29 Of The Best Country Songs Of All Time

Last updated

Country music has a long history and a huge library of amazing songs. From love songs to party songs, it’s a versatile genre capable of exploring all aspects of life. As such, it has attracted many musicians over the years to produce memorable and heartfelt songs.

So whether you’re a longtime fan of country music or looking for some great tunes to introduce you to its charms, in this post, we’re looking at 29 of the best country songs of all time. Let’s get started.

1. ”I Walk the Line” by Johnny Cash

Johnny Cash was one of the most influential artists of his time, not afraid to sing about controversial subjects, such as social issues and moral values.

The song most frequently attached to his legacy is “I Walk the Line.” This song, recorded in 1956, was his first number 1 hit on the Billboard charts.

Cash wrote “I walk the Line” while on the road and stated the song was a pledge of devotion to his new wife.

Originally written as a ballad, producer Sam Philips convinces Cash to use a faster arrangement. The uptempo change proved to be right, and the record was a smash hit.

2. “Crazy” by Patsy Cline

Written by Willie Nelson, Pasty Cline transformed “Crazy” into a country music classic that has stood the test of time.

“Crazy” found massive success upon release and reached number 2 on the Hot Country Charts while peaking at number 9 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1961. 

Over the years, “Crazy” has featured in countless movies and television shows. Cover versions by artists including Linda Ronstadt and LeAnn Rimes gave the song new life as well.

Cline’s version is easily the most recognizable and also has the honor of being the most played song on jukeboxes in the United States. 

3. “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry” by Hank Williams

Originally released as a B-side in 1949, “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry” has since gone on to be an integral part of Hank Williams’s legacy.

While only reaching number 43 on the Billboard Country Singles chart, the track inspired other country musicians to add melancholy ballads to their releases. 

The song pulses with emotion as Williams sings about his failing marriage to his wife, Audrey.

He compares their ending relationship poetically to other depressing imagery masterfully. “I’m So Lonesome” is a gut-wrenching and moving song that has few rivals. 

4. “Stand by Your Man” by Tammy Wynette

Tammy Wynette, The “First Lady of Country Music,” released “Stand By Your Man” in 1968, and the song peaked at number 1 on the country charts and crossed over to the pop charts as well.

Critics also loved the song, and Wynette won the Grammy Award for Best Country Vocal Performance, Female in 1970.

While the song has an anti-feminist slant, Wynette defends the song’s lyrics. She claims the song is not putting women second to men. Instead, women should overlook their husband’s shortcomings if they love them.

5. “Mama Tried” by Merle Haggard

In an apology letter to his mother, Merle Haggard wrote “Mama Tried” to apologize to his mother. He had recently been arrested and convicted for armed robbery, Haggard spent three years in prison.

The song was a big hit and hit number 1 on the country charts. “Mama Tried” also became a part of popular cultures throughout the years.

You can hear “Mama Tried” in many recent TV shows and films. Cover versions by the Grateful Dead and Everly Brothers were also a success.

6. “Mammas, Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys” by Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson

“Mammas, Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys” was originally written and recorded by Ed and Patsy Bruce.

It wasn’t until Waylon Jennings, and Willie Nelson rerecorded the song that it went on to international success.

The duo recorded the song in 1978 for their duet album, “Waylon & Willie.” Their rendition was hugely successful, reaching number 1 on the country charts and 42 on the Hot 100.

The song also scored the duo a Grammy for Best Country Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal. 

7. “Jolene” by Dolly Parton

Dolly Parton found inspiration for “Jolene” after an altercation with a red-headed bank teller who flirted with her husband.

However, Parton revealed that the appearance of Jolene was based on a fan who came on stage to ask her for an autograph.

The song became one of Parton’s biggest hits and peaked at number 1 on the country charts in 1973.

The track was also nominated for two Grammys. Recent versions of Jolene include covers by The White Stripes and Miley Cyrus. These versions exposed a new generation to this masterpiece. 

8. “Man of Constant Sorrow” by The Stanley Brothers

Written in 1913, “Man of Constant Sorrow” was originally titled “Farewell Song” and published in a songbook by Dick Burnett. However, the first recorded version was by Emry Arthur in 1928.

