Subscribe to our newsletter

Credit: Gage Skidmore

Music

From Peter Gabriel to Steely Dan: Robert Downey Jr.'s 10 favourite songs of all time

“Music has sometimes been important to my acting, but most of it has been quite obscure.” – Robert Downey Jr.

Despite being one of his generation’s most well-paid, most widely-adored and wholly blessed actors, Robert Downey Jr.‘s taste for music doesn’t sit within the mainstream as you might expect. The storied career of RDJ may sound like a rock and roll number crafted in the back of a Hollywood dive bar, but the truth is, the self-confessed “nerd” has always saved the more objectionable side of his life for his love of weird and wonderful music. Below, we have the icon’s favourite songs of all time.

When gathering the favourite songs of any artist, performer or lowly music lover, it has to be said that those lists are changeable. Some will morph over decades, incorporating new shades of a life well-lived, other lists will mutate overnight, bringing the poison of punk or the healing nature of jazz into the nucleus of one’s life. So, when dealing with a list of one’s ten favourite songs of all time from 2005, a hefty pinch of salt must be added before cooking.

One thing we can be sure of, however, is that Robert Downey Jr. isn’t afraid to wear his heart on his sleeve, ditching the ideals of punk rock for something a little more prog, a little safer, a little more comforting. Considering the actor’s trials and tribulations (sex, prison, drugs and everything in between), it seems fitting that the rock and roll lifestyle didn’t appeal to RDJ — he has seemingly seen enough of it to last him a lifetime. Instead, his musical choices offer warmth and comfort that few can match.

First on the list, which Downey Jr. compiled for iTunes back in 2005 just after he released his own album of music The Futurist, was Police song ‘Darkness’ which contains a notable lyric: “It was, I think a Stuart Copeland composition on the quintessential Police album — the lyrics ‘I wish I never woke up this morning, life was easy when it was boring.'” Having once previously noted how Sting operated as one of the few albums he had while in jail, it feels right that he should pay homage to the great man’s band.

Elsewhere, Robert Downey Jr. also singles out Genesis as one of his favourite bands of all time. It’s reflected in this list as he not only picks out Peter Gabriel’s song ‘Red Rain’ which he says has “musical innovation” and “haunting lyrics”, but also the Phil Collins classic ‘Why Can’t It Wait ’til Morning’, with the actor surmising: “Underappreciated composition. Lest we forget, Genesis spawned more than one great solo artist?”

There is also room for Steely Dan on the list and their song ‘Peg’, which the actor says incorporates “hot pockets”, leading him to call them the “undisputed masters of counter melody.” Another band for which RDJ holds great affection is Van Halen. Selecting their song ‘Finish What Ya Started’, the actor summarises their contribution: “Alex redefines non-linear drumming, Hagar handles it, Eddie presides, as usual.”

Simply put, if you arrived at this playlist hoping to find a plethora of Iron Man-affiliated hard rock anthems, or a kaleidoscopic range of smoky jazz beats, flecked with the nuance of trip-hop masterpieces, then you’ll be sadly disappointed. As we’ve discovered over the years of RDJ’s glittering career, he is far more than the roles he plays or the stories you read about him. In fact, underneath it all, he’s just a bit of a music nerd.

Robert Downey Jr.’s favourite songs:

  • ‘Darkness’ – The Police
  • ‘Blame It On the Sun’ – Stevie Wonder
  • ‘Peg’ – Steely Dan
  • ‘Red Rain’ – Peter Gabriel
  • ‘Heaven’ – Bryan Adams
  • ‘Faithfully’ – Journey
  • ‘Finish What Ya Started’ – Van Halen
  • ‘Me and My Arrow’ – Harry Nilsson
  • ‘Why Can’t It Wait ’til Morning’ – Phil Collins
  • ‘With or Without You’ – U2