Top 10 Best Lyricists of All Time
Bob Dylan was the greatest lyricist. He was a poet. No one then or today has come close. There are many other good lyricists but never like Dylan.
Well I am Shocked, Stunned and Flabbergasted! Well you know Usually I'd not be ANGRY if My First Choice is not On Top! But it's Bob ' Dylan! He is On TOP! He is Number one! Anyone whose Heard it's Alright Ma, Desolation Row, It's All over Now Baby Blue, Visions of Johanna, Blowin' in the Wind, Like a Rolling Stone, Positively 4th Street, Idiot Wind! Well There is no Way this man is not on Top! And until he is I shall boycott the musicians above him, Lucky for me there are only two! And well I don't listen to Tupac... EVER! And I'll just only listen to George Harrison's Beatles songs and give up John's solo career!
Dylan's lyrics are on a entirely different level than any other artist. His songs paint vivid scenes with developed characters and unparalleled variety in vocabulary. He has hundreds of lyrical masterpieces. There is absolutely no contest here, rappers can only dream of being able to rhyme as well as Dylan.
Excerpt from the overlooked gem, Ballad of Frankie Lee and Judas Priest:
"Eternity? " said Frankie Lee
With a voice as cold as ice
"That's right," said Judas Priest, "Eternity
Though you might call it 'Paradise'"
"I don't call it anything"
Said Frankie Lee with a smile
"All right," said Judas Priest
"I'll see you after a while"
Greatest lyricist, songwriter, singer and performer of all-time. He has been doing it for over 50 years. Not many can hold a candle to that kind of stamina in the music business. There are artists that wrote great stuff but they either burned out or faded away. The test of time is the greatest test of all.
"Long you live and high you fly, and smiles you'll give and tears you'll cry. All you touch and all you see, is all your life will ever be."
"Strangers passing in the street, by chance two separate glances meet, and I am you and what I see is me". 'enough said.
All that you touch
All that you see
All that you taste
All you feel.
All that you love
All that you hate
All you distrust
All you save.
All that you give
All that you deal
All that you buy,
Beg, borrow or steal.
All you create
All you destroy
All that you do
All that you say.
All that you eat
And everyone you meet
All that you slight
And everyone you fight.
All that is now
All that is gone
All that's to come
And everything under the sun is in tune
But the sun is eclipsed by the moon.
Every song written by Roger Waters has deep lyrics. There is a story behind all his songs. In terms of lyrics he's sometimes underrated. Come on, people, he wrote Dark Side Of The Moon. What more could you want? He writes about life, insanity, politics, alienation, society, death, time, treason. I'm glad he's in the top ten. He wasn't afraid to write about anything. He also wrote about the war and how it affected him. He's a genius. He also wrote The Wall, Animals, and Wish You Were Here after the true masterpiece, The Dark Side Of The Moon.
Nobody can write like Roger Waters. He words hold such raw power that most of it is unfathomable to plebs that prefer lesser artists. His songs can make me cry, laugh, scream, and can send shivers down my spine. His is the type of music that you have to listen to alone in a dark room without any external disturbances, because it is just that pure and powerful. He has made some of the most powerful works of art in the history of humankind and deserves to be called the best.
Only person I can accept being raked better than Roger Waters is possibly Bob Dylan just because he was a pioneer. But to me Waters will always be the best. Floyd all the way. Lennon OK I can still assume people are easily deceived and fooled. But Eminem, no way. I do listen to Eminem and like his rhymes but nowhere near Waters as a poet or a lyricist or a musician.
Lennon had more in his locker than anyone else. Dylan was predictable, put random words together. Lennon was much more diverse. Once you start to write a song, poetry disappears, it becomes a song. Lennon had a much more range of writing, the others wrote usually wrote in one style. The Irony to all this was Lennon new he was superior to anyone else. His intellect was so far ahead, no one can match him in this department. His vision, leadership, creative ability was to advance and mostly misunderstood.
