The Greatest Scream in Rock ‘n’ Roll History?

Duke Ellington has been famously quoted as saying: “If it sounds good, it is good.”

Which brings us to Topic A of today:  What’s the greatest scream in rock ‘n’ roll history?

Cover of "Cheap Thrills," Big Brother & the Holding Company

Janis Joplin said it all — vocally, but wordlessly — at the end of “Piece of My Heart”

In my own mind, it’s a tossup which of these is No. 1 — Janis Joplin’s soul-scraping vocalization at the end of “Piece of My Heart” or John Lennon’s wordless reveille at the opening of “Revolution.” Joplin’s amazing album with Big Brother and the Holding Company, “Cheap Thrills,” has been named to the National Recording Registry for 2013 by the Librarian of Congress.

There’s a lot of other fantastic stuff on this year’s recording registry – bet you can find personal connections to a bunch of it, too.  Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon”  – my college roommate played that album end-to-end daily for six months, but it was OK, because it was really good.  Harking back a bit more, Artie Shaw’s “Begin the Beguine” is on my IPod – that is one hot instrumental, enduringly so. (Thanks, Mom and Dad, for putting me on to that one.)  Ditto the soundtrack to “South Pacific,”played in our home again and again in the 1960s.

“Just Because” by Frank Yankovic & His Yanks is on this year’s registry; I can’t say I’m familiar with the album, but I know about Frank because a young woman I went to high school with was of Slovenian extraction, and let me know in no uncertain terms he was the man to see about polka.

And “Hoodoo Man Blues” by Junior Wells is on this year’s registry.  I had the enjoyment of seeing a very talented acquaintance of mine back in Denver, the irrepressible Robin Chotzinoff, sit in on piano with Junior Wells and Buddy Guy at Herman’s Hideaway.

Care to nominate an alternate rock cri de coeur?  Offer a comment below. And if you’d like to nominate sound recordings for next year’s registry, offer your suggestions here.



  1. A Zamoyski
    March 21, 2013 at 10:46 am

    The Who – Baba O’Riley

  2. Bishop Perry
    March 21, 2013 at 10:52 am

    James Brown, “The Big Payback” greatest scream of all time.

  3. David Knight
    March 21, 2013 at 10:58 am

    How about Roger Daltrey’s wail in “Won’t Get Fooled Again”?

  4. Lynn McKenzie
    March 21, 2013 at 11:10 am

    The ones in the Beatles’ cover of “Twist and Shout”.

  5. Pam Joyce
    March 21, 2013 at 11:17 am

    I second Roger Daltrey’s primal scream in “Won’t Get Fooled Again”.

  6. C Wilson
    March 21, 2013 at 11:41 am

    Little Richard screaming “Woooo” in “Jenny, Jenny, Jenny” and other songs.

  7. Jay
    March 21, 2013 at 11:45 am

    Can’t go wrong with the WDGFA, but Pink Floyd’s Be Careful With That Axe Eugene, scared the living daylights out of me first time I heard it.

  8. David
    March 21, 2013 at 11:52 am

    Screaming Jay Hawkins “I put a spell on you”. Is always a favorite.

  9. Mike
    March 21, 2013 at 12:19 pm

    I’d say the best scream is probably by Roger Daltrey from The Who, in the song “Won’t get fooled again”.

  10. michael proctor
    March 21, 2013 at 12:19 pm

    A third for Roger Daltry’s and the Who-Won’t get fooled again!

  11. Rita
    March 21, 2013 at 12:44 pm

    Thank you Jennifer. It’s great to have somebody cool doing this stuff.

    • Jennifer Gavin
      March 21, 2013 at 12:57 pm

      Hey, thank YOU for following the Library’s social media — we hope to get the word out that all the items in our collections (that’s more than 155 million items) are here for you and everyone to use.

  12. Bill LeFurgy
    March 21, 2013 at 12:45 pm

    When the Music’s Over, The Doors; also Joe Cocker, With a Little Help From My Friends

  13. Bunnie
    March 21, 2013 at 4:05 pm

    John Lennon would be one. But, Robin Zander of Cheap Trick is one of the best.

  14. David Knight
    March 21, 2013 at 4:13 pm

    Oh, drat! I forgot about Jim Morrison on When the Music’s Over. That’s particularly unforgivable since:
    1.) The Doors are one of my favorites
    2.) Just watched the Hollywood Bowl ’68 concert twice recently on Palladia

  15. Ken Kenyon
    March 21, 2013 at 4:25 pm

    Little Richard’s scream in the middle of “Good Golly Miss Molly” is the most memorable for me. As a kid I played the record over and over just waiting for it. The piano intro to the same song must be one of the best also.

  16. Rachel
    March 21, 2013 at 6:42 pm

    Any time Robert Plant opened his mouth.