The song found new life when The Stanley Brothers recorded a version in the 1950s and again in 2000.

“Man of Constant Sorrow” played an integral part in the film “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” 

9. “Wichita Lineman” by Glen Campbell

Glen Campbell had a major hit on his hands with “Wichita Lineman.” The song found massive crossover success in 1968, hitting the top 10 on the US Hot Country Chart, Billboard Hot 100, and US Adult Contemporary Chart.

The original recording is in the Grammy Hall of Fame and cited on Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time list. 

After its initial recording, “Wichita Lineman” was also recorded by Tom Jone, Engelbert Humperdinck, Ray Charles, R.E.M, Guns & Roses, and many other artists. The song was also released with German and Finnish lyrics as well. 

10. “All My Ex’s Live in Texas” by George Strait

Released in 1987, “All My Ex’s Live in Texas” is often regarded as one of George Strait’s best tunes.

The song was a major hit and received two Grammy nominations upon release.

The song tells the story of a man who had several failed relationships while living in Texas.

The stress from these relationships resulted in the narrator leaving Texas and moving to Tennessee.

11. “The Gambler” by Kenny Rogers

While several country music stars recorded a version of “The Gambler,” Kenny Rogers’ version is the most iconic. The song was a huge hit and crossed over onto the US pop charts.

The critics loved the song as well, and it won the Grammy Award for Best Male Country Vocal Performance in 1980.

The song was such a big hit it inspired a series of television movies during the 1980s. 

12. “Walking the Floor Over You” by Ernest Tubb

Over the years, “Walking the Floor Over You” had many different versions by other artists, including Bing Crosby, Pat Boone, and Merle Haggard.

The original version recorded by Ernest Tubb is iconic and had a major impact on country music. 

Ernest Tubb wrote and recorded “Walking the Floor Over You” in 1941. The song was an instant hit and reached number 23 on the Billboard charts.

This iconic song had such an impact on music that the Library of Congress selected it for preservation in 2022. 

13. “Mean” by Taylor Swift

Modern-day musicians also make amazing country music. Taylor Swift scored a major hit in 2011 with her song “Mean.

The song was one of Swift’s biggest hits, and it debuted at number one on the Hot 100 Pop charts.

“Mean” also saw critical success and went on to win 2 Grammy Awards for Best Country Solo Performance and Best Country Song.

From the lead banjo to the fiddler, the song shows Swift’s country roots and reminds the world that newer country stars shine just as bright as their golden-age counterparts.

14. “Take This Job and Shove It” by Johnny Paycheck

Johhny Paycheck perfectly portrays a fed-up employee in “Take This Job and Shove It.” Recorded in 1977, it was a big hit and peaked at number 1 on the US Country Charts.

The Dead Kennedys covered the song in 1986, and it was the inspiration for “Shove This Jay-Oh-Bee” by Canibus and Biz Markie.

The song was such a big hit it inspired a film. In 1981, “Take This Job and Shove It,” starring Robert Hays, Barbara Hershey, and Art Carney, hit theaters. The film was a modest success grossing over $17 million at the box office. 

15. “Goodbye Earl” by Dixie Chicks

“Goodbye Earl” was originally recorded by the band Sons of the Desert in the 1990s. The song would have to wait until the Dixie Chicks rerecorded the track to find mainstream success.

The 1999 version of “Goodbye Earl” by Dixie Chicks went on to be one of their most successful songs.

“Goodbye Earl” peaked at number 19 on the Hot 100 despite controversy and limited radio airplay.

The song was not played on some radio stations due to its violent themes. In addition, the domestic abuse aspect of the lyrics caused some radio stations to broadcast a domestic violence phone number along with every play. 

16. “Blue Yodel No. 1 (T For Texas)” by Jimmie Rodgers

Yodeling used to be an integral part of country music in the early days. “Blue Yodel No. 1 (T For Texas)” is the definitive yodeling country song.

Jimmie Rodgers delivers inspiring vocals and yodeling along with his signature guitar accompaniment. 

