The piano is the most popular and most played instrument around the world. But, the acoustic guitar is not that far behind. Most people who learn to play the guitar start on an acoustic.
It can be cheap to buy, and it has versatility and can play most styles of music. Also, it is easy to carry around if you need to.
There Is Something Special About The Acoustic Guitar
There are a couple of things actually; the sound is one of them. At times, and on certain songs, there is nothing quite like it. But there is something else that sets it apart, and that can be seen in the songs that I will be featuring.
Some of the greatest songwriters have written some of the greatest songs on the acoustic guitar. So, when you are making a list of the top acoustic guitar songs, the question is not, “what great song do you put in?” The question is, “what great song do you leave out?”
Songs That Are Just Great To Play
I’ve included not just acoustic-only songs but some songs that have been created with some electric guitars as well. The criteria are not songs on acoustic guitar only. The criteria are the best songs you can play on the acoustic guitar and make them sound great.
There will also be different levels of ability required to play some of them. I haven’t sought out just easy songs to play. Personally, I play another instrument, the bass guitar. But, I still enjoy strumming along to some of the greatest acoustic guitar songs.
Normally, I like to include a back story where possible in these lists. On this occasion, that is not going to be possible other than just making a few comments. There are just too many songs to include. Let’s get started with two from the greatest band there has ever been and probably ever will be.
Top 101 Acoustic Guitar Songs
Blackbird (Remastered 2009) by The Beatles
From one of the great albums of the 60s, The White Album, and a piece of work years ahead of its time. A great acoustic song written by Paul McCartney and performed by him as a solo piece. Not easy to play well; it is a song about building a future when all seems lost.
Here Comes The Sun (Remastered 2009) by The Beatles
It couldn’t have been easy trying to hone your songwriting skills when you are in the band with Lennon and McCartney. By the time of Abbey Road, the last album the Beatles recorded, but not the last released, George had gained everyone’s respect.
“Here Comes The Sun” is a response to the Beatles’ internal feuding and the promise of a better day to come. It is one of the most requested acoustic guitar songs on all the streaming sites.
Fire and Rain by James Taylor
In my view, one of the most underrated songwriters of his generation. He was unlucky to have been born into an era that contained Bob Dylan and Neil Young, or he would have been given more accolades. This is a song from his 1970 album Sweet Baby James.
It is a song with three verses with different meanings. The first, mourning the death of a close friend, and the second, refers to his drug addiction. The third is overcoming that and moving on. An emotional, brilliantly written song that is great to just strum away on in a quiet moment.
You’ve Got a Friend by James Taylor
Staying with James Taylor for one more, this is a track from his third album, Mud Slide Slim, from 1971. It was written by Carole King for her Tapestry album. Taylor recorded it first, but it was released after Tapestry came out.
Tapestry is one of my all-time favorite albums, but there is something special about James Taylor’s version.
Crazy Little Thing Called Love by Queen
Some people have said there were two sides to Queen. Wrong, at least three. You have the serious rock band, and you have the thoughtful artistry of Mercury and May, as we shall see in my next choice.
But, there was always the poke-your-tongue-out traditionalism side of them. The “we want to have some fun” side. They loved to “camp” it up at times to emphasize that. This is a fun song, though not necessarily of the shock style.
The distinctive rhythm guitar is played by Mercury on a Fender Telecaster but fits equally well on acoustic. A great track from the 1980 album The Game.
Is This The World We Created…? by Queen
From the 1984 album The Works, this is a case of “and now for something completely different.” A thoughtful, almost pleading song that is a cry for the world to wake up before it’s too late. Nice idea, but corporations aren’t interested in that.
A Horse with No Name by America
I have a bit of personal knowledge of these guys. Their fathers were stationed at the American Air Base near where I lived in West London. They were often called a British band early in their careers, but as soon as they spoke, it became clear they weren’t.
They saw themselves as a little bit of a Crosby Stills and Nash band. But, in my opinion, they were better. They had a great laid-back folk-rock sound with plenty of close harmonies.
They recorded their first album, America, from which came this well-known song in 1971 at Trident studios in London. A memorable acoustic guitar song that many recognize instantly.
Ventura Highway by America
One more from the boys from West London. As I understand it, this song is about the famous coastal road, Highway One, in California.
It was an early song; they had it written by the time they went into Trident Studios in London to do the first album. It got shelved from that and came out in 1972 on the album Homecoming when they returned to the US.
Another great example of their brand of music, which was unique in many ways. The enigmatic songs that were prevalent in those early days courtesy of “God’s herb.”
