Best Lyricists in Rock


The Top Ten

1 John Lennon John Lennon John Winston Ono Lennon, MBE was an English singer and songwriter who rose to worldwide fame as a co-founder of the Beatles, the most commercially successful band in the history of popular music. He was assassinated by Mark David Chapman on December 8, 1980 at age 40.

Inspired, other worldly, cutting edge poetry from this amazing man, never anything less.. He was the best! 1

Amazing songs the lyrics go in perfect harmony with the instruments. - Beautifulsound

Yes, the best of all!

Brilliant is every way. Across the Universe is other worldly and is beyond words. Nowhere Man is an anthem for all of us who struggle at some point. His Christmas song has a poignancy and a proactive message that tops all others and Imagine is beyond brilliant in terms of it's effective way of capturing and identifying what drives people apart...religion and a fierce and childlike nationalistic pride.

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2 Roger Waters Roger Waters George Roger Waters, is an English singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and composer. He is mostly known for being the secondary lead vocalist and bassist of Pink Floyd.

While Gilmour was the soul, Roger was the brain behind one the most magical bands ever.. Pink Floyd.
Makes you wonder that is it possible to convey so much with just a few words...

And if the cloud bursts, thunder in your ear
You shout and no one seems to hear.
And if the band you're in starts playing different tunes
I'll see you on the dark side of the moon. ---Brain Damage

How I wish, how I wish you were here.
We're just two lost souls
Swimming in a fish bowl,
Year after year,
Running over the same old ground.
What have we found?
The same old fears.
- Wish You were here

Bleating and babbling I fell on his neck with a scream.
Wave upon wave of demented avengers
March cheerfully out of obscurity into the dream. ----- Sheep

In my opinion he's number one. He's a genius I want my lyrics to be like his

His lyrics like to deal with the hard topics, evident in some of his best work. Like, for example. Dark Side of The Moon. there, it deals with mortality, insanity, greed, and the fact that we can either waste our lives and leave a bad mark, or make a positive effect, no matter how small it may be.

Amazing lyricist, John is awesome at writing lyrics but Rogers has a bit more depth to his ones and emotion - IUYSIXCXL

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3 Bob Dylan Bob Dylan Bob Dylan is an American singer-songwriter, author, and artist who has been an influential figure in popular music and culture for more than five decades.

The most inspirational and metaphorical lyricist that has ever graced this earth.

Darkness at the break of noon
Shadows even the silver spoon
The hand made blade, the child's balloon
Eclipses both the sun and moon
To understand you know too soon
There's no sense in trying.

Come on.

Then morrison, cobain, Maynard, waters.

Bob Dylan at number 4? This is preposterous. Bob Dylan is the best lyricist of all time hands down and without question. He was more than the voice of the generation, he was one of the best poets of all time. If you could ask any of the 3 writers listed above him, they would all say Bob Dylan is the GOAT.

ummm, are you completey insane? bob dylan is by far the best lyricist ever and really? zack de la Rocha? a five year old can come up with better lyrics. - this_is_the_worst_website_ever

Hands down The greatest of all time

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4 Pete Townshend Pete Townshend Peter Dennis Blandford "Pete" Townshend is an English musician, singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist, best known as the lead guitarist and songwriter for the rock band The Who.

Pete Townshend's song: "Come To Mama" " It's hard to write about Townshend's songwriting and not simply copy and paste his poetic lyrics "His pride is like a bandage/He is wrapped in a warm cocoon/His pride is like heroin/He is back inside the womb His pride is like an ocean/Encircled by a reef/His pride's a hypnotic potion/His memory is a leaf Her pride is like an armor/Flaming ring of fire/Her pride is like a blindness/An ever tightening wire Her pride is like a razor/A surgeon's purging knife/Her pride is like a censor/She's slashed out half her life"

Album: White City - Garjen

I love Pete Townshend's lyrics and how they weave through his music. I am happy to see him high on this list. Some other list had him way down or not at all! Probably should be one or two behind Dylan, although I think his music is more listenable than Dylan's. Paul Simon and Elvis Costello after them.

