Best Rock n Roll Pianists


July 29, 2015 - Don't agree with the list? Vote for an existing item you think should be ranked higher or if you are a logged in, add a new item for others to vote on or create your own version of this list.

The Top Ten

Elton John
When Elton is playing he is not from this world. There must be more depth in this human being than any of us can imagine. Simply listen to an older album like 'Madman across the water' or see one of his shows with Ray Cooper. There is profound intelligence in his playing, every single note will be effectively accentuated, he's got so much feeling and even in the midst of the most dramatic pattern there is stillness and space. Never before (and probably never again) will there be a better contribution to modern music. Glenn Gould (classic) and Oscar Peterson (jazz) were also examples for that from where music comes from must not necessarily be this world. But Elton combines it all. In other words, just reduce Elton to his playing, and you would not even need to have him visibly around. His playing is all you need. He won't be in any competition with anybody because he simply can't be compared. All the others mentioned here would quote Elton as being there favorite and they are grateful to have even glimpsed to be simultaneously mentioned in The Top Ten with Elton.
Without a doubt, Elton is the worlds best rock and roll pianist. Even Billy Joel said, and I quote, "Elton kicks my ass on piano. He's fantastic a throwback to Jerry Lee Lewis and Fats Domino and Little Richard. His spontaneous, improvisational playing always challenges me. And that is his contribution to rock & roll and pop: his musicianship. Before him, rock was a bunch of James Taylor's guitar-based singer-songwriter stuff. Elton brought back fantastic piano-based rock. Elton knows what his instrument is capable of. The piano is a percussion instrument, like a drum. You don't strum a piano. You don't bow a piano. You bang and strike a piano. You beat the **** out of a piano. Elton knows exactly how to do that he always had that rhythmic, very African, syncopated style that comes from being well versed in gospel and good old R&B." Nuf said!
I just feel that song writing is a giant part of being a musician. And Billy seems like the obvious better song writer? Billy Joel wrote his song's lyrics too, which puts him on top for me. And his lyrics are just so poetic and smart. Piano Man, Scenes from an Italian Restaurant. Only the Good Did Young, Still Rock and Roll to me, and My Life just say so much more lyrically, to me at least, than Your Song, Rocket Man or Tiny Dancer. And It just seems so much more authentic and real to know the singer wrote the lyrics he's singing.
From Joel to Roy Bittan( Springsteen), Leavell, ( Allman Bros. ), Ian Stewart ( Stones ), Steve Winwood ( Cream/Traffic ), Bruce Hornsby, Barrelhouse Chuck, Pinetop Perkins, Piano Red, Rick Wakeman, Jerry Lee, Ben Folds, Dr. John, Stevie Wonder, James Booker, from Blues to Rock to Jazz, each has had their own style.

But for me there are only 3 Genius's who rose above this: because they could play ANY style.
Elton John, Ray Charles and Leon Russell. Ray has passed away, Leon although still great is slower and older now. So Elton John deserves his place. He has earned it. A true genius in every sense of the word, and the hardest working piano player in rock music. One problem, he will still need to live up to this on future studio and concert performances. For me he is "The King" of The Keyboard".
Thanks for recognizing Leon. Others are obviously great choices but I think he's often overlooked


[Newest]Elton john is one of the best he makes it look easy
More comments about Elton John

2Billy Joel
How could anyone be higher on the list than the Piano Man himself? Billy Joel masters any style, any genre, and can kick anyone's musical behind. (That's bee-hind, prounounced the redneck way)

The Prelude to "Angry Young Man" has rattled many a pianoplayers brains, not to say cheap keyboards. The bluesy/jazzy intro to "New York State Of Mind" has made many a mediocre pianist sound like God himself when they've found and mastered it through one of those sheet-cheat books. But the wild, crazy, ingenious piano playings on "Summer Highland Falls" is really what makes Billy wander off with the cake, leaving Sir Elton and the others standing gawking with amazement and shame.

And he knows what he's doing too! He's not just some dope who by trial and error finally figured out how to play both hands at the same time; he's written a classical album, and his portrait is hanging in Steinway Hall for Pete's sake, next to Liszt and Rachmaninoff! They don't do that to any schmo who plonks out a few tunes.