John was a writer/poet in his own right for two major reasons. The first being that his wordplay was fabulous in a line that could be traced back to Edward Lear and Lewis Carroll (see I Am The Walrus or Being For The Benefit Of Mr Kite). But most important, John translated intricate feelings and emotions into words that we all could relate to. Lyrics such as Imagine, Isolation, Don't Let Me Down are the poetic soundtrack to our lives, to our dreams and to everyone's aspirations.
For those who may not know, Lennon and McCartney were the writers of The Beatles. These men are definitely amazing lyricist. Their amazing song Yesterday, is considered one of today's saddest songs of all time. I want that song played at my funeral. John Lennon also wrote songs independently. One of John's most popular songs was Imagine. That song is one of the most lyrical songs ever.
John Lennon and Paul McCartney both were the dynamic duo of The Beatles, John and Paul had great talent and creativity. The lyrics written by the Beetles are somewhat simple but at the same time so full of meaning as mentioned. People can relate to those lyrics very deeply, and nothing makes a musician like John Lennon happier than when that happens. It's amazing the things music can do
Unlike many in the music business, we have Eminem that speaks the grittiness of life and not just the hope of a bright future but the harsh truth in the normal actual world we live in. As each day passes, the world is revealed to be more of what Eminem raps than the hopeful world that is falsely promised. Do I advocate against a future that's better? No, but he speaks what is real and now and not like those who say one thing and live another. Because of this insight, this actually makes his music ahead of the curve and sets it apart from the rest of his field.
Eminem is an amazing artist. His lyrics may contain profanity, opinions, and often even a diss to an other artist as well. Eminem definitely made a scene in the rap game worldwide. He's written songs about his life, his wife and most often, his daughter Haley. He's written songs that actually make you feel good about like, for example Stronger Than I Was. He also writes songs that make you want to punch a brick wall, for example Till I Collapse. Eminem is definitely amazing, and he will always be.
Eminem is the best lyricist ever, period. Killing rhymes and the beat is not something that Shakespeare could ever do! Never! He is a beast, not only in rapping, but also is rhyming... Let's not forget the flow. He does more than one thing at a time. This is not what poets do! Poets write poems. That's that! Eminem performs miracles. You may say it's obscene, on the other hand, I'll call it being straightforward and outspoken.
No way... Eminem is a dumb rapper! He doesn't stand a chance to anyone else on this list, How is he over Nikki Sixx, Axl Rose, Or Izzy Stradlin? I just named 3 lyricists WAY better than this clown. Ever listen to "November Rain" By Gn'R? Or "You're all I Need" By Motley Crue? Or what about Any song by Ozzy osbourne, Led Zeppelin, The Who, Black Sabbath, Or Styx, Or any other Rock'N'Roll/hair metal/metal band EVER! (Keep in mind I have listened to a few Eminem songs before, I'm judging on what I think, not from the reputation of rappers. )
Bicycle race is a good song! The song features surprisingly complex instrumentation, and the Jazz album as a whole perhaps represents the apex of Queen's experimentation. It features an imaginative solo played exclusively on bicycle bells, unusual chord progressions, shifts in time signature (from 4/4 to 6/8) and a whole host of pop culture references in the lyrics, including mentions of religion, the Watergate scandal, drugs, Jaws, Star Wars and Frankenstein.
Freddie was a real legend. There would be no musician like him that would be as good as him. His lyrics are much better than those who are in the upper list. He should have been in top 3.
Okay, what the hell, Bohemian Rhapsody is not lyrically interesting at all. Putting words together that sound poetic but have no meaning is not as hard as it seems.
Bohemian Rhapsody... So I have to say more. All that legendary came from that one man's head. Greatest song of all time. He will forever be legendary.
Kurt Cobain deserves to be at least in the top 3. Words just came effortlessly to him. He was at ease with connecting ideas and emotions in a way that is relatable to everyone. He invented a new genre for music. The genre grunge took form from his words. Kurt never wanted fane or money. He stayed in cheap hotels and never flaunted his wealth. He was honest and real and that would translat into his lyrics.
It's hard to find one song by Kurt about anything happy. A harsh up bringing, his bipolar, stomach condition, and of course his vast drug experience messed him up. But from that we got true poetry describing pain and sadness like no one ever had or will again.
Rest in peace Kurt, whether it was suicide or murder, you deserved better.
