The future of music

45 Best Saxophone Songs of All Time (Greatest Sax Hits) 

December 5, 2023
Best saxophone songs

I’ve compiled a selection of the best saxophone songs, showcasing the instrument’s rich, soulful sound that has enchanted music lovers for decades.

This article is your gateway to experiencing the profound emotional depth and versatility of the saxophone in music.

Table of Contents

Top picks of saxophone songs

  • “Careless Whisper” by George Michael
  • “Brown Sugar” by The Rolling Stones
  • “Thrift Shop” by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis
  • “Young Americans” by David Bowie
  • “Moanin’” by Charles Mingus
  • “Smooth Operator” by Sade
  • “Midnight City” by M83
  • “Moondance” by Van Morrison
  • “I Will Always Love You” by Whitney Houston
  • “Baker Street” by Gerry Rafferty

1. “Careless Whisper” by George Michael 

Let’s start with one of the greatest saxophone songs in music history.

Whether you like “Careless Whisper” or not, you probably know the song’s saxophone riff by heart.

George Michael released it in 1984, and the song quickly achieved global success and reached number one in nearly 25 countries.

In one of the interviews, the iconic singer said he based the song on events from his childhood.

He also said that he remembers exactly when he got the idea for the iconic sax riff – when he was handing the money to a bus driver before heading to Bel Air. 

2. “Brown Sugar” by The Rolling Stones

But the saxophone isn’t used only in smooth ballads and jazzy classics.

You can also hear it in rock hits like “Brown Sugar” by The Rolling Stones.

Although it seems like the sax doesn’t take center stage here, it’s hard to imagine the song without it.

“Brown Sugar” was written by Mick Jagger and released as an opening track and lead single for their album “Sticky Fingers” in 1971. 

3. “Thrift Shop” by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis 

Another popular song with sax is “Thrift Shop” by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis.

It’s one of the songs where the sax is essential – and where it works perfectly.

“Thrift Shop” was a huge hit when it came out, and it can still often be heard on the radio and club playlists.

That comes as no surprise since the song is extremely catchy and uplifting. 

Plus, Macklemore’s rapping is always on point. 

4. “Young Americans” by David Bowie 

“Young Americans” is a rock classic recognizable by the saxophone intro.

The song is taken from Bowie’s album of the same name and it’s arguably one of his biggest hits.

The whole album marked Bowie’s dive into soul music.

And although “Young Americans” doesn’t sound like a typical soul track, the backing vocals and David Sanborn’s sax solo definitely make it soulful.

5. “Moanin’” by Charles Mingus 

Charles Mingus was one of the most innovative and prominent jazz musicians and composers.

And his performance of “Moanin’” has one of the most iconic sax riffs of all time.

This jazz standard has been performed and interpreted in many ways, but there’s something about Charles Mingus’ version that makes it stand out.

Perhaps it’s the way the baritone sax takes over the melody.

6. “Smooth Operator” by Sade 

There’s no doubt about it: “Smooth Operator” would be a completely different song if it had no saxophone in it.

As the song’s title suggests, the song is very smooth, romantic, and easy-going.

And it’s one of Sade’s signature songs.

It was first released in 1984, on Sade’s debut album “Diamond Life”, and it eventually became one of the most recognizable songs of the 80s.

7. “Midnight City” by M83

“Midnight City” is an upbeat and dreamy electro pop song released in 2011. 

It was recorded by French electronic band M83, but it achieved international success.

In fact, “Midnight City” was hailed as one of the best songs of 2011.

This song is also proof that the saxophone can fit any kind of music genre or style, including electropop and synth-pop.

8. “Moondance” by Van Morrison

Van Morrison is widely regarded as one of the best musicians of all time.

His career spans over seven decades, and that’s quite impressive. 

When thinking about Van Morrison’s greatest hits, “Moondance” immediately comes to mind.

It’s a remarkable song characterized by smooth sax sounds and easy-going melodies. 

