Season 11 of CW show “Supernatural” begins Oct. 7, and after the twist revealed at the end of last season, it is bound to be a bumpy ride. But it’ll be a ride with a kickin’ soundtrack. In its long run, “Supernatural” has boasted an incredible number of classic rock songs. This show is, in large part, responsible for introducing an entirely new generation to the rock of the 70s and 80s. There are so many poignant music moments in the show it would be impossible to list them all.
In order to celebrate season 11, I give you my personal top 11 memorable musical moments from seasons 1 through 10.
Note: Some of these songs have been replaced on Netflix due to licensing issues.
#11: “A Well-Respected Man” by The Kinks – “It’s a Terrible Life” from Season 4
A scene that is often forgotten in the long history of the show, this is “Supernatural” at its best. The writers of the show love to throw their audience for a loop, and this is one of their most successful attempts. While this song by the Kinks narrates the life of a well-respected conservative man, we are treated to the unusual and unexpected sight of Jensen Ackles in a business suit going to work in a small car and eating salads. This is a far cry from the plaid-wearing, shotgun-toting monster hunter we know his character Dean to be, and the lyrics couldn’t fit more perfectly.
#10: “Goodbye Stranger” by Supertramp – “Goodbye Stranger” from Season 8
The song has to be important if it doubles as the title of the episode, and it fits the ending of the episode well. The lyrics are a farewell to a “stranger” with whom you couldn’t come to an understanding and had to separate from, but ultimately wish well. This scene – beginning with Dean and Sam, then transferring over to Castiel, who is leaving on a bus – puts the characters in the same position. Castiel is someone who the brothers thought they knew and understood, but after the events of the episode, he has in many ways become a stranger. In this scene both parties come to terms with their need to separate from each other.
#9: “Renegade” by Styx – “Nightshifters” from Season 2
This scene was one of the first moments to leave an impression on me in my first watch-through of the show. It is so startling and intense that it is impossible to ignore “Renegade” as simple background music. The driving beat of the song accompanies the shakey-cam style visuals as we follow Sam and Dean’s escape from the SWAT Team which believes they are serial killers. When the chorus hits with a loud scream, it highlights a shift in both scope and tone within the show. They are officially wanted criminals, and things are getting serious.
#8: “The Famous Final Scene” by Bob Seger & the Silver Bullet Band – “Road Trip” from Season 9
This scene revolves around the death of a prominent character and trusted friend of the Winchester brothers. “The Famous Final Scene” plays as we watch Dean mourn the untimely death of someone he considered family. He blames himself for not being able to save his friend, and it is shown in the emotional depth that Ackles provides in this moment. The choice to feature the rich voice of Bob Seger and mute the screaming and crashing of thrown furniture from Dean results in a haunting scene.
#7: “Laugh, I Nearly Died” by The Rolling Stones – “Bloody Mary” from Season 1
“Supernatural” doesn’t often feature soft rock ballads and when they do we are forced to take notice. This song plays as Sam witnesses a hallucination of his dead girlfriend, and the brothers ponder over why bad things happen to good people. The semi-hysterical imagery of laughing in the face of death fill in the gaps of the conversation. Sam sometimes feels like he is barely holding it together.
#6 “Bad Moon Rising” by Creedence Clearwater Revival – “Devil’s Trap” from Season 1
Season 1 provides a wealth of stunning musical moments but none are so shocking as this season finale’s cliffhanger. “Bad Moon Rising” plays on the car radio as the Winchester family escapes to the safety of a hospital to lick their demon-caused wounds. It seems like they are in the clear when the lyrics, “It looks like we’re in for nasty weather,” prove to be prescient, and their car is T-boned by an eight-wheeler tractor-trailer driven by a demon. The season ends on a shot of all three Winchesters bleeding and unconscious. Be glad, dear reader, you don’t have to suffer though that hiatus.
#5: “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper” by Blue Öyster Cult – “Faith” from Season 1
Yet another powerful moment from season 1. This scene introduces the creatures known as Reapers who have the power to give and take life. Despite being a little bit on the nose about the subject of the scene, this song delivers a sense of unease and dread that is impossible to ignore. The rhythm is frantic, but the melody is calm, causing an unsettling disconnect. This matches perfectly with the dichotomy of the scene that shows a young woman being stalked and killed so that an old man may be cured in the name of faith.
#4: “Wanted Dead or Alive” by Bon Jovi – “No Rest for the Wicked” from Season 3
Just because your soul is damned to Hell doesn’t mean you don’t have time for a sing along with your brother. This scene focuses on the backbone of the show: the relationship between Sam and Dean. Dean can tell that Sam is distressed about Dean’s impending eternal damnation and his inability to help stop it, so he does what any self-respecting brother would do: he turns up the radio and sings off-key. It works too, and it creates a moment of levity in the ever-increasingly dark tone of the show.
#3: “O, Death” by Jen Titus – “Two Minutes to Midnight” from Season 5
One of the only songs on this list to break from the genre of classic rock, this song is an old folk song that was first recorded in the 1920’s. (You may recognize it from the titles of recent video game, “Until Dawn.”) Jen Titus recorded this version specifically for “Supernatural,” and it is my favorite cover of the tune. It is haunting and dirge-like, which is perfect considering it is used as an introduction for the character Death. You shouldn’t trifle with Death, and this scene will make sure that you don’t soon forget. Additionally, this song has been resurrected in the season 11 trailer.
#2: “Rock of Ages” by Def Leppard – “Swan Song” from Season 5
This is a rock anthem, and if any song categories Dean’s attitude at the end of season 5, it is the “rock above all else” mentality of this song. Times are rough, and the stakes are higher than ever, and what does Dean do? He hops in his car, throws in a cassette tape and drives out to challenge the Devil. He knows it is a risk and if he fails, then he and the rest of the earth will go up in flames. But as the song reminds us, “it’s better to burn out than to fade away,” and he needs to try. This scene is the climax of the last 5 seasons, and this loud and rebellious song does it more justice than any crafted and purposefully moving string piece could (besides, there is plenty of time for that during the emotional voiceovers).
#1: “Carry On Wayward Son” by Kansas – “The Road So Far…” from Every Season Finale
This is an obvious choice for number one. The unofficial theme song for the show, “Carry On Wayward Son” has a place in the hearts of every single “Supernatural” fan. The lyrics, which inspire us to carry on in the face of hard times and remind us that there will be peace when we are done, couldn’t fit the themes of the show, like determination and inner-strength, any more perfectly than if it had been written with the Winchesters in mind. What is more it has inspired viewers to carry on in their own personal struggles. This song is fans’ ringtones, and the last song at conventions. It is played at the beginning of every season finale, and it was given homage in the show’s 200th episode in the form of an emotional ballad. This is the song that fans will carry with them long after the show has ended.