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Top 100 Greatest Rock Vocalists of All Time

Updated: Feb 6


Top 100 Greatest Rock Vocalists of All Time

(Pictured - Tina Turner 1970)

Tracing its roots back to blues and rockabilly, rock music was the greatest gift given to the world in the twentieth century. Following Beatlemania, the standard rock outfit consisted of guitar, bass, drums, and vocals, with bands building within that confine to have either a number of guitarists, a number of vocalists, or both. Since its conception, rock has branched out in countless directions from punk to metal to more modern styles like synth-pop or indie rock. Nevertheless, the vocalist has been the key feature of the vast majority of rock bands, being the most recognizable and most adored as singing is the earliest and most primal form of music. To celebrate over 70 years of rock music, we have compiled a list of the top 100 greatest rock vocalists of all time. For our criteria, our list encompasses hard rock, metal, punk rock, jazz rock, southern rock, progressive rock, indie rock, alternative rock, and other significant rock subgenres. We have excluded pop artists without substantial rock undertones along with hip-hop, country, soul, R&B, and jazz, unless, of course, they exhibit substantial rock undertones. This, of course, encompasses artists like Michael Jackson, Marvin Gaye, Whitney Houston, and James Brown but rest assured, if the criteria were broader, they would all be present. For more rankings, be sure to check out The Top 100 Greatest Rock Guitarists of All Time or the Top 100 Greatest Rock Artists of All Time.

1. Freddie Mercury - (Queen)

The esteemed frontman of Queen, Freddie Mercury had long been renowned for his unparalleled vocal skills. Notably credited for his almost unheard-of vocal range of four octaves, Freddie Mercury had the ability to effortlessly shift from deep, powerful low notes to a high-pitched soprano sound almost immediately. Even with his momentous and sporadic stage presence, Freddie was able to garner a massive amount of precision with his vocals, leaving crowds speechless for the entirety of his 21-year run with Queen before his untimely 1991 death. Since his death, Freddie Mercury has gone down in history as a once-in-a-lifetime talent with a truly unique vocal style that will forever be near impossible to replicate. His vocal performances at Live Aid in 1985 and Hammersmith in 1979 have been regarded as some of finest performances of all time.


2. Robert Plant - (Led Zeppelin)

Fronting what we consider the greatest rock band of all time, Led Zeppelin, Robert Plant's distinctive vocal style is about as emotive and gritty as they come. In a similar vein to Freddie Mercury, Robert Plant also possessed an incredibly impressive range. Plant showed an immense amount of control over his high notes, making up nearly the entirety of songs like Immigrant Song. Taking influence from blues, folk, and soul, Plant's sheer emotional vocal power on tracks like Babe I'm Gonna Leave You or Stairway to Heaven are unparalleled in rock music. As talented as Led Zeppelin was all around, it is tough to imagine their sound without Plant's delicate balance of grit and beauty.


3. Paul McCartney - (The Beatles, Wings)

Taking hints from the soothing and delicately sounding Everly Brothers, the vocal duo of Paul McCartney and John Lennon completely took the world by storm throughout the '60s, with substantial help from George Harrison and Ringo Starr. The harmonies of Paul and The Beatles were nothing short of exemplary, becoming deeply influential for millions of artists to follow. What makes Paul McCartney especially unique, however, was the longevity of his vocal prowess, being able to sing like an angel for an incredibly long time after the breakup of the Fab Four. McCartney has continued his dominance as a musician, finding a massive amount of success with Wings in the '70s before embarking on decades of touring as a solo artist.

4. Mick Jagger - (The Rolling Stones)

Mick Jagger's impressive legacy as a singer is characterized by rawness, charisma and longevity. Now at 80 years young, Mick Jagger's voice sounds nearly as good as it did 60 years ago. Jagger has shown an impressive amount of versatility throughout his career, from the blues-rock sounds of their '60s records to the '70s disco-inspired tracks and their new wave '80s sound. Mick Jagger has been praised as one of the finest frontmen in rock history, in part due to his entertaining stage presence, made up of wild and suggestive, yet equally impressive dancing, all while maintaining an immense amount of control over his voice. Even on the slower or softer Stones tracks like Wild Horses or Sympathy for the Devil, Jagger equally commands his audience with his confident and authentic voice.


5. David Bowie

Of all the singers on our list, in terms of sheer creativity, David Bowie just might top them all. Coming into the mainstream in the late '60s, Bowie became the king of art rock, popularizing the sound along with the broader glam style. Bowie was responsible for much of the evolution of baroque pop, evolving into art and symphonic rock. Bowie was able to shift through styles seamlessly, creating deep and intricate stories within his music and embracing new styles along with technology. Along with The Velvet Underground, Bowie is largely responsible for the creation of alternative rock, as he steered away from mainstream norms not only in his vocal style but also in the music that backed him. David Bowie was an incredibly creative musician who happened to also be graced with one of the most impressive and recognizable voices ever seen in rock music.


