My Top 10 Favorite Saxophone Songs

I realize that the sax went out of style in 1989…and I’m okay with that. You don’t hear too many bands with a horn section anymore. But there are a few, such as The National and Spoon, who use a horn section and a few bands who still implement the sax here & there. So…I figured I’d present my Top 10 favorite songs that include the coolest, uncool instrument out there…

10. Al Stewart – “Time Passages/Year Of The Cat”
Oh…I know…that’s 2 songs! That’s cheating! But not really. If you think about it, the sax in both is eerily similiar and I love both songs equally. They both clock in over 6 minutes, both have a sax solo in the middle and both are the title track of each album from which they were released. Basically…they’re the same freakin’ song! But Al managed to sell them as 2…so I am saying BOTH belong here!

9. Violent Femmes – “I Held Her In My Arms”
Quirky isn’t exactly how I would describe this band. Everyone knows “Blister In The Sun”, but this track from 1986 is one of their best and the sax really kicks it up a notch!

8. The English Beat – “Mirror In The Bathroom”
With its bouncy beat and the catchy rhythm, I can’t NOT bop my head anytime I hear this little ditty.

7. Michael Stanley Band – “Someone Like You”
For the opening alone, this song belongs here. Seriously, the first 30 seconds reminds me why I love this instrument so much. It sounds like a heart yearning for love. It’s THAT good!

6. Oingo Boingo – “Dead Man’s Party”
Ok…if you are ever at a party at MY house, and this song isn’t playing at some point, you are allowed to kick me in the head as hard as you want. Because it is NOT a party until some Boingo has been played. It’s inevitable. And the sax in this song kicks butt. And it’s not just the sax…but the entire horn section that is just cool.

5. Eddie Money – “I Wanna Go Back”
Remember THIS little tune from a guy who could have been bigger if Huey Lewis hadn’t stolen his thunder? Okay…that might be a stretch, but I love so many of Eddie’s songs and no one ever plays them anymore? But I hear plenty of Huey Lewis on the radio. WTF?!? Whatever, this tune has a great sax intro and then it reappears at the end. LOVE it!

4. Bruce Springsteen – “Born To Run”
Oh Clarence. Where would the sax be without you? I mean, you could take just about ANY pop song, have Clarence blow on his wonderful sax and it would make the song 10 times better! And then you stick him with The Boss and you really can’t go wrong. So many songs to choose from, but I choose the signature song simply because his sax is the heartbeat of Bruce’s amazing tune.

3. Morphine – “Whisper”
This band was never gonna be huge. They weren’t built that way. 3 guys. That was it. And 1 of ‘em played sax. They played what some called “low rock”. It’s as underground sounding as any music I’ve ever listened to and, if lead singer Mark Sandman (it’s even a cool name for a lead singer!) hadn’t died of a heart attack in 1999, this band would still be playing in smoky bars all across the world! This track is amazing! But it’s only one in a whole listing of great songs by Morphine.

2. R.E.M. – “Fireplace”
Not a band to use the sax, Michael Stipe & Company surprised everyone (and by everyone, I mean me) with this gem on their awesome album, “Document”. Quite possibly my all-time favorite REM track, and it IS because of the sax.

1. Gerry Rafferty – “Baker Street”
Think about it. If you are thinking “sax song”, where does YOUR mind drift? Seriously, the sax at the end of this song is so prolific in my mind, that it might very well be the reason I love the instrument so much. Just a little sidenote…according to Wikipedia, this song inspired a resurgence of saxophone use in music and commercials known as “The Baker Street Phenomenon” in 1978. Sax sales also jumped and the song itself went to #2 in the U.S. Soooo…some might consider this to be a one-hit wonder from the 70’s. I consider it to be a classic song that has always been an important part of my musical growth! Plus….it was covered by the Foo Fighters. And that automatically makes it cool…

Honorable Mention & late additions from readers….