Kathy’s Song by Simon and Garfunkel
A distant memory and the love of his early life, this song was about Paul’s UK girlfriend, Kathy. She was special to him on his sojourn in the early 60s. But, being so very shy, she couldn’t handle the limelight at the time.
She certainly wouldn’t have coped later on. So, it is probably best things turned out the way they did for both of them.
A beautiful song inspired by a beautiful relationship and written by a great writer. It was always going to be good, wasn’t it?
April Come She Will by Simon and Garfunkel
“Kathy’s Song” came from the Sound of Silence album, as did this little beauty. It was also used briefly in the film “The Graduate.” A simple but typically beautiful example of Paul Simon’s early writing. One of my personal favorites from their catalog? Certainly one of the top ten, in my opinion.
If you are sitting there one evening with your acoustic and fancy learning a new song, try this. It is spectacular when it is finished.
Ohio by Neil Young
Neil Young loves a good cause to get his writing teeth into, and this was always going to be one. Written about May 4, 1970, when American Ohio National Guard officers gunned down and murdered four students protesting against the Vietnam war.
At the time, it was called the greatest protest song ever, but it had little effect. Nixon was re-elected, which included winning a large majority in Ohio. Played here using electric guitars; it sounds better acoustically, in my opinion.
Heart Of Gold by Neil Young
Staying with Neil Young, this was taken from one of his best albums, Harvest, released in 1972. Also, it featured James Taylor and Linda Rondstadt on backing vocals. It was a product of the period when Young was struggling with a back injury and had to sit down to play.
It is a song about someone who thinks they have found the metaphorical “Heart of Gold,” but it turns out they were wrong.
Angie by The Rolling Stones
It is not unfair to say that Mick Jagger and Keith Richards were not Lennon and McCartney. Honestly, they weren’t even close. Nevertheless, they did write some good songs, and this was one.
From the 1973 album Goats Head Soup, this was written mainly by Richards and is a great acoustic guitar ballad.
Plenty of emotion in the words and a nice chord structure make this a stand-out track. It was inevitably taken from the album as a single.
As Tears Go By by The Rolling Stones
An early effort by Jagger and Richards at writing their own material. This was a song they wrote as early as 1964. Another nice simple ballad. Nothing fancy, just nice to listen to and play.
Marianne Faithful had a big hit with it. The Stones recorded their version and put it on the album December’s Children, released in America some years after.
American Pie by Don McLean
Not all songs written for or played on acoustic guitar have to be ballads or have a folk feel to them. You can often have some good old rock n roll. That is the case with this iconic acoustic guitar song by Don McLean.
Released in 1972, the meaning behind the song has been well documented. Let’s just say that it had some impact on its release and still does today. Without question, one of the top acoustic guitar songs. One that is loads of fun to play as well.
Fast Car by Tracy Chapman
One of the most successful female singer-songwriters of the 80s, Tracy Chapman, has a great voice and writes good songs. Released in 1988, it is one of those songs that is so simple but so profound.
I sat in a coffee shop one day, wondering if I should emigrate and start a new life in another country. I was undecided as it seemed such a risk. Then, on the sound system came this song:
“We’ve got to make a decision, leave tonight or live and die this way.” I went out and bought my ticket and have never regretted it. Thanks, Tracy.
California Dreamin’ by The Mamas and The Papas
One of the songs identified as being important to the 60s counterculture. It was written by John and Michelle Phillips, but the song was given to Barry McGuire first. The Mamas and The Papas sang backup vocals on his version.
They released their version in 1965; that is the track we all know. It was also recorded by the Beach Boys. But, it is this version, with its very 60s feel to it, that remains the iconic version. An easy and effective acoustic song to strum along with.
Take Me Home, Country Roads by John Denver
Another classic acoustic guitar song that everybody knows. Denver had a habit of being able to tap into nostalgia. Not only about people but also about places. A lot of his songs concentrate on this emotion.
This is a good example. Easy to play, nice tune, great around the campfire with just an acoustic guitar for company. Most will agree it’s one of the top acoustic guitar songs and will continue to be for some time.
The Eagle and the Hawk by John Denver
John Denver not only was an artist known for his Country style and music, but he also has a very serious side to him. That is shown very clearly in this song, which, in my opinion, was his finest.
He uses an acoustic guitar to build the atmosphere and then the orchestra with a great score to create the tension. Together, they deliver a message which has nothing to do with birds.