  17. Ray Fowler
    March 21, 2013 at 10:00 pm


  18. Meg
    March 21, 2013 at 10:39 pm

    No list would be complete without Cheap Trick’s Robin Zander: so many great songs, but Gonna Raise Hell has to be near the top.

  19. Kari Branjord
    March 22, 2013 at 8:56 am

    Roger Daltry was my first thought. My second thought was the scream in Beastie Boys’ Sabotage. Nothing wrong with something a bit more modern.

  20. Tom Miner
    March 22, 2013 at 1:54 pm

    Joe Cocker, in “The Letter”, has a classic scream!

  21. david
    March 22, 2013 at 2:27 pm

    Wilson “the wicked” Pickett – Land of 1000 Dances

  22. vmarek
    April 18, 2013 at 3:04 am

    Greatest real screams in rock n’ roll history are:
    Robert Plant in Immigrant Song
    Bruce Dickinson in Number of the Beast

    Those two pretty much set the standard.

    Daltrey in Won’t Get Fooled Again is pretty good, though … never mind.

    More obscure: the Pagans’ “Boy Can I Dance Good”

  23. Jerry Parshall
    June 6, 2013 at 8:56 am

    My top suggestions are Roger Daltrey’s second scream (after the drum solo) in “Won’t Get Fooled Again” and Paul McCartney’s panther-like screams when “Hey Jude” starts getting raucous.

  24. Jacobfr104
    August 1, 2013 at 11:05 am

    How has Kashmir not yet been mentioned? I dont know if it’s the best but Plant’s scream about halfway through certainly warrants some consideration.

  25. Ted M
    August 4, 2013 at 9:13 am

    The video of ‘Revolution’ I’ve seen shows McCartney doing the intro scream…but I’m sure you’re right, it does sound more like Lennon on audio. Aside from the worthy and obvious Daltrey entries, I’d throw in Bono (Trip Through Your Wires, Angel of Harlem) and Donnie Iris (Ah Leah).

  26. Jennifer Gavin
    August 5, 2013 at 10:53 am

    Thanks for the input re Paul — if it is him, gives me another reason on my already-long list to appreciate him. More proof that crowdsourcing has true value!

  27. Steve
    October 15, 2013 at 2:33 pm

    How about David Lee Roth’s scream in “On Fire” by Van Halen? That was quite frightening as it sounded like he was actually burning!

  28. Jim
    January 15, 2014 at 7:39 pm

    Bon Scott in stick around acdc
    Rob halford victim of changes Judas priest
    Stephen Tyler dream on aerosmith

  29. cip09
    February 14, 2014 at 2:31 pm

    kurt cobain- where did you sleep last night (unplugged)

  30. Roctober
    February 25, 2014 at 7:41 pm

    Rodger Daltrey
    Won’t Get Fooled Again

  31. Dave Elliot
    March 28, 2014 at 6:04 pm

    My favorite scream is John Lennon in “BAD BOY” with a runner up him screaming in “SLOW DOWN”

  32. Dan Szmagalski
    April 9, 2014 at 12:19 am

    James Brown all through the song, “Cold Sweat.”

  33. Tim Troy
    May 6, 2014 at 10:41 am

    Nobody has brought up Jim Morrison’s primal scream at the beginning of the live version of Back Door Man. It’s worth consideration. Or Bon Scott’s scream in the studio version of If You Want Blood (You Got It)

  34. Chris
    July 10, 2014 at 1:23 am

    Roger Daltrey in The Who’s Won’t Get Fooled Again. Nothing else even comes close. Its primal, raw and drenched with pure emotion.

  35. George Smith
    August 25, 2014 at 3:45 pm

    It’s not exactly “rock n roll,” but Bruce Dickinson’s scream in Iron Maiden’s Number of the Beast makes Roger Daltrey’s scream in Won’t Get Fooled Again a joke in comparison.

  36. Matt
    August 29, 2014 at 10:58 am

    Hands down Daltrey on “Won’t Get Fooled Again.”

  37. Pete
    September 19, 2014 at 7:26 am

    Number of the Beast – Iron Maiden
    Ram It Down/Painkiller – Judas Priest
    The Happiest Days of our Lives/Careful With That Axe, Eugene – Pink Floyd
    Under Pressure – Queen and David Bowie

  38. Aussie Pete
    September 19, 2014 at 7:15 pm

    Bit late for the conversation, but:

    Pink Floyd – Careful With That Axe, Euguene; The Happiest Days Of Our Lives; Run Like Hell

    Iron Maiden – Number Of The Beast (my personal favourite!); Run To The Hills; Flight of Icarus, Rime of the Ancient Mariner

    Aerosmith – Dude Looks Like a Lady

    Judas Priest – Painkiller; Ram It Down (second favourite, but by a reeeeally close margin)

    Queen & David Bowie – Under Pressure

  39. Jim Phillips
    September 27, 2014 at 2:22 pm

    Not the greatest song, But “I am the God of Hell Fire” the song Fire by Authur Brown. See if it doesn’t make all the start barking.

