Rock and roll is known for being fast and loud, and the first instrument that comes to mind is the electric guitar, but classic rock bands are responsible for many of the best acoustic songs in popular music history as well. Led Zeppelin stretched out on English-folk inspired numbers, the Rolling Stones nodded to country ballads, and even the bombastic Who had a softer side. Here are some of the best acoustic songs from rock and roll bands.
- "Going to California" by Led Zeppelin. Rumored to be about Joni Mitchell, among other women, "Going to California" is one of the best acoustic songs Led Zeppelin ever did, maybe their best. A rolling country-folk tune sandwiched among the mountains of riffs on "Led Zeppelin IV," it is a welcome breather and a classic song in its own right. It is also a favorite acoustic guitar song for people learning how to play.
- "Wild Horses" by the Rolling Stones. This "Sticky Fingers" cut is one of the Stones' least raunchy but most enduring songs, even covered by British jangle-poppers the Sundays, with a woman singing. Their first serious country ballad, "Wild Horses" is probably the Stones' best ballad, and one of the best acoustic songs in classic rock history. It is pure longing in song form.
- "Blue Red & Grey" by the Who. "The Who By Numbers" is Pete Townshend's confessional singer-songwriter album with the Who, and underrated in their catalog. "Blue Red & Gray" is the album's best song, a simple ditty with Townshend singing lightly over only a ukulele. Whether it is a sarcastic song or not, with Townshend singing about loving "every minute of the day," is up for debate, but what is not up for debate is that it is one of the best acoustic songs from a band known for being loud, and an under-appreciated gem in their catalog full of classic rock radio hits.
- "Don't Think Twice, It's All Right" by Bob Dylan. Before he ever turned up and got loud, Bob Dylan was the premier folk singer of his generation, churning out many of the best acoustic songs of the 1960s. While many people focus on his protest music, his love songs were really the best, and this sensitive, slightly bitter, totally beautiful breakup song takes its rightful place among the best acoustic songs ever recorded.
- "Suite: Judy Blue Eyes," by Crosby, Stills & Nash. One of the first rock supergroups was this trio, later joined by Neil Young, with former members of the Hollies, the Byrds, and the Buffalo Springfield. Their debut to most listeners was this long, weaving acoustic epic, one of the most ambitious and best acoustic songs of the hippie era. As it closes down the first part of the film "Woodstock," it also closes down our list of the best acoustic songs from rock and roll artists in pretty, fingerpicked style.