When you think of pop music, what comes to mind? Screaming guitars? Driving drum beats? Rhythm-setting bass? Keyboards, such as organs, pianos, and synthesizers? Violins?
It’s not all that common to think of violins when you’re considering pop music. But the truth is, some of our greatest pop compositions incorporate violins in the music.
Now, your big question may be, “What’s the difference in a violin and a fiddle?” The answer is: no one cares if you spill beer on their fiddle.
The fact is, there is no difference. Violins or fiddles, fiddles or violins, they’re all the same. And pop music has its share of aficionados who give the song its unique sound.
We’ve found lots of great pop songs that feature the violin, but here are our favorites, the Top Ten Best Violin Pop Songs Of All Time:
List of Top 10 Best Violin Pop Songs of All Time until in 2017
10. BABA O’RILEY – The Who
Rated number 349 on Rolling Stone magazine’s The 500 Greatest Songs Of All Time, The Who released Baba O’Riley on their 1971 album Who’s Next? The group brought in East Of Eden band member Dave Arbus to play the violin solo, giving the song its distinctive feature. You may have well heard the tune in more places than the radio. It’s been featured in television shows such as CSI: NY, House, and Miami Vice; the 2012 London Olympic games, and is played in the Staples Center prior to Los Angeles Lakers home basketball games.
9. VIVA LA VIDA – Coldplay
From their 2008 album Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends, the British alternative rock band Coldplay is a hit that is heavy on string instrumentation. Viva La Vida rocketed up the U.S. and U.K. charts, becoming a number one single on two continents, ultimately winning the Grammy award for Song Of The Year in 2009. The hit is heard at sporting events, including Kansas City Royals baseball games and New York Rangers hockey games, and has been covered by many other artists, including Weezer and Lady Gaga.
8. KASHMIR – Led Zeppelin
Not all songs reach “epic” status, but the Jimmy Page / Robert Plant penned Kashmir comes in at a lengthy eight and a half minutes, so there’s a lot going on here, including some dandy violin work. From their 1975 album Physical Graffiti, Kashmir features the violin, cello and horns. The song was a regular on concert playlists, and Plant has called it the definitive Led Zeppelin song. No Zeppelin tune better showcases the combined talents of the famed rock band.
7. STAND BY ME – Ben E. King
Few hits have been as lauded, recorded, and sold as Ben E. King’ 1961 smash Stand By Me. In an era between the Elvis Presley-led birth of rock and roll, and prior to the Beatles’ arrival, this song charted on multiple charts in several countries, including number one on U.S. R&B charts. Heavy on violin instrumentation, the hit has been recorded by many acts, including country crooner Mickey Gilley, who had a number one hit with it in 1980, as well as taking it to number 22 on the Hot 100.
6. BITTERSWEET SYMPHONY – The Verve
Simply put, without violins, there would be no Bittersweet Symphony, the 1997 hit by British alternative rock group The Verve. There are lyrics to the song, but the star of the six minute song are the strings. By the time vocalist Richard Ashcroft begins singing, we’re already hooked by the opening, not really needing (or understanding?) what’s being said. The familiar strings fade away, but return for a strong, and desirable ending to a classic hit that sailed to number two on the UK charts. This is one amongst the Top 10 Best Violin Pop Songs of All Time until 2017.
5. COME ON EILEEN – Dexys Midnight Runners
It’s possible the King of Pop may have not been a fan of this hit, from British group Dexys Midnight Runners, which knocked his Billie Jean from its number one perch on U.S. charts after just one week in 1983 (although Michael Jackson retook the spot one week later with Beat It.) Come On Eileen has an upbeat, catchy violin opening that hooks you before the lyrics begin. The group had great success internationally, placing the hit at number one on no less than ten charts.
4. CAN’T GET IT OUT OF MY HEAD – Electric Light Orchestra
From their 1974 album Eldorado, one might think British group ELO’s hit would have fared better in their homeland. However, Can’t Get It Out Of My Head failed to chart in the U.K. No worries however, as the song was a hit in the U.S., rising to number nine on the charts. The song features a beautiful, flowing orchestration with lovely, wandering violins added for emphasis. Soloist Jeff Lynne, who produced records for artists including former Beatle George Harrison and Tom Petty, eventually re-recorded the hit in his home studio.
3. ELEANOR RIGBY – The Beatles
Imagine the Beatles singing with none of their own instruments. That’s what happened on the 1966 hit Eleanor Rigby, as two of the Fab Four (George Harrison and John Lennon) contributed background vocals to Paul McCartney. The song is played with four violins, two violas and three cellos. Eleanor Rigby dealt with loneliness and mortality, and expanded the Beatle’s reach into even greater demographics. Covered by dozens of acts, the tune reached number one and number 11 on U.K. and U.S. charts, respectively.
2. DUST IN THE WIND – Kansas
Inspired by the Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes, the Kerry Livgren-penned Dust In The Wind would become the improbable best selling hit for Kansas. Sounding little like their other songs, Livgren’s wife convinced him to write lyrics to the tune. The song was a last minute addition to the 1977 album Point Of Know Return, and features the haunting violin solo of Robby Steinhardt. Dust In The Wind is a classic, remaining in radio playlists to this day.
1. THE DEVIL WENT DOWN TO GEORGIA – Charlie Daniels Band
In 1975, The Devil Went Down To Georgia, and Charlie Daniels went to the top of the charts with this monster hit. The song is a contest between the Great Satan himself, and a good old fiddle playing Georgia boy named Johnny. Soon, the devil proposes a fiddling duel, with Johnny’s soul on the line versus Lucifer’s golden fiddle. After the devil’s impressive solo, Johnny takes over and the rest is history, as he leaves the contest with his soul intact, carrying the prized golden fiddle.
So, these above are the Top 10 Best Violin Pop Songs of All Time until 2017. Great pop songs can take many forms and fashions. It’s typical to hear them with the old standards of guitars, drums and keyboards. But as we have seen, something magical can happen with the unusual insertion of a violin. Some of our greatest pop hits feature this classic four stringed instrument.