The sax is often associated with jazz, but there are a couple of genres that have seamlessly integrated the single-reed woodwind instrument to create a memorable, iconic tune. In fact, the sax lends depth and character, making some songs – from rock to ballad – stand out. And if you’re wondering what those songs are, you are in luck. We have compiled some of the best songs that feature saxophone.
Careless Whisper by George Michael
Starting our list of songs that feature saxophone is George Michael’s classic pop-soul hit “Careless Whisper.” It’s easily one of the most recognizable songs that feature saxophone thanks to Steve Gregory’s distinct and sultry opening sax solo, which is repeated in the hook of the song.
With Michael’s voice and emotional and catchy lyrics, the sax adds a much-needed melodic touch, solidifying the overall mood of this 1984 hit— can you imagine this song without the sax?
Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen
“Born to Run” is often hailed as one of the best songs ever written, with some fanatics even considering it a “new national anthem.” Aside from its thought-provoking lyrics and Springsteen’s voice, the popularity of the song can be attributed to Clarence Clemons’s enthusiastic sax solo that hits after the second verse before the bridge.
Smooth Operator by Sade
Looking for a sultry, seductive track that will get the heart and mind spinning at the same time? This song, released in 1984, was an instant chart-topper, bringing Sade to the forefront of music. The song, featured on Sade’s debut album “Diamond Life,” features Stuart Matthewman’s sensual saxophone riff that seems to dance alongside Sade’s silky vocals.
Moondance by Van Morrison
“Moondance” by Van Morrison is a beloved song from the 1970s. It features a captivating alto saxophone played by Jack Schroer. The smooth melodies and heartfelt lyrics make “Moondance” a classic piece that continues to resonate with listeners today.
I Will Always Love You by Whitney Houston
Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You,” a song originally performed by Dolly Parton, is a ballad that talks about the enduring power of love. And, with Houston’s powerful vocals filled with raw emotion and Kirk Whalum’s saxophone solo that adds an additional layer of intensity, this 90s hit remains a classic.
Money by Pink Floyd
Pink Floyd’s “Money” is a classic hit off of their 1972 masterpiece album “Dark Side of the Moon.” Featuring a saxophone solo by Dick Parry, “Money” is a classic rock anthem with unique sound effects such as cash registers and a time signature that surprisingly works together. The saxophone adds a jazzy twist to the song adorned with magical improvisation, making it one of the most memorable songs that feature saxophone.
Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F) by Katy Perry
Moving on to a much more upbeat tune is Katy Perry’s “Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F),” which is the second track from her Teenage Dream album. The song, which is Perry’s fifth number-one single from the same album, celebrates partying, you guessed it, on a Friday night. And with Lenny Pickett’s sax solo after the bridge it solidifies the overall theme of the song.
The Edge of Glory by Lady Gaga
Lady Gaga recognized the musical talent of Clarence Clemmons and invited him to contribute to her iconic song “The Edge of Glory.” Clemmons showcased his mastery of the saxophone, playing with intensity, vigor, and strength.
Mr.Saxobeat by Alexandra Stan
Of course, any saxophone song list wouldn’t be complete without Alexandra Stan’s “Mr. Saxobeat.” In this song, the sax is front and center, hitting you immediately once the song plays. The iconic saxophone riff is performed by Marcel Prodan. He skillfully coordinates rhythm and balance, infusing the music with an up-tempo jazz swing. With its infectious energy and undeniable groove, “Mr. Saxobeat” has become a staple dance hit that continues to captivate audiences.
Just the Two of Us by Bill Withers
“Just the Two of Us” by Bill Withers showcases the smooth saxophone melody of Grover Washington, Jr., which sets the pace for the entire piece. Among songs with saxophone, “Just the Two of Us” is highly regarded for its ability to create a laid-back and romantic atmosphere. Bill Withers’ soulful voice perfectly complements Grover Washington, Jr.’s flawless performance, resulting in a legendary piece of soul music.
Walk on the Wild Side by Lou Reed
Lou Reed’s departure from his earlier rock sound with “The Velvet Underground” is evident in his 1972 album “Transformer,” where he explores jazz influences. The popularity of “Walk on the Wild Side” is highlighted by its distinctive bass line and spoken-word verses. Of course, the saxophone solo enhances the jazzy and artistic flair of the song.
Baker Street by Gerry Rafferty
A list of songs that feature saxophone wouldn’t be complete without “Baker Street” by Gerry Rafferty. This tune is world-renowned for the amazing saxophone performance by Raphael Ravenscroft. In “Baker Street,” the saxophone takes the lead instrument and drives through the song like a freight train, setting a mood that is alluring and catchy.
Tequila by The Champs
“Tequila” by The Champs is a famous and lively song recognized around the globe. Its distinctive and energetic saxophone melody brings a unique and unusual perspective. The song was introduced to the public in 1958 as an instrumental piece, highlighting the saxophone’s playful nature.
Urgent by Foreigner
One of the most memorable songs that showcases the saxophone is the rock classic “Urgent” by Foreigner. Junior Walker skillfully plays the saxophone on this track, seamlessly weaving it throughout the song. The saxophone riff in “Urgent” creates a catchy hook that enhances the depth and emotion conveyed by the lyrics.
Rio by Duran Duran
Rio, released in the 1980s, is a massive hit by one of the era’s most popular bands. In this song, Andrew Hamilton, a talented tenor saxophonist, compliments lead singer Simon LeBon’s lyrical beauty.
Only the Good Die Young by Billy Joel
Featuring Richie Cannata on saxophone, “Only the Good Die Young” is one of Billy Joel’s biggest hits. Throughout Billy Joel’s long, successful career, he created many memorable tunes, and “Only the Good Die Young” is one of them. This song, which has a joyful, upbeat melody, cleverly mixes rock and jazz. And although the saxophone solo is short, it adds character to the song.
Other Songs that Feature Saxophone
- I Can’t Go For That (No Can Do) by Daryl Hall & John Oates
- Never Tear Us Apart by INXS
- Baker Street by Gerry Rafferty
- Deacon Blues by Steely Dan
- Modern Love by David Bowie
- Walk on the Wild Side by Lou Reed
- Prelude To A Kiss by Duke Ellington
- Sir Duke by Stevie Wonder
- Brass Monkey by The Beastie Boys
- Tequila by The Champs
- Fun House by The Stooges
- Donna Lee by Charlie Parker
- Born To Run by Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band
- Maneater by Hall & Oates
- Rio by Duran Duran
- Brown Sugar by The Rolling Stones
- Never Tear Us Apart by INXS
- Only The Good Die Young by Billy Joel
- Brown Sugar by The Rolling Stones