The color black has been too symbolic for musicians to ignore. Legendary bands and solo acts across all music genres have tapped into the color’s different meanings and used it for inspiration in their writing. Here is a list of 21 songs with black in the title.
1. “Black Water” by The Doobie Brothers
The Doobie Brothers were at the height of their powers when they recorded “Black Water.” The American group released the tune on their 1974 record, What Were Once Vices Are Now Habits. “Black Water” features Patrick Simmons on vocals, who also wrote the song—it was their first song to become a #1 hit in the Spring of 1975.
“Black Water” was written and based around Simmons’ imagery of the Mississippi Delta from when he was a child reading Mark Twain novels. The song features a folky and Americana vibe with the signature Doobie Brother vocal harmonies. It is one of their most recognizable songs.
2. “Back to Black” by Amy Winehouse
In 2006, Amy Winehouse released her second and final studio album, titled “Back to Black.” On that record was a song with the titular name. It came out in Spring 2007 and was written by Winehouse and her collaborator Mark Ronson, who also produced it.
The song came from Winehouse when her lover Blake Fielder-Civil had run back to an ex. The song was a huge hit and acclaimed by critics and fans alike. All of the best traits of Winehouse are on display, and it remains of her signature songs to this day.
When her posthumous documentary, Amy, was released in 2015, footage of her and Ronson was released from the recording sessions. It included an acapella version on the soundtrack.
3. “Black Horse and the Cherry Tree” by KT Tunstall
When Scottish singer KT Tunstall put out her first album in 2004, Eye to the Telescope, it was likely impossible she would have known how big of a hit “Black Horse and the Cherry Tree” would become. The tune samples Bo Diddley’s iconic beat pattern from his song “Bo Diddley” and features Tunstall’s vision of a Nashville hillbilly psycho sound.
The song was inspired by a trip across Greece on a motorscooter where she saw a horse going crazy near a tree. Its success soared, and the song was included on many best of the year compilations and lists. The following year, it continued to have success internationally and can be heard on radios daily.
4. “Black or White” by Michael Jackson
When it comes to the King of Pop, you know every song will be special. “Black and White” is no exception. The song was released in the Fall of 1991 on the artist’s eighth studio album, called Dangerous. It was written and produced by Jackson and Bill Bottrell and combines all of Jackson’s signature sounds, including pop, rock, and hip hop.
The song itself had a message about racial equality and harmony and reached the top 100 in December of that year. This made it the fastest-rising song to top the charts since the Beatles released “Get Back.” “Black or White” stayed there for over six weeks and saw Jackson become the first artists to have number one hits on the Billboard charts every decade since the 70s.
As was typical for Jackson, the song was internationally acclaimed and still one of his most recognizable tunes—that’s saying a lot for an artist like him.
5. “Back in Black” by AC/DC
When the Australian rock band AC/DC released “Back in Black,” they had already written several memorable anthems. As a tribute to their former singer, Bon Scott, who had died that same year, there seemed to be a new energy that the band was ready to bring in his wake.
The song came with their seventh album and helped them break into the US market with its iconic guitar riff that feels as fresh today as it did then. As a testament to that, “Back in Black” continually sneaks into the charts from time to time.
6. “Black Dog” by Led Zeppelin
When you speak about legendary bands in rock and roll focusing on the color black, you can’t possibly leave Led Zeppelin out of the conversation. Coming off of their fourth album, “Black Dog” was the opening track. With its call and response vocal and guitar combo, and thrashing drum and bass, it was instantly one of the band’s greatest songs.
It charted in the USA and was included in Rolling Stone’s 500 greatest songs list. The title came from a black labrador who wandered around their recording studio’s premise, yet alludes to the death, or the devil, as black dogs can be symbolic of that.
7. “Fade to Black” by Metallica
When considering songs with “black” in the title, Metallica was up for the challenge. As their first real “power” ballad, “Fade to Black” maintained the band’s heavy sound and guitar-focused work. It was released on their second studio album, titled Ride the Lightning.
The style was new for Metallica in some ways, as they had not shown a slower, more patient side of their band to mass audiences before but were able to when this song came out. It was also ranked by Guitar Player magazine as one of the top 20 guitar solos ever.
