World Changing Four Chord Songs


By PAUL BOTHNER MUSIC | April 19, 2017
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Have you ever wondered whether you have what it takes to write a song that could change the world?

If you would like to download the PDF Chord charts for the Influential Four Chord Songs there will be a link below each song. Alternatively, send the Gryphon Music Academy  a mail and they’ll send you the song pack via email.

Do you feel as though before you can change the world, you need to develop your musical chops? What if I told you that you only need four chords? To prove my point, I’ve put together a list of the most influential four chord songs.

An Exercise in Splendid Simplicity

Yes, you read that properly! You only need four chords! But, there’s a catch...

You need to have something worth saying. But, if your message is solid, your song can become an anthem! From writers like Bob Dylan to the Beatles, there are simple four chord songs everywhere!

There are musicians out there who disagree with this sentiment. They would argue that complex music can convey more complex emotions. And in this regard they are right. But, it’s a mistake to dismiss simple music.

When writing, don’t fall into the trap of thinking that complex music is better. Learn to master simple harmonic progression, learn how chords interact, and then you can start to write more complex ideas.

influential Four Chord Songs

What if you’re not interested in writing songs?

As a beginner guitarist, learning these simple four chord songs will help you improve your playing. As an experienced player, learning these songs will improve your repertoire and perhaps unlock new harmonic ideas.

So, what makes a song influential?

For this list, I’m looking as songs that propelled a band to the next level, had a political impact or impact on society, started a genre or has been covered a lot since its publication. Some of these songs changed the world, others just made the world a slightly better place.

Most influential Four Chord Songs

1) The Beatles – I Wanna Hold Your Hand

By the time that The Beatles released ”I Wanna Hold Your Hand”, they were already an immensely popular band. On the day that I Wanna Hold Your Hand was released, the Beatles already had “She Loves You” at the number one spot on the British Bill Board.

Two weeks after I Wanna Hold You Hand was released, it finally overtook “She Loves You” for the number one spot. It then went on to spend another 21 weeks in the British top 50.

What really sets this song apart though, is the fact that is was the first Beatles song to make it onto the American charts. By February 1st the song held the number one slot in the American charts and paved the way for the British music invasion into the States.

In 2013 Billboard named the song the 44th biggest hit of “all-time”.

Want to download the PDF version of the chord chart? Click [here]

2) Edwin Starr – War


It can come as no surprise that War made it onto the list of Influential Four Chord Songs. War was the first Motown song to make a political statement. The song was originally recorded with the Temptations, but was later recorded was a single by Edwin Starr.

The lyrics, “War. What is it good for? Absolutely nothing!” still resonate in the hearts and minds of people across generations. This protest song made anti-war anthem history.

Want to download the PDF version of the chord chart? Click [here]

3) Nirvana –  Smells Like Teen Spirit


In early 1992, Smells Like Teen Spirit shot to the top of the mainstream music charts. Moreover, this moment is often regarded as the moment rock entered the mainstream.

Grunge was still in its early days, but after Smells Like Teen Spirit hit the charts it grew in popularity. It became so big that Grunge became the sound of the 90’s. Even kids cartoon intro’s were becoming more rock orientated.

Want to download the PDF version of the chord chart? Click [here]

4) Elvis –  Jailhouse Rock 


Elvis was the King! He has influenced Rock music in a way that very few people could ever achieve. He was good looking, had a great voice and a Bad Boy image. The number of Elvis impersonators in the world is the only clue you need that the King was loved and still is today. A few of his songs could make the Influential Four Chord Songs list, but Jailhouse Rock is definitely the top.

Jailhouse Rock is one of the Kings greatest achievements. It is one of the top selling Elvis songs of all time and was voted by Rolling Stone to be one of the most influential rock songs of all time.

Want to download the PDF version of the chord chart? Click [here]

5) Green Day – American Idiot


American Idiot is a great example of most influential four chord songs. When this song first came out, all my mates started playing it. It was simple and fun to play. When I started teaching in 2007, people were still asking to learn it.

