When Taylor Swift said, “Life is emotionally abusive,” we all sang to it, didn’t we? Well, life can be challenging, and sometimes only music can save us from the tumultuous turmoil of reality. People say the only difference between noise and music is the clever synchronization of the latter.
From classic rock to jazz to pop music, the soul-churning melodies seem to be endless. But what makes a singer great? It is the strong and fundamental bond they establish through their music with the audience. If we go by that definition, there have been quite a few legendary singers. Over the decades, hundreds of voices touched hearts, and we cannot pick just a couple to do justice to the whole music industry.
However, as they say, sometimes talent and brilliance supersede genius. So, out of all the genius voices, few talented ones outshined through each generation. From Aretha Franklin to Donna Summer, Elton John to The Weekend, and Taylor Swift to PJ Harvey, here is a list of never-ending melodies.
35 Best Singers of All Time: Generational Melodies
While we still groove to artists like Frank Sinatra, Lou Reed, Elvis Presley, David Bowie, etc, this generation has also given us artists like Adele, Lana Del Rey, The Weekend, etc to sway to. The new artists are adding tremendously to their legacy, and also to the memory of those singers who came before them.
Below, is a list of all those voices that touched our souls over the years, both old and new. These artists have carved their names onto time for the upcoming generations to groove on. However, note that it is not ranked as per merit, but simply a culmination of names that went down in history.
1. Aretha Franklin (1942-2018)
Aretha Louise Franklin was born on 25th March 1942 and was revered as the ‘Queen of Soul’, whose music and songwriting still has its echoes today. Over the decades, her music found its way to influence generations of singers and sold around 75 million records.
Her talented voice was first heard when she used it to sing in a church in Detroit, and from there, her journey took baby steps. When Aretha Franklin turned 18 years old, she signed as a recording artist with Columbia Records. Within the next few years, she joined in with Atlantic Records, which gave her the initial boost that would pave the way for the future of young Aretha.
Through Atlantic Records, Aretha released several of her famous single songs and albums like “Respect“, “I Say a Little Prayer”, “Lady Soul”, “Sparkle”, etc. However, over time she clashed and had issues with the recording studio, which ended with her leaving Atlantic Records and joining Arista Records.
Throughout her expansive and successful career, Franklin had 112 singles, 100 R&B, and 17 pop singles. She went down in history as a woman whose voice is akin to a heavenly symphony.
Her voice made it possible for her to win around 18 Grammy awards. Rolling Stone placed her as one of the most memorable and accomplished voices more than once, and her legend lives on even after her tragic death at the age of 76 in 2018.
Even today her songs like “I Have Never Loved a Man (The Way I Loved You)” and “A Rose is Still a Rose”, etc are sung and heard by many, and inspire hundreds of music artists all over the world.
2. Frank Sinatra (1915-1998)
When we think about Frank Sinatra, we think about Jazz, which leads us to the imagery of men holding trumpets, swinging around in bold-colored jackets, improvising and making irregular strides. Well, some say this man brought the concept of Jazz to the forefront of the world in the 20th century. Francis Albert Sinatra, an American vocalist, was born on 12th December 1915.
Frank Sinatra, also nicknamed “Ol’ Blue Eyes”, is a persona that shines brilliantly and dazzlingly even now. Matter of factly, his music made a sale of 150 million records. Sinatra was revered as one of those personalities that both changed and created history with his talent.
His career began at a time when being in bands was popular. So, Frank decided to go a different way: he gained fame and recognition by being a solo vocalist during an era when band music was known to all.
He signed in with Columbia Records and went on to release “The Voice of Frank Sinatra”, his debut album. Then down the line, he left Columbia Records and joined Capitol Records. Under that banner, he released some of his best albums like “Songs for Swingin’ Lovers”, “Nice ‘n’ Easy”, etc. In the year 1960, however, he decided to quit Capitol Records and establish his recording label called Reprise Records.
Sinatra’s dashing personality gave him the boost to try his luck as an actor, too, which worked out marvelously for him. He went on to win an Emmy, an award for Best Supporting Actor, 11 Grammys, and a Golden Globe. Frank Sinatra is a brand name for many modern jazz lovers, and his songs like “Lucky Be a Lady”, “Blue Moon”, and “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”, are still immensely sought-after even after 35 years of his death.
3. Mariah Carey (1969-present)
Well, it is impossible to put together a list of the best singers and not put the queen of high octaves in it. Mariah Carey, who the Guinness book monikered as “Songbird Supreme,” was born on 27th March 1969 in America.
Songbird Supreme or Queen of Christmas, whatever you wish to address Mariah Carey with, she promises to deliver her best. Carey is dubbed such monikers owing to her five high-octave vocals. Her name is one not to be forgotten when one thinks of pop music. Her “All I Want for Christmas is You” is an undisputed hit of all time, being the most selling festivity song by a female vocalist.
Her easy way of incorporating two vocals of different genres, i.e., pop music with hip-hop, is what made her a unique and creative songwriter. Mariah’s journey to fame began with her singing with Columbia Records, via which she released some of her most famous songs that dazzled up the US Billboard in the 90s, for example, “Fantasy”, “One Sweet Day”, “Hero”, etc.
She changed record labels at the end of the 90s to Virgin Records. Carey is one of those vocalists whose records are in the best-selling charters, with almost over 200 million records in sale meters.
4. Freddie Mercury (1946-1991)
The world knows Farrokh Bulsara as Freddie Mercury, who was born on September 5th, 1946. It is impossible to call yourself a fan of classic rock and not know this legendary singer and songwriter. Freddie is revered for his four-octave pitch, and he gained recognition as the lead singer of the Queen rock band in the 70s.
