic songs and that is why it is one of the best soft rock songs.
18. Led Zeppelin – Stairway to Heaven
This is one of those definitive rock classics that could not be missing from the list of best soft rock songs. An epic song that has a slow rhythm that progressively increases. The lyrics are about a woman on her deathbed who receives a second chance, although the number of interpretations that the song has had is countless.
“Stairway to Heaven” could very well be the song of an entire generation. Led Zeppelin are known worldwide for this song and that is doing them a bit of a disservice. They have a ton of phenomenal tracks but this one is their commercial peak. A very good moment for Bonham, Page, Plant, and Jones.
19. The Goo Goo Dolls – Iris
“Iris” is a very popular song whose lyrics invite optimism, but at the same time, reflection. The song talks about the sacrifices of doing things out of love, as well as being authentic and accepting others for who they really are.
20. The Beatles – Here Comes the Sun
The song was born in a difficult moment for The Beatles that inspired George Harrison to write it. “Here Comes the Sun” is about spring coming after a hard winter, something metaphorical about going through hardships.
21. R.E.M. – Everybody Hurts
The lyrics of the song are very powerful and are the main reason why it is among the best soft rock songs. “Everybody Hurts” is about teenagers who have some suicidal tendencies to try to help them. The message of the song has helped a lot of people, not just teenagers.
The interesting thing about R.E.M. as a band is that they took their time to reach a commercial peak. They were an underground group during the bulk of the 80s and it was in the 90s that they became a cultural phenomenon.
22. Guns N’ Roses – November Rain
“November Rain” is one of the most popular rock songs of all time and pretty much everybody has heard it at least once.
Its slow melody, mixed with Slash‘s guitar and Axl Rose‘s powerful voice, make it one of the best soft rock songs. The story behind the song is that of a rock star who loses his partner to suicide and the difficulty of living with that weight on his shoulders.
What’s your best soft rock songs of all time? Let us know in the comment section!