And in 2017, students still ask to learn this song. It is all about calling the media out for the way they covered Iraq War. The world over, teens came to music because of this song.

Want to download the PDF version of the chord chart? Click [here]

6) Bob Marley – Redemption Song


Redemption Song is considered by many to be Marley’s greatest work. Some key lyrics were derived from a speech given by the Pan-Africanist orator Marcus Garvey, entitled “The Work That Has Been Done”.

The song reached the 66th slot in the Rolling Stone The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.

Want to download the PDF version of the chord chart? Click [here]

7) Curtis Mayfield – People Get Ready

People Get Ready has been named the 24th greatest song by the Rolling Stone The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. In addition, it made the list of 100 Greatest Guitar tracks and was entered into the Rock and Roll Hall of fame, as one of the 500 songs that shaped Rock and Roll.

Furthermore, it was named as one of the Top 10 Best Songs of all time by Mojo Music Magazine, and was entered into the Grammy Hall of Fame,

In 2016, People Get Ready was selected for preservation in the National Recording Registry due to its “cultural, historic, or artistic significance”.

Want to download the PDF version of the chord chart? Click [here]

8) Billie Holiday – Strange Fruit


Strange Fruit was a song in protest about racism in America. Moreover, the song has gone on to inspire novels, poems and other creative works.

Not only that, the song is still being covered today. It has been covered in the past by Nina Simone, UB40 and Annie Lennox.

The original song was entered into the Grammy Hall of Fame and has also been included in the list of Songs of the Century. This is determined by the Recording Industry of America and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Want to download the PDF version of the chord chart? Click [here]

9) Bob Dylan – Knocking on Heaven’s Door


Knocking on Heaven’s Door can best be described as an exercise in splendid simplicity. A simple strumming pattern with just four open chords. And, in addition, this song is beautiful to listen to and easy to play.

This is by far one of Bob Dylan’s most covered songs. Just about everyone and their mum ends up learning to play this song at some. To put it another way, each generation remembers a different version of this song. Whether it be the Dylan version or the Guns n Roses version, or one of many others.  This is the perfect example of a simple song that can influence the world.

Want to download the PDF version of the chord chart? Click [here]

10) Macklemore & Ryan Lewis ft. Mary Lambert – Same Love


During every struggle, there is music. Whether they be songs of protest or anthems of the people, music has always been the collective voice of people.

The LGBT community has been in the spotlight a lot in the past decade, with more and more Countries recognizing their rights. This has been a contentious issue for many people.

Same Love will always be the song that joined together a community before same sex marriage was legalized in Washington.

Want to download the PDF version of the chord chart? Click [here]

In Conclusion

This is my list of Most influential Four Chord Songs of all time. Yes, there are other influential four chord songs in the world. There are some that didn’t make it on the list. That isn’t to say that they were bad songs, but, rather they did not fully fit the theme.

These songs are simple to learn. Furthermore,  with just a little practice you can master them in no time. Some people master new songs easily. However, there are many who don’t. Are you someone who struggles to learn new songs or chords? Here are some tips:

  • Listen to the song. Listen to it until you know how it sounds in you head. Only then will you be able to figure it out
  • Strum once every time there is a chord change. This will train your ear and help you find the rhythm. If you struggle with this, just keep at it. It gets easier in time.
  • Learn the lyrics, and strum once when you get to a chord change. From there, make up a strumming pattern that fits in the timing. Most of the time you don’t need to get the exact strumming pattern. A simple analog will be enough.
  • If you really still struggle, perhaps book a few lessons. A teacher can help you to learn how to figure out rhythms in chord songs. And, once you know how to do it, it’ll always be easier from there.

If you feel as though I’ve committed a huge crime against music, and left one of your favourite songs off this list, then please tell me about it in the comments below.

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