Top 30 Fools Songs
Fools have been popular song subjects as long as there have been songs. Even back when wandering minstrels would entertain royalty or accompany fearless knights heading off to war, half of the songs they knew were about fools. And more likely than not, it's love that led to their foolish predicaments. Our list of the Top 30 Fools Songs includes plenty of tracks about fools in love. But some are just plain foolish – like the dude hanging out on a rainy street corner waiting for his girl ... who's patiently standing on another rainy street corner a couple blocks away. Pity the fools.
30. UFO, "A Fool in Love" (1976)
Scottish rockers the Frankie Miller Band originally recorded "A Fool in Love" on their 1975 album The Rock. UFO covered it a year later, adding chunkier guitars and replacing Miller's barroom brawl with arena-style riffing. Either way, the fool here – really just a dude head over heels in love – is tied to his woman's "beck and call."
29. The Cars, "Cool Fool" (1995)
This leftover track from the Cars' 1977 pre-debut demo eventually ended up on the 1995 compilation album Just What I Needed: The Cars Anthology. Benjamin Orr sings lead on Ric Ocasek's song, a perfect blend of New Wave and classic rock about your average love-struck fool. At least he's got the whole cool thing going for him.
28. Rockpile, "Fool Too Long" (1980)
Because they were signed as solo artists to different labels, Nick Lowe and Dave Edmunds had to release their albums by their group Rockpile under their own names. But they were able to make it official on 1980's Seconds of Pleasure, which truned out to be their only release. With lead vocals by Edmunds, "Fool Too Long" is typical of the roots-rock on display, with a lyric about a guy who has finally seen how badly his girlfriend has been treating him.
27. Ricky Nelson, "Poor Little Fool" (1958)
Early rock teenage heartthrob and television star Ricky Nelson got the tables turned on him when, after years of breaking young girls' hearts, he falls deep for a young woman who dumps him just as quickly as she picked him up. The song has the distinction of being the No. 1 song the week that Billboard debuted its Hot 100 chart. Five years later, Nelson had another fool-themed Top 20 hit with "Fools Rush In."
26. Deep Purple, "Fools" (1971)
The year before they released their breakthrough Machine Head album (the one with "Smoke on the Water"), Deep Purple put out the somewhat lumbering Fireball. The eight-minute "Fools" runs down a list of the world's fools, including the laughing and killing kinds. But we still love that album cover, which features the band members shooting through space like a long-haired, and possibly shirtless, supernova.
25. Robert Plant, "Ship of Fools" (1988)
This isn't the only "Ship of Fools" on our list of the Top 30 Fools Songs. It isn't Robert Plant's only appearance either. His "Ship of Fools" is a serene ballad that totally fits the title of the album it comes from, Now and Zen. It was also released as a single, reaching No. 84 on the pop chart and No. 3 on the rock one. Plant captains this ship of fools, driven mad by – what else? – his love for a woman.
24. John Cougar, "American Fool" (1982)
The title track from John Mellencamp's breakthrough album (released when he was still John Cougar) was left off of American Fool when it was released in 1982. When the album was reissued in 2005, it was finally issued as a bonus track. It's a breezy tune (complete with an island-style rhythm) that perfectly fits the narrator's flag-waving foolishness.
23. Grateful Dead, "Ship of Fools" (1974)
This bluesy cut (not to be confused with Robert Plant's "Ship of Fools," found elsewhere on our list of the Top 30 Fools Songs) closes the Grateful Dead's seventh album with appropriate open-seas drifting. The song basically plays on the allegorical theme of the ship of fools, as Jerry Garcia and his band of wanderers set adrift with no clear course or leader.
22. World Party, "Ship of Fools" (1987)
The third song on our list with this title, World Party's Top 30 hit from their 1987 debut Private Revolution was the highest-charting of them all. "Ship of Fools" is band leader Karl Wallinger's rejection of the values that defined the '80s ("Avarice and greed are gonna drive you over the endless sea / They will leave you drifting in the shallows or drowning in the oceans of history") in favor of a new course.