After all, besides being a singer and songwriter, Van Morrison has always been a talented sax player.

9. “I Will Always Love You” by Whitney Houston 

“I Will Always Love You” is hands down one of the most popular love songs of all time

It’s a timeless classic and Whitney Houston’s signature song, even though it was originally written and recorded by Dolly Parton in 1973. 

Apart from Whitney’s incredible vocals, the song is characterized by smooth sax lines.

A saxophonist Kirk Whalum evidently contributed to the song in the best way possible. 

He also toured with Whitney Houston for more than seven years and played sax solos during the song. 

10. “Baker Street” by Gerry Rafferty

“Baker Street” is arguably one of the most popular saxophone songs ever.

If you don’t know it by name, you’ll recognize the iconic saxophone riff right away.

The song was written and recorded by Gerry Rafferty, a Scottish singer and songwriter who was a founding member of Stealers Wheel.

Although he achieved international success with Stealers Wheel, he also recorded several solo hits, including the popular saxo song “Baker Street.” 

11. “Donna Lee” by Charlie Parker 

Of course, the saxophone is mostly associated with jazz music.

And “Donna Lee” is a famous jazz song composed by saxophonist and composer Charlie Parker, with claimed authorship by Miles Davis. 

Charlie Parker was a leading figure in the development of bebop, a style of jazz characterized by instrumental virtuosity and rapid chord changes.

Parker was primarily a player of alto saxophone, and “Donna Lee” is only one of the examples of his unforgettable playing skills and creativity. 

12. “Walk on the Wild Side” by Lou Reed

“Walk On The Wild Side” is without a doubt one of the best rock songs of all time

It’s Lou Reed’s signature song characterized by easy-going melodies, Reed’s distinctive vocals, and a sax solo.

It was released on “Transformer”, Lou Reed’s second solo album produced by David Bowie and Mick Ronson.

The baritone saxophone solo in “Walk On The Wild Side” is performed by Ronnie Ross; by the way, he also taught David Bowie how to play saxophone.

13. “Money” by Pink Floyd 

“Money” is taken from Pink Floyd’s iconic rock album “The Dark Side Of The Moon.”

It was written by Roger Waters, and became the band’s first hit in the US.

In essence, it’s a somewhat angsty song based on anti-establishment ideas, and the sax solo somehow fits perfectly.

The solo part of the song was played by an English saxophonist Dick Parry, who also contributed to other Pink Floyd songs like “Shine On You Crazy Diamond” and “Us and Them.” 

14. “Who Can It Be Now?” by Men At Work 

“Who Can It Be Now?” is one of the great songs with saxophone that will remind you of some other music eras.

This Men At Work classic was released in 1981, and became the band’s best-known song.

While recording the song, the producer Peter McClan told the band’s member Greg Ham to play something on the sax to get the sound.

In the end, Ham’s sax improvisation was used as the solo in the song. 

15. “Alright” by Kendrick Lamar

Yes, the saxophone can also sound great in rap and hip hop music.

In his 2015 track “Alright”, Kendrick Lamar combines saxophones in instrumental breaks.

But the song also features saxophone licks as the background of Lamar’s verses.

Lyrically, “Alright” is about personal struggles and ideas of hope, and the song’s chorus was chanted in Black Lives Matter protests several times.

All in all, it’s a powerful song, both musically and lyrically – so it’s no wonder that it was proclaimed the best song of the year by many publications.

16. “Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.)” by Katy Perry 

“Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.)” was a huge hit when it came out. 

It’s positive, youthful, and uplifting, and it’s a perfect tune for getting ready for a night out – especially because it will remind you to take it easy.

Nevertheless, this pop hit wouldn’t be the same without its sax solo.

Moreover, the music video features the appearance of Kenny G, a famous smooth jazz saxophonist.

Although Kenny G doesn’t play the sax in the recording, it’s nice to see him in the video. 

