25 Most Distinctive Opening Harmonica Solos In Rock Music

25 Most Distinctive Opening Harmonica Solos In Rock Music

Feature Photo: Debby Wong / Shutterstock.com

Our 25 Most Distinctive Opening Harmonica Solos In Rock Music presents a list of songs fueled by excellent opening harmonica riffs. This is not a list of the best harmonica solos in rock but rather a list of opening harmonica solos that occur before the vocals. It would have been easy to fill this list with Bob Dylan songs or classic blues numbers, but that would have been pretty boring. We added a little Dyaln but held back in order to prensent more of the rock side of harmonica playing.

25 – The River – Bruce Springsteen

“The River” is the title track from Bruce Springsteen’s 1980 double album The River. Springsteen wrote the song and provided vocals and guitar, exploring themes of despair juxtaposed against hope. The musicians backing him included members of the E Street Band: Clarence Clemons on saxophone, Danny Federici on organ, Roy Bittan on piano, Garry Tallent on bass, and Max Weinberg on drums. The album, produced by Bruce Springsteen, Jon Landau, and Steven Van Zandt, was critically acclaimed and reached number one on the Billboard 200 chart.

24 – If You Wanna Get To Heaven – Ozark Mountain Daredevils

“If You Wanna Get to Heaven” is a track from the Ozark Mountain Daredevils’ 1973 self-titled debut album. Written by band members Steve Cash and John Dillon, the song features harmonica played by Steve Cash. The track stands out for its blend of country rock and Southern rock styles. It became the band’s first major hit, reaching number 25 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. The album was produced by Glyn Johns and also featured musicians such as Randle Chowning on guitar and Buddy Brayfield on keyboards.

23 – Juke – Little Walter

“Juke” is a landmark blues harmonica instrumental by Little Walter, released in 1952. Little Walter both wrote the piece and performed it, showcasing his virtuoso harmonica skills. The track was recorded with Muddy Waters’ band, which included Muddy Waters on guitar, Jimmy Rogers on second guitar, Elga Edmonds on drums, and Otis Spann on piano. Produced by Leonard Chess, “Juke” became a significant hit, reaching number one on the Billboard R&B chart and marking Little Walter as one of the most influential blues harmonica players of all time.

22 – School – Supertramp

“School” is a track from Supertramp’s 1974 album Crime of the Century. The song was written by band members Roger Hodgson and Rick Davies, with Hodgson handling vocals and piano and Davies on harmonica and keyboards. Other musicians involved in the recording included John Helliwell on saxophone, Dougie Thomson on bass, and Bob Siebenberg on drums. The album was produced by Ken Scott and Supertramp and is noted for its conceptual and progressive rock elements. Although “School” did not chart as a single, the album itself was a commercial success, reaching number 4 on the UK Albums Chart and number 38 on the US Billboard 200 chart.

# 21 – On The Road Again – Canned Heat

“On The Road Again” is a standout track from Canned Heat’s 1968 album Boogie with Canned Heat. The song was adapted by Alan Wilson who also provided vocals and harmonica, with Bob Hite, Henry Vestine on guitar, Larry Taylor on bass, and Adolfo de la Parra on drums. The song was a major hit, reaching number 16 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in the United States.

20 – I Should Have Known Better – The Beatles

“I Should Have Known Better” was featured on The Beatles’ 1964 soundtrack album A Hard Day’s Night. The song was written by John Lennon and credited to the Lennon-McCartney partnership. John Lennon performed the harmonica parts as well as vocals, Paul McCartney on bass, George Harrison on lead guitar, and Ringo Starr on drums. The song was part of the album that topped charts globally, including the Billboard 200 in the USA.

19 – Sweet Maree – The Steve Miller Band

“Sweet Maree” appears on Steve Miller Band’s 1976 album Fly Like an Eagle. Steve Miller wrote the song and performed vocals and guitar, with Norton Buffalo playing the harmonica. Other musicians involved were Lonnie Turner on bass and Gary Mallaber on drums. The album was produced by Steve Miller and was a commercial success, reaching number 3 on the Billboard 200 chart.