The 1970s was the decade when many unforgettable voices were heard for the very first time, and since then, the music industry hasn’t been the same. Freddie Mercury was one such indelible voice. His roaring personality and individuality added to his talent ever so more.
A pioneer in songwriting and music, Freddie decided to start his rock band called Queen with Brian May and Roger Taylor in the year 1970. While Roger Taylor was the drummer and Brian May was the lead guitarist, Freddie was the sole lead songwriter and vocalist for the band.
His creative visions manifested in almost all of his songs like “Bohemian Rhapsody”, “Don’t Stop Me Now”, “Killer Queen”, etc.
Queen’s live stage events were legendary, and Freddie is still remembered as one of the most charismatic singers the world has ever seen, even though he died at the young age of 45. However, his life’s achievements were immortalized in Bohemian Rhapsody (2018), where Rami Malek played the role of magnetic Freddie Mercury.
5. Beyoncé (1981-present)
When Beyoncé asked, “Who Run The World?” we all replied, “Girls”. Well, the world spins on many facets, but Beyoncé has a pivotal role in running the music industry; that much is true. Born Beyoncé Giselle Knowles-Carter, Beyoncé is a very well-known and revered American pop singer and songwriter. She was born on 4th September 1981 and is monikered “Queen Bey”.
It is quite hard to believe that there is a soul on earth who hasn’t grooved to “Single Ladies” or “Brown Skin Girl” cause Beyoncé is such a brand name. In her voice, there remains the whole might of the struggle of Black artists even now. Her songs have one of the highest sales records of 200 million, and she is applauded for being one of the most successful female entertainers in the world.
Interestingly though she did not have her breakthrough as a sole vocalist, she rose to prominence for being a band member of Destiny’s Child, an R&B band. This was in the 90s, and in the 2000s, after her band broke up, she was already at the peak of her performing career. In 2006, she started releasing solo albums, and after more upheaval in her personal life, she started emphasizing more feministic themes in her albums, for example, “Renaissance“, “Beyoncé”, etc.
To embellish more of her groundbreaking success, it is imperative to mention that she is the beholder of 32 Grammy Awards, 31 BET Awards, 26 MTV Awards, etc. Beyoncé is said to be one of those women who defined her century, and Rolling Stone believes that to be true, and so do we.
6. Bob Dylan (1941-present)
Robert Allen Zimmerman, professionally known as Bob Dylan, is one of the most legendary songwriters the world has ever seen. Most of his songs are a testament to his vivid and creative writing, and he has been in this industry for 6 long decades. He was born on May 24th, 1941, and his songs are major psalms for the post-World War II era and civilian liberties.
Bob Dylan and his wild lyrical songwriting did not immediately surface when he released his first album but was brought to daylight by”The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan”, his second album. While ample Bob Dylan songs gain background from folk songs, Dylan brings his creativity into play one way or the other and fused rock elements in some of his songs. Some of his most famous songwriting examples include “Like a Rolling Stone”, “A Hard Rain’s a-Gonna Fall”, “Blonde on Blonde”, etc.
Dylan’s songwriting was mainly based on political themes of that era, sociocultural influences, and going off-stream with conventional pop culture. Throughout 60 years, he experimented with different singing forms and reinvented and melted different styles.
Owing to his talented efforts, he won several awards; for instance, Dylan is the winner of at least 10 Grammy Awards. His records made a whopping sale and reached 145 million, making him one of the most prized musicians.
7. Elvis Presley (1935-1977)
The ‘King of Rock and Roll’, Elvis Aaron Presley, simply known and celebrated as Elvis, was born on 8th August 1935. He was one of those personalities that shaped the direction of modern rock music. A singer whose voice can take you to the highest highs and then deep into the lowest lows, he is remembered today for being one of the most influential personas of that era.
The sexually charismatic and tantalizing moves of Elvis while performing still seem to draw most people, young and old. Presley’s music career kickstarted when he signed in as a recording artist with Sun Records. He, alongside Bill Black and Scotty Moore, set a new blending age for R&B and country music, pop, etc.
However, after twenty years of being in a foursome, Elvis released his first single, “Heartbreak Hotel”. The song hit the top category on the billboards quite fast and set the stage for more fame for him. Over time, Elvis would go on to release best-selling singles back-to-back. Some of his famous singles include “Don’t be Cruel”, “That’s All Right”, “Blue Suede Shoes”, etc. They became a hallmark that showcased the depth of Elvis’s magnanimous discography, and his records made a sale of 500 million at the bare minimum.
He tried to charm the audience with his acting too, in movies like “Jailhouse Rock”, “Love Me Tender”, etc. His life is memorialized in the biographical movie “Elvis (2022)”, where Austin Butler played the role of Elvis Presley.
8. Celia Cruz (1925-2003)
When we think about Latin musicians from the 20th century, one name stands out perfectly uptight: Úrsula Hilaria Celia de la Caridad Cruz Alfonso, professionally known as simply Celia Cruz. She was a Cuban by birth and was born on October 21st, 1925.
Celia Cruz is one of the most famous personalities who climbed up to fame in the 50s. Queen of Salsa, Cruz started her career in her homeland Cuba and rose to the ranks later on with a group named Sonora Matancera that disbanded in 1965. Her rich timbre of voice, and her Afro-Cuban style of vocalizing, made her one of the bestselling musicians of her time.
