Top 10 Best Lyricists of All Time

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The Contenders: Page 2

21 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.

He's written so many good lyrics, but my favourite is 'If you want to sing out, sing out'. Chorus: "You can do what you want, the opportunity's on, and if you can find a new way, you can do it today, you can make it all true and you can make it undo, you see, it's easy, you only need to know...". Very uplifting and inspiring, as is the movie 'Harold & Maude', in which the song is used as soundtrack.

At times Cat Stevens seems like a less pretentious Bob Dylan, carefully weaving words together to get his message across. "I know we've come a long way, we're changing day to day, but tell me, where will the children play? "

22 Lou Reed Lou Reed Lewis Allan "Lou" Reed (March 2, 1942 – October 27, 2013) was an American musician, singer, and songwriter. He was the guitarist, vocalist, and principal songwriter of the Velvet Underground, and his solo career spanned five decades. ...read more.

Better than Dylan. Period. He stepped out of the boundaries of social norms to give commentary on things most people were to scared or ignorant to talk about. He was able to write some of the most sad and depressing songs ever written; so true to reality that you can't help but feel depressed. His 90's music was more relevant than any of your whiny Grunge bands, and, in the 60's, he was one of the first people to blatantly talk about drugs in their music. He also, along with the Kinks, talked about the transgender community in his music. I may be one of the few people who thinks Lou is better than Dylan, but ya gotta agree he should immediately after. If you disagree, well, besides the fact that you're wrong, you need to listen to his album, "Berlin."

When I listen to lou reed its like I just melt into the music. the music and lyrics go together perfectly throughout all his songs. Heroin is such a unique and effective song. having said this I did vote for bob Dylan. I think this is why he has 1 % cause most people who appreciate good music and actually listen to the lyrics would appreciate and love both artists but when it comes to voting lyrically speaking bob Dylan would have to be number 1.

Why is Lou Reed all the way down here. I voted for Dylan but Reed had a way of telling truths through his lyrics, terrifying the listeners, and evoking emotions. He is far better than most of the crap at the top, namely Robert Plant (Led Zeppelin is great but its lyrics are not), Eminem (there is nothing deep to his lyrics. period. ), or Freddy Mercury (he had a few good songs but most of it is just insubstantial pomp)

Lou Reed! The best!

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23 Adam Duritz

He uses his lyrics to create true imagery within the words that he writes. If you listen to a lot of the CC's songs you can picture what is happening. The best is when he is making up parts of the songs live where he just has the freedom to create a word picture and you can feel like you are there. The way that he and Dan (guitarist) work together is just perfect.

Each and every time he sings a song it is unique, there's not such a thing as "he's singing that song again", but "I wonder what he will come up with this time". And there's just no way you will picture "I walk along these hillsides in the summer 'neath the sunshine I am feathered by the moonlight falling down on me" or "Now Autumn's fire is ashes on the breeze and it spins away like dust on pearls as winter comes to usher in the evening" and not swoon.

I heard people say the Adam Duritz singing the phone book would be beautiful. I think this is very true, and when he sings live he takes creative freedom with his own songs. Your in for a unique experience ever time you hear him.

I used to feel so alone and disconnected until I discovered August and Everything After. I can honestly say they saved my life!

I love you Adam xoxoxoxo

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24 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 ...read more.

Okay, I'm a big fan of the Beatles, the Stones, Pink Floyd, the Who and Led Zep. Let's face it, no one can do music like us British. The Americans just copied whatever went on in England, America did start punk with the Ramones though. But it wasn't until the late 80/90s when American developed their own tastes and invented grunge. Meanwhile in Britain, we were shoved with Britpop. Good music but the musicians were too phony. It was like the long haired glam rockers from the 70s (love Bowie by the way)! Indie rock in very much a British thing and one of the few 'real' bands who sung about real things and didn't do what everyone else was doing was the Smiths. Metal is nice and all (also invented by the British: Sabbath and Maiden), but the Smiths' lyrics were way more edgy and Morrissey was king of the 80s. He was a real person who you could talk to. Check out his lyrics on There Is A Light That Never Goes Out, Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want, Cementary Gates, Frankly Mr ...more

