Rick Rubin picks his favorite songs of all time. Rick Rubin is a producer who makes famous lots of musicians and bands. Rubin co-founded Def Jam Recordings with Russell Simmons, founded American Recordings, and was a former co-president of Columbia Records. In this article, we will list the 10 songs Rick Rubin named as his favorite.
Frederick Jay Rubin was born on March 10, 1963, in Long Beach, New York. He was born into a Jewish family. His parents were Linda, a maid, and Michael Rubin, a shoe dealer.
Growing up, he lived in Lido Beach, NY. Rubin made friends with the head of the school’s video department while he was a Long Beach High School student. The director taught Rubin how to play the guitar and write songs.
Then, he formed a band with three friends and played at school and yard shows until a teacher helped him make the Pricks, a punk band. Their most famous moment was getting thrown off the stage at CBGB after only two songs because they got into a fight with hecklers. The arguments were started by bandmates who were told to start them to stop the show and make a fuss.
Rick Rubin is a famous American music boss and record artist. Rubin is known for coming up with new ways to produce music. He has had a significant impact on the sound and direction of modern music, which has earned him a lot of praise and respect in the music business.
In his long and successful career, Rick Rubin has worked with many famous and influential artists of the last few decades, such as Johnny Cash, The Beastie Boys, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Eminem, Black Sabbath, System of a Down, and Jay-Z.
Rubin contributed to making hip-hop, rock, and other types of music possible by co-founding Def Jam Recordings and American Recordings. His work has significantly impacted the history of popular music—his sharp ear for what sounds natural and his simple music-making approach.
Rick Rubin has had an ongoing influence on the world of music. He is a respected person in the music business, and his work as a pioneer and driving force in modern music creation lives on.
From LL Cool J to Kanye West, Slayer to Tom Petty, Johnny Cash to the Dixie Chicks, Metallica to System of a Down, this producer looks back on more than 30 years of pushing the norms in music.
Rick Rubin’s Favorite Songs of All Time
The famous music producer Rick Rubin has shared his respect for other legendary musicians. And Rubin picks his favorite songs of all time. Regardless, he loves to listen to different genres but also loves rock and roll, heavy metal, R&B, and hip-hop musicians, specifically those who influence him.
Which songs does Rick Rubin listen to?
- “Angel of Death” (1986) – Slayer
- “Walk This Way” (1986) – Run-DMC and Aerosmith
- “Mother” (1988) – Danzig
- “Breaking the Girl” (1991) – Red Hot Chili Peppers
- “We Will Rock You (Ruined by Rick Rubin)” (1991) – Queen
- “Chop Suey” (2001) – System of a Down
- “The Day That Never Comes” (2008) – Metallica
- “Berzerk” (2013) – Eminem
- “God Is Dead?” (2013) – Black Sabbath
- “Lovesong” (2011) – Adele
During an interview with Rolling Stone, Rick Rubin shared the top 10 songs of all time. Check out Rick Rubin‘s favorite songs of all time below!
1. “Angel of Death” (1986) – Slayer
“Angel of Death,” which came out in 1986, is an important song of the past of the American thrash metal band Slayer. This shows the Slayer‘s extreme musical style, dark lyrical themes, and uncompromising approach to heavy metal. On Slayer’s well-reviewed album “Reign in Blood,” this song secured their position as one of the most essential thrash metal bands.
Frontman and lead singer Tom Araya‘s song “Angel of Death” describes Slayer‘s style of music. Inspired by the horrible events of the Holocaust and the experiments done by Nazi doctor Josef Mengele, the song’s haunting words and relentlessly intense music produced a chilling and evocative sound experience that will forever be remembered in the heavy metal world.
Rick Rubin says why he likes “Angel of Death” by Slayer as one of his favorite songs of all time:
“Dave Lombardo is this incredible, unbelievably great drummer. One thing that we did was make the drums louder. The nature of distorted electric guitars is that they sound loud regardless of how loud they are. Whereas drums, because it’s a natural instrument, depending on how loud they are in the mix really changes that feeling of how hard they’re being hit. If you’re in a room with the drums and somebody’s hitting them hard, they’re much louder. So, psychologically, by making the drums louder, it made everything seem louder.
I also did away with reverb. With their super-fast articulation in a big room, the whole thing just turns into a blur. So you don’t get that crystal clarity. So much of what Slayer was about was this precision machinery. This was clearly a controversial song. Slayer were kind of the first death-metal or thrash band. I don’t know what the right title is. Metallica and they were going on at the same time, but Metallica were so different lyrically than them.
Slayer were more blood and guts and Satan. Anyway, this was a song where the record company refused to put out the record. So we had to find a new distributor. It was the first record I did with Geffen Records instead of Columbia Records.”
2. “Walk This Way” (1986) – Run-DMC and Aerosmith
“Walk This Way” is the famous song that the groundbreaking hip-hop group Run-DMC and the famous rock band Aerosmith made together in 1986. When this song was released as a pioneering reimagining of Aerosmith’s 1975 hit, the song brought the band’s career back to life. This song also helped popular rock audiences discover hip-hop, setting the stage for future collaborations between different genres.