Wham – “Careless Whisper”
Pink Floyd – “Us & Them”
Dire Straits – “Your Latest Trick”
Sade – “Is It A Crime”, “Smooth Operator”
Paul McCartney – “Silly Love Songs”
Skipper Wise – “Standing Outside In The Rain”
Breathe – “Hands To Heaven”
Bob Marley – “Roots, Rock & Reggae”
Kenny Loggins – “Danger Zone”
Ian Gomm – “Hold On”
Collective Soul – “Better Now”
OMD – “So In Love”
Billy Idol – “Catch My Fall”
All my life – Phil Collins
Sad Cafe – The Eagles
Bad to the bone – George Thorogood
Die Trying – Dave Matthews Band
Crack in time – Calvin Harris
River of time – van Morrison
You aint smiling – Audience
House on the hill – Audience
Inside Out – Pink Floyd
The Edge Of Glory – Lady Gaga
Last Friday Night – Katy Perry
Time – Culture Club

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72 Comments

  1. The sax is where it’s at. What other instrument is so simultaneously sexy and evocative of ugly sweaters? None.

    I would add “On Every Street” by Dire Straits (aka Best Song of All Time For a Number of Reasons of Which the Sax is One), but I see you mentioned “Your Latest Trick” at the end which is probably the more reasonable choice, so that’s cool.

    Honestly, I personally prefer “Your Latest Trick”, but not for the sax. I love the end of the song where Knopfler jams on his guitar for 45 seconds. So awesome…

  2. Thanks for the comments! And thanks so much for linking me!! Seriously, I’m always so stoked to find out that my readership has grown by, like, one. It’s kind of sad.

    Your Lady Gaga article is great, particularly the sentence: “If you are Bob Dylan, you can talk about the importance of your music.” All I can say is: WORD. I seriously doubt I’ll receive half the disparaging remarks you did, but thanks for the heads up. Anyway if that many people commented on my blog I would be too thrilled to remember to be concerned! I’m working on a Gaga-friendly post right now, though, so hopefully that’ll help win back my legions of fans (ha, ha).

  3. I would have to agree with what you put for Number One I only listen to that song fir the saxophone if it wasnt for the sax that song wouldnt be what it is.

    By the way are there any full on band that use sax that you would reccomend?

    Well…I dig Morphine. But ever since the lead singer passed away, I can’t say that there is a sax driven rock band that I know of. But there are a slew of good jazz saxophonists out there…

  4. How dare you create such a list and leave out Candy Dulfer – Lilly Was Here. I don’t think anything else tops the solo.

  5. You MUST not forget (Eagles – In a New York Minute) and (Bob Seger – Turn the Page) Coolest Songs ever. I would give anything to learn the sax; I think it is the sexist instrument EVER!!!!

  6. We can’t leave out “Will You” by Hazel Oconner, alto sax played by Wesley Magoogan, absolute brill, and see it played by Rodger Smith on youtube, yet another fabulous sax player.

  7. where’s george michael’s song???!!!

    Uh…which one? Careless Whisper? Sure…that could go on the list, I guess…

  8. Dude,
    In Baker Street, the sax solo is played by Raphael Ravenscroft!
    Only the vocals are by Gerry Raffferty!

  9. Great list. I recently made my compilation of the best SAX TRAX and here are
    one’s missing from your list.

    1. All my life – Phil Collins
    2. Sad Cafe – The Eagles
    3. Bad to the bone – George Thorogood
    4. Die Trying – Dave Matthews Band
    5. Crack in time – Calvin Harris
    6. River of time – van Morrison
    7.You aint smiling – Audience
    8. House on the hill – Audience
    9. Inside Out – Pink Floyd

  10. No one mentioned Jr. Walker and the All Stars 1969 hit “What does it Take?”

  11. Nobody mentions my favourite, ‘Lily was here’, by Candy Dulfer. She’s awesome, the song even more.

    • Agreed, ‘Lily was here’ must be on the honorable mentions list at least. Another great one that pops immediately is Vangelis – Love Theme from Blade Runner.

      • You are absolutely correct! I totally forgot about Vangelis’ Love Theme. It’s featured at the end of the movie and is AMAZING! Thank you! :-)

  12. One of my favorite songs with a saxophone is “Wearing the Inside Out” by Pink Floyd one of my all time favorites.

  13. If you love the sax have a listen to Black Treble White Bass by Sgt Slick. This song goes off!

  14. Vangelis – Sweet Solitude…………comes in a lil after 2 minutes i think but worth it.

  15. Careless Whisper???

    THAT WAS LIKE, THE BEST OF ALL TIME!!!

    And not EVEN AN HONORABLE MENTION??????

  16. Mark Knopfler – Going Home … most epic sax song ever IMO. Brilliant!

  17. I love baker street. I’m only 24 but I love to hear that sax. It sends chills down my spine. I don’t see any on this list, but Dave Matthews band is what really got me into loving the use of a thousand instruments in one song. That Jeff coffin guy omg. Very impressive.

