15 Most Famous Mandolin Rock Songs of All Times

The Famous mandolin Rock Songs of all times is most commonly used in folk music, with Italian, American, and Irish influences creating unique sounds to enjoy.

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Famous Mandolin Rock Songs of All Times

Rock music is not the first thing that comes to mind when you think of the mandolin. Some bands have had big hits over the last few decades by including this instrument on singles and albums.

If a guitar and a banjo had a child, the result would be a mandolin.

This instrument is smaller than a standard guitar and is frequently used for fast strumming techniques to add character and depth to a composition.


The mandolin (or mandoline) is an instrument in the lute family. The mandora was the first version of it that became popular in Germany and Italy during the 16th century.

Our modern mandolin evolved from that first effort, which first appeared in music in the 18th century.

The influence of modern design is often attributed to Pasquale Vinaccia of Naples. The standard mandolin resembles a bass guitar more than an acoustic with four steel strings. It adjusts the tone with a machine head so that it plays at violin pitch.

That is, the four standard notes are G, D, A, and E, with no pressing modifications.

A standard mandolin has seventeen frets on the fingerboard, though youth sizes and manufacturer variations can change that number.

Modern music is currently played in two different body styles. A flat-backed, shallow version of the instrument is commonly used in bluegrass and American folk music.

If you have a standard mandolin, the belly angles downward to give the bridge strings a strong, resonant tone.

Most Famous Mandolin Rock Songs of All Times
Famous Mandolin Rock Songs

The mandolin made its presence known in concertos, Mozart’s 1787 opera “Don Giovanni,” and Stravinsky’s 1957 ballet “Agon” as music genres developed and evolved.

Beginning in the 1950s, with the emphasis on rock ‘n’ roll, many musicians began experimenting with this instrument to see how it could influence their sound.


Although any list is subjective, here are the 15 most well-known rock songs that have been made available to the general public.

1. “Maggie May” by Rod Stewart (1971)

On this lovely song, the mandolin’s moody nature shines through. Stewart employs the instrument to tell a story that is both unsettling and thrilling – though the lyrics aren’t as politically correct today as they were 50 years ago.

The song tells the story of a young boy who has an encounter with a prostitute. Some of the elements are based on an older folk song from Liverpool.

Nonetheless, the details are thought to be based on Stewart’s experiences at the Beaulieu Jazz Festival in the early 1960s.

What makes this release unique is that “Maggie May” was the B-side to the single “Reason to Believe.”

Radio stations quickly realized that everyone liked it and began playing it on a regular basis, and it became Stewart’s first significant hit as a solo performer.

It continues to be one of Stewart’s most popular songs.

2. “Ho Hey” by the Lumineers (2012)

Despite being part of The Lumineers’ debut album, this song was so popular that it spent 18 weeks at the top of the Billboard Rock Songs chart.

It also topped the Adult Pop Songs chart for eight weeks, the Alternative chart for two weeks, and the Mainstream Top 40 for two weeks.

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This song was originally written as a response to concert-goers who were uninterested in the band’s music.

They reasoned that by interspersing the lyrics with shouts, they could get people to pay attention to them.

The band had the song featured on an episode of Hart of Dixie before it was released as a single.

It received additional television exposure when it was used in a commercial for the Bing search engine.

3. “Going to California” by Led Zeppelin (1971)

This ballad remains one of Led Zeppelin’s most popular songs, ranking #11 on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of their 40 greatest hits in 2012.

It has a distinct folk sound, punctuated by the mandolin, and describes what it’s like to be shaken by an earthquake.

From a lyrical standpoint, Robert Plant admits that the song can be a little embarrassing.

Although it was not a personal favorite of his, he performed it at solo concerts well into the 1980s.

Plant believes the music adequately captures what life was like in his early twenties.

A different version of the song, featuring even more mandolin influences, is included on the second disc of the remastered “Led Zeppelin IV.”

4. “Saint Teresa” by Joan Osborne (1996)

Osborne was raised in a Catholic home, but she abandoned her faith after learning that women could not become priests.

Her music still reflects spiritualist ideas, particularly in mandolin-based songs like Saint Teresa.

She relocated to New York City in the late 1980s to pursue her career, eventually making a name for herself in the 1990s.

Her work was eventually nominated for Grammy® Awards for Best New Artist, Song of the Year, Record of the Year, and Album of the Year.

Most people are familiar with Osborne’s song “One of Us,” but if you enjoy mandolin music, check out “St. Teresa.”

5. “Little Ghost” by the White Stripes (2005)

In the early 2000s, Jack White was everywhere, forming numerous bands and groups. He formed this duo with his wife, Meg.

He adopted her surname rather than the reverse, and rose to prominence with folky, mandolin-based songs with a driving edge and raw simplicity.

It’s a fun love song with an Appalachian feel that explores shyness and fear when approaching others.

From the first chords played, you can hear the mandolin’s influence. The song progresses lyrically, while the folk influences add depth and charm.

6. “Boat on the River” by Styx (1979)

This song was released as a single in 1980, but it was originally included on the album “Cornerstone.”

It was not a commercial success in the United States. It did, however, rise to the top five in a number of European countries.

Tommy Shaw is the lead vocalist and mandolinist on this song. There’s also an accordion and a double bass, as well as some tambourine.

Although it was not one of their most popular songs, almost everyone who knows the band remembers the chorus.

“Bring me back to my river boat.” I have to go down, I have to come down. Take me back to my riverboat, and I won’t cry out any longer.”