Best lyricist...probably only behind Bob Dylan. Listen to his compositions like Behind Blue Eyes,We Won't Get Fooled Again,My Generation,etc;. Also he was the main guy with the idea of "rock operas" like Tommy and Quadrophenia

5 Maynard James Keenan Maynard James Keenan Maynard James Keenan, often referred to by his initials MJK, is an American musician, record producer, winemaker, and actor, best known as the vocalist for Grammy Award-winning progressive metal band Tool.

maynard james keenan is a lyrical genius. instead of trying to put emphasis on biasness, we should dig deep into maynard's lyrics. just by telling james hetfield should top this list, he does not become one to do so. rockstars mostly reflect their personal struggles through their lyrics unlike maynard who does that along with penning down lyrics relevant to various other aspects of life. he urges for introspection and dreams of a changed world. listen to his voice alogwith his words. THE FEMALE VERSION OF MAYNARD JAMES KEENAN IS THE GENIUS NAMED OTEP SHAMAYA

Lyrical genius. Never would have expected to have seen him at #1, and I think I'm more pleased with this list for that reason than any other list on the top tens. No wonder it takes 5 years to make their albums! It's music you can really connect with, and have fantastic meanings. He is also a magnificent singer as well. This list shows that it's maker at least knows what he/she is talking about. - moose4life19

yes! people actually have some sense on this list thank god!
maynard james keenan is the most amazing lyricist in the entire world!
Tool spends upto 3 monthes working on 1 song, because the lyrics are so deep, and their songs' meanings are probably the most controversial and the most discussed, beacuse everyone has their own theory on what they mean... ans every song is amazing and Tool is the best! - Okami

Schism, Vicarious, Lateralus

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6 Kurt Cobain Kurt Cobain Kurt Cobain was born February 20, 1967, in Aberdeen, Washington. In 1987, he started the grunge band Nirvana, which became one of the most successful bands ever. He was a talented yet troubled grunge performer. Kurt Cobain became a rock legend in the 1990s with his band. He committed suicide at his more.

Kurt should be at first. Some people find his lyrics non sense. But if listen him and try to under understand his words you will find that he is the best... And in his songs he takes out all his feelings...

"Throw dwn you're umbilical nuece
So I can climb right back"

7 Jim Morrison Jim Morrison James Douglas "Jim" Morrison was an American singer, songwriter, and poet best remembered as the lead singer of the Doors.

Jim morrison should be 2nd after dylan. Possibly the most intelligent and poetic rockstar ever.

The End, Celebration of the Lizard to name a few.

Break on through to the other side. Enough said.

Squirmin like a toad seriously.

8 James Hetfield James Hetfield James Alan Hetfield was born on August 3, 1963. He is an American musician, singer and songwriter known for being the co-founder, lead vocalist, rhythm guitarist and main songwriter for the American heavy metal band Metallica.

He kicks any of the top ten writers' asses. Maynard is an acid tripped dumbass. Jerry is good but not that good. Bob Dylan is way overrated. Trent is just okay. Kurt was a little heroin junkie who couldn't make sense to save his life. (He proved it) Eddie Vedder couldn't even comprehend a rhyme or consecutive lines that aren't their own little sentences. John Lennon was good but way overrated considering it was just the acid talking, but his acid talks better than Maynard's.

"Dylan is way overrated". - again someone here doesn't understand the proper use and concept of "overrated". It doesn't mean someone/something that an individual (you, the visitor quoted here) doesn't care for or have an appreciation for (perhaps a very limited knowledge of as well. Dylan won the Nobel Prize for literature. His lyrics are acclaimed by an abundance of those in the music industry and beyond. The existence of a few who disagree with the praise he's given and deserves does not constitute any validity to a claim he's overrated. The majority evaluation is overwhelming - your individual opinion is irrelevant in determining or claiming that he's overrated. - Billyv

His lyrics are a lot more complicated than people seem to notice. After the first 2 albums, metallica songs had very deep meanings. Although even lyrics to early songs like jump in the fire consist of fun yet complex lyrics

James should be #1! His lyrics kick ass!

