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The 25 Most Popular Public Domain Rock Songs


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A song can speak to a soul in a way that words cannot. The rock era has produced some of the most iconic sound recordings of all time, and many have become public domain songs. Here, we’ll look at the 25 most popular public domain rock songs, from the psychedelic and melodic to the anthemic and timeless.


Of course, The Beatles are the first recording artists that come to mind. “All You Need is Love” is one of the most iconic public domain rock songs. With its inspiring, uplifting message and the Beatles’ legendary sound, it’s no wonder this song has stood the test of time.

Another timeless classic is “I Put a Spell on You” by Screamin’ Jay Hawkins. It’s a sultry, bluesy song that’s become a staple of rock. It’s been covered by countless artists, but the original is still the best.

If we’re talking about classic rock, we can’t leave out “Proud Mary” by Creedence Clearwater Revival. With its signature, rolling guitar riffs and powerful vocals, this is one of the most iconic public domain rock songs.

“House of the Rising Sun” by The Animals is another classic. It’s a timeless tune with a catchy chorus and an ominous vibe.

When it comes to anthems, “Smoke on the Water” by Deep Purple is the go-to. It’s a classic rock song with a catchy chorus and a guitar solo that’s become iconic in its own right.

“I Can’t Get No Satisfaction” by The Rolling Stones is another classic. With its iconic riff and catchy lyrics, this song is a timeless anthem that will never go out of style.

For those who like their tunes a bit trippier, “White Rabbit” by Jefferson Airplane is the perfect song. With its psychedelic vibe and catchy chorus, it’s a classic.

“In the Midnight Hour” by Wilson Pickett is another exceptionally cool classic. It’s a soulful, bluesy song with a catchy chorus that’s become a staple of the genre.

Whether you’re a fan of the Beatles or the Rolling Stones, there’s something for everyone in the public domain. So let’s take a look at some of the most consequential recordings of the 20th Century:

1. The Beatles: “Love Me Do”, the first single by the band, which was released in 1962.

2. Johnny Cash: “Folsom Prison Blues”, the iconic prison-themed song written in 1955.

3. Jimi Hendrix: “Purple Haze”, the psychedelic classic released in 1967.

4. The Beach Boys: “Good Vibrations”, the sunshine-infused single released in 1966.

5. Elvis Presley: “Hound Dog”, the classic rhythm and blues song released in 1956.

6. The Rolling Stones: “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction”, the chart-topping single released in 1965.

7. The Who: “My Generation”, the classic anthem released in 1965.

8. The Kinks: “You Really Got Me”, the garage rock classic released in 1964.

9. The Doors: “Light My Fire”, the psychedelic classic released in 1967.

10. Led Zeppelin: “Whole Lotta Love”, the hard rock classic released in 1969.

11. The Byrds: “Turn! Turn! Turn!”, the folk rock single released in 1965.

12. Bob Dylan: “Blowin’ in the Wind”, the classic protest anthem released in 1962.

13. Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young: “Woodstock”, the classic song released in 1969.

14. The Animals: “House of the Rising Sun”, the classic folk song released in 1964.

15. John Lennon: “Imagine”, the peace anthem released in 1971.

16. Steppenwolf: “Born to Be Wild”, the classic biker anthem released in 1968.

17. Joni Mitchell: “Big Yellow Taxi”, the folk classic released in 1970.

18. The Supremes: “Where Did Our Love Go”, the Motown classic released in 1964.

19. Cream: “Sunshine of Your Love”, the classic blues-rock anthem released in 1967.

20. The Monkees: “I’m a Believer”, the classic pop single released in 1966.

21. The Turtles: “Happy Together”, the classic pop single released in 1967.

22. The Mamas & the Papas: “California Dreamin’”, the classic folk-pop anthem released in 1965.

23. The Temptations: “My Girl”, the classic soul single released in 1964.

24. Janis Joplin: “Piece of My Heart”, the classic blues-rock single released in 1968.

25. Simon & Garfunkel: “The Sound of Silence”, the classic folk single released in 1964.

An interesting aside stems from The Beatles’ songs that are not in the public domain and are controlled by private music publishing companies. The best example of this is “Penny Lane”. In 1969, the Beatles’ publishing company Northern Songs was acquired by ATV, a media company owned by Lew Grade. By 1985, ATV was being run by Australian entrepreneur Robert Holmes à Court, who decided to sell the catalog to Michael Jackson. Before the sale, Jackson allowed the rights for “Penny Lane” to be exempt from the deal and given instead to Holmes à Court’s teenage daughter. This is according to Wikipedia and other sources. However, Sony Music Publishing operates as though they control the rights to “Penny Lane” which is reported to be one of only 5 Lennon/McCartney Beatles songs not controlled by Sony Music Publishing. The others are “Please Please Me” (Universal/Songs of Polygram), “I Want To Hold Your Hand” (Songs of Universal, Inc.), ”Do You Want To Know A Secret” (MCA Music Limited), and “Love Me Do” (MPL Communications—Paul McCartney’s Publishing entity).

The music industry has been actively working to extend and strengthen copyright law through various means, including lobbying efforts and legal actions.

One major effort by the music industry has been to extend the length of copyright protection for sound recordings. In the United States, sound recordings were originally protected by copyright for a period of 50 years, but in 1998, the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act extended this period to 70 years. (Another quick aside: this law was sponsored by Mary Bono, Sonny Bono’s second wife. I’d say she had a vested interest since she is one of the few Bono heirs who would benefit from the elongated copyright protection.) Since then, the music industry has continued to push for further extensions of copyright protection for sound recordings. It argues that longer copyright terms are necessary to protect artists and record labels’ economic interests.

In addition to these efforts, the music industry has also been involved in lobbying efforts to strengthen copyright law. This has included pushing for more substantial penalties for copyright infringement, as well as advocating for international agreements that provide enhanced protection for copyrighted works. These efforts have been successful in helping to protect the interests of those in the music industry. However, they have also raised concerns about the potential for over-regulation and the infringement of free speech. After all, what’s the point in having freedom of speech if you can’t use it to sing your favorite copyrighted songs off-key?


  • Wayne Rosso

    Wayne Rosso has worked in music and technology for decades. He has worked with such artists as Aerosmith, Bee Gees, Crosby, Stills & Nash, Public Image LTD., Beach Boys, Phillip Glass, Fleetwood Mac, Rick James, New Kids on the Block, Slash, Evanescence and scores of others.


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