6. Roger Daltrey - (The Who)

Alongside Mick Jagger, Roger Daltrey played an important role in the post-1960 concept of a rock frontman. Daltrey sang with an incredibly commanding voice, exhibiting to the world what a charismatic frontman looked like. His stage presence was legendary and hypnotic as he swung his mic around in a circle, exhibiting a messianic quality later adopted by frontmen like Jim Morrison, and perhaps even Robert Plant, who carried a similar persona and style. Daltrey screamed to the heavens on songs like Love Reign O'er Me, and equally sang beautifully on tracks like Eminence Front and Behind Blue Eyes. Daltrey's contributions to the ethos of rock music are nothing short of legendary.


7. Tina Turner

The story of the "Queen of Rock n' Roll," Tina Turner, is a truly spectacular one that can bring tears to your eyes. Tina Turner smashed down barriers as a black woman in rock n' roll in the late '60s with her powerful and raspy, yet beautiful voice, capable of completely captivating audiences to the fullest extent of their attention. Establishing herself in the '60s with her then-husband Ike (making her his 8th wife, as he had already been married seven times before), Ike and Tina found a massive amount of success with Tina's voice being at the forefront. In a genre dominated by men, particularly white men, Tina Turner's success as a vocalist was deeply impactful for many who followed after her. Tina Turner continued her success as a vocalist for decades to come, working with artists from Mark Knopfler of Dire Straits to David Bowie.

8. Brian Wilson - (Beach Boys)

As talented of a vocalist as Brian Wilson was, his legacy as a composer and a producer is equally impressive. Regarding his voice specifically, his approach to vocal harmonies was incredibly innovative and impressive. Throughout the '60s and into the '70s, The Beach Boys encapsulated American audiences with their soothing harmonies, pushing forth a fun-loving, carefree sound into the pop and rock charts. On the 1966 acclaimed Beach Boys album Pet Sounds, Wilson delivers an impressive melancholic vocal delivery on songs, a step to the side of what the group would generally release, adding to his bag of tricks. Wilson has also been praised for his unique falsetto sound, which became a Beach Boys staple. Brian Wilson's vocal and harmonic, along with his recording techniques, lived on well past The Beach Boys' prime, influencing harmonic styles and tendencies for bands to come.


9. Van Morrison - (Them, The Wheels)

Although Van Morrison's vocal style is tied closest to the blue-eyed soul side of rock music, Morrison has extensively incorporated jazz, soul, and blues into his long and impressive musical legacy. Songs like Tupelo Honey and Into the Mystic exhibit his incredibly confident vocal delivery at higher ranges while holding a deeply beautiful and emotive quality. Van Morrison exudes authenticity to the core, with all of his songs sounding equally introspective and personal. Nodding back to his dabblings with jazz, Van Morrison's ability to compress and expand lyrics within the context of musical phrases is about as good as it gets. Coming from Northern Ireland, earning him the nickname of "The Belfast Cowboy," Van's Celtic roots are often on display in his music through his lyrical storytelling alongside the flowing nature of his songs.


10. John Lennon - (The Beatles)

The second Beatle to make our list has gone down in history as one of the finest songwriters of all time, as well as almost unanimously being considered one of the best vocalists. If there was one word to describe Lennon's vocal style, it would be "authentic." Whether it's songs like Help!, Mother, or Imagine, John Lennon had an uncanny ability to express true emotional feeling, coming with sincerity and vulnerability through his singing. Lennon also had an ability to set a mood or a feeling in his tracks, again heard on Imagine, or in the more psychedelic Beatles recordings. Although to be frank, his later work with Yoko Ono has been largely denounced, in fairness, John's overall legacy as a vocalist is deeply moving and powerful. Lennon and The Beatles have touched nearly every corner of the world, and just the improbable fact that John Lennon and Paul McCartney ended up in the same band is a statistical anomaly that the world completely lucked out on.