“Walk This Way” was a famous mix of two very different musical styles, bridging the gap between rock and hip-hop with its catchy beats, dynamic rap verses by Run-DMC, and the famous guitar riffs by Aerosmith‘s Joe Perry. This made the song a crossover hit.
“Walk This Way” was a big hit song in the charts and a cultural reference that led to many duets between different types of music and made the music scene more open and accepting.
Along with Aerosmith, the hip-hop band Run-DMC recorded “Walk This Way” in 1986. Rick Rubin cleared out Toys in the Attic while working on Raising Hell. At concerts, Run-DMC would rap over the first few seconds of the song that played repeatedly. They didn’t know what the whole song sounded like or even what the words said.
At the time, Joseph Simmons and Darryl McDaniels didn’t know who Aerosmith were, but Rubin recommended that the song be made over. Although Simmons and McDaniels didn’t like the idea, Jam Master Jay was willing to consider it. Not even after recording with Steven Tyler and Perry did they want the song to be released as a single.
Rick Rubin shares why he likes “Walk This Way” by Run-DMC and Aerosmith as one of his favorite songs of all time:
“I was just listening through my record collection, and the fact that the breakbeat of “Walk This Way” was already a familiar staple in the live hip-hop world just added to that message. We could take something that was familiar and not change it so much, just through the rappers’ delivery, reframe the song. And unbelievably, it happened. It’s amazing.”
3. “Mother” (1988) – Danzig
Danzig‘s “Mother,” which came out in 1988, is a strong and eternal symbol of dark heavy metal with blues influences.
The hypnotic guitar riff, dark mood, and commanding vocal style of Glenn Danzig make “Mother” stand out. With its repeated chant of “Mother, tell your children not to walk my way,” the catchy chorus gave the song a scary and upbeat feel.
Before “Mother” song, Danzig was known for being the lead singer of the punk band Misfits and the gothic band Samhain. The song “Mother” showed a change in sound, with more blues and metal influences. Danzig became famous worldwide thanks to this song, making him an important figure in heavy metal and hard rock.
4. “Breaking the Girl” (1991) – Red Hot Chili Peppers
Red Hot Chili Peppers have a song called “Breaking the Girl” on their fifth studio album, “Blood Sugar S*x Magik” (1991).
The upbeat song was released as the fourth single from their studio album in August 1992—this song also about the troubled relationship between lead singer Anthony Kiedis and his ex-girlfriend Carmen Hawk.
Also, “Breaking the Girl” differs from the Red Hot Chili Peppers‘ more upbeat and funk-driven songs because it has complex guitar work, stacked harmonies, and a sense of emotional depth. The song’s title and words make me think of being open, sadness, and how complicated relationships can be.
Rick Rubin shares why he likes “Breaking the Girl” by Red Hot Chili Peppers as one of his favorite songs of all time:
“They really were the Los Angeles band. That was like my “Welcome to Los Angeles.” I loved just going out with them. I got to really experience Los Angeles in a local way being with them, and it was really a beautiful experience. We recorded in this house that was amazing. It was just a beautiful place and a beautiful vibe. “Breaking the Girl” was the first record we made together, and it had a really beautiful John Frusciante guitar part.
Anthony sang it in one of the bedrooms on the second floor of the house by himself. He didn’t ever want to have anybody see him when he was singing, so he was always kind of in a remote place. We were listening in the control room and speaking to him, and that idea for the rhythm breakdown — I can’t remember if it was Flea’s or John’s idea — but it came up, so everyone played together. So everybody picked their pots or pans or loud metallic instruments for this percussive jam session, and it worked out really cool. It just gave it an interesting flavor on the record and it really stood out.”
5. “We Will Rock You (Ruined by Rick Rubin)” (1991) – Queen
Queen‘s famous rock anthem “We Will Rock You” was released in 1977 with the “News of the World” album. The song was written by Brian May. Also, this song was ranked number 330 on Rolling Stone’s “The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time” list in 2004. In 2001, this song was ranked 146 on the Songs of the Century list. The song “We Will Rock You” was added to the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2009.
During the first days of Rick Rubin he recorded “We Will Rock You (Ruined by Rick Rubin)” in 1991. This cover style is one of the most exciting and Rick Rubin‘s favorite songs of all time.
6. “Chop Suey” (2001) – System of a Down
System of a Down‘s “Chop Suey!” from 2001 is an important moment in alternative metal. Because it shows how the band can combine aggressive music with words that make you think. System of a Down’s “Toxicity” record has this song on it, and it has become one of their most famous and well-known songs.
The first part of “Chop Suey!” is a unique guitar riff. Then, heavy guitar riffs, powerful drumming, and Serj Tankian’s impressive vocal performance combine to make a dynamic and lively mix.
In 2002, the song got the band their first Grammy nod for Best Metal Performance. “Chop Suey!” is often considered the band’s signature song. According to Shavo Odadjian and Rick Rubin, the song’s original name was either “Suicide” or “Self-Righteous Suicide.” However, the name was changed because Columbia Records would likely object, which they did.