Agreed, John Lennon was a huge inspiration, and a brilliant lyricist. But Kurt Cobain was just defining genius. A much better lyricist than Sir Lennon.
He didn't expressed his feelings distinctly in his lyrics, he just wanted to keep them mysterious and they became more meaningful with the music.
Tupac is a poet and a very good one also. Tupac saved my life. I was going through a rough moment, being constantly bullied at school, being yelled by my parents, and basically, for being something I knew I wasn't. Tupac opened up my eyes and made me take a glance at the real world. The first Tupac song I've ever heard was Thungz Mansion, and it spoke to me. I later on purchased his Better Dayz album on iTunes. Rest in peace Tupac, you're truly the best to ever do it.
John Lennon was great and Bob Dylan were great when it came to poetry and songwriting. Tupac was still the greatest though. He described real life and experiences, raw and unadulterated. I feel it must be either a lot of white people voting (no offense if you are white) or people who haven't heard much Hip-Hop music. Many of the people on this list are good, don't get me wrong; yet Tupac is God of Lyricism. RIP Makaveli
Tupac touched souls with his lyrics, he was not just a rhymer, he had a main theme for every one of his songs.
"Only God can judge me"
He pointed out flaws in society and politics at the time, the negative side of gang violence, racism, discrimination against women, and emphasized the need for change.
Although Rock and many other genres are vocally on another level, it take's true talent to put together lyrics that are said with such speed and annunciation. Rap songs may have up to three times as many words as compared to other genres. Tupac is a true genius, but where's Eminem?
I would vote Bob Dylan, but I see the legend that is Paul Simon is in 11th! Madness. As a student of English Literature I would have to say the lyrics of "I am a rock", "America" and pretty much all the songs on the album Graceland are nothing other than poetry is its purest and most beautiful form. The idea that those above are in the faintest way superior makes me laugh. Paul's lyrics (and music, which is equally untouchable) transcends all those listed above (many of whom have written brilliant lyrics but not lyrics that can evoke the same raw power as those of Paul). Only Bob Dylan can rival this man's brilliance and no other by a country mile. As far as his place at the top of the pile is concerned: "he is a rock. He is an island".
Paul Simon makes the most heart-hitting lyrics I have ever heard.
"These streets, silent as a sleeping army, send their battered dreams to heaven"
"If every human on the planet and all the buildings on it should disappear, would a zebra gracing on the African Savannah care enough to shed a zebra tear? "
"In the clearing stands a boxer And a fighter by his trade
And he carries the reminders
Of every glove that laid him down
And cut him till he cried out
In his anger and his shame
"I am leaving, I am leaving"
But the fighter still remains..."
These are just some excerpts of the beautiful poetry of Paul Simon!
I wish I could vote twice. Bob Dylan might beat Paul Simon, but Paul is incredible as well. Check out The Dangling Conversation or Kathy's Song. Just two examples of how Paul can break down emotion to such a raw form and still sound incredibly poetic. Few have been able to express emotion better than this man.
Paul Simon is one of those "writer's writers"... None of those shallow, cliche "Oooh I love you baby" lyrics that you typically find in rock or in popular music. His writing can be poetry. It can be story-telling. It can be political. It can be emotional. It can even be funny. He's just a versatile, talented writer.
Beautiful symbolic lyrics, verging on Dylan's calibre. Songs such as Broken Arrow, simultaneously telling the story of a boy conscripted to the Vietnam war and his planned life.
The blunt and to the point songs like Ohio and Needle and the Damage Done.
Songs with an amazing narrative, like Cortez the Killer, Powderfinger, Pohcahontas etc.
The words to 'Thrasher' are pure poetry one single song makes me smile, laugh, cry, think, inspired, even full of 'Wanderlust' and more. Amazing!
Definitely should be higher, seriously why is Kirk Cobain ranked higher.
Dylan is better. Lucinda is better. Springsteen and Elliot Smith are his equals. Everyone else is in the line standing behind Neil.
There will be another one
Over you beneath the sun
See the things
That never come
When you see me
Fly away without you
Shadow on the things you know
Feathers fall around you
And show you the way to go
It's over, it's over
Definitely one of the best singers and lyricists ever. He is absolutely amazing!