When the Cuban Revolution struck, Celia left Cuba, landed primarily in Mexico, then in the States, and went on to record the song she is best remembered now for, i.e., “Bemba colorá”. One decade later, she drove into mainstream salsa, which became her signature style. She went on to release songs that still make most salsa fans groove their hearts out. Matter of factly, she won 2 Grammys for her extraordinary music and produced 30+ albums.
Throughout her lifetime, she remained a brand name, and even 20 years after her death, “Azúcar!” – the famous Celia Cruz idiom lives on.
9. Adele (1988-present)
Adele Laurie Blue Adkins, famously known as Adele was born on 5th May 1988. She is best known for her middle high-pitch vocalizing i.e. mezzo-soprano. If “Rolling in the Deep” is anything to go by, Adele is one of the most celebrated female musicians of our generation.
With a mezzo-soprano style, Adele’s songs are expressive and rich. Her soulful timbre makes her one of the best-selling singers and songwriters, with over 100 million sales records. Her debut album, 19, alone sold over 2 million records.
Interestingly, most of her albums are titled numerically to represent the age she composed those songs. To be extremely fair, Adele’s voice’s tempo is aging like fine wine, and one can surely measure the fineness of it from her debut album to her most recent release.
Adele’s laurels include 12 BRIT Awards, an Emmy, 16 Grammys, and one Golden Globe. Her songs like “When We Were Young”, “Rumour Has It”, “Easy On Me”, and “I Drink Wine”, etc demonstrate her ingenious nature of lyrical composition mixed with powerful and keyed-up tone.
10. David Bowie (1947-2016)
Charismatic, handsome, and talented David Robert Jones, better known as David Bowie, was one of the most famous and sought-after musicians of the 20th century. He was born on January 8th, 1947, in London.
Bowie’s rich and vivid alto was his signature, and post-70s, his fame doubled up when he started experimenting with his works. However, it might come as a surprise that Bowie did not climb the ladder of success when he first debuted in the early 1960s. He had to face recurring futile singles before breaking the ice and making it big. His first hit was “Space Oddity,” and during the 70s he decided to experiment with his style and create something that would come to be known as “glam rock”.
His “Young Americans” has to be one of the most famous vinyl records. He kept on changing and experimenting with styles like electronic rock, plastic soul, etc, and released several hits. Bowie acted in a couple of movies before refocusing on his music again, with hits like “Ashes to Ashes. His last album was released just two days before he died in 2016.
David Bowie is a brand name now in the music industry as this man is the beholder of several accolades, including 11 gold and 10 platinums. He remains a bestselling musician with more than 100 million sales with a magnanimous fan following.
11. Dusty Springfield (1939-1999)
Cheeky, confident, and talented Dusty Springfield, also known as Mary Isobel Catherine O’Brien, was born on April 16th, 1939, in London. Her elaborately curated social image of ostentatious blonde beehive hairdo, the signature makeover of bold eyeshadows, and the broadest eyeliner still live rent in most of her fan’s minds.
Dusty Springfield was one of those English musicians who rose to fame in the 60s; however, before that, she joined a band named “The Lana Sisters”. A couple of years later, she, along with her siblings, formed “The Springfields” and released several hits like “Silver Threads and Golden Needles”. Soon after, she decided to make it solo, and her first was “I Only Want To Be With You”, a pop number from her album titled “A Girl Called Dusty”.
As a member of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, Dusty Springfield is mostly remembered for her charismatic and tantalizing personality and her daring mezzo-soprano vocals. However, as it always goes, nothing is free of struggle, and Springfield saw her share of bumpy releases from time to time, though she sprang back up more efficiently every time and managed to create a brand name for herself.
Even now, Rolling Stone has her on the list of the greatest musicians in history, and truth be told, once you groove to the “Son of a Preacher Man”, you might agree to it too.
12. Bob Marley (1945-1981)
Robert Nesta Marley, known by his stage name Bob Marley, was a Jamaican vocalist and songwriter who was born on 6th February 1945. Marley’s music was often influenced by his personal beliefs, and as such, he is one of the trailblazing supporters of the Rastafari movement.
Bob Marley’s musical expertise is in the genre of Reggae music. He formed “The Wailers”, a vocal band, in the first half of the 60s, and by the early 70s, they signed in with Island Records. They gained global recognition after signing with this British recording studio and released the album titled “Catch a Fire”.
This breakthrough album was followed by another successful release in the same year. Bob Marley is renowned for his charismatic persona and passionate baritone that made him and the Wailers one of the best-selling bands; however, unfortunately, they disbanded soon after the release of the album “Burnin”.
With a sales record of 75 million, Marley is remembered now as one of the best vocalists the world has ever seen. His lifelong journey of popularizing reggae music has left its mark on tracks like “No Woman, No Cry”, “Redemption Song” etc. Marley’s music has been accredited with themes of love, compassion, and spirituality, and even though he succumbed to cancerous melanoma in 1981, Marley remains one of the greatest vocalists with accolades that include a Lifetime Achievement Award.
13. Stevie Nicks (1948-present)
Stephanie Lynn Nicks, more commonly known as Stevie Nicks was born on May 1948 in Arizona. She is one of the most prominent and renowned American vocalists and songwriters, who rose to fame by being the main vocalist of Fleetwood Mac.
Nicks commenced her career as a musician at a very young age when she started a band named “Fritz” in her teenage years. Through it, she earned some local acclaim, but it wasn’t until she joined Fleetwood in 1975 that she gained prominence globally. She became one of the known faces of the rock and roll industry in the 70s, thanks to her unique voice, compositional songwriting, and magnetic onstage charisma.