9 Paul Simon Paul Simon Paul Frederic Simon is an American musician, singer-songwriter and actor. Simon's fame, influence, and commercial success began as part of the duo Simon & Garfunkel, formed in 1964 with musical partner Art Garfunkel.
10 Jerry Cantrell Jerry Cantrell Jerry Fulton Cantrell Jr. is an American musician, singer-songwriter and guitarist best known as the founder, lead guitarist, co-lead vocalist and main songwriter of the rock band Alice in Chains.

You my friend
I will defend
And if we change, well I
Love you anyway

I love alice in chains lyrics.. they're so emotional! I think I'm gonna cry...

"I live for you but I'm not alive... "

The Contenders

11 Bono Bono Paul David Hewson, known by his stage name Bono, is an Irish singer-songwriter, musician, venture capitalist, businessman, and philanthropist. His original nickname was Bono Vox which means "big voice".

"what more in the name of love"

12 Paul McCartney Paul McCartney Sir James Paul McCartney is an English singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and composer . With John Lennon, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr, he gained worldwide fame with the rock band the Beatles, one of the most popular and influential groups in the history of pop and rock music .
13 Axl Rose Axl Rose William Bruce Rose Jr., better known as 'Axl Rose', is an American singer born on February 6, 1962, in Lafayette, Indiana. He Is the founder and lead singer of the hard rock band Guns N' Roses. He is a celebrated but controversial figure in the world of rock.

Axl is one of the most underrated lyricists in rock. Coma, November Rain, You Could Be Mine and Civil War is some of his best work lyrically

How Axl isn't at least in the top three is beyond me. Definitely the most underrated lyricists of all time. Simply outstanding

Try to listen to Coma and then we'll talk

Easy #1

14 Michael Stipe Michael Stipe John Michael Stipe is an American singer, songwriter, film producer, music video director, and visual artist.

Just listen to well um... ANY SONG

15 Bernie Taupin

Has to be in the top 5.
Complex and innovative when most hits were written for three chords

16 Neil Peart Neil Peart Neil Ellwood Peart (born September 12, 1952 in Hamilton, Canada) is a Canadian-American musician and author, best known as the drummer and primary lyricist for the rock band Rush. Peart has received numerous awards for his musical performances.

Thoughtful and explicit, Neil is able to tackle both philosophical and personal topics with beauty and precision. His writing was never tired or cliche. It is inspirational, descriptive and thought-provoking.

BEST. LYRICIST. IN. THE. ENTIRE. WORLD! So moving his lyrics are. They are amazing. Listen to the song The Garden and you will cry.

Listen to songs such as limelight, the pass and prime mover etc and the lyrics will blow your face inside out.

Heavily influenced by the Greeks and Shakespeare, but unique on his own as well...

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17 Layne Staley Layne Staley Layne Thomas Staley was an American musician who served as the lead singer and co-songwriter of the rock band Alice in Chains, which he founded with guitarist Jerry Cantrell in Seattle, Washington in 1987. Alice in Chains rose to international fame as part of the grunge movement of the early 1990s. more.

One of the most honest song writers of my generation. He bared his soul and then delivered it to us with the most beautiful melodies. The songs he wrote with Jerry Cantrell and his work on Mad Season is the best.

Layne's writings and his collaborations with Jerry Cantrell were the stuff of legend. These guys were amazing song writers, so honest. Still enjoy listening to them today.

He was the man who combined grunge with glam metal with his touching voice and heart through lyrics just like Cobain...

18 Zack de la Rocha Zack de la Rocha Zacharias Manuel "Zack" de la Rocha (born January 12, 1970) is an American musician, poet, rapper, and activist best known as the vocalist and lyricist of rap metal band Rage Against the Machine from 1991–2000, and after the band's reunion in 2007 until their last show in 2011. He left Rage Against more.

Zack's lyrics contains such a meaningful lesson of our world and I'm so glad that he got number 3(however he should've gotten higher).

19 Freddie Mercury Freddie Mercury Freddie Mercury (born Farrokh Bulsara, 5th September 1946 - 24th November 1991) was a Zanzibari-born British singer of Indian descent, songwriter and record producer, known as the lead vocalist and songwriter of the British rock band Queen. He also became known for his flamboyant stage persona and four-octave more.