  40. roger
    December 22, 2014 at 3:16 pm

    Light my fire (absolutely live by the DOORS). Best scream ever!

  41. Paul Roe
    January 3, 2015 at 9:20 pm

    Aussie Pete- Late to the party is better than nothing. And, we’re talking about the Library of Congress here, something more concerned with lasting impact than timely fads, though fads sometimes do lead to impact and influence. So, commenting on this in 2020 should still be fine!

    Best Screams in Rock History:

    When the Night Comes – Joe Cocker
    Not his best song, but he gets the screams down so well by the mid 1980s that they are just perfected on this track, and there are several, with the last one being particularly intense

    Bad – U2
    ‘I’m WIDE AWAKE!!! I’m not sleeping’. Bono hits transcendent levels here

    To Awake and Avenge the Dead – Thrice
    Check out the first verse. After a few seconds of an intro, this song will let you know why Screamo is a genre to be considered and not brushed aside

    Thieves – Ministry
    Another harsh track, this time of the Industrial genre, with unbelievable intense screaming throughout

    Pitiful – Blindside
    Yet another. This time a Scandanavian hardcore band with Christian undertones

    Worst That Could Happen – The Brooklyn Bridge
    The final telling of ‘If he really loves you more than me…’ is up on the expressive charts

    That Lucky Old Sun – Frankie Laine
    Final “Send down that cloud with a silver lining’. Pretty facuking intense.

    Time Consumer – Coheed & Cambria
    Intense Emo track highlighted by the sort-of chorus refrain “Me and my star, Matthew goodnight!”

    Last Night – The Strokes
    Essentially one long perfect scream to peel the paint

    Season of the Witch – Donovan
    The titular scream, the eponymous yawp.

    Screaming Infidelities – Dashboard Confessional
    Last Emo-genre song, but the genre has some serious screaming going on, whether lamenting wails or caustic screeches. Serious climactic screaming of the chorus toward the end

    Different Drum – Linda Rondstadt
    Another song that is essentially one long extreme peal

    Does Verbosity mean anything? Forgot the meaning. And, realize some are not quite ‘rock and roll’, but close enough.

  42. James boudinot
    February 6, 2015 at 8:57 pm

    In the “screamed lyrics” category, my vote goes to Merry Clayton on the Stones’ Gimme Shelter. Never heard anything like it. “RAAPE! MURD//ee//ER!!”

  43. Don Styra
    February 14, 2015 at 5:38 am

    Pink Floyd ft Clare Torry
    -The Great Gig In The Sky

  44. Tim
    April 9, 2015 at 6:50 pm

    Ted Nugent, Double Live Gonzo near the end of Motor City Madhouse.
    Asphalt Ballet, Hell’s Kitchen right at the beginning.

  45. Jeff P
    April 28, 2015 at 11:47 pm

    Tool, “The Grudge” around the 7 minute mark.

  46. Larry
    August 13, 2015 at 7:51 pm

    How about each line in the verses of Kings of Leon’s Charmer?

  47. bhart
    September 13, 2015 at 7:44 am

    Roky Erickson of The Thirteenth Floor Elevators!!
    “You’re Gonna Miss Me” and others from their albums.
    Take a close listen, I think Janis learned to scream from him.

  48. Daniel nixon
    November 11, 2015 at 5:17 pm

    Territorial pissings-nirvana towards the end. Best thing ever

  49. Robert
    December 12, 2015 at 7:58 pm

    The scream at the beginning of revolution was Paul McCartney. You would think the Library of Congress would get it right once in a while.

  50. Jennifer Gavin
    December 14, 2015 at 7:24 am

    Thanks for your comment. I investigated, and stand by my version. Meanwhile, please blame the writer, not the Library, if you find an error in our blogs: as you’ll see posted on our blogs, they do not represent official Library of Congress communications.

  51. Jack SS
    March 7, 2016 at 9:28 am

    David Bowie: Look Back In Anger
    The Stooges: T.V. Eye
    David Bowie: Heroes
    Sex Pistols: Bodies
    Public Image Ltd.: Theme
    The Stooges: Raw Power
    New York Dolls: Personality Crisis
    Nirvana: Smells Like Teen Spirit
    Devo: Too Much Paranoias
    Gorillaz: Punk

  52. Merr
    August 6, 2016 at 1:56 am

    Sebastian Bach I remember you!