After she released “Bella Donna”, a solo album, she was monikered “Reigning Queen of Rock and Roll.” Certain tracks of Fleetwood Mac, which were considered best-selling successes, were composed and sung by her, for example, “Gold Dust Woman”, “Dreams”, “Landslide”, etc. Over the years, Stevie Nicks has received several accolades for her prowess and contributions to the music industry.
She has eight solo recordings and seven albums with Fleetwood Mac, and for that, she is the beholder of eight Grammys. Nicks was admitted to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame both as a solo artist and a member of the rock band Fleetwood Mac, making her a one-of-a-kind vocalist since the 70s. With a 140 million sales record, Stevie Nicks stands to be an influential vocalist even at the age of 75.
14. Amy Winehouse (1983-2011)
Amy Jade Winehouse, who was born on 14th September 1983, was a gifted English vocalist and songwriter who catapulted to prominence with her rich vocals and a distinctive combination of jazz music, paired with pop and R&B. Her short-spanned career and widespread fame is a testimonial to her distinctive music.
Amy Winehouse showed her prowess in music from a young age and was a member of a Jazz group named “National Youth Jazz Orchestra”. She had a huge influence over the music world and left many great songs in her wake. “Frank” released in 2003, was her primary album through which she made her big debut.
Three years later, she released her second album, “Back to Black” which became the album that made her famous and one of the best-selling vocalists in the UK. The album was heavily modeled by 60s girl bands and Jazz music. Commercially it was a breakthrough and won her many accolades.
Amy Winehouse, despite her successful career with 5 Grammy awards and numerous other accolades, had substance abuse issues. She suffered from drug addiction, and her addiction was publicized majorly in the tabloids. Winehouse, with her music, connected and struck several chords within her fans; however, on 23rd July 2011, she succumbed to her addiction and died because of it at the mere age of 27.
Her legacy though is not tarnished by her weakness but by her passionate contralto and her varied songwriting blend.
15. Taylor Swift (1989-present)
A pop name that needs very little introduction is Taylor Alison Swift. She was born on 13th December 1989 and is known for her poetic and story-driven songwriting, contemplative lyrics, and infectious tunes.
However, even with a career spanning almost 2 decades of commercial success and critical acclaim, some might feel putting her name on an All-time list is a stretch. To debunk that myth and state the obvious, this award-winning pop singer made the Top 200 list of Rolling Stone’s best singers of all time.
At the age of 14, Taylor Swift started composing impactful and creative lyrics. She mainly walked on the lines of country music back then, and in the year 2005, she signed as a recording artist with Big Machine Records. The very next year, Swift released her debut album titled “Taylor Swift”. After almost a decade, in 2014, Taylor divulged from country theme with her album “1989”.
Post-1989 release, Taylor got a backlash from the media due to her controversy with Kanye, and three years later, she released her most iconic album, “Reputation”. The album’s song “Look What You Made Me Do” gained fame in the tabloids for her musical reference to her famous feud with the Kanye Controversy.
Her comeback from the press’s scrutinizing comments saved her from being the victim of the cancel culture, and ever since, her albums like “Lover,” “Folklore,” and “Evermore” only added to her imagery of an expressive songwriter. With the latter two, her songwriting turned more romanticizing and poetically lyrical with tracks like “This is me trying,” “Epiphany,” “Mirrorball”, “Gold Rush,” “August,” etc.
However, her most recent release, “Midnights” is her most ingenious album that broke records on the first day of release. Tracks like “Anti-Hero,” “Sweet Nothing,” “Karma,” and “Midnight Rain” hit the top of the Billboard charts. Since her disagreements with Big Machine Records, Swift started re-recording (Taylor’s Version) of her previously released albums.
Speak Now(Taylor’s Version) releases on 7th July 2023, making it her third re-recording. Taylor Swift is a brand name in herself and one of the best-selling vocalists of her generation. On Spotify, she is the most streamed artist and has over 200 million sales records.
After Madonna, Taylor Swift broke records with the success of her Eras Tour, where almost seventy-nine thousand fans attended the concert on the opening night. With 12 Grammy awards and 98 Guinness World Records, Taylor Swift remains one of the most celebrated songwriters despite all the controversies that shroud her.
16. Bruce Springsteen (1949-present)
Bruce Frederick Joseph Springsteen, simply known as Bruce Springsteen, was born on 23rd September 1949 and is well-known for his dynamic onstage performances, distinctive working-class themes in his songwriting, and frank lyrics.
Bruce Springsteen’s discography stretches over 60 years of releasing commercially successful albums and electric concerts. However, Springsteen did not have a star-studded beginning, as his first two albums barely got any recognition. It wasn’t until the release of his third album, “Born To Run,” in the 75, did he gain prominence. It was a breakout success, and the album features some of his most memorable tracks like “Thunder Road,” “Born to Run,” etc.
Springsteen experienced further popularity with the release of his album “Born in the U.S.A” in the 80s. Tracks from this album, like “Glory Days”, and “Dancing in the Dark”, etc., became fan favorites and an ode to a patriotic hymn of sorts. It rose through the charts of Billboard and shed more light on Springsteen’s signature style, heartland rock. Apart from gaining recognition as a solo artist, Springsteen was also known for “E Street Band” and, in the 80s, joined hands with them for this very album.
Throughout his career, Bruce Springsteen has been known for his over-the-top energy while performing on stage in live events. He received numerous accolades, including Grammy Awards, Golden Globe Awards, etc. He is credited with rejuvenating the concept of rock music with lyrics that are artistic as well as socially cognizant.
Even now, Bruce Springsteen remains one of the best-selling vocalists in America and has sold over 140 million records globally.