Recorded in 1927, Rodgers rose to national fame after the song’s release, which gave him the nickname “America’s Blue Yodeler.”

Many different musicians recorded the song through the decades, but the original version is the most influential. “Blue Yodel No. 1” won induction into the Grammy Hall of Fame,

17. “Sitting on Top of the World” by Mississippi Sheiks

Mississippi Sheik’s blend blues and country in their biggest hit, “Sitting on Top of the World.”

The song inspired countless other musicians since its release in 1930, including Bob Will, Nat King Cole, Bob Dylan, and Frank Sinatra. 

While the song never charted, “Sitting on Top of the World” has had critical success over the years.

It entered the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2008 and was selected for preservation in the National Recording Registry in 2018.

18. “Bye Bye Love” by The Everly Brothers

A true crossover hit, “Bye Bye Love,” found success on the country, pop, and R&B charts.

The Everly Brothers blended musical styles to perfection on “Bye Bye Love.” No matter what style of music, “Bye Bye Love” was as close to a perfect pop radio hit as you could find in the 1950s.

“Bye Bye Love” was a major influence on other artists as well. Simon & Garfunkel, The Beatles, and George Harrison released versions of the song in the 1970s. 

19. “Follow Your Arrow” by Kacey Musgraves

Kacey Musgraves recorded “Follow Your Arrow” in 2013. The song was a modest hit reaching number 10 on the US Hot Country Chart and number 60 on the Billboard Hot 100.

While “Follow Your Arrow” did not reach number 1, the song found critical success. Billboard placed the song at number 2 on the 20 Best Songs of 2013 list.

Musgraves also took home the award for Song of the Year at the 2014 CMA Awards, thanks to “Follow Your Arrow.”

20. “Coal Miner’s Daughter” by Loretta Lynn

“Coal Miner’s Daughter” is an autobiographical story song by Loretta Lynn. The song tells the story follows the day-to-day life of Lynn’s childhood while growing up in a rural coal mine town.

Since its release, it has been one of Lynn’s most influential and successful recordings and has found both critical and commercial success upon release. 

The song peaked at number 1 on the US Hot Country Songs chart and 83 on the Hot 100. “Coal Miner’s Daughter” often makes it onto the best-of lists.

The Library of Congress, Rolling Stone, Time Magazine, and Country Music Television all consider “Coal Miner’s Daugther” as one of the most influential songs of the century. 

21. “Alcohol” by Brad Paisley

Paisley narrates “Alcohol” as alcoholic beverages. He spends the song describing experiences that occur after getting drunk.

The song shows all the things that alcohol does to you as well. From helping people dance to making ugly people pretty, “Alcohol” can do it all.

Released as the lead single from his album “Time Well Wasted,” “Alcohol went on to peak at number 4 on the Billboard Hot Country Chart.

It also garnered 2 Grammy nominations for Best Country Song and Best Country Male Vocal in 2005. 

22. “Before He Cheats” by Carrie Underwood

Another crossover smash hit, “Before He Cheats,” dominated the country, adult top 40, and pop charts in 2006.

The song peaked at number 1 on the Hot Country Songs chart and number 8 on the Billboard Hot 100. 

The critics loved the song as well. Underwood took home 2 Grammys for Best Female Country Vocal Performance and Best Country song in 2008 for the song.

In addition, the song also won CMT Music Awards and Music Video of the Year at the 2007 Academy of Country Music Awards Show. 

23. “A Satisfied Mind” by Porter Wagoner

Originally released by Glen Campbell, Porter Wagoner’s version surpassed the original and became a part of country music history.

Wagoner released “A Satisfied Mind” in 1955. Wagoner’s version became popular thanks to his television show and The Grand Ole Opry. Wagoner reached no 1 with “A Satisfied Mind” in 1955. 

After the initial release, “A Satisfied Mind” had countless rereleases by major artists. Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Lee Ann Womack, and Lindsey Buckingham all have versions of “A Satisfied Mind.” Eileen Jewell is the latest musician to cover “A Satisfied Mind” in 2020. 

