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Top 100 Greatest Rock Bands/Artists of All Time

Updated: May 23, 2023

Pictured - Jimi Hendrix (1968 Steve Banks Banks)

A clever mix of blues, jazz, R&B, and a youthful taste for rebellion gave way to the creation of rock music, the defining genre of music of the twentieth century. Through stylistic evolution, subgenres such as surf rock, psychedelic rock, and punk rock turned into indie and alternative rock leaving the world with a massively creative and lauded form of musical expression. This list of the 100 greatest rock bands/artists of all time celebrates groups across the rock realm from new wave to grunge to Southern Rock. Just like any ranking, everyone has their own favorites and ranking anything is utterly subjective, but we at Melophobe are quite confident in our list scoring artists based on talent, innovation, sales/chart success and Influence. Artists primarily considered pop, blues, soul or R&B, instead of rock such as Michael Jackson, Aretha Franklin, Muddy Waters, and Otis Redding have been excluded from the criteria to keep the spirit primarily focused around rockers although their importance and influence on all music is heavily noted. Pop/rock artists, or artists originally of a different style who ventured deeply into rock later in their careers such as The Beatles, The Beach Boys and Wilson Pickett have been included.

1. Led Zeppelin

In any list ranking the greatest rock bands, it's quite expected to see Led Zeppelin towards the top but they make a great case for the number one spott. With nearly an entire discography of earth-shattering records with the first four especially changing the game for rock music, Robert Plant’s unique voice paired with Jimmy Page’s cryin’ guitar has been unparalleled to this day. Taking deep influence from blues and soul, Led Zeppelin turned the world of rock on its head and still does to this day more than 40 years since their last release. Between songwriting ability, musical talent and creativity, no one tops these four legendary musicians in the world of rock.

2. The Beatles

Recognized as the most influential band of all time, the Beatles 10-year span changed the world of rock’n’roll. Taking influences from doo-wop, skiffle and early rock’n’roll, The Beatles touched on just about every genre in their far too short run. Although many rock fans may be driven towards their later more psychedelic rock, their early work shows just about as tight and catchy as a band can sound. The Beatles defined what it is to be a world famous, four-piece rock band. The Beatles left an unmovable mark on everything in the rock world from how music was recorded, to how bands performed. No band to this day was able to live up to the hype that was The Fab Four.

3. Pink Floyd

Often cited as the greatest progressive rock band of all time, Pink Floyd toyed with all sorts of sounds and unusual song forms. The group tossed an immense amount of creativity into the rock realm uncovering all sorts of sounds and studio effects years ahead of their time. With Dark Side of the Moon frequently referenced as one of the finest pieces of recording of all time, the influence of Pink Floyd made its way into the ears of just about every other rock band to follow. The band saw songwriting in a unique and unorthodox manner making them one the all-time greats and introducing the world to progressive rock alongside King Crimson.

4. Jimi Hendrix

Described as “arguably the greatest instrumentalist in the history of rock music” by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Jimi Hendrix changed the way the electric guitar was played, and did so for the better. Talented beyond belief, the short musical career of Jimi Hendrix was highlighted with some of the greatest rock anthems of all time. Hendrix made the guitar sing while using feedback and distortion in a brilliant manner those before him were unable to emulate. His talent, creativity and of course the top-tier band behind him changed the world of rock at a time where it was as malleable as could be.

5. The Rolling Stones

Side by side with The Beatles in the British Invasion, The Rolling Stones took the world by storm throughout the 60’s, and then for another 50 years after that. Originally rooted in blues rock, the band expanded their sound to include elements of psychedelia, roots rock and even came pretty close to disco towards the late 70’s. Frequently noted as one of the greatest bands of all time, the band arguably hit their creative peak in the early 70’s with albums like Sticky Fingers and Exile on Mainstreet. Few bands have had the amount of long term success as the Stones topping charts into the late 80’s, with a different flair on their music.

6. Black Sabbath

Although their influence on rock is almost always noted with generous praise, Black Sabbath still does not always get the praise they deserve for their impact on the hard rock and metal scenes. With their haunting self-titled debut album, just as a whole lot of bands high on this list, no one had sounded like this before. Alongside Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple, Black Sabbath was largely responsible for the rise of heavy metal inspiring countless acts from Judas Priest to Metallica. With dark lyrical themes and drop D tuning, the sound this group got was nothing short of black magic.

7. The Beach Boys

With surf-rock gaining popularity across the US heavily inspired by the Southern California music scene, The Beach Boys captured the opportunity to take a new spin on surf music. The Beach Boys, originally founded as a garage rock band embraced a more barber-shop style sound, finding success in the mid 60’s. With a colorful mix of musical styles backing up the band, surf-rock, power-pop and psychedelic rock The Beach Boys made a serious mark on rock music vastly changing studio recording techniques. The group is also noted for having one of the first “cult followings.”