The song rose very high on the charts, especially for a heavy metal album, and you can still hear it commonly on today’s radio playlists.
8. “Black Hole Sun” by Soundgarden
Frontman of Soundgarden Chris Cornell wrote “Black Hole Sun” in 1993 after hearing a news report with those words in it. The band released it in 1994. It was one of the first three singles that the band put out from their fourth studio album, Superunknown, and quickly became their trademark tune.
The Billboard saw it top the rock charts before going universal. Guitarist Kim Thayil even said of the song, “It was the spoonful of sugar that helps the medicine go down. Now it’s the ‘Dream On’ of our set.”
9. “Black Magic Woman” by Carlos Santana
At the height of Carlos Santana’s career, he decided to cover a Fleetwood Mac song that would go on to become his most iconic work. “Black Magic Woman” was written by Peter Green of Fleetwood.
Santana’s version was sung by vocalist Gregg Rolie, with Carlos playing his trademark full-bodied guitar sound. The tune rose to the top 5 in USA and Canada. Santana’s version has become the most famous rendition of the song and has inspired many new covers.
10. “Black” by Pearl Jam
Another legendary grunge turned pop band, Pearl Jam, took their stab at black right away on their debut album, Ten. As usual, singer Eddie Vedder wrote the lyrics, and their guitarist, Stone Gossard, took care of the music.
They never released it as a single, as Vedder and his bandmates said the tune had too many personal traits to make it a single. Nevertheless, the song found popularity in 1992 anyways, and it found its way up the charts to number 3 on Billboard’s list of rock songs.
Since then, the song has remained on their greatest hits playlists and has even been remixed by DRemixed for their 2004 greatest hits record. It remains a fan favorite today.
11. “Black” by Dierks Bentley
Country music is full of emotion, so it should come as no surprise that the world black found its way to some of the song titles. Dierks Bentley’s titular track “Black” hit the airwaves in 2016 as the third single of his latest album.
Bentley wrote the song along with his collaborators Ross Copperman and Ashley Gorley. It was an instant hit and climbed the charts to number 2 on the Country music Billboard list. Notably, the song was accompanied by a music video featuring Bentley’s partner, filmed in Iceland.
12. “Black Spider-Man” by Logic ft. Damian Lemar Hudson
In the Spring of 2017, rapper Logic released “Black Spiderman.” It was a single off of his third album, Everybody, and by then, he’d made a name for himself in the rap game for his conscious lyrics and great production. He, 6ix, and DJ Khalil produced the album in this case.
Logic teased it on social media before the song was released. When it finally came out, the song became an instant hit. It garnered many awards, including the 2017 MTV Video Music Award for “Best Fight Against the System.” Its message, according to Logic, was that it was meant to celebrate “unity and a world built upon division.”
13. “Blue on Black” by Kenny Wayne Shepard
The mid-1990s was full of hits, and very few stood out at that time. Kenny Wayne Shephard’s “Blue on Black” was the exception. As a contemporary blues record, it fell into the rock category. Shepherd penned it with the help of collaborators Mark Selby and Tia Sillers.
“Blue on Black” came out on Shephard’s sophomore album and climbed the charts as nothing else at the time sounded like it. It won various awards, including “Blues album of the year.” Shephard’s soulful and deep vocals accompanied by slick guitar playing introduced most of the world to the artist, and the song still holds strong today.
Then in 2019, Kenny Wayne Shepherd grouped with the band Five Finger Death Punch, country musician Brantley Gilbert, and legendary Queen guitarist Brian May. The group did a new, enhanced version of the song to raise money for charity.
14. “Supermassive Black Hole” by Muse
English rock and roll group Muse certainly has never shied away from making music about large subjects, and “Supermassive Black Hole” is no exception.
Singer, writer, and guitarist Matthew Bellamy wrote the song, and before its release on their fourth album, Black Holes and Revelations, it was already a hit in the UK. So much so that it was the highest chart position they’ve ever had.
The song was different from almost anything the band had done at the time and tampered with R7B, funk, and hip hop elements on top of the classic Muse theatrics. It is still regarded as one of Muse’s greatest songs and is a fan favorite when they play it live today.