Surprised and disappointed he is not in the top 5, top 10 at least, along with Cohen. Even more shocking, Alex Turner above Morrissey. Arctic Monkeys are great, I own a couple of their albums and sure, I can't say I haven't swooned over some of his lyrics, but this placement is pretty disgraceful. Nonetheless, Morrissey is, in my mind, the best lyricist.
"In a river the color of lead
Immerse the baby's head
Wrap her up in the News Of The World
Dump her on a doorstep, girl"

How in the world is morrissey not number one. it's the best LYRICISTS of all time not the greatest musicians. tops of too dylan and all but morrissey is something different. he tells a story in the most literate of ways. a true genius and without a doubt the GREATEST LYRICIST OF ALL TIME

I can see bob dylan beating morrissey but Freddie Mercury?! In my opinion queen is an overrated piece of garbage that should never have got famous in the first place the songs are plain ordinary and say nothing to me about my life.

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25 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.

I had never heard anyone use words and voice so masterfully until I stumbled across Maynard Keenan and his many musical endeavours. It felt like it was not just the well selected words and eye-opening phrases that had meaning, but that each and every syllable was purposefully sung in a way that got the most beautiful and effective sound from it that merged effortlessly with the journey that the music was taking - no small feat given how complex Tool's music is for example. Maynard has been my creative hero ever since.

REALLY!
ONE PERSON on this list can come freakin close to Maynard.
That's John Lennon.
I like rush and nirvana more than the beatles, and I can still say that.

Best lyricist of all time, hands down. His lyrics are so complex, yet he makes them make so much sense

26 Notorious B.I.G. Notorious B.I.G. Christopher George Latore Wallace, better known by his stage name, The Notorious B.I.G (a.k.a. Biggie Smalls), is consistently ranked as one of the best rappers of all time. The Notorious B.I.G was born May 21, 1972, he was born in Brooklyn, New York. At the age of 24 The Notorious B.I.G was murdered ...read more.

How is even the beatles above him lyric wise?

Should be in top 10 above em and pac

Big is the best lyricist of all time period

27 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.

I've been listening to radiohead for a while now yet the most astonishingly beautiful verse has this genius Thom Yorke has ever written only popped up in my way very recently, it's from the early acoustic version of motion picture soundtrack, here it is:

"Beautiful angel

Pulled apart at birth

Limbless and helpless

I can't even recognize you

I think you're crazy, maybe

I will see you in the next life"

His lyrics are the incontrovertible proof that he thinks in music

Why is Alex Turner over Thom Yorke? I can't believe this.

He's a genius. Most people don't get his lyrics.

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28 Mark Knopfler Mark Knopfler Mark Freuder Knopfler, OBE is a British singer, songwriter, guitarist, record producer and film score composer.

Just listen to sultans of swing or romeo and julliet
Its embarrasing that I have to add this

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29 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 ...read more.

His brilliant lyrics are largely overshadowed by his guitar playing, but Jimi was an absolute genius as far as writing lyrics goes. The man was an absolute poet, and it's a shame most people take his lyrics for granted.

Best guitarist ever, but on a bad day there was always Hendrix to lull me back. He's well above a lot of these guys.

30 George Harrison George Harrison George Harrison was an English guitarist, singer, songwriter, and music and film producer who achieved international fame as the lead guitarist of the Beatles.

George Harrison throughout his career is very much under-rated both in terms of his guitar and his lyrics.. He's a brilliant writer.. Drawing inspiration some of the greats in the field like Dylan & Lennon he's lyrics both in the later Beatles (Within You Without You, Something etc) and his solo career are excellent...

I'd take George over John and Paul ANY day.

31 Nas Nas Nasir bin Olu Dara Jones, better known by his stage name Nas, is an American rapper. His album, Illmatic, is considered to be one of the best rap albums of all time. He is also considered to be one of the best rappers of all time.

How any rapper is ahead of Nas on this list is just insane. With Illmatic Nas wrote the bible of rap, showing others who came after how to paint a picture with you lyrics. Listen to "NY State Of Mind" or "One Mic" and I'll be very surprised if you can't picture what he says"

Nas is a very talented rapper with him there is always a story one you can relate to you can listen and just feel it the lyrics just put a smile on your face

Seeing things like Tupac being ranked a better lyricist than nas makes me actually feel ill, nas painted a picture with everything he said and his flow was/is untouchable

Great lyricist! However, Eminem and Tupac are better.