He uses the imagery of the eagle as a symbol of the great things that people think America has done. But, then he uses the hawk with blood on its feathers to represent all those who have suffered at America’s hands. Quite a message from our country boy. Great songwriting with a powerful message.
Wild World by Cat Stevens
This is another of those songs that will stay with you both lyrically and musically. Cat Stevens wrote and included it on his 1970 album Tea For The Tillerman. It is a song about a dying love affair he had with Patti D’Arbanville. And was one of several songs he wrote to her or about her.
Chris Blackwell, boss of Island Records at the time, made an interesting claim. He said publicly at the studio one day that this was the best album Island Records had ever released. And that included stuff by Free and other notables.
Oh Very Young by Cat Stevens
Another song from Cat Stevens very early in his career and, in my opinion, his best song. An interesting song in many ways, it is about the impermanence of life and how vulnerable we are. He often referred to it as his “goodbyes song.”
The impermanence feature is a basic tenet of Buddhism, which he was exploring himself at the time as he searched for his own answers. He talks about goodbyes being hard because of the experiences shared.
To describe that, he uses the imagery of a pair of jeans to describe this pain. “And the patches make the goodbyes harder still.” A song that sounds great when played delicately on an acoustic guitar.
If You Could Read My Mind by Gordon Lightfoot
Canadian singer-songwriter Gordon Lightfoot is another of my favorites. This song especially is a timeless classic of his. It was released in 1970 and was written about a recent divorce he had gone through. He uses some spectacular imagery to describe his feelings.
Sundown by Gordon Lightfoot
Let’s stay with Gordon Lightfoot for another of his classic songs. Released in 1974, it talks about the worry he has that his first wife may have been having an affair with a close friend.
The “Sundown” in the song is not his wife but the man who has never been named. Another great acoustic-driven song from a great storyteller.
Tangerine by Led Zeppelin
You don’t necessarily associate Led Zeppelin with soft, gentle ballads, but here is the first of two. “Tangerine” came from Led Zeppelin III.
The song is about seeing someone getting waylaid into trivial things instead of concentrating on the important things. In doing so, they seem to lose their identity and what made them special in the first place. Played on a 12-string acoustic, but a six-string will be fine.
Thank You by Led Zeppelin
One of the most underrated tracks Zep ever made; this was from Led Zeppelin II. A well-constructed song, with great lyrics and plenty going on, even for what is essentially a ballad. Nice guitar sound from Jimmy Page, who may have been playing the Vox 12-string he owned.
What makes this track? It all fits together beautifully, but John Paul Jones, as usual, has a defining role in the sound and the production. Here, he has a nice bass line, but it’s the Hammond Organ he plays that lifts this song to another level.
Big Yellow Taxi by Joni Mitchell
This song, written and performed by Joni Mitchell, achieved iconic status both in the new 60s counterculture that had evolved. But also in folk music circles. It could be the first eco-friendly song.
She talks about buildings and concrete replacing the natural paradise of trees and foliage. If you want to see a tree you go to a tree museum. But you “pay a dollar and half just to see ‘em.” A song that’s full of clever imagery that has a strange last verse.
She mentions a big yellow taxi coming “to take away my old man.” That could be explained by the fact that the police cars in Toronto at the time were yellow, and protesters were being arrested. The old man could be her boyfriend. A full-on acoustic song that makes a great performance song.
Listen to the Music by The Doobie Brothers
The Doobies played this with mainly electric guitars, but I heard it played acoustically, and it still works very well. This is a classic song from the Doobies and probably one of their finest. It has such a positive vibe to it, and it just sounds happy.
The song was written by Tom Johnson and released in 1972. He admits it was a utopian idea that if you got all the world leaders together and just played the music, all would be well. Nice idea, but we don’t need to elaborate, do we?
Seven Bridges Road by The Eagles
This is a song best listened to live. That allows you to get the full, rich sound of three acoustic guitars. But, you also get the full works with those five harmony lines. The song is not one of theirs; it was written by American songwriter Steve Young.
An Englishman, Iain Matthews, made the five-part harmony arrangement for The Eagles. The song now carries legendary status. Yes, the vocals are some of the best you will hear from a modern-day band in a “live” situation. But listen to those acoustic guitars underneath. Great playing.
Bitter Creek by The Eagles
Staying with The Eagles for one more, this, in my view, is a great track. It is taken from their Desperado album, recorded at Island Studios in London and released in 1973.
It might seem a strange choice, but for me, it has so many great acoustic parts. The rhythms, the accents, the sound, and that final acoustic guitar solo. All mixed in together, they form a heavily emotional track towards the end of what was a great album and still is.
