17 Great Rock Songs Featuring Horns

Written by on March 9, 2017

six degrees logo w horns 4march2017

Every couple months, my KPSU radio show Six Degrees of Rockination has a theme. In March 2017, the theme was horns. What songs did I play?

James Taylor – “Suite For 20 G” (but just the very end)

Yes, I’ll agree that James Taylor’s not the first guy you think of when you think of horns, but this may be my favorite song of the hour for exactly that reason. Just funky and fun and perfect. A great start to the show.

Rocket From the Crypt – “I’m Not Invisible”

Here’s a rocker! Rocket From the Crypt rides that line between rock and punk and ska. Very under-appreciated band, especially for those who like a good horn section.

Yael Naim – “New Soul”

There’s a lot of good stuff going on here. I definitely hear a tuba. Maybe also a trumpet, trombone, and… clarinet? Give it a listen and decide for yourself.

Ray Charles – “Shake a Tail Feather”

This is an old standard, done by many, including Ike and Tina Turner, but this version from the movie “The Blues Brothers” is my favorite. I love Ray’s organ sound, plus the way he shouts out all the different dance styles.

OK Go – “This Too Shall Pass” (Marching Band Version)

The studio version of this song is excellent, but this alternate version they did with the Notre Dame marching band is my favorite. Listen to how the horns are added slowly, instrument by instrument, until by the end it’s the full band in all its gigantic glory.

Sex Police – “Elevator”

This North Carolina band had only two albums, but their first one, 1991’s “Medallion” was an absolute classic. Highly recommended… if you can find it.

Ann Peebles – “I Can’t Stand the Rain”

Nobody brings you the horns like Memphis Soul does. This beauty is from 1973. Who else did a version? Tina Turner. (How many times will she almost make this list?)

Harry Connick Jr. – “We Are In Love”

Big bands didn’t entirely die with Benny Goodman and Glen Miller. Harry Connick Jr.’s put out a few big band albums, as this 1990 track shows. I can’t help but marvel at how much is going on during this song. So many layers of horns.

Flobots – “Handlebars”

Finally, some hip hop! This song features not only a trumpet solo, but also a violin played pizzicato style.

The Beatles – “For No One”

The best french horn solo in the history of rock ‘n’ roll? Yes. And perhaps the only french horn solo in the history of rock ‘n’ roll. 2 minutes and 2 seconds of perfection from the Fab Four.

Postmodern Jukebox – “Love Yourself”

How to make an already great Justin Bieber song even better? Play it Dixieland Jazz style! This excellent cover features vocalist Sara Niemietz.

Earth, Wind, and Fire – “Shining Star”

Now it’s a party! Seriously, if this song doesn’t get you moving, I feel sorry for you, friend. Mid 70s funk at its best.

JC Brooks and the Uptown Sound – “I Am Trying To Break Your Heart”

This is originally a Wilco song, but I think this version is far better. JC Brooks is a guy I think more people need to hear. Hella entertaining.

Spice Girls – “Stop”

Don’t hate. Seriously, don’t. How can anyone not love this song? Sporty Spice, Scary Spice, Ginger Spice, Baby Spice, and Posh Spice tear it up! I especially like Sporty bringing the high notes. I’m Team Sporty.

The Band – “Don’t Do It”

Originally done in 1964 by Marvin Gaye, I prefer this version from the Band’s 1976 concert movie “The Last Waltz.” Duel vocals, piano, organ, a horn section, and a rippin’ guitar solo. This song’s got everything.

Suburban Legends – “Blingity Bling”

Another fun song to get you going. These guys do a lot of fun stuff. In fact, I think the ska genre as a whole has very high levels of fun. If you don’t know ska, this band’s a decent place to start.

The Mavericks – “Dance the Night Away”

And we end with a little Tex-Mex. Or at least it sounds Tex-Mex to me. The band’s actually from Florida and does not have a regular horn section, but they brought in some mariachi players for this tune. A fun way to end a very fun show.

Want to hear the entire radio show? Here’s the link. A solid hour of fantastic rock ‘n’ roll featuring horns.





Show Notes & Show Blogs


Reader's opinions
  1. Rockpiler   On   December 19, 2017 at 8:43 am

    I agree that the french horn solo in “For No One” is stellar, but don’t forget Al Kooper – who had never played the instrument – and his opening to the Stones’ “You Can’t Always Get What You Want”. He also pulled that off 3 years earlier with his organ solo in Dylan’s “Like A Rolling Stone”.

    • C.I. DeMann   On   March 20, 2018 at 3:44 pm

      I just listened! The song was maybe 3/4 of the way through, and I was thinking, “Are there horns in this? Maybe there are no horns and he was just confused?” And then the trumpet solo came in, so clear and bright, and the song just exploded. Thanks so much for the recommendation! I love hearing new music.

  2. Aaron   On   July 13, 2018 at 8:30 am

    Late to the party here – but Manana by Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers and My Guardian Angel by The Pistoleros.

  3. Martin   On   July 17, 2018 at 6:06 am

    “Vehicle”, the powerful hit by The Ides of March is definitely worthy of anyone’s list. Give a listen and I think you’ll agree!

  4. David D Chapman   On   August 15, 2018 at 5:53 am

    Solitary Man by Neil Diamond and Sargent Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band by The Beatles both use the French Horn beautifully!

  5. Todd Walsh   On   December 21, 2018 at 6:11 pm

    Oh my! Good stuff, but I’m stunned that “Talk To Me” by southside Johnny is not on here???? For me, one of the greatest songs of all time. Amazing beat, trumpets, drums, words, fun, upbeat, etc.

  6. J Hartman   On   May 2, 2019 at 10:34 pm

    Sussudio – Phil Collins, Blue Light – David Gilmour, I’m the Man – Buck O Nine (Joe Jackson cover), Love Her Madly (Cake, and others by Cake)

  7. Bradley R Kroeker   On   July 31, 2019 at 3:48 pm

    Are you kidding me? Chase’s “Open Up Wide” can’t be touched by anyone alive or dead.
    You can talk about Hubbard, Fergusen, Sevrinsen, anyone with that kind of chops.
    No one could come close.

  8. Stephen Grant   On   August 17, 2021 at 7:28 pm

    Still taking suggestions?
    Almost anything of course by Blood Sweat and Tears (but especially God Bless the Child)
    Or Chicago (Does Anybody Really Know What Time it is?).
    Or EW&F (September).
    But for some lesser known selections, try:
    Jennifer Warnes – Shine a Light (a Rolling Stones cover)
    White Trash – Where Would I Be
    Van Morrison – Real Real Gone, or Into the Mystic
    Steely Dan – Deacon Blues
    Downchild Blues Band – Flip Flop & Fly

    There’s almost a whole other hour of music!

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