17. “The Edge Of Glory” by Lady Gaga 

Another famous pop song with saxophone is “The Edge Of Glory” by Lady Gaga.

The song is taken from Lady Gaga’s amazing studio album “Born This Way.” 

In short, it’s an upbeat, energetic track with the lyrics that revolve around the last moments of life.

The song genuinely sounds like a celebration of life, and saxophone lines complement it perfectly.

The sax in the song was played by Clarence Clemons from The E Street Band. 

18. “Sir Duke” by Stevie Wonder 

“Sir Duke” is a famous pop-funk song composed by Stevie Wonder, a true living legend. 

This is hands down one of the best sax songs out there.

Besides saxophone licks, the song also features trumpets and a beat that can be associated both with funk and jazz.

After all, Stevie Wonder wrote the song as a tribute to Duke Ellington, a jazz icon who changed the history of jazz music.

So in a way, “Sir Duke” is a celebration of jazz music.

19. “Born to Run” by Bruce Springsteen 

Although the saxophone in “Born To Run” isn’t the most important instrument in the song, it’s certainly hard to imagine that middle part without it.

The sax solo was played by Clarence Clemons.

Either way, the song deserves a spot on this list of the top songs with saxophone.

After all, “Born To Run” is an American anthem and one of the greatest rock songs of all time.

20. “I Can’t Go For That (No Can Do)” by Daryl Hall & John Oates

“I Can’t Go For That (No Can Do)” is a catchy 80s song with saxophone.

In terms of radio play, it’s one of the most successful songs of all time.

After all, Hall and Oates were a big hit back then.

Plus, the song became even more popular after Simply Red used the sample in their hit song “Sunrise.” 

21. “Too Hot” by Kool & The Gang 

In 1979, R&B funk group Kool & The Gang decided to go for a smooth, soulful tune.

And with “Too Hot”, they managed to dive into a sensitive and romantic soul style.

After all, including the saxophone to do that is always a safe choice.

“Too Hot” also attracted attention from the rapper Coolio who covered the song for his second studio album, “Gangsta’s Paradise.”

22. “Here’s That Rainy Day” by Stan Getz 

Stan Getz’s rendition of “Here’s That Rainy Day” sounds very smooth and calming.

It’s a famous sax song first recorded in the 1950s.

Many artists performed the song over the years, including Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald. 

So if you need a relaxing soundtrack for a rainy day, you can’t go wrong with this soothing saxophone classic. 

23. “Modern Love” by David Bowie 

And if you need something to cheer you up, listening to Bowie and “Modern Love” is always a good idea.

The song is taken from David Bowie’s iconic rock album “Let’s Dance”, released in 1983.

Needless to say, the song is an absolute delight, and the sound of the saxophone complements it perfectly.

Even Tony Visconti, Bowie’s longtime producer, admitted he thinks  “Modern Love” is the best song on the album.

24. “Deacon Blues” by Steely Dan

A song that frequently appears on the top saxophone songs lists is “Deacon Blues” by Steely Dan.

It’s a somewhat eclectic song, especially because of the song’s title which was inspired by football player Deacon Jones.

Nevertheless, the song is cool and catchy, and it has a fantastic saxophone solo.

Plus, we can hear a little David Bowie vibe in it.

25. “Just The Two Of Us” by Grover Washington ft. Bill Withers 

“Just The Two Of Us” is one of those joyful songs that will undoubtedly brighten your day.

But it’s also very relaxing, and that brilliant saxophone part also makes it smooth.

Lyrically, it’s a song about love and devotion, and the fact that you can do anything if you put your mind to it – or if you try.

All in all, we’re talking about an 80s classic and one of the most famous songs with saxophone.

26. “Urgent” by Foreigner 

Foreigner’s “Urgent” is characterized by funky vibes, powerful vocals, and an amazing sax solo.

The saxophone in the song was played by Motown artist Junior Walker.

The song was released in 1981, and many publications proclaimed it Foreigner’s all-time greatest song.