7. “Mandolin Wind” by Rod Stewart (1971)

If you like the song “Maggie May,” you’ll like this one as well. It appears on the same album and was later released as a single in 1973.

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It has been covered twice by other artists where the song has reached the charts, with The Everly Brothers and Earl Scruggs doing so in 1972 and 1977, respectively.

The mandolin was played by the “mandolin player in Lindisfarne,” according to the album notes for this song, but Stewart had forgotten his name.

This song has more romance than others released by Stewart at the time. “I couldn’t believe you kept a smile through the coldest winter in almost 14 years,” the song says.

8. “The Battle of Evermore” by Led Zeppelin (1971)

Sandy Denny and Robert Plant perform this folk duet. Unlike some of the band’s other songs, the lyrics were written on the spot, according to the writers.

Jimmy Page once stated that he wrote all of the chords and lyrics in a single sitting.

Several Tolkien references from The Lord of the Rings make their way into the lyrics, as they do in several other songs by the band. It’s also the band’s only recorded piece that features a guest vocalist.

In 1994, a new version of the song was released, with artist Najma Akhtar replacing Denny’s original vocals.

This song has more romance than others released by Stewart at the time. “I couldn’t believe you kept a smile through the coldest winter in almost 14 years,” the song says.

9. “Losing My Religion” by R.E.M. (1991)

Anyone who grew up in the 1990s will remember hearing this song and being moved by the melody, mandolin, and lyrics.

The pitcher of milk that falls from the windowsill at the beginning of the video has become an iconic moment for the band.

The song would go on to become the band’s biggest hit in the United States, peaking at #4 on the Billboard Hot 100.

At the 1992 Grammy Awards, it also won Best Short Form Music Video and Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with a Vocal.

Guitarist Peter Buck stated that the chorus and main riff were written on the mandolin while he was watching television.

10. “Friend of the Devil” by the Grateful Dead (1970)

This song was written by Jerry Garcia and John Dawson for the album American Beauty. It’s also one of the band’s most frequently covered songs.

Lyricist Robert Hunter describes it as “the closest thing they’ve ever created to a classic song.”

Although most people are familiar with the piano version, the song was originally performed at a bluegrass tempo, with a brisk mandolin setting the tone.

11. “Love in Vain” by the Rolling Stones (1969)

This song was recorded for the album “Let It Bleed,” and it is the closest the band has ever come to a blues-based folk sound with their music.

The band thought it was a lovely song that deserved to be covered. It was written by musician Robert Johnson in 1937, and it was released in 1939 as part of his final 78 RPM records.

Johnson died when he was only 27 years old, going unnoticed for nearly 30 years until a researcher discovered his death certificate. His total discography consists of twenty-nine songs, all of which are excellent.

The Stones’ version’s popularity prompted a copyright lawsuit over the song, which was eventually settled in favor of Johnson’s estate.

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12. “Dream of the Archer” by Heart (1977)

This song’s original recording featured three mandolin players. Two are heard throughout the majority of the composition, while a third adds depth near the end.

It appeared on the band’s second studio album, “Little Queen.”

The situation was one-of-a-kind for the band. A contract dispute prompted a four-day marathon recording session, which resulted in Heart having three albums on the charts at the same time.

13. “Cry Love” by John Hiatt (1995)

This is a more niche inclusion, but it deserves to be heard. Capitol Records released the song as a trial in the mid-1990s.

The song is propelled forward by Hiatt’s voice, with the mandolin providing a foundation in the background.

It’s one of those songs that makes you want to tap your toes.

The song appears on Hiatt’s 13th album at the time, “Walk On,” and it helped him earn his first Grammy nomination after nearly 20 years of making music.

14. “Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)” by the Beatles (1965)

This band isn’t usually associated with the mandolin, but it became a number one hit in Australia.

According to Rolling Stone, it is the 83rd best song of all time.

The lyrics tell the story of an affair that John Lennon was attempting to manage.

It’s also worth noting that the sitar is featured on this composition, making it the first rock song to do so.

15. “Foreverdark Woods” by Bathory (2002)

This epic 8-minute death metal, hard rock piece features incredible mandolin support and is well worth a listen.

The song begins with a horse riding by, and the instrument provides the first intro and melody.

The composition’s heavy guitars and percussion arrive almost a minute later, but the mandolin remains the piece’s driving force.

What’s Your Favorite Mandolin Rock Song from This List?

The mandolin is a versatile instrument that can add flavor to any genre. Over the years, its distinct tone and dramatic carry have influenced dozens of rock songs.

From one point of view, these are the most well-known mandolin rock songs.

What are your favorite rock songs featuring the mandolin from this list or others?

FAQs about Famous Mandolin Rock Songs

What rock songs use mandolin?

10 Famous Mandolin Rock Songs
Friend of the Devil from Grateful Dead.
Battle of Evermore from Led Zeppelin.
Maggie May of Rod Stewart.
Losing My Religion of R.E.M. 10 Famous Mandolin Rock Songs.
Little Ghost of White Stripes.
Love in Vain of Rolling Stones.
Copperhead Road of Steve Earle.
St. Teresa of Joan Osborne.

What is the #1 rock song of all time?

The Greatest EVER Rock Song

What songs can you play on mandolin

First 50 Songs You Should Play on Mandolin
Amazing Grace.
Arkansas Traveler.
Arrivederci Roma (Goodbye To Rome)
The Battle Of Evermore.
Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain.
Blue Moon Of Kentucky.
Careless Love.
Come Back To Sorrento.

Trina Oralde

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