Top 10 Most Recognizable Opening Piano Chords of All Time

Jamie Reidy reveals his Top 10 most recognizable Opening Piano/Keyboard Chords in Rock-n-Roll.

This is the second in a series. My Top 10 most recognizable guitar riffs appeared here last Friday.  Bass lines, and drum beats… will follow.

Before you start yelling at me for this list, I invite you to take a deep breath and re-read the headline.

It says “Most Recognizable.”  It does not say “Best” or “Most Epic” or “Most Influential.”  It says “Most Recognizable,” as in “The majority of the people in your car, bar or party instantly know what song it is by the first note of the song.”

That first note part is key.

Important to understand that I took women into account, here.  For instance, my Billy Joel vote would’ve gone to “Piano Man,” but I realize infinitely more ladies know “Only The Good Die Young” instantly.

And one more arbitrary rule: Only one song per band.

First, the runners up:

Night Swimming – REM

Runaway – Bon Jovi

Home Sweet Home – Motley Crue

Getting in Tune – The Who

Now, for the Top 10 Most Recognizable Opening Piano/Keyboard Chords of All-Time.

I will go in descending order:

10. Great Balls of Fire – Jerry Lee

9. King of Pain – The Police

8. Can’t Always Get What You Want – Rolling Stones

7. Jump – Van Halen

6. Dream On – Aerosmith

5. Only The Good Die Young – Billy Joel

4. Bennie and The Jets –  Elton John

3. Imagine – John Lennon

2. Old Time Rock-n-Roll – Bob Seger (It killed me to even put this song on the list, let alone this high. But every woman in America knows it. And, whether you admit it or not, so do you.)

1. Don’t Stop Believin’ – Journey



About Jamie Reidy

Jamie Reidy is a former U.S. Army officer turned little blue pill pusher turned author. His first book "Hard Sell: The Evolution of A Viagra Salesman"
served as the basis for the movie "Love and Other Drugs" starring Jake Gyllenhaal. Jamie is currently writing his new book, "Game On: One Fanatic's Fantastic, Foolish and Futile Attempt to Attend 365 Sporting Events in 365 Days." He discovered his latest story featured on Good Men Project - "Hope Shoots and Scores" - on Day 39 of his crazy journey.


  1. The Boss says:

    You forgot Thunder Road by Springsteen

  2. ummmm ………… Sister Christian by Night Ranger??? Hello???

  3. ever heared about Baba O’Reily? but the lesser known band The Who? beats all of those easily 😉

  4. Jamie Reidy says:

    Billy K – doesn’t NYD start w a bass line?

  5. Billy K says:

    Not sure why NewYears Day by U2 isn’t on this list . Just sayin.

  6. I’m actually not a huge fan of this song, but as for most recognizable, you might have to include:

    “Werewolves of London” by Warren Zevon.

    (Esp since lazy rip-off artist Kid Rock shamelessly sampled it for his derivative “All Summer Long.”)

  7. Jameseq says:

    Don’t Stop Believin’ – Journey
    I love it, ive always loved its haunting aroma. I had grown up in the 80s listening to boomer radio DJ’s play this. With the fracturing and narrowcasting of the past 15yrs, i did wonder how today’s young people would be aware of recent yesteryear’s music. However it appears from youtube comments that computer games like GTA, have stepped in and performed the role of conduit

    Boomer musicians were indeed mighty in the range and quality of their youth-musics. The genres between 1965 to1990 – only musics of blues, nu orleans and hot jass generation can compete, to my mind.
    I offer another Mmmonster rock tune – “Hold the line” ,(love isnt always on time) by TOTO.
    Epic, too many things to love about this song but i particularly love the steady cockrock strutbeat and timbres, of the snare and kickdrum. Thats real manly swagger juice, babie – *The peacock performs his dance. Strut!Strut!Strut!Strut!*

  8. OMGTheseAreNotTheBestPianoChordsEver – YouAreSoWrong! 😉 lol

    Anyway, love the list. I was surprised not to see an entire list of Elton John songs, but then I saw the bit about ‘one song per band.’ And yeah, Bennie & The Jets has got to be the most recognizable of his…just reading that and the opening started going in my head. And now it won’t leave. Thanks, Jamie. 😀

  9. Jamie Reidy says:

    Thanks, JVT!

  10. Great list! Definitely the most recognizable, for better (#3) or worse (#1). 🙂

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