Working Class Hero by John Lennon
You always have to find somewhere to finish a list, such as the top acoustic guitar songs, and I have chosen John Lennon to play us out. This is a political song, of course. At the time this was recorded in 1970, John was moving along in the political “thing” he had started with The Beatles.
He talks about being working class and then being “processed” into the middle-class environment and how some crave that. He didn’t.
From a certain point of view…
How you define the working class is open to debate. The working class in Liverpool at the time might have been different from what was working class in London. John himself came from a broken home, but his life was far from needy in most ways.
His complaint is how people are put into boxes and then identified as that. And to be a “hero” in the working-class box is something to be.
The Wind by Cat Stevens,
Wonderful Tonight by Eric Clapton,
Tears in Heaven by Eric Clapton,
Harvest Moon by Neil Young,
Free Fallin’ by Tom Petty,
Learning to Fly by Tom Petty,
Blowin’ in the Wind by Bob Dylan,
The Needle and the Damage Done by Neil Young,
Tangled Up in Blue by Bob Dylan,
Your Body Is a Wonderland by John Mayer,
Angels by Robbie Williams,
Daughters by John Mayer,
Yesterday Once More by Carpenters,
Mrs. Robinson by Simon and Garfunkel,
Superstar by Carpenters,
The Boxer by Simon and Garfunkel,
Landslide by Fleetwood Mac,
Never Going Back Again by Fleetwood Mac,
Every Breath You Take by The Police,
Message in a Bottle by The Police,
More 51 Top Acoustic Guitar Songs
- Lucky by Jason Mraz feat. Colbie Caillat,
- Dust in the Wind by Kansas,
- Mr. Bojangles by Jerry Jeff Walker,
- The Weight by The Band,
- House of the Rising Sun by The Animals,
- Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown) by The Beatles,
- In My Life by The Beatles,
- Across the Universe by The Beatles,
- Michelle by The Beatles,
- Dear Prudence by The Beatles,
- Black by Pearl Jam
- I Will Follow You into the Dark by Death Cab for Cutie
- Time in a Bottle by Jim Croce
- Love of My Life by Queen
- Best Day of My Life by American Authors
- Hallelujah by Jeff Buckley
- Romeo and Juliet by Dire Straits
- Redemption Song by Bob Marley
- Yellow by Coldplay
- Ain’t No Sunshine by Bill Withers
- If I Had a Boat by Lyle Lovett
- Shallow by Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper
- The Only Exception by Paramore
- Have You Ever Seen the Rain by Creedence Clearwater Revival
- I’m Yours by Jason Mraz
- How to Save a Life by The Fray
- Strong Enough by Sheryl Crow
- Wonderwall by Oasis
- Patience by Guns N’ Roses
- The Man Who Sold the World by Nirvana
- Free Fallin’ by John Mayer
- Drive by Incubus
- The Scientist by Coldplay
- All Along the Watchtower by Bob Dylan
- Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right by Bob Dylan
- Needle and Thread by Sleeping at Last
- Say You Love Me by Fleetwood Mac
- Wild Horses by The Rolling Stones
- Keep on the Sunny Side by The Carter Family
- Forever by Ben Harper
- Everlong by Foo Fighters
- What a Wonderful World by Louis Armstrong
- Baby Can I Hold You by Tracy Chapman
- Wish You Were Here by Pink Floyd
- I Will by The Beatles
- I’m Looking Through You by The Beatles
- Behind Blue Eyes by The Who
- American Tune by Paul Simon
- Leaving on a Jet Plane by John Denver
- Little Wing by Jimi Hendrix
- A Case of You by Joni Mitchell
Looking for Great Music or an Acoustic Guitar?
We can help with that. Take a look at our detailed articles on Amazing Acoustic Guitar Solos You Must Hear, Chet Atkins’ Most Memorable Songs, and the Top 10 Classical Acoustic Guitar Compositions to Wow Your Friends for more great guitar music.
Also, check out our in-depth reviews of the Best Acoustic Guitars Under $600, the Best Acoustic Guitars Under $500, the Best Acoustic Guitars Under $300, and the Best Cheap Acoustic Guitars Under $200 you can buy in 2023.
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Top Acoustic Guitar Songs – Final Thoughts
I’ve tried to include something for everyone and have put in a few of my personal favorites as well. The acoustic guitar can be a wondrous instrument. And, with songs like these, it becomes even better and very, very special.
Until next time, let the music play.