17. Rihanna (1988-present)
Robyn Rihanna Fenty, more famously known as Rihanna, was born on 20th February 1988. Considered one of the best musicians of her age, Rihanna has a sales record of 250 million globally. According to Forbes, she is one of those celebrities who have the highest pay rate.
Over a two decades long successful career, Rihanna started her musical journey with Def Jam and garnered much-needed prominence. Midway through the 2000s, Rihanna’s remarkable style, varied musical taste, and strong voice were recognized with the release of her song “Pon De Replay.”
In her “Good Girl Gone Bad” she introduced a new style, i.e., dance-pop, and established her career more firmly than ever before. Tracks from this album, like “Disturbia,” “Umbrella,” and “Rehab,” became internet sensations. However, her talents expanded beyond the realm of music, and this renowned vocalist’s face appeared in movies like Ocean 8 and several others. She is very vocal about social work, like for environmental causes too.
A businesswoman and a fashion icon, Rihanna is the beholder of nine Grammy Awards, six Guinness World Record awards, and several other laurels in her cap of success.
18. Patti Smith (1946-present)
Patricia Lee Smith, most commonly known as Patti Smith, was born on 30th December 1946 in Chicago and is known for her contribution to punk rock in the 70s. She is not only a vocalist but also a poet, and therefore for her distinctive discography, she is monikered the “punk poet laureate.”
Patti rose through the ranks and gained fame and recognition during the punk rock movement. Primarily she belonged to the working class and had a love for musical and literary pursuits from a very young age. During the mid-70s, she released her first album titled “Horses.” She is known for songs like “Dancing Barefoot” and “Because of the Night,” etc which established her in the music industry and further paved the way for her to solidify her career.
Smith’s deft way of infusing punk rock and poetry gained her much influence songs like “Gloria” became very widely loved. She goes to release several albums before stopping following her tumultuous personal life. It wasn’t until the 90s that she started recording again. Her albums grew in lyrical depth albums like “Gone Again”, “Peace and Noise,” etc.
Patti’s expertise in syncretizing artistic sentiments, poetry, and literature into music, more importantly, punk rock, made her one of the most prominent figures of the 70s. She won several accolades and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in the late 2000s. Moreover, her written contributions like “Just Kids,” a memoir of her life, are also noteworthy.
19. The Weekend (1990-present)
Abel Makkonen Tesfaye, most famously known by his stage name, The Weekend, was born on 16th February 1990 in Canada. He is comparatively a new persona in the world of pop music but arguably one of the best.
The Weekend is known to gain fame owing to the discreet release of his mixtapes, namely “Thursday,” “Echoes of Silence,” and “House of Balloons” in 2010 by him. He is renowned for the individuality that he brings with him to every song that he composes and sings, adding artistic elements and having a distinctive falsetto range.
The mixtapes were just the beginning of his creative success as they gained impeccable reviews even from the critics and established The Weekend as a prominent pop figure. However, it wasn’t until 2012 that he officially released the mixtapes under one album, “Trilogy.” He then goes on to release “Kiss Land,” which becomes his debut album. It received raging good reviews and topped the Billboard charts.
His other famous albums are “Starboy,” “Beauty Behind the Madness”, etc. One of his Grammy-winning tracks was “Earned It,” which was for the movie adaptation of Fifty Shades of Grey. His worldwide recognition, however, came when he released “The Hills”, and “Can’t Feel My Face”. His lyrical composition and magnetic vocals drew people more frequently towards his music which had themes of pop and R&B too.
Even with a fairly new career, The Weekend managed to win numerous recognitions, including 4 Grammy awards and several other laurels and has a record sale of around 75 million.
20. Lou Reed (1942-2013)
Lewis Allan Reed, known as Lou Reed, was born on 2nd March 1942 and gained fame as the lead singer and guitarist of The Velvet Underground.
Lou Reed was a prominent figure and gained much recognition thanks to his characteristic sardonic voice, creative and thought-provocative lyrics, and inventive guitar-playing style. Reed began his musical career in the 60s with The Velvet Underground and drove the band to critical success for one decade before leaving and embarking further as a solo vocalist. The band gained commercial recognition majorly much later, post its active years.
In the 70s, Reed debuted solo with a self-titled album, “Lou Reed”, which was a more recognizable success than before; however, it was the “Transformer” album with a collaboration with Bowie that brought him fame. He goes on to release several successful and best-selling albums like “Sally Can’t Dance,” “Berlin,” Coney Island Baby,” and “Rock and Roll Heart,” etc., throughout 50 long years of his career.
Reed was one of the most successful songwriters whose lyrics divulged darker themes, and his creative streak enabled him to win several awards and also the honor of being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Unfortunately, Reed died in 2013 but left behind a rich legacy of exceptional music.
21. Donna Summer (1948-2012)
Donna Adrian Gaines, widely known by her stage name Donna Summer was born on 31st December 1948 and was often called the “Queen of Disco”. She was an influential vocalist during the 70s Disco Era.
Donna had a strong voice that attracted many, along with her charismatic and engaging onstage performances. She rose to become among the greatest and most prominent musicians. Summer had a love for music since she was a child, and as she was growing up she was drawn in by the 1960s counterculture. Later in her teenage years, she joined a band named “Crow” and was their lead vocalist.
In the 70s, Summer went to Germany, where she met two music producers, namely Pete Bellotte and Giorgio Moroder, and started working with them. Via their collaboration, Summer was able to release “Love to Love You Baby” in 75, bringing her international fame and acclaim. This song perfectly showcased the vigor and seductiveness of Donna Summer’s voice and made her a sensational disco singer.
