When you want to entertain your friends, bring out a guitar and lead them in a medley of these easy guitar songs. There are tunes from many musical genres that you can seemingly learn overnight to make sure you’re ready for the next singalong. Each of these popular songs has a unique history and no more than four chords.
European settlers brought acoustic guitars to America when they emigrated. Country music then developed in regions surrounding the Appalachian Mountains, evolving as the melodies absorbed elements from other types of music. Guitars were popular as they were both inexpensive and portable.
- “Achy Breaky Heart” by Billy Ray Cyrus spurred a renewed interest from younger listeners who had not formerly paid much attention to country music.
- “You Are My Sunshine” by Johnny Cash almost lost its country-music identity when it was absorbed into the mainstream pop culture, and it is considered one of the state songs of Louisiana.
- “All Summer Long” by Kid Rock is considered a country-rock song. It has been featured in a video game and was the official theme song for a World Wrestling Entertainment pay-per-view event.
Rhythm & Blues
The history of using the guitar when playing rhythm and blues can be traced back as far as the 1920s. Using the electric guitar became more popular in the 1940s. This popular genre features basic, yet complex grooves with a driving beat, muted strings, and a clean tone.
- “Fallin” by Alicia Keys is about falling in and out of love with someone. It features a moderate blues tempo.
- “Everyday People” by Sly and the Family Stone, the group’s first number one hit, calls for equality and peace between races and social groups.
- “Just the Way You Are (Amazing)” by Bruno Mars is an R&B pop song that can be considered an ode to a woman’s beauty.
- “Hound Dog” has been recorded over 250 times by a wide range of artists and is best known because of the Elvis Presley recording that topped US R&B, pop, and country charts.
Rock and Roll
Rock and roll music originated in the United States in the early 1950s. Its widespread popularity is partially due to how the music has drawn from such a wide variety of other musical genres, including rhythm and blues, folk and jazz. Many famous musicians who embraced rock and roll, such as Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry, and Little Richard, are still known for their iconic poses featuring their guitars. Rock music encompasses many subcategories such as psychedelic rock, progressive rock, glam rock, heavy metal, new wave, punk and alternative rock.
- “Fire on the Mountain” by the Grateful Dead has been played at Dead shows since 1977 and appears on numerous albums.
- “Jane Says” by Janes Addiction was inspired by the band’s namesake and is one of their most famous songs. It often is the last song played at their concerts.
- “Give Peace a Chance” by John Lennon is an anti-war song that was the first solo single issued by Lennon.
- “Break on Through to the Other Side” by the Doors was the first single released by the band. The word “high” was deleted from many recordings before 1960.
- “Born in the USA” by Bruce Springsteen was the title song on Springsteen’s most commercially successful album. This album was also the first compact disc manufactured in the US for commercial release.
- “A Horse with No Name” was performed by the band America in the 1970s. It was banned by some radio stations at the time because of alleged references to drugs.
- “The Tide is High” by Blondie was accompanied by a music video of lead singer Debbie Harry trapped in a flooding apartment while being monitored by a space alien.
- “Glory Days” by Bruce Springsteen often takes listeners back to the glorious, youthful times of their high school days.
- “Wicked Game” by Chris Isaak gained nationwide fame when it was featured in the David Lynch film, “Wild at Heart.”
- “Walk of Life” by British band Dire Straits is one of the group’s most recognizable songs. At one time it was licensed to be used nationally in television commercials about a diabetes drug.
- “Margaritaville” by Jimmy Buffet is named for the cocktail that the artist discovered in an Austin, Texas, bar. The song was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame because of its cultural and historical significance.
- “Sweet Home Alabama” by Lynyrd Skynyrd was written in response to two Neil Young songs. Its misunderstood lyrics incited controversy about civil rights activism in southern states such as Alabama.