  53. Sirtimtim
    October 19, 2016 at 2:43 pm

    Montrose “Space Station Number 5”
    Sammy Hager “Heavy Metal”

  54. Mike C.
    December 17, 2016 at 11:44 am

    Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers – “I Need To Know’. At (approx.) the 1:30 mark, they scream… IN HARMONY.

  55. Travis
    January 16, 2017 at 12:37 pm

    King diamond in the mercyful fate song a corpse without soul easily one of the greatest screams in all of rock history

  56. Ant
    January 17, 2017 at 1:24 pm

    Dave grohl on monkey wrench, absolutely awesome
    Bruce dickinson number of the beast

  57. Gene
    May 18, 2017 at 12:00 pm

    Edgar Winter from his first album Entrance “Tobacco Road “

  58. NocS
    January 18, 2019 at 8:44 am

    Ian Gillan in Space trucking.

  59. Jo
    February 23, 2019 at 2:16 pm

    Bonnie Tyler Tyre Tracks and Broken Hearts – or Tire Tracks and Broken Hearts, etc…

  60. Greg
    December 15, 2019 at 2:14 pm

    liar, liar castaways!

  61. JL
    April 13, 2020 at 2:18 pm

    Wilson Pickett – Land of 1000 Dances

    An excerpt from the LA Times:

    “The thing about Wilson was he was just a great screamer, but he did it with control,” Pickett’s producer, Jerry Wexler, told the Los Angeles Times. “James Brown would scream and it was a scream, but Wilson could scream notes. His voice was powerful, like a buzz saw, but it wasn’t ever out of his control, it was always melodic.”

  62. Jim Hale
    April 19, 2020 at 2:50 pm

    Buzzy Linhart’s scream in his cover of Elton John’s Take Me to the Pilot.

  63. W. Pinson
    July 17, 2020 at 9:58 am

    How about a couple of singing screams, in key!

    Ian Gillan, Deep Purple, “A Child in Time”

    Steven Tyler, Aerosmith, “Dream On”

    Ian’s “A Child in Time” is particularly skillful, and long, and it’s amazing that he could go from that back to his normal rich upper baritone voice.

  64. toot47
    July 27, 2020 at 1:41 pm

    Roger Daltrey – “Won’t Get Fooled Again”

  65. CoachRogers92
    September 9, 2020 at 3:29 pm

    How is this list missing Prince? When Doves Cry, Let’s Go Crazy & Kiss? come on people.

  66. Oraetta wolfe
    October 4, 2020 at 1:21 pm


  67. Patrick O’Rourke
    October 22, 2020 at 7:45 am

    Otis Redding That’s What My Heart Needs
    This is one of a number of ballads where Otis gets more unhinged as the song goes on. The first verse is almost staid. The last 30 seconds are mayhem.

  68. R
    November 5, 2020 at 10:19 am

    Ian Gillian’s from “I Only Want To Say” on the original Jesus Christ Superstar soundtrack hasn’t been mentioned? :0

  69. Tadhg
    November 19, 2020 at 9:26 pm

    “Careful with That Axe, Eugene” (a/k/a “Come in Number 51, Your Time is Up”) – Pink Floyd
    “Twist and Shout” – The Beatles
    “Ball and Chain” – Big Brother and the Holding Company (more of a wail, really)
    “Where Did you Sleep Last Night” (“In the Pines”) – Nirvana (the last verse/chorus in the live, unplugged one)

  70. Jeff Lawver
    November 20, 2020 at 8:46 pm

    Beatles, always thought McCartney was the better screamer. Helter Skelter, Hey Jude, yes Revolution.
    Although Lennon’s I want you was probably his best.
    That is until post Beatles Well, well, well. Pure guttural, primal, soul wrenching.

  71. Hogs
    January 9, 2021 at 1:23 pm

    Anything by Milojenko Matijevic – Steelheart

  72. Victor
    July 7, 2021 at 8:12 pm

    Deep Purple – Child in Time

  73. Jim
    December 30, 2021 at 9:14 pm

    No mention of Lee Michaels screams on “Stormy Monday” tops, or matches, Daltry in my book.

  74. Brian
    June 8, 2022 at 12:21 pm

    It’s definitely iron maiden number of the beast songs by Bruce Dickinson

  75. Mars
    July 29, 2022 at 10:10 pm

    Janis Joplin screams at the beginning of Cry Baby. Not at the end of Little piece of my heart.

  76. Buzznanars
    August 5, 2022 at 10:14 pm

    How about Chris Cornell scream in Jesus Christ Pose? Helter Skelter Paul McCartney Mother John Lennon Ian Gillan Space Truckin

  77. Michelle Piczko
    August 20, 2022 at 9:18 pm

    Pink Floyd’s Great Gig in the Sky. Clare Torry did the lead vocals to this and it is by far the win when you talk #1 scream.
    There’s a whole bunch of good ones 🙂

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