Since then, she became a brand name in her right and started releasing a string of hit tunes like “Hot Stuff,” “Bad Girls,” “Last Dance,” “Grand Illusion,” etc. An icon for the disco era, her fashion sense was considered alluring and impeccably captivating.
However, being a disco-era icon did not stop her from venturing into other genres of music during the later part of her career. She is the beholder of 5 Grammy awards and numerous other prestigious honors. Summer passed away in 2012, and the very next year, she was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
22. Florence Welch (1986-present)
Florence Leontine Mary Welch, simply known as Florence Welch, was born on 28th August 1986 and is widely famous for being the head vocalist of Florence and The Machine.
Florence Welch’s musical career began in the late 2000s when she collaborated with keyboardist Isabella Summers and created Florence and The Machine. They debuted with “Lungs,” which was commercially extremely successful and put Welch and her band on a reputable platform. Tracks like “Dog Days Are Over”, “Bird Song,” and “Kiss With A Fist,” etc. became fan favorites owing to their operatic and thoughtful lyrics and the theatrical nature of Florence’s voice.
When one thinks about Florence Welch’s voice, one will notice that Welch is known for her high spectrum, sentiment, and sheer strength in her singing. Not only she has a rare voice, but also a distinctive and individualistic sense of fashion and an enigmatic onstage charisma.
Since her debut album, she has gone on to release several successful hits like “How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful”, “Ceremonials,” and “Dance Fever,” etc. which gained her favor and established her as one of the most influential singers of her time. Ethereal and lyrical, Florence’s songwriting is unique, and as such, it has helped her win several accolades, including a BRIT award.
23. Neil Young (1945-present)
Neil Percival Young, mostly known as Neil Young, was born on 12th November 1945 and was one of the best and most prominent vocalists of his generation. His musical career stretches over a couple of decades and has a rich legacy.
Young, in his songwriting, strives to draw out the genres of country and folk music and also has strings of pop music. Long story short, Neil is a very experimental person and is known for his syncretic music. He was part of a couple of bands throughout his career and also has produced some solo albums. Even now, he performs onstage during tours with the same energy and charisma.
It is perhaps no secret that Neil Young is an adept guitarist, and his individualistic style of elevated baritone while singing is the reason he got a strong footing in the musical world. He is monikered “Godfather of Grunge” owing to his distinctive amplified guitar playing technique.
His songwriting reflects how deeply sentimental his thoughts are, and some of his best lyrics are in the tracks like “Harvest Moon,” “Heart of Gold,” etc. Neil Young and his music are unarguably legendary, and as such, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and has won numerous Grammy awards.
24. Lana Del Rey (1985-present)
Elizabeth Woolridge Grant, known by her stage name Lana Del Rey, was born on 21st June 1985 and is known for her lyrical exploration of bittersweet love, glitz, and melancholy that is praised for its dramatic beauty and numerous allusions to 50s -70s music.
Lana Del Rey, i.e., LDR, has made a name for herself and has become a brand figure in the pop and indie music realm. She was in love with Americana culture and 50s-70s music from a very early age. Even years before she became a brand name in the pop industry, she started penning down tunes and performing locally.
Since her single “Video Games” was released in the early 2010s, LDR has been known for her soulful voice. She then went on to release “Born to Die,” which was a major commercial hit, and tracks like “Summertime Sadness,” Dark Paradise,” “National Anthem”, and “Radio,” etc., brought her both global recognition and national fame.
Over a decade of successful songwriting, LDR has released commercially hit and critically acclaimed albums like “Honeymoon,” “Chemtrails Over Country Club”, “Ultraviolence,” Norman Fucking Rockwell,” etc. Most of her albums soared through the Billboard charts, and some were even nominated for Grammys. She and Taylor Swift worked together on “Snow on the Beach,” a track from the latter’s Midnights album, which became LDR’s one of the highest tracks on the Billboard charts.
A very devoted and loving fanbase is there for Lana Del Rey’s exceptional songwriting, with tracks like “Say Yes To Heaven,” Young and Beautiful,” “Cherry,” and many more. For her excellence, she has won and has been nominated for several awards.
25. Bono (1960-present)
Paul David Hewson, widely famous as Bono, was born on May 10th, 1960, and gained fame and recognition as the head singer of the band U2.
As one of the founding persons of U2, Bono is the band’s chief lyricist too. In the 80s, the band harbored much-needed fame and popularity owing to its initial release of some of the best lyrical tracks like “I Still Haven’t Found What I am Looking For”, Bullet the Blue Sky”, “With or Without You”, etc. The band’s iconic appeal has much to do with Bono’s unique vocalizing style.
Bono is known to have an emotive singing aura and dramatic body language, which was enhanced by his magnetic composing skill. His lyrics reflected various themes of socio-political importance, and it was his lyrical composition that gave U2 its iconoclastic image, which became legendary.
Thanks to his airy vocals, Bono, throughout his career, achieved numerous accolades along with the honor of being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
26. PJ Harvey (1969-present)
Polly Jean Harvey, i.e., PJ Harvey, was born on October 9th, 1969, and is an important and prominent persona in the music industry, thanks to her unique vocals, crafty lyrics, and versatility to play multiple instruments and try out different genres while singing.
Harvey had an ambitious streak for music from a young age, and in the first half of the 90s, she garnered recognition owing to her position as the head and the founding member of the band “PJ Harvey.” The band gained a lot of praise post the release of its only two albums, “Dry” and “Rid of Me.”
After the band was dissolved, Harvey soldiered on as a solo vocalist and released albums that topped the Billboard charts and were critically acclaimed. She became a brand name and has often experimented with artistic, somber, and reflective themes in her beautiful lyricism throughout her career. Some of her most renowned tracks include “This Mess We’re In,” “Good Fortune”, “A Child’s Question, August,” etc.