Other Three-Chord Songs for Easy Guitar Songs
- “Beat It” by Michael Jackson was one of the popular singles that propelled the album “Thriller” into becoming the bestselling album ever. Eddie Van Halen’s guitar solo is reported to have caused a monitor speaker to catch fire during a recording session.
- “Evil Ways” by Santana has been covered on numerous occasions and was named in movie credits for “The Fast & The Furious” and “Home for the Holidays”.
- “Louie Louie” by The Kingsmen is about a Jamaican sailor returning to see his lady love on the island. As one of the most recognizable songs ever recorded, it almost became Washington’s state song and is the reason that April 11 is International Louie Louie Day.
- “The First Cut Is the Deepest” by Sheryl Crow became one of her most popular radio hits in the early 2000s, and it was featured on hit television series “The Sopranos” and “One Tree Hill.”
- “Brown Eyed Girl” by Van Morrison has been played more than 10 million times on American radio stations and is the most downloaded song from the 1960s.
- “Chasing Cars” by Snow Patrol was referred to by the songwriter as the purest love song he’d ever written. It’s been featured on several American television shows.
- “Hey, Jealousy” by the Gin Blossoms was once referred to as “manna for radio” in a Rolling Stones magazine review.
- “Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)” by punk rock band Green Day did not originally include guitar. The string track was recorded separately while other band members were playing foosball.
- “Fat Bottomed Girls” by Queen features the lead singer Freddie Mercury yelling, “Get on your bikes and ride!”
- “Creep” by Radiohead was inspired by a girl that lead guitarist Jonny Greenwood followed around in England. Coincidentally, she did end up attending a Radiohead concert.
- “Blitzkrieg Bop” by the Ramones features the chant, “Hey! Ho! Let’s go!” and can be heard at sporting events of all types. It sits at number 18 on the 2008 Rolling Stone Top 100 Greatest Guitar Songs of All Time list.
- “Free Fallin” by Tom Petty was written about what Petty and collaborator Jeff Lynne saw when they were driving down Ventura Boulevard in and around Los Angeles, California.
The guitar, one of America’s most popular instruments, has been prevalent throughout the history of pop music. The look is iconic, and the sound is unforgettable. While some pop music has veered away from guitar sounds, there are many examples of how guitars remain a staple in modern music.
- “Marry You” by Bruno Mars is frequently used as a proposal song, with lyrics focusing on spur-of-the-moment marriage.
- “Born This Way” by Lady Gaga, one of the best-selling singles in history, has been called a “club-ready anthem” with lyrics that address self-empowerment of minority groups.
- “Uptown Funk” by Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars became a worldwide phenomenon after it was released in 2014. Its video has been viewed more than three billion times on YouTube.
- “Hey, Ya” by OutKast was influenced by funk, rap, and rock music. The Polaroid Corporation used the song’s lyric, “shake it like a Polaroid picture”, to re-energize the public’s perception of its products.
- “Red Red Wine,” originally written by Neil Diamond, was recorded by UB40 with a reggae-style beat. Diamond often uses the UB40 arrangement when performing the song at concerts.
- “Wonderwall” by Oasis has been described by the songwriter as a song about “an imaginary friend who’s gonna come and save you from yourself.”
- “The Winner Takes It All” was recorded by ABBA in the early ‘80s. The topic of this pop ballad reflects on the ending of romantic relationships.
- “Pompeii” by Bastille is one of the English pop band’s most well-known international hits, with lyrics about the Roman town that met its fate when Mount Vesuvius erupted in 79 AD.
- “Call Me Maybe” by Carly Rae Jepsen, the all-time fourth best-selling digital single, is about seeking the attention of a cute neighbor who is attracted to someone else.
Go Out and Play
According to some historians, people have been singing to guitar music in some form since ancient times. Playing the guitar can be a very rewarding experience, easy guitar songs can make you look like a pro. Bond with friends and family while playing and singing at social gatherings. Pick your favorite easy guitar songs from this list, practice for a few hours, and you’ll be the life of the party when leading the group in song at the next event.