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32 Joni Mitchell Joni Mitchell

What a sad and strange world we live in when Eminem comes in at No 2 and Joni is down here.

Joni is genius, her work speaks to generations and she has a great talent of making listeners relate to her situations. She should be much higher. Her authenticity cannot be ignored.

This list is a joke. Nothing comes close to this woman's poetic genius.

Little Green, I had a King, they break my heart; that and the fact she's so low on this list.

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33 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.

I voted James since Dave Mustaine is for some reason not on this list. Hetfield's lyrics are amazing. Just listen to Metal militia, ride the lighting, for whom the bell tolls, fade to black, escape, creeping death, master of puppets, the thing that should not be, welcome home (sanitarium), disposable heroes, leper messiah, blackened, and justice for all, eye of the beholder, one, the frayed ends of sanity, don't tread on me, or pretty much anything else to see what I mean. Despite that, I strongly suggest Megadeth's lyrics too.

I can say I'm disappointed he's so far down on the liste here... He's a magician. Nobody in this world can beat Bob Dylan (you heard me), but Jaymz is an artist in his own right, with topics ranging from politics 'halls of justice painted green, money talking' to the toll of war on veterans 'darkness, imprisoning me, all that I see - absolute horror. I cannot live, I cannot die, tied myself - body my holding cell' to drugs 'pain monopoly, ritual misery, chomp your breakfast on a mirror' to a mothers love 'mama she has taught me well, told me when I was young - son you life's an open book, don't close it when it's done' so in matter of diversity yet still maintaining his otherworldly lyrical ability, he is just the best. And this is beside the point, but come on who hasn't spent hours listening to his riffs and cleans?

Just look at songs like Fade to black, which describes depression perfectly, or One which lyrics are just intense and give you chills every time you hear the song. James is an amazing lyricist. Maybe not the best, but he belongs in the top 15 at least. And sorry for bad English

"The Thing That Should Not Be "
That song will most definitely make you think twice about going anywhere near the ocean.
Pure evil.

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34 Tim Mcllrath

"Life for you's been less than kind, so take a number, stand in line. We've all been sorry, we've all been hurt but how we survive is what makes us who we are. "

"hiding from the laughter in the closets of our lives, but the door hinges are sqeaking, letting in thin shards of light. And now a hand's extending outward, quiet comfort they invite. Do we dare take what they offer? Do we walk into the light? "

"a hero of war. Is that what they see? Just medals and scars? So damn proud of me? "

"do you still believe in all the things that you stood by before? Are you out there on the front lines or at home keeping score? "

"too much blood has flown from the wrists of the children shamed for those they cose to kiss? Who will rise to stop the blood? "

I could name a million more. This guy is a genius.

35 Gordon Lightfoot Gordon Lightfoot
36 Kris Kristofferson

"I'd trade all my tomorrows for a single yesterday"...
"Freedom's just another word for nothing' left to loose"...

Classic... And both from Bobbie McGee

"And there's nothing' short of dyin' That's half as lonesome as the sound
Of a sleepin' city sidewalk and Sunday mornin' comin' down."

Bless you Kris

37 W. S. Gilbert

WS Gilbert should be top! He was a poetical genius, rather than an ordinary songwriter! Paul Simon is great, but WS Gilbert is in another league to all the rest! - MikeFuller

38 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 ...read more.
39 Ryan Adams
40 Jesse Lacey

Jesse lacey should be much higher on this list. His lyrics are incredible. Go listen to the devil and god are raging inside me.. you'll see what I'm talking about!

How on earth is Jesse Lacey all the way down here? I can't even pick an example of his best lyrics. Just Google literally any Brand New song.

He's a Genius. 'enough said.
His lyrics play with words in dark, yet very clever ways that you probably wouldn't have thought about before.

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List StatsUpdated 26 Sep 2017

3,000 votes
268 listings
8 years, 32 days old

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