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Piano Rock Classics: Mid-1970s through Today

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Modern Piano Rock Classics

Piano has often been unfairly overlooked as a rock instrument. As this series of articles points out, however, piano has played an important part of many beloved rock songs. This article will review piano-heavy songs ranging from the late Classic Rock era to the modern day.

Warren Zevon: Werewolves of London

The late, lamented Warren Zevon was one of Rock’s most idiosyncratic singer-songwriters, and this was by far his best-known song. Combining a simple-but-potent piano riff with typically funny and off-the-wall lyrics, it has remained a radio staple for decades.


Bruce Hornsby and the Range: The Way It Is

Ever since the title track of Bruce Hornsby’s debut album was released as a single in 1986, it has maintained its timeless appeal. The opening melody stays in your head long after the song is over. The socially-conscious lyrics help to both propel the song to a higher level and add to its universality. It had worldwide appeal, not only topping the US charts but landing in the top 20 in many European markets. It was sampled by Tupac Shakur in his hit song “Changes.”


Marc Cohn: Walking in Memphis

Perhaps no other song conjures up images of the great town of Memphis more than this one. Using a Springsteen-like narrative and piano work that appears inspired by Billy Joel, Cohn brews a delicious Southern stew overflowing with spiritual energy, enhanced by the addition of a gospel choir near the end of the song. A genuine treat that won Cohn a Grammy, it still sounds fresh, new, and inspiring today.


Coldplay: Clocks

This haunting song almost didn’t make it onto Coldplay’s sophomore effort, A RUSH OF BLOOD TO THE HEAD. The song was composed around the time of the album’s supposed completion, and had been relegated to future release status. However, the band wasn’t happy with the overall album and made a deal with their label Parlophone to delay release so they could make improvements. While reworking the album, their producer heard the demo version of this song and insisted they finish the song and include it on the album. This wise decision helped make the album successful with the song hitting number 1 in the UK charts. It also did quite well in the States. “Clocks” remains one of Coldplay’s signature songs.


Evanescence: Bring Me to Life

This genre-crossing hit single, the lead-off to Evanescence’s debut album FALLEN, charted all over the world. It starts with a Gothic piano riff and blossoms into full-on metal-rap, the whole time driven by Amy Lee’s dramatic vocals.


Lady Gaga: Yoü and I

This song, one of Gaga’s best, was noted for its slowed-down tempo, earthy quality and production values, which were different from much of her dance-oriented work. But it proved to be yet another hit, making the Billboard Top 10 in 2011. Watch her do a great live rendition here:



Piano is an important component of music, both for composition and performance. As it has transitioned from the early stages of Rock and Roll into today, piano will always be a cornerstone of contemporary music.

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