Albums like “Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea” became her signature works and brought her numerous laurels like BRIT and Grammy nominations etc. To this date, Harvey, with an expansive career, never ceases to amaze her fans with her music.
27. James Taylor (1948-present)
James Vernon Taylor, commonly known as James Taylor, was born on 12th March 1948 and is arguably one of the most revered and significant vocalists of his day, all thanks to his soothing spectrum and thoughtful songwriting.
James’s songwriting has reflections of various genres, but the primary genres that are apparent are a combination of rock, country, and pop. Over a long-standing career, James has delivered numerous hits that gained him recognition and fame. However he kickstarted his career in the 60s, but it wasn’t until the 70s that he became a global name.
The track that became one of his symbolic songs was “Fire and Rain.” Other than that, tracks like “How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved by You)”, “Carolina in My Mind,” “Sweet Baby James”, and numerous more are some of his best works. His distinct sound, highlighted by his adept guitar-playing skills and comforting vocalizing, resonated with many, making him one of the best-selling musicians.
With record sales of over 100 million globally, James remains an undisputed persona when it comes to musical expression. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and is the beholder of many accolades, including the Grammys.
28. Björk (1965-present)
Björk Guðmundsdóttir, widely known as simply Björk, was born on November 21st, 1965, in Iceland and is known for her innovative musical composition and vocalizing. An artist of exceptional talent, Björk is famous thanks to her synthesis of art punk, avant-garde, and pop music to produce a distinctive and innovative genre of music.
As a child, Björk was drawn into the musical world, and as such, she kickstarted her musical career from a young age. During the 80s, when she was fairly new to adulthood, Björk joined as the head vocalist of a band named “Sugarcubes”. She garnered limited fame and recognition through the band before venturing onto the journey of a solo female vocalist later in the early 90s.
“Debut,” her first solo album, stirred a lot of hustle owing to Björk’s individualistic style. This critically acclaimed release included signature tracks like “Venus as a Boy,” “Big Time Sensuality,” “Violently Happy,” and much more, amply displaying her talent. With a career that stretches over several decades, Björk is known for her special three-octave baritone and quirky personality and has released a successful string of hits like “Vespertine,” “Homogenic,” “Volta,” and numerous others.
Naturally, she has a record sale of around 20 million and is the winner of several accolades, such as the BRIT awards. One can find her nominated and beholder of a couple of Grammy awards too. As far as songwriting is considered, she remains an undisputed genius and continues to produce exceptional music even today.
29. Mick Jagger (1943-present)
Sir Michael Phillip Jagger, famously known as Mick Jagger, was born on 26th July 1943 and is most recognized for being The Rolling Stones band’s lead vocalizer and founding member.
As a founding member of The Rolling Stones in the 60s, Jagger and the band’s head guitarist Keith Richards share a bond that is quite legendary. Rolling Stones’ fame and commercial success were lightning fast, thanks to Jagger’s electric onstage acts and affable vocals. “Paint It Black”, “Start Me Up”, and “Gimme Shelter” are just a few examples of the band’s exemplary music production under the joint collaborative songwriting of Mick and Keith.
Apart from the band releases, Mick is also credited with the success of his solo works like “Wandering Spirit”, “Goddess in the Doorway,” etc. In the late 80s, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, making him one of the most successful English artists worldwide.
It is practically impossible to overestimate Mick Jagger’s contribution to rock music. However, he is a talented actor too and appeared in movies like Freejack and Ned Kelly, etc. Even now, at the age of 79, Jagger continues to influence the music industry with his prowess.
30. Johnny Cash (1932-2003)
John R Cash, mostly known as Johnny Cash, was born on 26th February 1932 and is regarded by many as one of the finest performers of the last century, thanks to his profound and unmistakable voice, defiant demeanor, and extensive melodic repertoire.
Johnny Cash was an exceptional singer with a long-standing musical career. His songwriting had a country music aura and themes that ranged from despair to absolution or vindication. Interestingly, while performing onstage, Cash wore black head to toe, earning him the moniker of “Man in Black.”
His love for music developed at a very young age, and in the mid-50s, he signed in with the recording label Sun Records. With the recording label, he released several of his signature tracks like “Cry Cry Cry,” “Ring of Fire,” “I Walk the Line,” “Folsom Prison Blues,” etc.
In a career that lasted for 50 years, Cash established himself as an expert vocalist and went on to win numerous awards that, included a couple of Grammy Awards. While he had a successful career, his personal life was covered in upheavals. However, that did not stop Cash from being vocal about social issues like the rights of Native Americans. He backed several other social causes throughout his lifetime and died in 2003.
With a record sale of 90 million globally, Cash remains one of the best-selling vocalists from America in the 20th century. People still remember his opening line on any stage performance that went like “Hello, I’m Johnny Cash,” even after 30 years of his death.
31. Alicia Keys (1981-present)
Alicia Augello Cook, known by her stage name Alicia Keys was born on 25th January 1981 and is known for her soulful music and lyrics through which she tries to spread positive messages.
Keys, a trained pianist in classical verse, started writing lyrics at a very young age, and by the time she was in her teens, she signed with the recording label Columbia Records. She changed two recording labels and finally released “Songs in A Minor” in the early 2000s.
Following the release of her debut album, Alicia Keys released a string of successful albums in her career. These albums include “Girl on Fire,” “Here,” ALICIA,” etc., namely, which topped the billboard charts from time to time. Alicia’s music is garnered much fame owing to her success in incorporating stunning vocals and moving lyrical composition into a variety of music like pop, hip-hop, R&B, etc., among many other genres.