“Suey” is “suicide” and “chopped” in half, according to Odadjian, which is also the meaning of the song’s title. You can barely hear lead singer Serj Tankian talking, “We’re [System of a Down] rolling ‘Suicide'” at the beginning of most pressings of the record while drummer John Dolmayan counts the band in.
7. “The Day That Never Comes” (2008) – Metallica
Metallica‘s 2008 album “The Day That Never Comes” was a influential moment in the thrash metal band’s history and showed how they could change while still keeping their signature sound. That song is from their ninth album, “Death Magnetic.”
This is the fourth song on the record and sounds like other ballads and sad songs Metallica has written. Rock Sound has also said that the song sounds like Thin Lizzy.
In the beginning of the song, the guitars are clean and stay that way through the lyrics. During the choruses, the guitars get very distorted. The bridge slowly speeds up, leading to fast-paced harmony between the guitars and an extended Kirk Hammett guitar solo. This buildup sounds a lot like “One,” “Welcome Home (Sanitarium),” and “Fade to Black.” Like the songs we’ve discussed, the ending is all instrumental, with many riffs and chord progressions.
8. “Berzerk” (2013) – Eminem
The rap legend Eminem made a big comeback with “Berzerk,” which came out in 2013. It was a mix of old-school and new school styles. It was the first song from his eighth studio album, “The Marshall Mathers LP 2.”
The music video for “Berzerk” was first shown on VEVO two days later, on September 9. The video was shot in Brooklyn, New York, and Syndrome was in charge of making it.
It has cameos by American rappers Kendrick Lamar and Kid Rock, as well as Slaughterhouse, Mr. Porter, Yelawolf, and The Alchemist, who are all signed to Shady Records, the song’s producer Rick Rubin, and Eminem’s manager Paul Rosenberg. In addition to music video clips of the song “The Stroke” by Billy Squier, the video shows short clips of outdoor wrestling, fights in public places, and the song’s main copied song. The song was nominated for “Best Hip-Hop Video” at the 2014 MTV Video Music Awards…
Rick Rubin reveals why he likes “Berzerk” by Eminem as one of his favorite songs of all time:
“That was a case where Eminem said, “Let’s make one of those old records that we grew up on.” We recorded it around a sample he made of someone on the news saying “go berserk.” We built the beat first, and he wrote to the beat, all starting with that little clip of “go berserk.” [Laughs] That was his inspiration. Then we programmed it on an 808 drum machine and used [Billy Squier’s] “The Stroke” sample liberally. I played guitar, and we programmed everything else. It was a good one.
It was another one where he did the vocals by himself with no one watching in the room. Once he raps to a beat, you can’t change anything. It’s almost like all the drops, all the moves in the song have to happen before he writes to it because he writes into the music in a way that makes it hard to change anything after he raps. He uses his voice as another instrument that plays off of all the different rhythms going on in the track. He’s a real, unbelievable student of hip-hop. He’s maybe the most obsessive artist I’ve ever worked with in terms of someone who just full-time is writing rhymes. It’s what he does.”
9. “God Is Dead?” (2013) – Black Sabbath
Black Sabbath‘s 2013 album “God Is Dead?” was a strong and moody return for the famous heavy metal band. Their nineteenth studio album, “13,” has this song. This is important because it’s the first studio record since 1978 to feature Ozzy Osbourne, Tony Iommi, and Geezer Butler in their original band.
“God Is Dead?” is a long, moody piece with haunting singing by Ozzy Osbourne, thunderous drums, and slow, ominous guitar riffs. Also, the song’s music video came out on June 10, 2013, and was made by Peter Joseph, known for the Zeitgeist film series. The song was played in the second ad for the sixth season of Sons of Anarchy, an FX network TV show.
“13” was produced by the famous Rick Rubin, known for working with many rock and metal bands. The record used a more modern production style to keep the classic Black Sabbath sound.
10. “Lovesong” (2011) – Adele
Adele covered The Cure‘s famous song “Lovesong,” which was released in 2011. This song is from Adele’s second studio album, “21,” which hit number one worldwide thanks to its powerful singing and moving words.
“Lovesong” was written by Robert Smith of The Cure, but Adele gave it a new style. Her version kept the main ideas of the first one while adding more emotional depth.
Rick Rubin tells why he likes “Lovesong” by Adele as one of his favorite songs of all time:
“Adele said that she wanted to do a cover, in addition to the songs that she had written. There was a demo that I had done of the Cure’s “Lovesong” in a bossa nova style, originally because Barbra Streisand wanted to make a bossa nova record.
So, I came up with modern songs that would work in that style and made a demo. And I made the demo for that purpose but didn’t end up working with Barbra Streisand. I played it for Adele, and she loved it. She was like, “Let’s definitely do that.”
She sang it so beautifully as well. I mean, she sings everything so beautifully. You don’t have to do anything to get her to sing great. You just have to set up a mic and let her sing it. She sang it so much, when we worked on it; when the band was playing it, she sang. She must have sung the song, I don’t know, 30 times in a row. And every time was astounding.”
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