A native of Detroit, Michigan, musician and songwriter Bob Seger never imagined his humble, blue collar beginnings would have taken him all the way to sunny California’s Hollywood district. But after a successful decade in the 1960s spent tearing up the Detroit blues-rock scene, that’s exactly what happened. Performing with several bands over the course of his multi-decade career, he ultimately found a home with his Silver Bullet Band. The lineup produced a massive amount of hits from the late ‘60s well into the ‘80s. Seger’s legacy is so ingrained in Michigan contemporary culture that November 17th is officially recognized as Bob Seger Day in Lincoln Park, Michigan. We dive into the best Bob Seger songs below.
A big number one hit for Seger, ‘Shakedown’ rose to fame after its inclusion in the popular film sequel, Beverly Hills Cop II, starring comedian and actor Eddie Murphy. The song was composed by Harold Faltermeyer, who was in charge of the music for the film. Though he composed the score, he entrusted Seger with the writing of the lyrics. Despite the song’s massive success, Bob wasn’t actually the film crew’s first choice. Initially they called up fellow Michigan musician Glenn Frey of the Eagles, but he had a nasty bout of laryngitis. After ‘Shakedown’ climbed the charts to number one on three different Billboard listings and was nominated for a slew of awards, Frey called to congratulate Seger, joking that he was glad the money the musician made off of the hit “stayed in Michigan.”
Recommended: Our shakedown of the best Eagles songs.
12. Like a Rock
‘90s kids in America were likely first introduced to Bob Seger by way of a 15 second Chevy Truck commercial that featured the rocker belting out his song’s ‘Like a Rock’ hook before fading into a week night sitcom. It was a later hit for Seger in the ‘80s, but it was a big one, clocking in at number one on the rock charts. Even though the musician had been in the business for 30 years, he was still able to muster one of the classic rock songs. A tune about becoming an adult and dealing with responsibility and fading youth, the song is a weightier Seger track, but essential listening in the grand scope of his work. Some music critics even put the hit song in the top ten of his best-written compositions.
11. Turn the Page
Any true rock and roll fan knows every word to the Seger classic, ‘Turn the Page.’ Though the studio version wasn’t released as a single, Seger’s live version with his band spread like wildfire and made the earworm a pillar among the best rock songs ever written. With a big sound and a powerful sax solo, Seger’s emotional lyrics about life spent on the road and how lonely and tough it can get for musicians underpins the dynamic force that embodies the essence of the track. The beloved tune has been covered by all the greats, from Waylon Jennings to rock royalty, Metallica.
10. We’ve Got Tonight
Seger wrote a few tunes for films over the course of his career, and he also gained inspiration from watching films as well. For ‘We’ve Got Tonight,’ the Detroit songwriter tells the story of two lovers who spend one night together with the understanding that in the morning, they’ll go their separate ways. He got the idea for this slow, sensual piano number while watching the ‘70s film The Sting starring two of cinema’s greatest actors, Robert Redford and Paul Newman.
9. You’ll Accomp’ny Me
What do you get when you pair an experimental funk rocker with a blue collar classic rocker from America’s heartland? You get ‘You’ll Accomp’ny Me,’ a stirring tune about a guy who courageously waits for his true love to figure out they’re meant to be together. Little Feat bandmate Bill Payne played several eclectic instruments for Bob on this track, including synthesizer and organ. When Payne wasn’t holding down instrumental work for his own band, he could be found in the studio playing the role of session musician for several artists, including rock band The Doobie Brothers. A relatable story is found yet again in this Seger top 20 hit. Tons of musicians over the years have found comfort in its message. Country artist Frankie Ballard has covered the song many times, stating that ‘You’ll Accomp’ny Me’ is one of his favorite tunes ever written.
Recommended: Our countdown of Little Feat songs (a must-read).
8. Roll Me Away
A highly praised song among music critics, ‘Roll Me Away’ was a comeback song of sorts for Seger in a few different ways. Written after taking a long motorcycle trip across the country, the single has a coming-of-age feel to it, though it more so represents a third act of life versus someone who’s still in their early, youthful years. Life, love, and a longing for home are all themes explored, and after writing the tune upon returning to his home state of Michigan, Seger chose the anthemic track as the show opener for his early 2000s Face the Promise tour.
