In modern music history, there have been too many great basslines to count. This got me thinking, which among these is the most famous bassline?
I found myself asking this the other day, and realized I didn`t have a good answer. Thus, I did some research and put together a list. Not only did I decide on what the most famous bassline is, but the 11 most well-recognized among them.
I`ve weighted recognizability, album sales and streaming numbers, cultural impact, and whether multiple generations are familiar with the bassline.
Thus, here is a list that makes a scientific and educated guess at what the most famous bass lines of all time are. Enjoy.
11. Feel Good Inc – Gorillaz
- Album: Demon Days
- Year: 2005
- Bassist: Murdoc Niccals (Virtual member)
While Gorillaz might be a virtual band, their mainstream appeal is fully real.
“Feel Good Inc” is one of the band’s biggest hits, and the most recognizable part of it is the bassline. It`s one of those lines that are simple, but groovy in a way you have never heard anywhere else before.
Thus, chances are good that you like many others have heard this song countless times before. Anyone who grew up in the 2000s will certainly know it, and will in all likelihood love it too.
10. Motörhead – Ace Of Spades
- Album: Ace Of Spades
- Year: 1980
- Bassist: Lemmy
Some think it`s pure noise, while others love the loud and iconic sound of Motörhead. No matter which camp you fall in, chances are good that you have heard the intro to “Ace Of Spades” at some point in your life.
Lemmy`s unique bass tone and way of playing the bass make this a bassline that grabs your attention. The fast and distorted opening line followed by the slide that leads into the band joining is beyond iconic.
Thus, while not everyone will know that this is the sound of a bass and not a guitar, they will surely recognize the riff.
9. Yes – Roundabout
- Album: Fragile
- Year: 1971
- Bassist: Chris Squire
While Yes was a widely successful band, they did not have the same level of reach as many other artists on this list. However, the bassline on “Roundabout” has taken on a life of its own, and is known by many people who have never even heard of the band.
Chris Squire is also often mentioned in conversations about the best bass players ever. His speed, creativity, and usage of chords on the bass are the main reasons many know his name, and “Roundabout” is often used to showcase what made him so great.
Then there is the usage of this song in modern internet culture. “Roundabout” has been used in countless “To Be Continued” memes, which are based on a manga-anime series called Jojo`s Bizzare Adventure.
This has led to countless people hearing this bassline, despite never having heard a single Yes song. While a strange phenomenon, this has made Roundabout one of the most famous basslines ever in addition to being one of the most legendary rock bass lines of all time.
8. Jackson 5 – I Want You Back
- Album: Diana Ross Presents The Jackson 5
- Year: 1969
- Bassist: Wilton Felder
Micheal Jackson`s solo career far exceeded the success of the Jackson 5. However, this song has stood the test of time and the bass intro is well-recognized more than 50 years after its release.
Featured on my list of the best soul basslines of all time, “I Want You Back” has one of the more ambitious basslines on this list. A 4-bar groove that takes a full 10 seconds to repeat can be hard to make appealing to a mainstream audience.
Yet, Wilton Felder`s groove on this track is beyond catchy and manages to do just that.
7. Chic – Good Times
- Album: Risqué
- Year: 1979
- Bassist: Bernard Edwards
“Good Times” by Chic is a well-known bassline for several reasons. In addition to being a major hit for the band, it was also sampled by The Sugarhill Gang, which also put this song at the top of my list of the best hip-hop bassline of all time.
Sugarhill Gang`s “Rappers Delight” is both a well-known and talked about song in its own right. This is because it was the first commercial release by a rap group, and is thus often referenced.
In a way, this has given this bassline two different lives, which has ensured that a lot of people have heard it. Thus, not everyone will know the sample or its history, but almost everyone will have heard this line at some point in time.
