20 of the Best Basslines of All Time

Nothing compares to the feeling of learning to play your favorite bassline for the first time. It’s safe to say that every bass player out there has his own favorite bassline. So here’s a list of the 20 best basslines of all time.

All basslines included in this list are some that have set the example of what it means to truly love playing bass, and being creative with it.

It’s hard to make a list that everyone will approve of, so don’t take this as a definite reference, but more of a personal bass player’s choice.

So let’s dive in!

1. Gorillaz – Feel Good Inc.

This shouldn’t come as a shocker. Starting out the list is Feel Good Inc. by the Gorillaz. It served as the primary single for “Demon Days”, which was the band’s second studio album, released on 9 May 2005. This is a truly iconic bassline that most likely everyone will recognize right away.

The song was a worldwide smash hit. After its release in 2005, it topped the Billboard Modern Rock Tracks chart for eight weeks and appeared on the Billboard Hot 100 year-end lists for 2005/2006. In Australia, “Feel Good Inc.” has been certified platinum and double-platinum in the United Kingdom. 

2. The Beatles – Come Together

We can all agree that no list would be complete without Come Together by The Beatles. The song was released on October 6, 1969, and it is the opening track on their album Abbey Road. In the United States, it reached No. 1 and peaked at No. 4 in the United Kingdom.

It was written by John Lennon and attributed to Lennon–McCartney. It has been covered by a variety of artists, including Ike & Tina Turner, Aerosmith, and Michael Jackson. I think we can all agree this song is more than worthy of this list.

3. Red Hot Chili Peppers – Can’t Stop

You kind of knew that this was coming. I mean, is it really a “best bassline list” if there’s no Red Hot Chilli Peppers? It was released as the third single from their eighth studio album, By the Way on February 3, 2003.

It was the band’s eighth number one on the US Billboard Modern Rock Tracks chart, where it spent three weeks at the top, and peaked at number 57 on the Billboard Hot 100. Hands down, one of the most recognizable basslines of all time.

4. Yes – Roundabout

If you’ve read our “20 of the Hardest Songs to Play on Bass Guitar”, then you might have come across Roundabout by Yes. The song was from their fourth studio album Fragile, released in November 1971.

It was composed by singer Jon Anderson and guitarist Steve Howe, and it was produced by the band as well as Eddy Offord. It reached number 13 on the Billboard Hot 100 and number 10 on the Cash Box Top 100. Anderson and Howe took home a BMI Award in 1973 for creating the song.

5. Queen – Another One Bites The Dust

This simple yet iconic bassline is arguably among the most famous ones of all time. It was composed by John Deacon and appeared on the band’s eighth studio record, The Game (1980).

The song was a worldwide hit, spending three weeks at the top of the US Billboard Hot 100 and 13 weeks in the top five. In total, it spent 31 weeks on the chart. And let’s face it, every bass player out there has learned this song for the fun of it.

6. Queen & David Bowie – Under Pressure

While on the topic of Queen, the next one on the list is “Under Pressure”. The song was written by Queen and singer David Bowie which was originally released as a single in October 1981 and was later included on Queen’s 1982 album Hot Space.

The song topped the UK Singles Chart, becoming Queen’s second number-one hit in the United Kingdom and Bowie’s third. It also charted in the top 10 in at least ten nations. It’s truly an amazing and catchy bassline which is why it deserves a spot on this list.

7. The White Stripes – Seven Nation Army

Coming in at number 7 on the list is The White Stripes with “Seven Nation Army”. It is the opening song on their fourth studio record, Elephant (2003), and it was released as the album’s lead single on February 17, 2003.

It was written and produced by Jack White. The song became a sports anthem and is still to this day a very recognizable force in the music world. It was, for me personally, one of the first few basslines I learned.

8. Talking Heads – Psycho Killer

I don’t think there’s any bass player out there that, when starting out, didn’t learn this song just to groove it. The song was released on the band’s 1977 debut album Talking Heads: 77. The song was actually written and performed as a ballad.

“Psycho Killer” was the only single from the album to chart, reaching number 92 on the Billboard Hot 100. It peaked at number 32 on the Triple J Hottest 100 in 1989 and topped the Dutch singles chart in 1977 at number 11. An easy bassline, but nevertheless, an iconic one.

9. Michael Jackson – Billie Jean

We all knew Michael Jackson was gonna make an appearance on the list eventually. The song was written and composed by Michael and released by Epic Records on January 2, 1983, as the second single from his sixth studio album, Thriller (1982).

The song, which has sold over 10 million copies worldwide, topped the Billboard Hot 100 in three weeks and became Jackson’s quickest-rising number one hit. It is also one of the best-selling singles of all time.  It is perhaps one of the most popular basslines of all time. 

10. Ben E. King – Stand By Me

The intro bassline that everyone knows and loves. At number 10 is Ben E. King – Stand By Me. The song was written by Ben along with Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller. The song was featured on the soundtrack of the 1986 film “Stand By Me” (the same as the song).

It is the sixth highest-earning song of its era and for good reason. I don’t think there’s any artist, let alone a bass player out there who doesn’t know this truly iconic song and bassline. And a fun fact, there have been over 400 recorded versions of the song worldwide to this day.

11. Chic – Good Times

Definitely one of my favorite basslines of all time is Chic – Good Times. The song is from their third album Risqué (1979) and was released on June 4th, 1979. It was written by Bernard Edwards and Nile Rodgers.