Whether you agree or not, the power (and coolness) of the sax in the song is undeniable.

27. “Only The Good Die Young” by Billy Joel 

“Only The Good Die Young” is a familiar, cheerful song with saxophone in it.

Billy Joel was inspired by his high school crush named Virginia Callahan, and you can hear that in the song’s youthful vibe.

The sax part of the song was played by Richie Cannata, an American saxophonist, producer, and studio owner.

28. “Autumn Leaves” by Nat King Cole

And if you’re taking saxophone lessons and you want to expand your repertoire, learning jazz standards is always a great idea.

“Autumn Leaves” is an ultimate classic, and it’s an easy song to play on saxophone, even if you’re a beginner. 

The song was composed by Joseph Kosma and it features lyrics by the French poet, Jacques Prevert. 

It has been covered by many artists throughout the years, but it’s still mostly associated with an American jazz icon Nat King Cole.

29. “Brass Monkey” by Beastie Boys

Many top sax songs lists include “Brass Monkey” by Beastie Boys to show how versatile saxophone actually is.

This quirky hip hop tune was a hit in the 80s; maybe it wasn’t in the top 10, but it was a part of countless party playlists.

Nevertheless, although it might be unexpected, the saxophone plays an important role in this song.

30. “Songbird” by Kenny G 

If you like slow and sentimental saxophone songs, this one’s for you.

“Songbird” by Kenny G has a great saxophone hook, and it’s generally one of the most famous instrumentals.

In 1987, the song became the first instrumental to reach the top 5 of the Billboard Hot 100 chart (since the ‘Miami Vice Theme’ in 1985.)

So the song is fully focused on the saxophone and Kenny G’s distinctive playing style.

31. “Caribbean Queen (No More Love On The Run)” by Billy Ocean 

“Caribbean Queen” is a typical 80s pop song – you can just feel it in the sound. 

Apart from that iconic 80s vibe, the song is characterized by Billy Ocean’s outstanding vocal performance as well as a bluesy sax solo.

The saxophone solo was played by Vernon Jeffrey Smith, an American saxophonist, producer, and vocalist.

32. “Just Friends” by Charlie Parker 

Another Charlie Parker’s performance worth mentioning is his rendition of “Just Friends”, a beloved jazz standard.

The song was written in 1931 by John Klenner with lyrics by Sam M. Lewis.

And it has been performed many times by various artists, but Charlie Parker’s version definitely stands out.

After all, he was one of the most influential saxophonists. 

33. “She Works Hard For The Money” by Donna Summer 

“She Works Hard For The Money” came out in 1983, and it quickly became a huge hit.

It’s a part of Donna Summer’s most successful album of the decade. 

So, it was a life-changing hit for her, and the song certainly withstands the test of time – it’s still fun and danceable. 

Musically, the song marked an emergence of new wave style, mixed with post-disco and funky beats.

Of course, along with guitar solos, the sax plays an important role in the composition. 

34. “Slave” by The Rolling Stones 

Compared to many Stones hits, “Slave” is a rather slow and smooth tune; in contrast to its thought-provoking title.

Nevertheless, the Stones know how to write a good rock-blues number, and this song is proof of that.

The Who’s Pete Townshend provided backing vocals, whereas Sonny Rollins contributed with his amazing saxophone playing. 

35. “New York’s Alright If You Like Saxophones” by Fear 

Released in 1982, “New York’s Alright If You Like Saxophones” achieved success thanks to its unexpected mix of genres.

It’s basically a rock punk song, but it also features distinctive saxophone licks associated with jazz-style tunes.

Nevertheless, the song is regarded as one of the most notable songs with sax.

Well, once you hear it, it’s certainly hard to forget it.

36. “One Step Beyond” by Madness 

And the same goes for “One Step Beyond” – that intro in the music video is hard to forget.

Either way, the song is very catchy and upbeat, and the saxophone plays an important role in it.