He should definitely be higher, he did make one of the best songs in history and that is even stated. - IUYSIXCXL

25th? I don't believe this!

Should be higher.


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20 Alex Turner Alex Turner Alexander David "Alex" Turner is an English musician. He is the lead vocalist, guitarist, and principal songwriter of the English rock band Arctic Monkeys.

This man has made and continues to make some of the most profound and moving pieces of literature through his amazing storytelling capabilities in his music. He should be way higher

Don't get me wrong, I am a huge fan of some of the people listed above but Alex's lyrics are so creative and beautiful, how can you list him this low

19 SERIOUSLY?! Alex is incredible!

21 Eddie Vedder Eddie Vedder Eddie Vedder is an American musician, singer and songwriter best known as a member of the rock band Pearl Jam, with whom he performs lead vocals and is one of three guitarists.

Defiantly should be higher. He is a mastermind. He has the ability not only to write about his own experiences but also those of others. Jeremy, better man, the end, yellow Ledbetter, why go, all songs about others experiences

Eddie is just the best. Songs like Corduroy, I got ID, Black, Light years are masterpieces

The only reason many of theese artist are higher is because they're dead. I love Kurt cobain so much but to say he is a better lyricist than Eddie who has been doing it for such a longer time and has produced in quality for so long

I can't believe eddie is on 8!
I love his work on into the wild soundtracks
N songs like
Yellow ledbetter
Better man
Even flow
Last kiss
Just breath
Actually all of his songs...
He is amazing lyricist

22 Brandon Boyd

You stare at me like I�m a vitamin
On the surface you hate,
But you know you need me.
I'll come dressed as any pill you deem fit.
Whatever helps you swallow the truth,
All the more easily.

Imagine your brain as a canister filled with ink.
Now think of your body as the pen where the ink resides
Fuse the two; kapow! What are you now?
You�re the human magic marker,
Won�t you please surprise my eyes?

23 Trent Reznor Trent Reznor Michael Trent Reznor, known professionally as Trent Reznor, is an American singer-songwriter, record producer, and film score composer. He is known for his intense music videos.

Trent shares the darkness of the human heart and mind through his lyrics... His words are top notch and wickedly enticing!

24 Davey Havock

davey's lyrics don't describe emotion, they express emotion - blaqksails92

25 Gerard Way Gerard Way Gerard Arthur Way is an American singer, songwriter, musician, and comic book writer who was the lead vocalist and co-founder of the American alternative rock band My Chemical Romance from its formation in September 2001 until its split in March 2013. His debut solo album Hesitant Alien was released more.

Gerard is incredible in every single way. He deserves this spot.

26 Serj Tankian Serj Tankian Serj Tankian is a Lebanese-born Armenian-American singer-songwriter, composer, multi-instrumentalist, record producer, poet, and political activist.

SErj is a fantastic lyricist suiting his audience. while my opinion was spli8t between serj and Maynard from tool/apc.. maynard always gets exccesive attention due to the fantasticisty iof his band... the depth of his lyrics would mean little if not for his bands mates (EG danny carey-what fantastic time signiatures, besides.. I have it from inside sources that tool is and always has been danny's band)

While Serj, has left SOAD and proven himself both great behind and infron tof the mic.. writing and performing his album in its entirety.

My other favourites are:

- Layne staley who is a god and is above such lists...
- mike patton who is a great vocalist if not a lyricist... same for Phil Anselmo (My personal favourite vocalist)

... and who put Gene Hoglan on here, he's a drummer?!?!?

Expected to see him in the top ten! -

27 Morrissey Morrissey Steven Patrick Morrissey (born 22 May, 1959), known as Morrissey, is an English singer, songwriter and author, rose to prominence as the lead singer of The Smiths, an indie rock band - which was active from 1982 to 1987 . Since then, Morrissey has had a solo career making the top ten of the UK singles more.

