The saxophone is one of our favorite instruments here at HomerecordingPro.com, so we thought we’d put together a list of some of the best sax songs.
The saxophone has a lengthy history that has its roots in a wide array of musical styles and genres, from classical music through to rock and pop in more recent decades. Among all these genres, there are simply too many great solos and melodies to count; however, we’ve done our best to put together this list of the best saxophone songs.
‘Modern Love’ – David Bowie
One of the biggest hits for the late David Bowie in the 1980s was ‘Modern Love,’ which didn’t just feature the timeless music of a single saxophonist, but rather three. Steve Elson and Stan Harrison were two of the players involved in the song, with the third being David Bowie himself.
‘Someone to Watch Over Me’ – Coleman Hawkins
‘Someone to Watch Over Me’ has got to be one of the best saxophone solos to have been played to an audience. Coleman Hawkins produces incredible music that is steeped with emotions flowing through his instrument. Hawkins was the lead of a popular band at the end of World War II, in addition to an incredibly talented trumpet player named Howard McGhee. ‘Someone to Watch Over Me’ was recorded on March 9, 1945, after being composed by a duo named Ira and George Gershwin.
‘Brown Sugar’ – The Rolling Stones
Rock songs with a saxophone aren’t unheard of; many of the greats from the world of rock ‘n’ roll have incorporated sax solos into their music. ‘Brown Sugar’ was played by Bobby Keys, who had a significant role in the history of The Rolling Stones. He was present on every single album that the band produced between 1969 and 1974, then from 1980 to present day. He has also toured with the band routinely since the start of the 1970s.
‘Brown Sugar’ is the opener on 1971’s ‘Sticky Fingers’ album, and sets the tone on a cracking album.
‘Stairway to The Stars’ – Benny Carter
‘Stairway to The Stars’ was one of the songs that helped to propel Benny Carter into the spotlight as one of the leading saxophone players for 60 years between the 1930s and 1990s. Input into the song’s lyrics came from Mitchell Parish, while it was composed by Matt Malneck and Frank Signorelli, and based on the score from ‘Park Avenue Fantasy.’
‘Urgent’ – Foreigner
This is a famous saxophone song, partly due to the backstory behind it. The band wanted to include a saxophone solo in their upcoming record, like the playing style of Junior Walker. During a break in playing, one of the members of Foreigner noticed in a newspaper that Walker would be performing in the same city later that night. They raced over to the venue and got Walker to agree to play the solo for them; the whole thing was recorded that same evening.
‘Careless Whisper’ – George Michael / Wham!
Steve Gregory, an incredibly talented British saxophonist, was responsible for delivering one of the most recognizable saxophone melodies to ever be associated with the 1980s. Thanks in part to his talent, this song hit the top spot on the Billboard Hot 100 in the mid-80s. It also happened to be one of the final collaborations between the band and George Michael himself, while also being one of the best saxophone songs around.
‘Born to Run’ – Bruce Springsteen
The incredible saxophonist Clarence Clemons spent four decades touring with Bruce Springsteen and E Street, producing impressive solo after solo. Some of these classics include ‘Rosalita,’ ‘Dancing in the Dark,’ and ‘Jungleland.’ However, considering all his work, one truly great saxophone melody stands out; ‘Born to Run’ is an instantly recognizable and memorable tune, and one that will live on despite him no longer being on the scene.
‘Job’ – Vaughan Williams
‘Job’ by Vaughan Williams is another classical saxophone melody that was produced way back at the beginning of the 1930s, achieving worldwide infamy. The lengthy score is split into 9 different segments with clearly distinguishable elements, and the score is divided down the middle in the 5th segment. The music is based on a tale of Satan and his battles with God.
‘Walk on the Wild Side’ – Lou Reed
The fadeout of this song features a famous saxophone solo orchestrated by a saxophonist known as Ronnie Ross. This musician was the man responsible for teaching David Bowie how to play the instrument when he was a child. It was in fact Bowie who ultimately produced ‘Walk on the Wild Side,’ which is based on a walk through the NYC streets.
Click here to listen to it.
‘Just the Way You Are’ – Billy Joel
Released in 1977, this love song scored a multitude of awards, including a Grammy, ‘Song of the Year’ and ‘Record of the Year.’ Billy Joel wrote the lyrics to this song for his wife, prior to the pair divorcing. Still, that doesn’t detract from the incredible melody.
Listen to the track here.
‘Shine on You Crazy Diamond’ – Pink Floyd
At times Pink Floyd’s music heavily incorporates saxophone melodies, but in no track is this more evident than ‘Shine on You Crazy Diamond.’ It was produced as a remembrance to the late Syd Barrett, the original Pink Floyd vocalist. Ultimately, the song was subdivided into two distinct parts, with one placed at each end of the album.
‘1970’ – The Stooges
Ok, this may not be the finest example of saxophone playing on the list. But, it sure contributes to the atmosphere of the song. The saxophone plays a part in The Stooge’s music for the first time on the album ‘Funhouse’ and it adds another dimension to their energetic, garage rock sound. At around the 3.30 minute mark on ‘1970’ the saxophone kicks in and brings the song to a climax which sounds like the end of the world. This is the Stooges at their abrasive finest and the saxophone solo plays a big part in this.
Listen to it here.
Let us know in the comments if you agree or disagree with our choices. We’d love to know which songs you think deserve a place on the list of best saxophone songs too.
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