It ranks No. 68 on Rolling Stone’s list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time, and it has become one of the most sampled songs in music history, especially in hip hop. It deserves to be on the list by any definition out there. With a bassline so memorable you can’t get it out of your head the next few days.

12. Michael Jackson – Beat it

Nobody can tell me that “Beat It” wasn’t every bass player’s go-to song to learn in the beginning. The song was on his sixth studio album, Thriller (1982). Jackson and Quincy Jones wrote the lyrics and produced the music. The official release was on February 14, 1983.

It peaked at number one on the Billboard Hot 100, staying there for three weeks. It was also number one on the Billboard Hot Black Singles chart. With over 7 million copies sold worldwide, it is solidified as one of the best-selling singles of all time.

13. Foster The People – Pumped Up Kicks

This 2010 hit makes the list because it took the world by storm and is an extremely popular song to this day. Its simple yet guiding bassline is more than memorable for listeners around the world. The song was released in September 2010 as their debut single, and it was included on their EP and their debut album – Torches.

The song was written and recorded by frontman Mark Foster and secured the band their first multi-album record deal with Columbia Records.  The song spent eight consecutive weeks at number three on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in the United States which was worthy, to say the least at that time.

14. Yes – Owner Of A Lonely Heart

Yes makes the list again, with Owner Of A Lonely Heart. A track that shaped the ‘80s with its pumping bassline that doesn’t let up till it’s stuck in your head. It is the first track and single from Yes’ eleventh studio album – 90125 which was released in November 1983.

It was written by Trevor Rabin. A true example of “less is more”, with the bassline being somewhat simple but catchy right away. It was a huge success in the United States and was the first and only single from the band to peak at number 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 and Hot Mainstream Rock Tracks charts.

15. Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell – Ain’t No Mountain High Enough

Hard to argue with one of the most memorable bassline intros of all time. We’re going back to the ‘60s with Ain’t No Mountain High Enough. Written by Nickolas Ashford & Valerie Simpson in 1966 but recorded and made successful in 1967 by Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell.

It hit number nineteen on the Billboard pop charts and went to number three on the R&B charts, with Diana Ross eventually taking it to number 1 when she recorded it again in 1970 and was even nominated for a Grammy Award.

16. Jackson 5 – I Want You Back

Coming in at 16 we have a Motown hall-of-famer, an instant classic by the Jackson 5. A surging bassline that still holds up to this day. On October 6, 1969, “I Want You Back” was released and became the group’s first number-one hit on January 31, 1970. They performed it on their first television appearance on ‘The Hollywood Palace’.

It topped the Soul singles chart for four weeks and held the No.1 spot on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart for a week in January 1970. Rolling Stone magazine ranked “I Want You Back” at No. 104 on its ‘500 Greatest Songs of All Time’ list.

17. Pink Floyd – Money

We all knew it was coming sooner or later. What is there to say about the legendary Pink Floyd and their track “Money”. The instant classic bassline holds up to the standard even today. Written by Roger Waters, it’s a song from their 1973 album The Dark Side of the Moon.

Featuring a tape loop of money-related sound effects and an unusual time signature, it was their first hit in the United States and reached No.10 in Cash Box magazine and No.13 on the Billboard Hot 100. A more than worthy track to take the list.

18. Rush – YYZ

Crossing over from our ’20 of the Hardest Songs to Play on Bass Guitar’ list is Rush with YYZ. Despite it being hard to play, it is still a memorable bassline that deserves to be on both lists. A song straight from their 1981 album Moving Pictures. It was written by Geddy Lee (who also plays the bass) and Neil Peart.

The track was released on February 12, 1981, and was nominated for a Grammy in the category of ‘Best Rock Instrumental’ in 1982. Geddy Lee really put a stamp on this song with his bass skills, creating a hard, but nevertheless, iconic bassline.

19. Metallica – My Friend Of Misery

A hard choice between “For Whom The Bell Tolls” and “My Friend Of Misery”. Could easily be any of the two. This soothing bassline intro just sounds more right for me. The song was originally intended to be instrumental, which could have held up on its own, but the band decided to record it with lyrics.

“My Friend of Misery” is the eleventh track from Metallica’s Black Album, which was released in 1991. ‘The Black Album’ was the group’s most successful one, it debuted at number one in ten countries and spent four weeks at the top of the Billboard 200, making it Metallica’s first album to do so.

20. Guns N’ Roses – Sweet Child O’ Mine

This was the first bassline I learned when I started playing bass and that’s a true fact. “Sweet Child O’ Mine” finishes the list. The song is from the band’s debut album ‘Appetite for Destruction’ and was released in June 1988 as the album’s third single.

The track topped the Billboard Hot 100 chart, becoming the band’s only number 1 single in the United States. When it was re-released in 1989, it actually reached number 6 on the UK Singles Chart. This is a truly iconic bassline that all bass players will recognise for sure.

Summary

A lot of memorable basslines are included in this list. I think that if a bass player only played snippets of each and every bassline on the list from first to last, most people would recognize the songs instantly. This is why all these songs made the list. And again, this is just my take on the matter that is ‘20 best basslines of all time’. I hope you enjoy the list and thank you for taking the time to read it!

Milan Trajkovikj is a touring and recording bass guitarist who loves to share his passion for all things music.

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