21. Whitesnake, "Fool for Your Loving" (1980)
Whitesnake had been around for a decade when they finally hit it big with their self-titled 1987 album. So, they went back and rerecorded some of their older songs for their new multi-platinum albums – including "Fool for Your Loving," which originally showed up on their third LP, 1980's Ready an' Willing. We prefer this earlier version, which sounds closer to frontman David Coverdale's old band Deep Purple than to 1989's Top 40 crossover. Either way, the fool's got it bad for some woman.
20. Thin Lizzy, "Fools Gold" (1976)
Phil Lynott starts off "Fools Gold" with a recitation about how the Irish Potato Famine led to many Irish people to emigrate to America. But he then sings tales of people who had difficulty adjusting to their new home because they "spent their life in search of fools gold." Whether or not this is a metaphor for the breakthrough Thin Lizzy had just had in the U.S. with Jailbreak, where their tour there had to be cut short after Lynott contracted hepatitis, is open to interpretation.
19. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, "Fooled Again (I Don't Like It)" (1976)
Unlike many of the other fools in love on our list, Tom Petty's not too happy about what's going down in this seething song from his debut album. He receives threatening phone calls, does some math and figures his relationship probably won't be lasting too much longer. No surprise that he's talking about getting out as the song fades.
18. Elvis Presley, "(Now and Then There's) A Fool Such as I" (1959)
Originally a Top 5 country hit for Hank Snow in 1953, Elvis Presley recorded "(Now and Then There's) A Fool Such as I" in Nashville in mid-1958. At the time, he was on leave from the Army but hadn't yet shipped off to Germany, and this was one of several songs he cut to keep him on the charts while he performed his service. Featuring background vocals by the Jordanaires with Ray Walker's bass voice providing the hook, the track reached No. 2 upon its release in March 1959.
17. Foghat, "Fool for the City" (1975)
The opening title track from Foghat's fifth album (the one with "Slow Ride") throws a twist on the whole fool-for-your-love thing. There's love here, all right, but it's not for a woman; it's for city life. "Air pollution, here I come," exclaims Lonesome Dave Peverett – with arms, and presumably lungs, wide open.
16. Steely Dan, "Only a Fool Would Say That" (1972)
Latin percussion and jazzy guitar blunt the barbs coming from Steely Dan on this cut from their 1972 debut Can't Buy a Thrill. On it Donald Fagen mocks a hippie for his/her idealism ("I heard it was you / Talkin' 'bout a world where all is free / It just couldn't be / And only a fool would say that"), adding that it's really easy to have all these beliefs about changing the world when you don't have to do a "nine to five / Drag yourself home half alive."
15. Aretha Franklin, "Running Out of Fools" (1964)
Aretha Franklin's early years on Columbia didn't give her much of an opportunity to show off the full range of her talent, but "Running Out of Fools" was an exception. A jazzy waltz where she calls out a man for crawling back to her as a last resort ("When you went and left me there crying / Your goodbye was even colder than ice / It didn't bother you I was crying / And now you want to break my heart twice"), the song finds her demanding respect four years before she redefined Otis Redding's tune as a feminist anthem.
14. Styx, "Fooling Yourself (The Angry Young Man)" (1977)
Tommy Shaw wrote "Fooling Yourself" about Dennis DeYoung, who was growing increasingly uncomfortable with Styx's fame in light of a Top 10 showing for "Lady." The song is basically a pep talk wrapped in squiggly synthesizer solos and flip-flopping time signatures. It temporarily kept DeYoung in place, but he left the band seven years later.
13. Pete Townshend & Ronnie Lane, "April Fool" (1977)
After the breakup of the Faces, bassist Ronnie Lane approached the Who's Pete Townshend about working together, and the result was 1977's Rough Mix. "April Fool" was one of Lane's contributions, and its gentle, folk-influenced sound hearkened back to the quieter moments from his former band, like "Richmond" and "Debris," and Eric Clapton shows up to play some bluesy slide dobro.
Frank Zappa, "Dancin' Fool" (1979)
Unlike most of the other folks on our list of the Top 30 Fools Songs, Frank Zappa's a fool for something other than love. Released during disco's most commercially successful year, "Dancin' Fool" spoofs dance clubs, the nightlife scene and guys decked out in white suits and gold chains making total idiots of themselves on the floor. "I got no natural rhythm," Zappa sings, summing up the era's coked-up cluelessness.