6. Queen – Another One Bites The Dust
- Album: The Game
- Year: 1980
- Bassist: John Deacon
Queen was not a band that shed away from experimenting with different musical ideas. One of these was to build a song around a disco groove. While unconventional for a rock group, this resulted in one of the band’s biggest hits.
A major reason for this is John Deacons`s bassline on it. The song starts off with its iconic groove, and it remains the main theme throughout it. Deacon`s bass tone and smooth playstyle also ensured that it also sat incredibly well in the mix.
Whether a fan of Queen or not, this is another song that most people will have heard at some point. It`s been more than 40 years since its release and I still hear it played here and there, and I don`t see that changing anytime soon.
5. Mark Ronson (feat. Bruno Mars) – Uptown Funk
- Album: Uptown Special
- Year: 2014 (2015 for album release)
- Bassist: Jamareo Artis
In addition to being a fun song to play on a 5-string bass “Uptown Funk” is one of the biggest hits of the 2010s.
Thus, regardless of what generation you belong to, it is unlikely that you have avoided hearing this song at some point. And as you probably know, once you hear it, this is a bassline that will get stuck in your head.
Given how widely successful this song has been, and how it both starts with and is driven by the bassline, it`s safe to say this is one of the most famous basslines of all time.
4. The Beatles – Come Together
- Album: Abbey Road
- Year: 1969
- Bassist: Paul McCartney
The Beatles are often regarded as the best band of all time. Thus, when one of their biggest hits is centered around a bass riff, you know it`s going to be one of the most famous bass lines of all time.
A big part of what made Paul McCartney’s bass playing so smooth was how he slid from note to note. While this is not easy to pick out for the untrained ear in most Beatles songs, the bassline in “Come Together” has a long and noticeable slide.
This makes the riff distinct and catchy, and well-deserving of being on this list. It holds together an unconventional song and is one of many examples of The Beatles taking creative risks and having them pay off.
3. Ben E. King – Stand By Me
- Album: Released as single
- Year: 1961
- Bassist: Lloyd Trotman
The oldest entry on this list, “Stand By Me” has remained a popular song for more than 60 years. With close to half a billion Spotify streams and all generations being familiar with the song, It`s safe to say it has stood the test of time.
The bassline is as simple, as it is catchy and iconic. By accenting the 3rd and 6th notes of each bar, the rhythm of it is instantly recognizable. The notes that lead to the root note also start on the first note of the bar, rather than leading into it from the previous.
This gives a unique feel to the bassline and makes it instantly grab people’s attention once they hear it. Combine this with the musky sound of the double bass, and you have an instant classic.
2. Pink Floyd – Money
“Dark Side Of The Moon” is one of the most recognized albums of all time. With more than 45 million sales and “Money” being the most-streamed song of the album on Spotify, a lot of people have heard this iconic bassline.
Roger Waters starts the song by playing the bass riff over the sound of falling coins and cashier equipment. Then the band joins in as he continues to hold the groove down.
It`s played in 7/8 time, though the slow quarter notes that make up the riff lead so naturally back to the root note that it barely feels different from 4/4.
It certainly is unexpected that one of the most well-known bass riffs of all time comes from a 6-minute song in an odd time signature. However, with the sheer quality of Pink Floyd`s bass lines, they made the impossible possible.
1. Michael Jackson – Billie Jean
- Album: Thriller
- Year: 1982
- Bassist: Louis Johnson
“Billie Jean” is the most-streamed song on the best-selling album of all time. Thus, you will have a harder time finding a person that doesn`t know this bassline, than one who does.
At its core, it`s a simple 8th note groove. However, the bassline is melodically put together in a way that is extremely groovy. The bassline is also impossible to not notice, as it kicks the song off and the rest of the instruments build upon it.
Some of the entries on this list are technically proficient while others push the boundaries of what a bassline can be. Michael knew when to keep things simple, and focused on perfecting that simplicity. With that, he is rightfully regarded as the King of Pop, and it comes as no surprise that “Bille Jean” has the most well-known bassline of all time.