The others can hop on their rockets and kill a few more pianos, and leave the Master to show 'em how it's done!
Billy is better than Elton to me due to superior song writing ability. Billy might be able to sing just a little better. Elton might be a bit better of a piano player. And they can both write great musical compositions. But Elton always needed help with writing lyrics, while Billy could write a song all by himself. Billy has also created such an immense range of music, while always filling his albums with good or great songs. It's easier to find a top 20 chart single than a bad song on a Joel Album.
The list is "best pianists" not singers, writers, performers, musicians, or total combos of talents. Pay attention folks. Geez, some of these people would vote for an actor to be President 😜


As much as I adore Elton John, Billy is the better pianist. Far more diverse in his styles. Billy can play rock, pop, jazz, blues, soul, and classical with equal ease. His live solos are inspired, and always different. He is also probably the fastest rock/pop pianist on the planet! Amazing talent.
[Newest]Are you kidding me he should be number 1

3Jerry Lee Lewis
The Killer could hammer hell out of any piano with any part of his anatomy and still sound amazing should be No 1.

PS Some of this list, do you know what rock and roll is? David Bryan, Ben Folds? maybe good pianists, but hardly rock and roll... Fats Domino, Little Richards, see!


david bryan. rlly? wtf. and freddie mercury? omg listen jerry lee lewis's music and then tell me how he's not at least in the top three.


Oh man, Jerry sure can tickle the ivories! He just puts so much emotion and enthusiasm into his piano-playing that it's almost impossible not to dance or sing along. His songs made sure everybody was having fun somehow!
[Newest]There is not a pianist on this list who would consider themselves better than Jerry Lee Lewis.

4David Bryan
The most handsome and talented keyboard player in the history of Rock :) A men who plays Mozart to warm up his fingers before a rock concert


Amazingly diverse pianist. Can turn his hand to any genre imaginable. And to have been accepted into Juilliard as a young man is an achievement all of its own.
Love Him! He is my inspiration as a keyboard player... he is the melody in Bon Jovi, wi

5Ben Folds
Ben Folds is a brilliant songwriter and a passionate pianist. If anyone deserves to be on this list, he does. From goofy, upbeat arrangements like "Song for the Dumped" and "One Angry Dwarf and 200 Solemn Faces" to heart-wrenchingly honest songs like "Still Fighting It", I'd say the man has far more piano talent (and talent in general) than a man should be allowed to have. Musical genius. Piano genius. Lyrical genius. Humor genius. Genius. Period.
How could he not be on this list? Absolutely the best rock n' roll pianist of our time!

Ben Folds is an amazing musician. I was raised on “rocking’ the Suburbs” and could feel each song’s emotion through my speakers. He also has a great sense of humor. He had the good sense to write a song about his kids, too.
[Newest]Amazing pianist all of his songs were extremely complicated but at the same time they just worked amazingly

6Yoshiki Hayashi
He puts his soul on every music of him. He doesn't just make musics, he creates masterpieces of melodies and emotions.

Far beyond just being a composer or a artist, he can make you cry, make you scream, make you angry, he can make you feel every single emotion he wants to show and use it as a kind of therapy, to heal and to create happiness even when the music is sad, because he can make you live the music and see the light at the end of the tunnel.
Yoshiki is amazing musician who inspire us. His music is like a miracle. It heals. And personally Hayashi-san is like miracle. He's legend who influenced strongly on Japanese music scene. Great respect to this wonderful person.
Yoshiki, had he gone classical, would be a virtuoso pianist. He is an amazing pianist and has incredible skill at improvisation as well as at playing pretty much anything in existing works. This man can play Chopin almost better than Chopin himself... and then play something like Art of Life.
[Newest]Yoshiki is by far the best rock pianist. He is a classically trained virtuoso pianist, and his understanding of music is much greater than any of these people.

7Leon Russell
No other Pianist combines rock, rhythm and blues and even Gospel in their playing like Leon. He is an icon and if you were to ask every other pianist on this list, who is the best, they'd more than likely say Leon. It's exactly what Elton John said when he indicted Leon in to the R&R Hall of fame. Another easy way to see where he stands and his legacy, is to see how many Major artist's records he performed on. HUNDREDS! He was the pianist in greatest demand for many many years. Rock on Leon. You are number 1!
Best ever! All others tried to imitate him.
Finding him in the top ten is a nice surprise.


[Newest]He is the best!

8Freddie Mercury
Freddie's style was unique: just listen to "Love of My Life" or "You Take My Breath Away". It is not the technical skill which is impressive, but rather the melody. They are superior to his lyrics, as he said - and he was right.
Yeah, he won. He won our hearts, and he won our souls. With love. He writes piano riffs that let alone make you shocked (on how great they are), his lyrics make it even more powerful. And his voice will just blow you away.
FREDDIE IS THE BEST! Freddie will dominate. All you have to do is listen to one song, and you'll understand. That song is Bohemian Rhapsody, for those who actually have to look.
freddy mercury is awesome, listen to bohemian rhapsody
[Newest]Freddie Mercury does not deserve to be anywhere near the top ten. His ability was nothing special. Hell, I can play anything he could.