8. Elvis Presely

The King of rock’n’roll, Elvis Presely was perhaps the most significant American musical figure of the twentieth century. Just as popular as Elvis was, he was equally controversial with his risque dancing and suggestive lyrics, well about as suggestive as could be for the time. With 18 number one hits, and 14 number one albums, The King has sold over a half a billion records spanning genres from rock’n’roll, soul, to disco. Incorporating strong elements derived from African-American music, Elvis reached a massive audience and connected with crowds across racial lines in a time where that was very important.

9. Queen

Originally dabbling primarily in progressive and hard rock styles, Queen meshed a wide collection of genres into an iconic power-driven rock sound. Alongside bands like Boston, Styx and Journey, Queen was a major driving force behind the growth of stadium rock, being hyped up with their legendary stage presence. Apart from their commercial success, Queen also found themselves as one of the most influential rock bands in history influencing Radiohead, Smashing Pumpkins, Lady Gaga, George Michael and many more. The sheer power of rock was exposed to many through the vehicle of Queen.

10. The Clash

The Clash were the first band to take punk to the mainstream. Mixing in elements of new-wave, reggae and experimental rock into what would now be called post-punk, The Clash found massive international success in a way that no punk band ever had before and has since. Their third studio album London Calling has been scored as near-perfect in almost every retrospective review and often ranks as one of the finest rock albums of all time. The album put a new spin on what at its core was still punk, but a much more welcoming form of punk. The Clash exerted a massive amount of musical talent writing more complex songs alongside a more traditional harsh punk lyrical style. The Clash’s influence on new-wave and post-punk is still huge and their influence carried deeply into the alternative rock realm.

11. The Allman Brothers Band

12. Chuck Berry

13. James Brown

14. Bob Dylan

15. The Doors

16. Nirvana

17. The Velvet Underground

18. Billy Joel

19. The Who

20. Eric Clapton

21. The Grateful Dead

22. Stevie Wonder

23. Bruce Spingsteen & The E. Street Band

24. The Talking Heads

25. Dire Straits

26. Cream

27. King Crimson

28. Rush

29. Marvin Gaye

30. Frank Zappa

31. Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young

32. The Band

33. Joy Division

34. Steely Dan

35. Paul Simon

36. Elton John

37. Fleetwood Mac

38. R.E.M.

39. Lynyrd Skynyrd

40. Santana

41. Creedence Clearwater Revival

42. Van Halen

43. Buddy Holly

44. Iron Maiden

45. The Smiths

46. David Bowie

47. Bo Didley

48. Pearl Jam

49. Deep Purple

50. Pixies

51. Sex Pistols

52. Prince

53. The Cure

54. The Eagles

55. Janis Joplin

56. AC/DC

57. Radiohead

58. Metallica

59. Van Morrison

60. U2

61. Judas Priest

62. Aerosmith

63. The Police

64. Joan Jett & The Blackhearts

65. Warren Zevon

66. Soundgarden

67. The Byrds

68. The Kinks

69. Tom Petty

70. Yes

71. The Ramones

72. The Stooges

73. Emerson, Lake and Palmer

74. Patti Smith

75. Booker T. & the MG’s

76. Jethro Tull

77. Elvis Costello

78. Alice In Chains

79. Rod Stewart

80. Chicago

81. Genesis

82. Neil Young

83. The Yardbirds

84. Jim Croce

85. James Taylor

86. Wilson Pickett

87. Pavement

88. ZZ Top

89. The Steve Miller Band

90. The Doobie Brothers

91. Blondie

92. Dead Kennedys

93. Def Leppard

94. Motörhead

95. Parliament Funkadelic

96. The J. Geils Band

97. The Pretenders

98. Jackson Browne

99. Neutral Milk Hotel

100. Grand Funk Railroad


101. Foo Fighters

102. The Replacements

103. Jimmy Buffett

104. Supertramp

105. Red Hot Chili Peppers

106. Joe Jackson

107. George Thorogood & The Delaware Destroyers

108. Depeche Mode

109. Paul McCartney and Wings

110. The Strokes

111. Electric Light Orchestra

112. The Cars

113. Buffalo Springfield

114. Roy Orbison

115. Heart

116. Tears For Fears

117. Bon Jovi

118. Green Day

119. Bruce Hornsby & The Range

120. America

121. Traffic

122. Belle & Sebastian

123. Jane’s Addiction

124. Thin Lizzy

125. Ween


2000's alternative & indie rock playlist cover 2.JPEG
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