15. “Men in Black” by Will Smith
On a list of songs with black in the title, you can’t miss the legendary song “Men in Black” by Will Smith. In 1997, Smith was the hottest actor on the planet, and his upcoming summer blockbuster by the same name was a chance to continue making music along with his new talents.
The song came out before the film in 1997 and was included on the soundtrack as well as Smith’s solo album, Big Willie Style. This also marked the first musical outing he did without his collaborator, DJ Jazzy Jeff. “Men in Black” Sampled “Forget Me Nots” by Patrice Rushen and featured SWV vocalist Coko. It was a massive hit, as was the film, and remains one of Will Smith’s most iconic songs.
16. “Paint It Black” by The Rolling Stones
One of the bands that made the black color cool in the first place, The Rolling Stones, also made it one of their most recognizable song titles. Paint It Black was another notch for the songwriting team of Mick Jaggar and Keith Richards.
It came out in 1966, moved quickly in tempo, and had influences from the music of India and the Middle East—something that would follow them deeper into their music later. The song deals with sorrow and death, which enhances the metaphor of “black.”
Some critics claimed the Stones were trying to sound more like The Beatles due to the sitar and eastern sound, but most fans just reveled in its unique flavors. “Paint It Black” spent over ten weeks on the charts, and even all these years later, it remains one of the legendary band’s most beloved, and covered, songs.
17. “Black Balloon” by The Goo Goo Dolls
Not many bands in the 90s were bigger than The Goo Goo Dolls, and when they released “Black Balloon,” the band was already at its peak. The song includes their iconic sound of multi-layered guitars and sweeping catchy melodies.
Singer and songwriter Johnny Rzeznik claimed that the tune was written about drug addiction and being the person on the outside trying to help without being able to. But as dark as the subject was, it garnered mass appeal with its uplifting composition and remains one of the band’s most popular songs today.
18. “Blackbird” by The Beatles
Not all songs about black have to have dark subjects, though, and The Beatles made that very apparent when they released “Blackbird.” It came on 1968’s “The White Album” and featured Paul McCartney stipped down with minimal production.
McCartney said of the song that he was inspired by the birdsongs he heard during his time in Rishikesh, India. He compared that to the racial injustice and civil rights movement happening in the United States.
It’s impossible to say what the most recognizable songs are for a group as profound as The Beatles, but ask any beginning guitar student what they’re learning, and “Blackbird” is likely to come out of their mouths.
19. “Man in Black” by Johnny Cash
Johnny Cash was the walking, talking epitome of a country-rock musician. His song “Man in Black” was a song about protest and came later in his career, in 1971. The song title was one of his monikers, “The Man in Black,” and embodied his distinct style but for a deeper message about wealth inequality in the US. It dealt with racial injustice, the prison system, and the Vietnam War as well.
Cash claimed he was inspired to write it after visiting a university and chatting with its students about what was bothering them in the world. The song was a massive hit, was featured on multiple greatest hits albums, and has been covered endlessly since.
20. “Black Beatles” by Rae Sremmurd ft. Gucci Mane
We can’t leave hip hop out of any musical conversation. When the American duo Rae Sremmurd released “Black Beatles” with a feature by Gucci Mane, it was an instant hit. The reason it went viral in popularity so quickly partially had to do with its use in the “Mannequin Challenge,” which was a trend on social media at the time.
Nevertheless, the song’s catchy melodies and production by Mike Will were validation of its success enough, and the song entered charts all across the world. It was both Gucci Mane and Rae Sremmurds first number-one single as well.
21. “Black and White” by Niall Horan
New-age pop act Niall Horan added his touch to the color black as well. In this 2020 love ballad, former One Direction member Horan reflects on the evening that he and his love first met, all the way to their wedding day. Black and White refer to the glitz and glamour of a famous life, compared to a private and special love life.
The word “black” can have many connotations, and these world-class artists have used it in just about every possible way. So whether you weren’t familiar with some of the songs before or got reminded of your old favorites, we hope you enjoyed reading our list of the various songs with black in the title.