9Ray Charles
Even blind he beats many good pianist.
Ray and Rick are best real rock'n roll pianist forever.
Rock n roll pianists aren't being named here. Ray, Jerry lee lewis, little richard, fats Domino.


Ray is in an elite class of pianists.
In my top 5 of all time.

10Ray Manzarek
By far the most versatile keys player ever. Listen to the Morrison Hotel album for instance... Every single song he's playing with a different sound and style. His playing can do anything to bring you down and dirty with blues to far away lands with songs like Indian Summer. RIP Ray, you're touched my soul... And you're still there.
Ray will always be the best for me. By far the most creative.
Light my fire. Enough said

The Contenders

11Stevie Wonder
Songs on the key of life, enough said...
The man is blind and he plays piano is that not enough

12Richard Wright
Even though he was always the quiet member of Pink Floyd you can truly understand how much he contributed to the band in song such as "Echoes" "Us and Them" and "Great Gig in the Sky" he also added his vocals in much of their music. His songwriting was also flawless even though he wasn't the best lyricist. He truly did much more for the band than what he is given credit for
His playing in Echoes was exceptional. Though hid playing was never on the forefront of Pink Floyd's music it is clear from what we hear from his playing that he was a brilliant artist.
just listen to dark side of the moon and ull agree he must be at number 1
[Newest]Unbelievable skills, especially in the Animals album.

13Billy Preston
Best southern rock pianist. Also responsible for intro to "Freebird" and the stunning solo in the band's version of "Call Me The Breeze. " RIP Billy.
As well as being called the fifth Beatle


14Rick Wakeman
Seen him in concert numerous times, with Yes, solo, and Anderson-Wakeman. Blows away people like Elton John. Elton John is a megasuperstar who plays piano very well, mostly as accompaniment to his singing. However, he is light years behind Wakeman.
He is the genius who played piano on David Bowie's song Life On Mars which is just fantastic.
Wakeman should be within the top 5. With Yes and his solo career he's created an awesome body of work that Rivals Elton John (almost 30 Albums). It's only because Yes got little radio play and RW got no radio play they are where they R.It's unfortunate that America isn't as intellectual as we came to be. Elton John.. Billy Joel..great players I agree.. But if they had not gotten the radio play.. Where would they be now?.. It's a RUSH-like comparison in ways. (added note: After Rock of the Westies, EJ went total commercial and lost 1/2 his fan base, but picked up the bubble gum rockers from definitely-Lep)

15Keith Emerson
Are you kidding me? How is Keith Emerson not number one and Elton John is? Anyone can play crocodile rock but try playing Emerson's Trilogy or Endless Enigma part 1, fugue, and part 2. Keith Emerson is crazy good. If it were me this is how I would rate it...
1. Keith Emerson, 2. Rick Wakeman 3. Billy Joel
I love Elton, I really do, but technically Emerson is a better KEYBOARD musician than 1-12. It's not just about pianos.
Emerson is an phenomenal artist who redefined the rock scene for years to come as one of the definers of prog rock piano.
[Newest]Keith Emerson it's easy

16Jordan Rudess
Simply unbelievable he's not at the list already.
It's terrible that people do not know about Jordan.

17Little Richard
Watch him in Concert Then make your own mind up
A vamp piano player. In his day he was considered one of the best.
It's just wrong that little richard isn't in the top 10... he's one of the original rock piano players, and ranks higher than this.

18Matt Bellamy
Butterflies and Hurricanes, Space Dementia, Sunburn... Even better, listen to Exogenesis! Simply genius compositions and unbelievable skill
Butterflies ^^ Hurricanes off of their album Absolution, absolutely beautiful, especially the piano solo!
brilliant singer n pianoist listen to neutron star collision

[Newest]Piano thing, need I say anymore

19Chuck Leavell
Brilliant, every time he plays. His solo in Jessica is mind blowing.
Makes every musician that he plays with better--the ultimate band member
In great measure, this is the man that keeps the stones rolling.
[Newest]Always behind the line but the BEST!

20Garth Hudson
He just made the Bands songs sound even better. He was great and an integral part of their overall sound.
Glad to see someone else appreciates one of the best, classiest, multi-talented musicians since the dawn of rock 'n' roll.

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This list was created 7 years, 281 days ago and has been voted on over 2,000 times. This top ten list has been remixed 6 times and has been blogged about 1 times.

Updated Wednesday, July 29, 2015

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