24. “Independence Day” by Martina McBride

Originally offered to Reba McEntire, Martina McBride recorded this smash hit. “Independence Day” saw instant success in 1994 and peaked at number 12 on the Hot Country Songs chart.

While not a number 1 hit, the song has since found critical success. Country Music television added the track to its CMT’s 100 Greatest Songs of Country Music list in 2003.

The song centers around domestic violence, where a woman finally gains freedom from her abusive husband.

The song was often misinterpreted. Television host Sean Hannity used the song to encourage patriotism after the September 11th attack on the World Trade Center. 

25. “I Want To Be a Cowboy’s Sweetheart” by Patsy Montana

“I Want to Be a Cowboy’s Sweetheart” was a major hit for Patsy Montana in 1935. The song helped Montana become the first female country artist to sell more than one million records.

From yodeling to a danceable beat, Montana and her band did everything right to make “I Want to Be a Cowboy’s Sweetheart” a success. 

Since its release, “I Want to Be a Cowboy’s Sweetheart” has found critical success as well. You’ll find the song on the Top 100 Western Songs Of All Time list by the Western Writers of America and in the Library of Congress’s National Recording Registry.

The song also found modern success with releases from Dixie Chicks, Cyndi Lauper, and LeAnn Rimes. 

26. “Pancho and Lefty” by Townes Van Zandt

“Pancho and Lefty” is an iconic story inside a song. The song tells the story of the Left, who leaves home to seek fortune in Mexico.

Here he’s introduced to Pancho Villa. The Federales catch Pancho Villa, and the song implies that Lefty was a turncoat. By the song’s end, Lefty flees to Ohio and grows old.

Arguably Van Zandt’s best work, the song was also a commercial success reaching number 1 on the Billboard Hot Country Songs list in 1983.

The Western Writers of America added “Pancho and Lefty” to their Greatest Western Songs Of All Time list at number 17.

27. “Wabash Cannonball” by Roy Acuff

“Wabash Cannonball” was originally titled “The Great Rock Island Route.” Recordings and sheet music of the song date back to 1882.

Over the years, the music stayed the same, but the lyrics often changed. The song tells the story of the Wabash Cannonball Express train as it traversed the Great Rock Island route. 

Originally recorded by the Carter Family in 1929, most country music fans remember the Roy Acuff version. Acuff recorded his version in 1936, where he scored a number 1 hit.

Since its original recording, the song was also popularized by the Indiana State University Marching Band and the Perdue All-American Marching Band. 

28. “Queen of Hearts” by Juice Newton

“Queen of Hearts” was originally written and recorded by Hank DeVito. While it had minimal success, “Queen of Hearts” had to wait until Juice Newton recorded her version to gain mainstream success.

Recorded in 1981, Newton’s version was a huge crossover hit peaking at number 2 on US Billboard Hot 100. 

“Queen of Hearts” also found international success hitting the top ten in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and South Africa. Newton was also nominated for Best Female Vocalist in 1982 for her version of the song. 

“Queen of Hearts” stayed in the pop culture consciousness with a string of movie and television appearances. From Boogie Nights to South Park, “Queen of Hearts” lives on today.

29. “Friends in Low Places” by Garth Brooks

We’ll end the list with one of the most iconic sing-along songs of all time. Garth Brooks released “Friends in Low Places” as the lead single from his album “No Fences” in 1990.

An instant hit, the song peaked at number one on the US Hot Country Songs chart. 

Originally, “Friends in Low Places” was a demo for Brooks when he was an unknown artist. His love for the song ensured it made it onto an album in 1989.

After its release, the song quickly rose through the charts. In 1991, the song earned Brooks the Academy of Country Music award’s Single of the Year. 

Summing Up Our List of The Greatest Country Songs Of All Time

Country music has inspired some of the greatest singers and songwriters of all time to produce masterpieces on a broad spectrum of topics.

And as our list showcases, there are gems from every era worth giving a listen to.

What songs did we miss off? Let us know, and we’ll add them in!

Photo of author
Written by Laura Macmillan
Laura has over 12 years experience teaching both classical and jazz saxophone and clarinet. She now resides in California where she works as a session and live performer.