Madness’ version is a cover though – the song was originally written by Jamaican ska singer Prince Buster.

37. “Tequila” by The Champs

“Tequila” by The Champs probably has one of the most memorable sax melodies in music history.

It’s so simple, yet it became so popular.

Generally, the song is a mix of surf rock, Latin, 50s rock and roll, and blues – and it still sounds great.

It was recorded in the 50s, and it has been an important part of pop culture ever since.

38. “Rio” by Duran Duran 

“Rio” is Duran Duran’s signature song and one of the most popular songs from the 1980s.

The band explained that Rio is a metaphor for America, and the song expressed their desire to succeed there.

Well, they certainly managed to fulfill their dreams.

39. “Prelude To A Kiss” by Duke Ellington 

“Prelude To A Kiss” is an old ballad composed by Duke Ellington.

The song was recorded in the 1930s, and there have been many versions and performances of the song over the years.

It’s also a perfect tune to practice and improve your saxophone technique and improvisation skills.

But it’s no less soothing for an easy listening session on a rainy Sunday afternoon.

40. “Time Of My Life” by Bill Medley and Jennifer Wernes 

“Time Of My Life” is hands down one of the most popular songs with saxophone solos. 

The song was featured in an iconic movie ‘Dirty Dancing’ in 1987, and it became a timeless classic.

“Time Of My Life” won multiple awards, including the Academy Award for Best Original Song.

And the prominent sax part in the song was played by the brilliant soloist Gary Herbig. 

41. “Us And Them” by Pink Floyd 

Another Pink Floyd song featuring saxophone is “Us And Them”, the longest song on “The Dark Side Of The Moon” album.

The first verse is about going to war, and the song continues to tackle topics like social unrest and discrimination.

Musically, it’s a progressive rock song that incorporates jazz elements (here comes the saxophone.)

The saxophone part in the recording was performed by Dick Parry. 

42. “Just The Way You Are” by Billy Joel

“Just The Way You Are” is a romantic tune with saxophone released in 1977.

The song was a big hit when it came out, and it won the Grammy that year for Record of the Year and Song of the Year.

After all, the saxophonist in the song is Phil Woods, who was a renowned alto saxophonist and jazz musician.

43. “Maneater” by Hall & Oates 

As we’ve already mentioned, Hall & Oates were a popular duo in the 1980s.

And “Maneater” is arguably one of their greatest hits.

The song reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in 1982, and it stayed on the top for several weeks.

The saxophone was played by Charles DeChant, an American saxophone and keyboard player known for collaborating with the famous duo. 

44. “Fun House” by The Stooges 

The saxophone complements this rock tune by The Stooges in such a nice way.

The sax part was played by Steve Mackay, who also added a little improvisation. 

“Fun House” is taken from the band’s album of the same name – although the album wasn’t successful at first, it eventually got many fans.

45. “Yakety Sax” by Boots Randolph

Is there a better way to wrap it up than with this iconic saxophone tune?

“Yakety Sax” is one of the sax melodies everyone knows.

Thanks to its quirky and comedic tone, it has been used in comedic interludes and soundtracks countless times.

The song was composed by Boots Randolph, but it also became Benny Hill’s signature song. 

All in all, it’s fair to conclude that “Yakety Sax” is one of the most popular saxophone songs ever made. 

Best Saxophone Songs – Final Thoughts 

As you can see, the saxophone is such a versatile instrument

You can hear it in rock hits, jazz standards, and even hip hop tunes.

That being said, our list of the best saxophone songs is quite versatile too – but that also means there’s something for everyone.

Whether you’re a saxophone student looking for inspiration or you simply enjoy its sound, we hope you came across something you like! 

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Best Piano Songs

Best Acoustic Guitar Songs

Will Fenton

Will, the founder of MIDDER, is a multifaceted individual with a deep passion for music and personal finance. As a self-proclaimed music and personal finance geek, he has a keen eye for futuristic technologies, especially those that empower creators and the public.

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