Top 10 Stevie Ray Vaughan Songs

Photo: Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble 1983 publicity photo by Don Hunstein

By Mike O’Cull

Stevie Ray Vaughan exploded into the music scene of the early 80s like nothing anyone had ever seen.

All of a sudden, blues music was on mainstream radio and MTV and it was all because of the rapid ascent of Vaughan, his band Double Trouble (bassist Tommy Shannon and drummer Chris Layton), and his astonishing debut album Texas Flood. Stevie broke out during a time when guitar-heavy blues/rock was off the popular radar screen and the world was listening to New Wave, New Romantics, Synth Pop, and other styles that were seen as the next evolution of music. Vaughan and his undeniable virtuosity flew directly in the face of all that, wowing us all with the power of real people playing all-out without ever losing the nuances of their art.

Although Stevie’s career was cut tragically short by his death in a helicopter crash in 1990, he still looms large in the hearts and minds of guitarists and music fans everywhere. He’s considered one of the greatest players of all time and will be an influence on aspiring musicians forever. I was fortunate enough to see SRV live twice and the memories of being in the same room as an actual musical giant will always be with me.

Today, I’m going to throw down my list of the top ten Stevie Ray Vaughan songs of all time. I know some of you will love my choices and some will not and that’s all good. You can’t fully capture the magnitude of a hurricane like Stevie in a simple list. All I’m doing is showing you what I feel are his definitive tracks and my personal favorites. You’re more than welcome to show me your own list in the Comments Section below this article. I hope you do.

1 – “Pride and Joy”
This one has always felt like one of life’s perfect things to me. It’s one of the finest trio shuffles ever recorded and overflows with the might of Vaughan’s talent. Bassist Tommy Shannon and drummer Chris Layton match and support him with a big-league groove that’s still quickening pulses today. Vaughan’s tone, phrasing, and presence are beyond judgment and this will always be among the first songs mentioned anywhere his name comes up.
Listen to “Pride and Joy” here!

2 – “Texas Flood”
This slow blues written by Larry Davis became one of Vaughan’s signature songs and it’s easy to hear why. The subject matter, lyrics, playing, and vocal delivery all line up with each other in an ideal way. All Stevie had to do was step on the gas pedal and he was going to do that anyway. Take it for a spin and remind yourself just how sweet it is.
Listen to “Texas Flood” here!

3 – “Lenny”
Vaughan could blow walls down with his guitar but he could also be breathtakingly melodic and tender, as he is on “Lenny.” Written for his wife while sitting at the end of their bed, “Lenny” is an emotive, clean-toned, instrumental masterpiece that introduced us to a different side of Stevie, one that didn’t need to be loud to be heard and felt . Get mellow and feel the love.
Listen to “Lenny” here!

4 – “Couldn’t Stand The Weather”
“Couldn’t Stand The Weather” was the title track of Vaughan’s second album and quickly proved that his first album was no accident and also that he was immune to the dreaded “Sophomore Slump” that has tanked many bands. Stevie displays an entirely different sensibility on the cut, making it hard and funky. His octaves-and-double-stops main riff is absolutely searing and his bold, brawny tone is the stuff of legends. One listen to this and you knew Stevie and his boys were just getting started.
Listen to “Couldn’t Stand The Weather” here!

5 – “Voodoo Child (Slight Return)”
Stevie was arguably the best interpreter of Jimi Hendrix ever and he demonstrated that clearly with this staple of his live show. It’s impossible to separate the Jimi influence out of Vaughan’s music and thankfully he never tried. Stevie, Chris, and Tommy are a roaring lion on this studio cover, kinetic and fierce. Tune in and turn on!
Listen to “Voodoo Child (Slight Return)” here!

6 – “Cold Shot”
The icy blues of WC Clark’s “Cold Shot” made for one of Stevie’s best mid-tempo moments and his most entertaining music video. His undulating, Vibratone-heavy guitar sound fits the mood of the song so well that some guitarist is still trying to imitate at a bar near you at this very moment. Stevie’s heart was full of pure blues and he gave us a big dose of it on this classic.
Listen to “Cold Shot” here!

7 – “Crossfire”
“Crossfire” is the sound of a human who made it back from the edge, conquered his substance abuse problems, and lived to tell the tale. Vaughan sober was even more of a force than when he was getting high and all it took was a single listen to know that was true. His playing and singing were better than ever and there was no haze obscuring his vision anymore. This album, In Step, was his finest hour and I never get tired of hearing it.
Listen to “Crossfire” here!

8 – “Tightrope”
Also from In Step, “Tightrope” again finds Vaughan firing on all eight cylinders while also relating the pain of his former life in the best way he knew how. To many fans, this is as good as blues/rock ever got. The riff, the words, and the performance are uniformly stellar and you can practically feel the state of grace Vaughan was in at the time. Truly sublime.
Listen to “Tightrope” here!

9 – “Riviera Paradise”
Legend has it that this enthralling, jazz-tinged instrumental was captured live in the studio on the end of a reel of multi-track tape and the musicians finished the piece just as the tape ran out. This moody, chordal excursion spotlights Vaughan and ace keyboardist Reese Wynans and their interplay is subtle and brilliant. The track is dynamic, sophisticated, and brilliant. We’re all lucky that they had just enough tape in the studio that day or this take would have been lost.
Listen to “Riviera Paradise” here!

10 – “Little Wing”
Originally a vocal song, Vaughan’s instrumental version of “Little Wing” seems to have become the definitive cover of this nugget of Hendrix gold. It’s over six minutes of gorgeous phrasing, emotional waves, and the disciple’s love for the master, which is the best part. It was released posthumously but still earned a place among Stevie’s most famous songs. To me, this is the sound of Vaughan’s actual soul, his essence, coming out of an amplifier. Nothing like it.
Listen to “Little Wing” here!

I hope you’ve enjoyed my list of the top ten Stevie Ray Vaughan songs. Every song he put out deserves attention and it was tough to pick out ten of them for this piece.

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