While ‘Roll Me Away’ finds Seger exploring the realities of getting older, ‘Mainstreet’ goes all the way back to his budding youth. Centered around his days spent growing up in Ann Arbor, the tune chronicles some of the key moments of his early experiences with the town’s nightlife with a still-innocent teenage Bob as the protagonist. The wide open nature of Seger’s vocal delivery and band performance drew a ton of positive feedback from critics, who sometimes likened his rock acuity to that of New Jersey legend and fellow rocker Bruce Springsteen.
6. Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Man
Though this was Seger’s first top 20 hit, dating all the way back to the late ‘60s, many elements heard in ‘Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Man’ would become trademarks of the rocker’s style throughout his career. He had already established a kinship with Eagles band member Glenn Frey, who provided guitar and vocal work for the single. The two would remain close as they experienced continued success with their careers. While the song is technically a run-of-the-mill early rock and roll number, Seger’s use of the organ provides a unique haunting aspect that he would continue to make use of in his recordings. His gravelly, commanding voice is found at the forefront, which would drive his many future hits as well. His early success with ‘Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Man’ put him on the map and set him up for record-breaking chart success with many subsequent hits, including quite a few number ones.
5. Hollywood Nights
One of the many hits recorded with his Silver Bullet Band, ‘Hollywood Nights’ was written while Seger was in the prime of his career. An upbeat, wild ride kind of track about a small town guy who gets into a tryst with a Hollywood star, the songwriter came up with the concept while driving around the glitzy city one evening with the windows down and the radio off. It was a rarity for Seger to come up with lyrics while away from his guitar and recording equipment. He repeated the chorus lines over and over until he made it home. The inspiration for the starlet in the song? None other than iconic ‘70s model, Cheryl Tiegs.
4. Still The Same
Labeled as a “striking” track off of Seger’s famous Stranger in Town album, the title of the record goes hand in hand with ‘Still The Same.’ The Detroit, Michigan native had a tough time adjusting to Hollywood when he moved to California for his music career. Many have long speculated who the song is specifically about (it features a character who is a “gambler”), but Bob admits that it’s really a mashup of personalities of people he met over the years while residing in the Golden State. One of his more philosophical tracks, he mulls over the cost of having relationships with people who appear charming, but make a habit of using people to their advantage.
3. Old Time Rock & Roll
If there was ever a truly classic rock and roll hit, it’s ‘Old Time Rock and Roll’ by Seger and his Silver Bullet Band. A single that pays homage to the early music that shaped rock’s pioneering musicians, the story behind the making of the track is as memorable as the tune itself. While finishing up his critically acclaimed Stranger in Town album, Seger was sent a demo recording of the bluesy rock tune. His team decided to put it on the record, but Seger had already been working on the project for years so he was in a hurry to finish it. Backed by the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section, he changed up most of the song, keeping only a few of the chorus lines, and threw it on the track listing. Here’s the kicker, even though his manager suggested it, he didn’t even take credit as a writer for it. He didn’t think anyone would like the tune. Instead, what transpired was one of Seger’s biggest hits and one of rock’s most enduring classics that’s all but required listening for anyone making their way through American contemporary music. It’s remained an integral part of pop culture over the decades (cropping up in the movie Risky Business with Tom Cruise). But perhaps due to emotional turmoil over all the missed royalties coupled with its resounding success, Seger only plays it when he absolutely has to.
2. Against The Wind
Another ballad that finds the musician grappling with getting older, ‘Against the Wind’ is a soft rocker that packs a powerful punch. His buddy Glenn Frey teamed up with him yet again on this nostalgic single. It was such an emotional, important undertaking for Seger that it took two years to record. His patience paid off. The single became a top 5 hit on Billboard’s Hot 100 and remains one of his most popular tunes among fans.
1. Night Moves
A love song that poignantly captures the vitality and intensity of teenage romance, ‘Night Moves’ is hands down Seger’s signature song. After his breakout hit ‘Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Man’ helped his music gain regional popularity, this sexy groove of a track took him to national fame status. Racing all the way up to number four on Billboard’s Hot 100, radio stations couldn’t spin it enough, and critics hailed it as a “genius” song. Like the rock genre itself, the tune has a timeless feel to it, which encapsulates the theme of young love running throughout it. Not only does Rolling Stone magazine recognize it as one of the best songs of all time, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame included it in their list of “500 Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll.” Not bad at all for a blue collar rocker from Detroit, Michigan.
- Shame On The Moon
- Persecution Smith
- Travelin’ Man
- Little Victories
- Brave Strangers
- Betty Lou’s Gettin’ Out Tonight
- Mary Lou
- Sunspot Baby