Beyond being a renowned vocalist, Keys is also an accomplished actor and a trained pianist. She can be seen acting in films like “Smokin’ Aces”, and a couple of others. Naturally, she is the beholder on 15 Grammys and several other accolades. Worldwide her sales record is around 90 million making her one of the best female musicians of all time.
32. Ella Fitzgerald (1917-1996)
Ella Jane Fitzgerald, mostly known as “Lady Ella,” was born on 25th April 1917 and is monikered as the “Queen of Jazz” owing to her exceptional musical talent. She became an ambiguous champion of Jazz music thanks to her extraordinary operatic spectrum and creative skills.
An icon of the Jazz world, Ella was also known as the “First Lady of Song” and has a legacy that remains impeccable even after 3 decades of her death. Her childhood and adolescent life were shrouded by upheavals.
It was in the mid-30s that Fitzgerald came in contact with an orchestra band headed by Chick Webb. He offered Ella the position of the leading singer in the orchestra.
She brought the band fame and success, and eventually, after the unfortunate demise of Webb, Ella transformed the band name to “Ella Fitzgerald and Her Famous Orchestra.” However, in the early 40s, Ella decided to embark on a career of being a solo vocalist.
Later in the 50s, with the founder of Verve Records, Ella started recording a musical series known as the “Songbook series,” which established her reputation as an influential Jazz singer. She goes on to win numerous awards and recognitions throughout her life, including 14 Grammy awards.
Some of her most famous tracks like “Dream a Little Dream of Me,” “It’s Only a Paper Moon,” “Cheek to Cheek,” “It’s a Lovely Day Today,” and “Autumn in New York,” etc. remain a testimony to her prowess in Jazz music.
33. Céline Dion (1968-present)
Céline Marie Claudette Dion, best known as Céline Dion, was born on 30th March 1968, and is one of the most popular and well-known vocalists of her generation. Arguably, she is celebrated most for her track “My Heart Will Go On” which she specifically composed for the movie Titanic.
Dion hails from a family where both of her parents were connected to music, so naturally, she grew up in an environment full of passion for singing and songwriting. Initially, she was noticed by René Angélil at a very young age. He backed her up for Dion’s debut album in French in the early 80s when she was just in her teenage years.
However, it wasn’t until the 90s, when she debuted with an English album, “Unison,” that she gained fame and more recognition. For the better part of the 90s, she went on to record and released some of the best songs like “The Power of Love,” “Did You Give Enough Love,” “Falling into You,” etc., but it was with the Titanic’s theme song in the year 1997 that she became a worldwide sensation.
My Heart Will Go On earned Dion two Grammy awards and transformed her career into a robust success. She has a record sale of 200 million, making her one of the best female musicians in French and English language.
34. Elton John (1947-present)
Sir John Hercules Elton, known by his stage name Elton John was born on March 25th, 1947, in England. He is a renowned English vocalist and pianist who has a career that stretches across 50 years.
Elton is regarded as one of the best performers of his generation and is widely known for trying varieties like glam rock, pop music, and romantic songs in his songwriting. As a child, Elton started to learn to play piano at a very young age, and by the time he was in his teenage years, he strived to create a band, “Bluesology.” In the late 60s, he left his teenage band Bluesology and decided to create music as a solo vocalist.
In 1967, after replying to a commercial for Liberty Records, Elton came to know Bernie Taupin. They established a collaboration that is standing even today.
Two years later, John released his first album, but it was not until his second album, “Elton John,” that gained him fame and recognition. Tracks like “Border Song” and “Your Song,” etc. became signature songs that established him as a prominent face in the music world. His discography includes several hits like “Crocodile Rock,” “Candle in the Wind”, Bennie and the Jets,” etc.
Elton’s eccentric fashion, flamboyant costumes, and brimming live performances also added to his personality alongside his musical talents. He is the beholder of several Grammys and has around 300 million sales records worldwide. In 1998, the late Queen Elizabeth II knighted John for his impeccable charity work in raising awareness against HIV/AIDS.
35. Whitney Houston (1963-2012)
Whitney Elizabeth Houston, known as simply Whitney Houston, was born on 6th August 1963. An influential American model and singer, Whitney was monikered “The Voice” for her excellency.
Whitney Houston was brought up in a music-loving household. Dionne Warwick was her cousin, and her mother was a renowned gospel singer. Therefore, Houston naturally developed a taste for singing. She was known for her strong, lyrical voice, improv talents, and incorporating gospel singing into everyday pop music. She remains one of the best-selling female vocalists even now, with almost 200 million sales records.
In the early 80s, Whitney joined in as a recording artist with Arista Records and released her debut album titled “Whitney Houston” in the 85. The album turned out to be a smashing success for her, with tracks like “How Will I Know” rising the Billboard charts. Over the next few years, Whitney goes on to release several other commercially and critically successful albums like “Whitney”, “My Love Is Your Love,” etc.
Whitney was an icon for the music industry through and through. Her talented efforts landed her several nominations and awards, including 28 Guinness World Records, primetime Emmy awards, and 8 Grammy Awards. However, Whitney Houston had addiction issues, and those started to outweigh her musical talent.
Her marriage was fraught with difficulties, and her substance abuse stories made headlines in several tabloids. Her addiction was held responsible when Houston suddenly passed away in 2012. She was discovered dead in a tub at the age of 48. Naomi Ackie impersonalized Whitney Houston in her biography “I Wanna Dance With Somebody”