18 – Fingertips, Pt. 2 – Stevie Wonder

“Fingertips, Pt. 2” is a live recording from Stevie Wonder’s 1963 album Recorded Live: The 12 Year Old Genius. The song features Wonder on vocals and harmonica, and it became his first hit, topping the US Billboard Hot 100 chart. This track is notable for its spontaneous and energetic performance, capturing a young Wonder at the start of his prolific career.

17 – Life Is A Highway – Tom Cochrane

“Life Is a Highway” is from Tom Cochrane’s 1991 album Mad Mad World. Cochrane wrote the song and performed vocals and guitar. Additional musicians on the track include Ken Greer on guitars, John Webster on keyboards, and Jeff Jones on bass. The song was a significant hit, reaching number six on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in the United States.

16 – You Don’t Know How It Feels – Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers

“You Don’t Know How It Feels” is a song from Tom Petty’s 1994 album Wildflowers. Tom Petty wrote the song and performed vocals and harmonica. The other musicians featured include Mike Campbell on guitar, Benmont Tench on keyboards, Howie Epstein on bass, and Steve Ferrone on drums. The album was produced by Rick Rubin, Tom Petty, and Mike Campbell. The song reached number 13 on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart.

15 – Work Song – The Paul Butterfield Blues Band

“Work Song” appears on The Paul Butterfield Blues Band’s 1966 album East-West. The song is a blues standard, though their instrumental version was arranged by members of the band. Musicians on the track include Paul Butterfield on harmonica and vocals, Mike Bloomfield and Elvin Bishop on guitars, Mark Naftalin on keyboards, Jerome Arnold on bass, and Billy Davenport on drums. The album was produced by Paul Rothchild.

14 – Room to Move – John Mayall

“Room to Move” is featured on John Mayall’s 1970 live album The Turning Point. John Mayall wrote the song and performed it on vocals and harmonica. The lineup for this track was unique in that it used no drums or electric guitars, focusing instead on acoustic instruments. The musicians included Mayall on vocals, harmonica, and guitar, Jon Mark on acoustic guitar, Johnny Almond on flutes and saxophones, and Steve Thompson on bass.

13 – Run Around – Blues Traveler

“Run Around” is from Blues Traveler’s 1994 album Four. The song was written by lead vocalist and harmonica player John Popper. Other band members featured on the track are Chan Kinchla on guitar, Bobby Sheehan on bass, and Brendan Hill on drums. The song was produced by Michael Barbiero and Steve Thompson. “Run Around” won a Grammy for Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal and reached number 8 on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart.

12 – The Wizard – Black Sabbath

“The Wizard” is a track from Black Sabbath’s 1970 album Black Sabbath. The song was written by all four members of the band: Ozzy Osbourne, Tony Iommi, Geezer Butler, and Bill Ward. Osbourne provided vocals and harmonica, Iommi on guitar, Butler on bass, and Ward on drums. The album was produced by Rodger Bain.

11 – Just Like a Woman – Bob Dylan

“Just Like a Woman” comes from Bob Dylan’s 1966 album Blonde on Blonde. Dylan wrote and performed the song, providing vocals and guitar. Other musicians on the track included Charlie McCoy on bass, Robbie Robertson on guitar, and Al Kooper on organ and piano. Bob Johnston produced the album.

10 – Take The Long Way Home – Supertramp

Featured on Supertramp’s 1979 album Breakfast in America, “Take the Long Way Home” was written by Roger Hodgson and Rick Davies. Roger Hodgson performed vocals and keyboard, while Rick Davies played the harmonica. Other band members involved were John Helliwell (saxophones and clarinets), Dougie Thomson (bass), and Bob Siebenberg (drums). The song reached number 10 on the US Billboard Hot 100 and the album was produced by Supertramp alongside Peter Henderson.