22! ARE YOU KIDDING ME! He's easily one of the most influential lyricists of all time! "I'm the sun and the heir of a shyness that is criminally vulgar" - not one mind in the above 21 can ever come up with lyrics this painfully distinct! People PLEASE listen to every artist before rating! Not merely rate your favourite artists. as a die-hard brit music fan this is a pain to see!

28 Cat Stevens Cat Stevens Yusuf Islam, commonly known by his former stage name Cat Stevens, is a British singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, humanitarian, and education philanthropist.
29 Billie Joe Armstrong Billie Joe Armstrong Billie Joe Armstrong is an American musician, singer, songwriter and actor who is best known as the lead vocalist, primary songwriter, and guitarist of the punk rock band Green Day, which he co-founded with Mike Dirnt.

This man is unbelievably talented and an excellent songwriter. He has an ability to write great lyrics about almost any topic, whether it be a solemn ode to his dead father ("Wake Me Up When September Ends") mental illness ("Basket Case" "Panic Song" "Give Me Novacaine") or a lighthearted song about adolescent boredom ("Longview")

When I was a kid, I thought
I wanted all the things that I hadn't got
Oh, but I learned the hardest way.
Then I realised what it took
To tell the difference between thieves and crooks
A lesson learned from me to you

30 Tim Mcllrath

Tim's lyrics are deep and emotional. Such an underrated band and lead singer. He's got the most talent out of anyone on this list.

31 Pete Wentz Pete Wentz Peter Lewis Kingston Wentz III (born June 5, 1979)is an American musician. He is best known for being the bassist, lyricist, and backing vocalist for the American rock band Fall Out Boy. Before Fall Out Boy's inception in 2001, Wentz was a fixture of the Chicago hardcore scene and was notably the lead more.

Should be top 10! The Beatles weren't even a rock band, neither are the Arctic Monkeys! His lyrics are so deep and meaningful, they all come from the heart and they're all about things that really matter to him. The only other person on this list who I think comes close is Gerard Way, but Pete's still my No1!

The best lyricist of the 21st century, in my opinion! His lyrics are SO unique! Like; 'I wanna scream "I love you" from the top of my lungs, but I'm afraid that someone else will hear me' and 'you're a cherry blossom, you're about to bloom, you look so pretty but you're gone so soon' No one even comes close for me! Look up the lyrics for Disloyal Order of water Buffaloes by Fall out boy and try to tell me you don't agree!

32 Mikael Akerfeldt Mikael Akerfeldt Lars Mikael Åkerfeldt is a Swedish musician, prominently known as the lead vocalist, guitarist, and primary songwriter of progressive death metal band Opeth, as well as being the former vocalist of death metal supergroup Bloodbath for three albums up until 2012. more.
33 Amy Lee Amy Lee Amy Lynn Hartzler, known professionally as Amy Lee, is an American singer-songwriter, classically trained pianist and composer. She is also the lead singer to the Arkansas band Evanescence.
34 Richey Edwards Richey Edwards Richard James "Richey" Edwards was a Welsh musician who was the lyricist and rhythm guitarist of the alternative rock band Manic Street Preachers.

Richey is so underrated that it drives me mad. You could dislike many songs of "Manic Street Preachers", but you just have to READ the lyrics like if they were poetry to realize that he was brilliant. Dark themes mixed with twisted humour. Way more intelligent than many of the people who are above him in this list.

35 Chester Bennington Chester Bennington Chester Charles Bennington (March 20th, 1976 - July 20th, 2017) was an American musician, singer, songwriter and actor, best known for being the lead singer of Linkin Park. He also participated in side projects like Julien K and Dead By Sunrise. He committed suicide in 2017 after a period of depression. more.

His songs helped every other teenager..He gave everyone support.. No. 37 is very low for him.. He is at least better than Alex Turner, Kurt Cobain, and others even though I like them too.. All his songs have great meanings...

36 Isaac Brock

Possibly the most underrated lyricist of all time. Just listening to the meaning in his songs sheds a whole new light on life. Just listen to the album "the moon and Antarctica" absolutely incredible. But it doesn't stop there, his work on "the lonesome crowded west" is outstanding as well. Definitely not someone to overlook for this list, if not even the top ten.