Joe Jackson, "'Fools in Love" (1979)
Joe Jackson is having none of this fool-for-love business on this reggae-speckled song from his debut album. "Are there any creatures more pathetic?" he asked about fools in love. "Fools in love think they're heroes. ... I say fools in love are zeroes." The kicker comes at the end of the chorus: Turns out Jackson, yep, is a fool in love.
Elvis Costello, "You Little Fool" (1982)
A deep cut on Imperial Bedroom, "You Little Fool" finds Elvis Costello spinning a tale of a sheltered teenage girl with a crush on a boy. But she mistakes his physical attention and cheap gifts for genuine love while he's playing around, and doesn't realize that when he calls her a "little fool," that it's not a pet nickname.
Van Halen, "Fools" (1980)
The swaggering guitar that opens this mountainous song from Van Halen's third album boasts defiant confidence, and lead singer David Lee Roth doesn't let it down once he enters the picture. Everyone – from teachers to bosses – is a fool. Everyone that is but Roth, who's sick and tired of being hassled by authority figures. Just let the man do what he wants, fools!
Def Leppard, "Foolin'" (1983)
On this hit single from Def Leppard's breakthrough album, they know what they want. Or at least we think they do. The lyrics here are a bit unclear, throwing around empty lines like "Close your eyes, don't run and hide / Easy love is no easy ride" like they mean something. Doesn't matter: It's all sung and played with conviction. They're not f-f-f-foolin'.
ZZ Top, "A Fool for Your Stockings" (1979)
Like many tracks on our list of the Top 30 Fools Songs, ZZ Top's bluesy shuffle is about a fool in love. But this dude spells out the specifics of his foolishness: He likes to see his woman's long legs in stockings. And he'll put up with anything – even her gold-digging friends – for her love. Or, rather, her stockings.
Doobie Brothers, "What a Fool Believes" (1979)
The brokenhearted fool in "What a Fool Believes" is such a fool that he's hoping to get back with a woman who never wanted anything to do with him in the first place. Poor guy. But the Doobie Brothers' most elastic tune, and biggest hit, sorta hides the bummer reality of the fool's daydreams, bouncing along with one of Michael McDonald's most soulful vocals, earning him three of his five Grammys.
Rolling Stones, "Fool to Cry" (1976)
The best song on the Rolling Stones' otherwise lazy Black and Blue is an R&B ballad that's not entirely clear on why the narrator cries so much. He's got a loving daughter, a good woman across town and supportive friends. Yet, he weeps. Like, all the freakin' time. Why? Sounds like he's got it pretty good. Damn fool.
Steve Perry, "Foolish Heart" (1984)
While many songs of the songs here show the protagonist calling themselves a fool, Journey's Steve Perry says that it's only his heart that's foolish, because he keeps falling in love, on his hit ballad from his solo debut Street Talk: "Foolish heart, hear me calling / Stop before, you start falling / Foolish heart, heed my warning / You've been wrong before / Don't be wrong anymore."
The Who, "Won't Get Fooled Again" (1971)
Leave it to Pete Townshend, never the sentimental type, to write a song about getting fooled not by love – like so many other tracks on our list of the Top Fool Songs – but by lying leaders who promise change. "Won't Get Fooled Again" is based on George Orwell's Animal Farm, where pigs and horses battle it out, hoof to hoof, for control of the barnyard. But the Who make it sound like it could be about any number of the world's leaders at the top of the '70s.
The Beatles, "The Fool on the Hill" (1967)
The inspiration for Paul McCartney's lovely ballad was the transcendental-meditation guru the Beatles hooked up with India. But the fool on the hill really could be an Everyman from the late '60s, when sporting long hair and flowering robes and talking about peace and love were dismissed as generally foolish behavior. This fool isn't so foolish after all.
Led Zeppelin, "Fool in the Rain"
Unlike most of the other fools in our List of the Top 30 Fools Songs, the soaking-wet idiot in Led Zeppelin's "Fool in the Rain" definitely earns the title. (Plus, we just love the percussion breakdown in the middle of the song.) Most of our other song subjects are merely in love, and love makes people do crazy things sometimes, right? But this fool, who's supposed to meet a woman on a street corner, nearly has a crying fit when she doesn't show up. Then the fool realizes he's been waiting on the wrong block the whole time. Fool.