'You've Got to Hide Your Love Away'
John Lennon wanted to write something that sounded like Bob Dylan, and he succeeded with 'You've Got to Hide Your Love Away.' This folksy tune from the 'Help!' soundtrack features a stripped-down arrangement with prominent acoustic guitar, along with tambourine and flute, and showcases Lennon's unusually rustic vocals. The Beach Boys, Oasis and, more recently, Eddie Vedder have recorded versions of this song.
Stevie Nicks wrote Fleetwood Mac's 1975 hit 'Landslide' before joining the band, when she and guitarist boyfriend Lindsey Buckingham were in Aspen, Colo. Nicks, doing some self-reflection about whether to continue in music and stay with Buckingham, wrote the song in about five minutes. Three months later, she and Buckingham were asked to join Fleetwood Mac, and 'Landslide' was featured on the 1975 eponymous album.
One of the best acoustic songs of the '80s, 'Patience' was a shocking change of pace for the normally hard-rock GN'R, with Axl Rose delivering the song's sensitive lyrics and providing one of the more memorable whistling solos in popular music. Though many accept the song to be about Axl and now ex-wife Erin Everly, 'Patience' was written by guitarist Izzy Stradlin.
"See if you can spot this one," Eric Clapton teases at the start of the 1992 live recording of 'Layla,' despite that it took the audience no more than a few notes to recognize the song's signature guitar riff. Clapton's updated version of his 1970 Derek & the Dominos hit helped his acoustic album become one of the most successful of the MTV Unplugged series.
'Going to California'
Robert Plant and Jimmy Page supposedly wrote the folkish 'Going to California' partly about Joni Mitchell, who was often cited as the inspiration for the lines, "To find a Queen without a King/They say she plays guitar and cries, and sings." The song appeared on 1971's 'Led Zeppelin IV,' an album universally praised as one of the best rock albums ever.
The Rolling Stones joined the acoustic bandwagon with 1995's 'Stripped,' which showcased both live and studio rerecordings of some of their biggest hits. The record includes an acoustic rendition of 'Wild Horses,' one of the group's most popular ballads. The new, quieter version features roughly the same arrangement as the original, minus the bluesy electric guitar solo, allowing the emotional, harmonized lyrics to stand out even more.
On 'Redemption Song,' Bob Marley eschewed the jubilant, upbeat melodies of his work and ended up with a much bigger artistic achievement. Marley wrote the song while coming to terms with his diagnosis of cancer, which would later prove fatal. Its somber tone didn't stop it from becoming an anthem of liberation, with Marley singing, "Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery."
'Knockin' on Heaven's Door'
Dylan wrote 'Knockin' on Heaven's Door' for the 1973 movie 'Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid,' which Dylan himself appeared in. The acoustic song appears in the film alongside a moving scene in which a sheriff realizes he is about to die. Hitting No. 12 on the pop chart, the song became Dylan's biggest hit in four years, becoming one of the most-covered songs of all time.
When the Eagles reunited in 1994, it was obvious they had to perform their smash hit 'Hotel California' as part of their MTV concert special. The new live version had an entirely different feel, with percussion replacing drums and acoustic guitars taking over the legendary solo at the end of the song. The performance was a masterful reinterpretation of a classic.
'Wish You Were Here'
"We're just two lost souls swimming in a fish bowl," sang David Gilmour on 'Wish You Were Here,' the title track from Pink Floyd's 1975 album, written in part about the breakdown of former member Syd Barrett. Its bittersweet lyrics, interplay between multiple acoustic guitars and its legacy (as one of Pink Floyd's greatest) make 'Wish You Were Here' arguably the best acoustic song in rock music.