Utter genius! He might be a chubby bloke with a lisp but he's a brilliant wordsmith.

37 Elliott Smith Elliott Smith
38 Cedric Bixler-Zavala
39 Mike Patton Mike Patton Michael Allan "Mike" Patton is an American singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, film composer, producer, and actor, best known as the lead singer of the alternative metal band Faith No More.

Mike would be WAY higher in this poll if he and his band were more famous. This man is more underrated than anyone period. Mr. Bungle is even less known publicly than Buckethead, by alot!

Plus, with songs like "Carousel" and "Goodbye Sober Day", Mr. Bungle is honestly one of the five greatest bands I've ever heard.

And Mike is also the most diverse lyricist I've ever heard in my life, at least 6 times more diverse than Daron Malakian.

40 Robert Plant Robert Plant Robert Anthony Plant is an English musician, singer, and songwriter best known as the lead singer and lyricist of the rock band Led Zeppelin.
41 Steve Harris Steve Harris Stephen Percy "Steve" Harris is an English musician and songwriter, known as the bassist, occasional keyboardist, backing vocalist, primary songwriter and founder of the British heavy metal band Iron Maiden.
42 Phil Anselmo Phil Anselmo Philip Hansen "Phil" Anselmo is an American musician who is best known as the former lead vocalist of the heavy metal band Pantera. He currently is the vocalist of heavy metal bands Down and Superjoint Ritual.
43 Kyo Kyo Kyo is a Japanese musician, singer, lyricist and poet. He is best known as the vocalist of the metal band Dir en grey. He has been with the band since its inception in 1997 and was formerly in La:Sadie's.

I find Kyo's lyrics not only more complex but also have more meaning to them than Maynard's. I am comparing Kyo to Maynard as I see small similarities as well as him being top. Although maybe not as re-known as him but for a fan of Tool I recommend strongly to check out Kyo's band Dir en grey. Also if you can get a hold of his poems. - Taloper

44 Jimi Hendrix Jimi Hendrix Jimi Hendrix (born November 27, 1942 - September 18, 1970) was an American rock guitarist, singer, and songwriter . Although his mainstream career spanned only four years, he is widely regarded as one of the most influential electric guitarists in the history of popular music, and one of the most celebrated more.

Jimi Hendrix may be widely recognized for his guitar playing, but I think he was just as great as a songwriter, if not better. He could write hard rocking songs (Purple Haze), weird songs (1983 (A Merman I Should Turn to Be), and songs that put you in bliss (May This Be Love). If anybody put as much feel into their music as Hendrix, I guarantee they would be very hard to find. - c0mf0rta61ynum6

45 Chris Martin Chris Martin Christopher Anthony John "Chris" Martin is an English singer, songwriter and musician. He is best known as the lead singer of rock band Coldplay.
46 Max Bemis

Stellar lyrics that cut deep with a subtlety from above that you need to really dig into to understand

47 Thom Yorke Thom Yorke Thomas Edward "Thom" Yorke is an English musician best known as the singer and principal songwriter of the alternative rock band Radiohead.

Awesome lyrics on every single Radiohead album. He can't be this low. His solo work is good too. But all those lyrics on Radiohead albums are pure rock Jewels. Man is just one of the best things that ever happened to rock.
From Pablo honey to king of limbs just brilliant.

48 Pete Loeffler

He's a amazing vocalist and has great emotion in his lyrics

49 Marilyn Manson Marilyn Manson Brian Hugh Warner, better known by his stage name Marilyn Manson, is an American musician, songwriter, actor, painter, multimedia artist, author, and former music journalist.
50 David Bowie David Bowie David Robert Jones, known professionally as David Bowie, was an English singer born in London on January 8, 1947, and was the son of a fundraiser and a waitress. He died in New York on January 10, 2016 at the age of 69, a hero to millions. more.
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List Stats

800 votes
68 listings
9 years, 144 days old

Top Remixes

1. John Lennon
2. Jim Morrison
3. Kurt Cobain
1. Bob Dylan
2. Paul Simon
3. John Lennon


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