  18. I love jr walkers sax in Quarter to Three by Gary US Bonds, in Glen Freys, You Belong to the City and The One You Love. Also in Year of the Cat, but…when I hear Clarence Clemons sax in Jungleland, it literally moves me to almost cry (lol I don’t know why, but it’s awesome :)

  19. Go listen to Can’t You Hear Me Knocking by the Rolling Stones, and you’ll forget about all of the other songs mentioned on this list.

    • Awesome selection! And at over 7 minutes long, you DEFINITELY get your money’s worth!

  20. Sorry to burst in here – hope I have a correct forum to ask this! I’m trying to find a song from the late 80’s, 99% it was a saxophone on the lead as it was purely an instrumental hit.

    I have no more details than that I’m afraid, just hoping it rings any bells with someone here! Great tune – just need to find it!!!

    Thanks in advance,

    Matt

    • Gonna go out on a limb and say it’s probably Candy Dulfer’s “Lilly Was Here.” But I could be wrong…

  21. Thanks for helping Alan, unfortunately it’s not that song!

    It’s a much slower song, ballad-esque rhythm.

    Thanks again

  22. Sorry Alan, ain’t that either! May have just been a UK hit to be honest – very frustrating! :)

    • Matt, dunno if it’s this, and it’s hard to find though it is on Amazon on the album Electric Moods. The track is Bladerunner by Harry Ford. A beautiful piece of music.

      • Ignore that, same as Vangelis that’s already been mentioned!

  23. hi guys i am looking for some great sax tracks to put in my cabaret show( have a singer who can sing anything) any suggestions?? ps thanks for reminding me about vangelis!!

  24. sorry forgot to mention i need suggestions that the average “punter” will know!! if it was up to me i would play audience , candy d and mezzoforte all day long…. talking of which.. could the 80’s instrumental track matthew is looking for be garden party by mezzoforte? they were a european band

  25. My favourite is probably Shine on you crazy diamond – Pink Floyd

  26. Oh my, you’ve accidentally left ‘Never Tear Us Apart’ by INXS off your list. It’s first of my all time great sax songs :)

  27. Hey awesome list, but I got one you probably never heard of. Flow by DubFx ft. Mr Woodnote.

  28. Been feeling Saxy this morning & found your site.. my two top faves from the eighties are The Cure ‘Night like this’ and Tears for Fears ‘Working hour’ – corking tunes

  29. I agree that Rafferty’s Baker Street has to be in there near the top and I like your Springsteen inclusion as well. For my list, the soulfull moaning saxish sounds on Traffic’s “Low Spark Of High Heeled Boys” is easily the number one in my list.

  30. Baker street is a classic!
    I remember back in the good old days when you could see live music and especially sax players on TV all the time. It had a great influence on me picking up the sax over 25 years ago. I love it!

    I ‘ll go with the Pink Floyd songs too as I’ve had the chance to play their music with a great tribute band a while back.

  31. Lou Reed – Take a walk on the wild side
    and then he was a she…

  32. This is actually a really tasteful list (not like the usual crap. Nice wan puttin Morphine in there)! Was looking for more crowd pleasers for gigs and you really helped out.

    • Awesome list! I admittedly have not heard quite a few of these so I went to check them out! I liked Portico Quartet. I’m gonna have to invest some time for them. I had never heard of Charles Mingus either. Average White Band is a classic but not one of my favorites. I guess you could probably compare my love for “Baker Street” to your love for that song? LOL! Thin Lizzy’s “Dancin'” is a classic that I had completely forgotten! We completely agree with English Beat and Clarence Clemons’ influence in Springsteen’s songs. And Morphine is possibly the greatest alternative band that never hit it big. LOVE their music and listen to “Yes” often! Dude…make it so we can comment on your site! I’ll bookmark you and check it out more often!

  33. Good site,enjoyed looking for the ones id forgotten . A couple of oldie pop containing sax from this side of the pond. Apologies if they have already been mentioned. Joe le Taxi by venessa paradis and Unchain my Heart by Joe Cocker and if you wanna go that far, Madness with Night boat to cairo and One step Beyond.

  34. Mr. Saxobeat?
    Let me clear my throat?
    E- by drunkenmunky?

  35. I’m not sure if I missed anyone’s comment regarding this song but if we’re going to mention any Pink Floyd songs at all we most definitely can’t leave out “Money” from Dark Side of the Moon. It’s got to be one of their most recognizable song pre-80’s. It contains a great sax solo which leads right into a tremendous guitar solo, and most of the song is in 7/4 time, making it a bit unique!

  36. How come that Enlgishman in New York isn’t one of your top 10 that song is just perfect and made a perfect use of the saxofon.

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