The 10 greatest and smoothest sax solo songs in pop music ever

20 August 2021, 15:57

The 10 greatest and smoothest saxophone solos in pop music ever
The 10 greatest and smoothest saxophone solos in pop music ever. Picture: Epic/YouTube/Live Aid

By Tom Eames

Some might say the saxophone solo is a tad cheesy. We say: how dare you, sir!

We've compiled a list of the most spine-tingling saxophone solos known to man. You're welcome. Now, grab your shades and let's go...

  1. Billy Joel - 'Just the Way You Are'

    Billy Joel - Just the Way You Are (Live 1977) [Official Video]

    This romantic tune was released in 1977, and won the Grammy that year for Record of the Year and Song of the Year.

    The saxophonist in this case was Phil Woods, one of the world's most famous jazz musicians.

    Billy Joel wrote this song for his first wife but sadly the relationship ended in divorce as did his subsequent two marriages.

    He puts his bad luck down to writing each of his wives a song: "Every time I wrote a song for a person I was in a relationship with, it didn't last," Joel said. "It was kind of like the curse. Here's your song - we might as well say goodbye now."

  2. David Bowie - 'Modern Love'

    David Bowie - Modern Love (Official Video)

    This was of Bowie's biggest hits of the '80s, and it featured a fantastic boogie-woogie sound of THREE saxophonists.

    Stan Harrison and Steve Elson performed the song's bridge while Bowie himself was also credited with playing the instrument on the album's liner notes.

  3. Bruce Springsteen - 'Born to Run'

    Bruce Springsteen - Born to Run (Official Video)

    Clarence Clemons was one of the all-time greats when it came to providing a killer sax solo on a stonking track.

    The best of the best was his appearance on the Bruce track 'Born to Run'. Springsteen later said at Clemons’ funeral: “Every night, in every place, the magic came flying out of C’s suitcase.” 

  4. Hall & Oates - 'Maneater'

    Daryl Hall & John Oates - Maneater (Official Video)

    Hall & Oates paid homage to Motown in this classic '80s tune.

    The sax solo came from Charles DeChant, the duo's main sax player since 1979.

  5. Duran Duran - 'Rio'

    Duran Duran - Rio (Official Music Video)

    One of the Durans' biggest and most famous hits, it was famous for its tenor sax solo by Andy Hamilton, who had also appeared on songs by Wham! and Elton John.

    In the video, he's seen playing the instrument while trying to balance on a dodgy makeshift raft in the sea, while another shot he's wearing a gangster-style suit and hat combo. It couldn't get more '80s.

  6. Whitney Houston - 'I Will Always Love You'

    Whitney Houston - I Will Always Love You (Official 4K Video)

    Whitney's vocals are so strong in this power ballad anthem, that it's easy to forget there's also a killer sax solo three quarters in.

    The dramatic sax came from Kirk Whalum, who also worked with the likes of Luther Vandross, Al Green and many others.

  7. Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes - '(I've Had the) Time of My Life'

    Bill Medley, Jennifer Warnes - (I've Had) The Time Of My Life [Official Video]

    This will always be one of the greatest 'end of the night' songs, as well as one of the greatest movie tracks of all time.

    But we wanted to give a shoutout to sax soloist Gary Herbig, who we don't believe has got the credit he deserves for his hugely important role in the song. Now, to practice our lift!

  8. Sade - 'Smooth Operator'

    Sade - Smooth Operator - Official - 1984

    We kinda HAD to include this one, didn't we?

    This Sade song released in 1985 was Sade's first top ten hit in the US. Bandmember Stuart Matthewman is on the sax, but also played guitar in the group and co-wrote many of the hits.

  9. George Michael - 'Careless Whisper'

    George Michael - Careless Whisper (Official Video)

    This song was George's first solo single and went to number one in nearly 25 countries!

    On the sax is Englishman Steve Gregory, who worked with Fleetwood Mac, Queen, Wet Wet Wet, Van Morrison and also played on the Rolling Stones's 'Honky Tonky Woman'.

  10. Gerry Rafferty - 'Baker Street'

    Gerry Rafferty - Baker Street (Official Video)

    This song released in 1978 by Scottish singer-songwriter Gerry Rafferty reached number 3 in the UK charts.

    Read more: The Story of... 'Baker Street by Gerry Rafferty

    Raphael Ravenscroft, the musician playing that great sax solo, only received £27 for his efforts and the cheque bounced!

    Not that he was too bothered however, saying, "If I had received pots of money, I wouldn't have known what to do. It might have destroyed me."

    And so no, it wasn't Blockbusters host Bob Holness, before you ask.