11. Bob Dylan

12. Elvis Presley

13. Rod Stewart - (Faces, The Jeff Beck Group)

14. Debbie Harry - (Blondie)

15. Ozzy Osbourne - (Black Sabbath)

16. Jeff Buckley

17. Paul Simon

18. James Taylor

19. Janis Joplin

20. Axl Rose - (Guns N' Roses)

21. Bono - (U2)

22. Chris Cornell - (Soundgarden)

23. Morrissey - (The Smiths)

24. Prince

25. David Byrne - (Talking Heads)

26. Patti Smith

27. Jim Morrison - (The Doors)

28. Bon Scott - (AC/DC)

29. Dolores O'Riordan - (The Cranberries)

30. Neil Young

31. Steven Tyler - (Aerosmith)

32. Iggy Pop - (The Stooges)

33. Stevie Nicks - (Fleetwood Mac)

34. Rob Halford - (Judas Priest)

35. Sting - (The Police)

36. Elton John

37. Billy Joel

38. Roger Waters - (Pink Floyd)

39. Michael Stipe - (R.E.M.)

40. Michael McDonald - (The Doobie Brothers, Steely Dan)

41. Don Henley - (The Eagles)

42. David Lee Roth - (Van Halen)

43. Steve Perry - (Journey)

44. Eddie Vedder - (Pearl Jam)

45. Phil Everly - (The Everly Brothers)

46. Don Everly - (The Everly Brothers)

47. Amy Winehouse

48. Paul Stanley - (KISS)

49. Liam Gallagher - (Oasis)

50. Joni Mitchell

51. Perry Farrell - (Jane's Addiction)

52. Jerry Garcia - (Grateful Dead)

53. Art Garfunkel

54. George Harrison - (The Beatles, The Travelling Wilbury's)

55 Black Francis - (Pixies)

56. Elvis Costello

57. Bruce Springsteen

58. Thom Yorke - (Radiohead)

59. Little Richard

60. Linda Ronstadt

61. Michael Hutchence - (INXS)

62. Brian Johnson - (AC/DC)

63. Phil Lynott - (Thin Lizzy)

64. Paul Rodgers - (Free, Bad Company)

65. Stevie Wonder

66. Ray Davies - (The Kinks)

67. Graham Nash - (Hollies, CSNY)

68. Del Shannon

69. Tom Petty

70. Eric Burdon - (The Animals)

71. Peter Wolf - (J. Geils Band)

72. Brandon Flowers - (The Killers)

73. Siouxsie Sioux

74. Joe Elliott - (Def Leppard)

75. Steve Winwood - (Traffic, Blind Faith)

76. Robert Smith - (The Cure)

77. Ronnie Van Zant - (Lynyrd Skynyrd)

78. Ben Gibbard - (Death Cab for Cutie, The Postal Service)

79. Paul Banks - (Interpol)

80. David Gilmour - (Pink Floyd)

81. Ann Wilson - (Heart)

82. Peter Gabriel - (Genesis)

83. Ian Curtis - (Joy Division)

84. Joe Strummer - (The Clash)

85. Pat Benatar

86. Elliott Smith

87. Joan Jett

88. Carl Wilson - (Beach Boys)

89. Grace Slick - (Jefferson Airplane)

90. James Hetfield - (Metallica)

91. Jenny Lewis - (Rilo Kiley, The Postal Service)

92. Levon Helm - (The Band)

93. Ronnie James Dio - (Rainbow, Dio)

94. Jon Bon Jovi

95. Tom Waits

96. Kim Deal - (Pixies, The Breeders)

97. Chris Robinson - (The Black Crowes)

98. Carly Simon

99. Roger McGuinn - (The Byrds)

100. Roy Orbison

 

Just Outside the Top 100

101. Dave Gahan - (Depeche Mode)

102. Cat Stevens

103. Gregg Allman - (The Allman Brothers Band)

104. Dennis DeYoung - (Styx)

105. Justin Hayward - (The Moody Blues)

106. John Fogerty - (Creedence Clearwater Revival)

107. Joe Cocker

108. James Mercer - (The Shins, Broken Bells)

109. Julian Casablancas - (The Strokes)

110. Bryan Adams

111. Anthony Kiedis - (Red Hot Chili Peppers)

112. Jeff Lynne - (Electric Light Orchestra, Traveling Wilburys)

113. Jerry Lee Lewis

114. Lou Reed - (The Velvet Underground)

115. Phil Collins - (Genesis)

116. Kim Gordon - (Sonic Youth)

117. Maynard James Keenan - (Tool)

118. Trent Reznor - (Nine Inch Nails)

119. Peter Cetera - (Chicago)

120. Sebastian Bach - (Skid Row)

121. Layne Staley - (Alice in Chains)

122. Stephen Malkmus - (Pavement)

123. Geddy Lee - (Rush)

124. PJ Harvey

125. Nick Cave




4 Comments


Guest
Jan 14

Steve Perry at 43? Top five easily. The Voice.

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Guest
Dec 21, 2023

Paul Rodgers at 115 is utterly ridiculous. He's comfortably top 10. A remarkable rock vocalist.

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Guest
Dec 21, 2023

Michael Jackson?

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Guest
Dec 20, 2023

James Mercer and Paul Banks were great sleeper additions

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