9 – Roadhouse Blues – The Doors

“Roadhouse Blues” is a track from The Doors’ 1970 album, Morrison Hotel. Jim Morrison wrote the lyrics and performed vocals. The musicians on this song included Ray Manzarek on keyboard, Robby Krieger on guitar, John Densmore on drums, and guest musician Lonnie Mack on bass. Additionally, another guest, G. Puglese (pseudonym for John Sebastian), played harmonica. The album was produced by Paul A. Rothchild.

8 – Midnight Rambler – The Rolling Stones

“Midnight Rambler” appeared on The Rolling Stones’ 1969 album Let It Bleed. Mick Jagger and Keith Richards wrote the song. The lineup featured Mick Jagger on vocals and harmonica, Keith Richards on guitar, Mick Taylor on guitar, Bill Wyman on bass, and Charlie Watts on drums. Nicky Hopkins provided additional piano. The album was produced by Jimmy Miller.

7 – Whammer Jammer – J. Geils Band

“Whammer Jammer” is a track from the J. Geils Band’s 1971 album The Morning After. Magic Dick, whose real name is Richard Salwitz, wrote the song and performed the harmonica part. The song features Peter Wolf on vocals, J. Geils on guitar, Seth Justman on keyboard, Danny Klein on bass, and Stephen Jo Bladd on drums. The album was produced by Bill Szymczyk.

6 – Bring It on Home – Led Zeppelin

“Bring It on Home” is the final track from Led Zeppelin’s 1969 album Led Zeppelin II. The song is credited to Willie Dixon, with reworked parts by Robert Plant. The band’s lineup included Robert Plant on vocals and harmonica, Jimmy Page on guitar, John Paul Jones on bass, and John Bonham on drums. The album was produced by Jimmy Page.

Read More: Top 10 Led Zeppelin Songs

5 – Piano Man – Billy Joel

“Piano Man” is the title track from Billy Joel’s 1973 album Piano Man. Billy Joel wrote the song and performed vocals, piano, and harmonica. The other musicians featured on the track included Larry Knechtel on bass, Ron Tutt on drums, and Michael Stewart on guitar and banjo. The album was produced by Michael Stewart.

4 – Heart of Gold – Neil Young

“Heart of Gold” is from Neil Young’s 1972 album Harvest. Neil Young wrote the song and performed vocals and guitar. The track featured backup vocals from James Taylor and Linda Ronstadt, with Ben Keith on pedal steel guitar, Tim Drummond on bass, and Kenny Buttrey on drums. The album was produced by Neil Young, Elliot Mazer, Henry Lewy, and Jack Nitzsche.

3 – The Promised Land – Bruce Springsteen

“The Promised Land” is a track from Bruce Springsteen’s 1978 album Darkness on the Edge of Town. Springsteen wrote the song and performed vocals, guitar, and harmonica. The E Street Band featured Clarence Clemons on saxophone, Danny Federici on organ, Garry Tallent on bass, Roy Bittan on piano, and Max Weinberg on drums. The album was produced by Bruce Springsteen and Jon Landau.

Read More: Top 10 Bruce Springsteen Songs Of The 1970s

2 – Love Me Do – The Beatles

“Love Me Do” was one of the first singles by The Beatles, released in 1962, and later appeared on their 1963 album Please Please Me. The song was written by John Lennon and Paul McCartney. The lineup included John Lennon on vocals and harmonica, Paul McCartney on vocals and bass, George Harrison on guitar, and Ringo Starr on drums. George Martin produced the album.

Read More: Beatles Albums In Order Of Original UK And US Studio Issues

# 1 –  When the Levee Breaks

Once again, this song tops another one of our charts. It was placed at number one on our Most Distinctive Opening Drum Beats In Rock Music and hits that spot again on this list. “When the Levee Breaks” was released on Led Zeppelin’s acclaimed 1971 album, Led Zeppelin IV. Originally a blues standard written by Kansas Joe McCoy and Memphis Minnie in 1929, Led Zeppelin reinterpreted the song into a monumental blues-rock masterpiece.

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