Listen to Thank You, The Rain Song, Kashmir, All My Love, I'm Gonna Crawl, etc. The list goes on and on. He didn't just write about sex
Are you kidding? I mean sure, led zepplins one of the greatest bands of all time but come on, his lyrics suck
The best lyricist ever born no one can give meaning to songs the way he does just by making noises
The fact that Eminem is higher than Paul, shows how bad we have fallen! Paul is the 2nd best lyricist of all time! He has written masterpieces such as the long and winding road, yesterday, live and let die, The end, Eleanor rigby, Let it be, hey jude and many other songs. Only Dylan is a better lyricist.
I can understand Lennon or Dylan above Paul and other than no one. Paul is a very underrated songwriter. He didi wrote great songs in Beatles career, Get back, Got. A feeling, let it be and full Abbey road medley (Soke songs by John) he is no less than John and Dylan and absolutely above anyone 10 places ahead him
Why Paul is 15? He need to be at least in top 5. I like Eminem and Kurt, but they are not better than Paul. He is a incredible writer with music career of over 50+ years. Period.
Lyrical mastery level is defined in terms of how McCartney you are.
Lyrics that stood out from the 'norm' of the day, when everyone was singing about flowers and happy trips, Jim sang about 'the end' and humanities addiction to the fast lane. I wouldn't say he was a great poet, but as far as lyrics, he is in a class of his own.
Riders On The Storm on its own should be enough to make this man number one. The entire LA Woman album essentially works as a suicide note written in poetic form. The greatest poetic lyricist of all time.
He should be in the top ten. One of the best song-writers to have ever lived. Just look at songs like the Unknown Soldier and the End.
I voted for Jim Morrison because his lyrics are poetic and also because no one put ray davies from The Kinks on this list!
Althrough I'm a Floydian but Cohen is the greatest lyricist ever. His songs are the poems of life, love, death.. full of melancholy & depression. Hallelujah, Famous blue raincoat, Tower of song... are always my favs songs.
He's just excepcional. One should only need to listen to a few of his songs to know this much is true. One should only need to read them, actually. I'm just begging for someone who can match his poetry to surge again in my lifetime, so that I can read a beautiful song for the first time once more.
As someone who has listened to all of the artists in the current 20 twenty, and would identify as a fan of most, I can say that Leonard Cohen wins this contest by a landslide. Bob Dylan has had his preachy Christian period, John Lennon and Paul McCartney frequently wrote silly nonsensical crap like Yellow Submarine, Come Together or I Am the Walrus. Robert Plant ripped off a good chunk of "his" lyrics from other artists. Neil Young hasn't released a good album in a long time, meanwhile Leonard Cohen is still going strong, releasing Popular Problems only 2 years back to critical acclaim at the age of 82. Roger Waters was in a mainly instrumental band with less lyrics in their entire discography than someone like Leonard Cohen has on a single album, so how he's even considered when people think of the greatest lyricists is beyond me. (Note to Pink Floyd fans, writing great lyrics isn't the same as writing about political themes. Songs like "Another brick in the wall" and "Money" are ...more
Hugely embarrassing that Freddie Mercury is 6 positions above him. Like actually humiliating for everyone at all responsible
Elliott Smith is a musical genius, his lyrics are heartbreaking, vulnerable and powerful. You can't ignore his amazing talent. Doubtful that anybody will listen to him after seeing this but for anyone that does read this, I think you would appreciate listening to King's Crossing. It's about his life and is absolutely heartbreaking. I'm a big fan of a lot of these lyricsists such as Cobain for his originality and Lennon for just doing what he does best. But in my opinion Elliott should be so much more appreciated for his amazing work.
He still is to this day the most real, passionate, fragile, honest musician out there. I am so thankful I came across his music, his music comforts me and makes me realise there was someone out there who just felt and thought the same about a lot of things in life. And that it is ok to feel like that.. Because simply there sometimes is just no other way. How hard you try.. Or fight against it. Especially when you feel so alone and you feel like no one truely really understands how you feel. I love you Elliott thank you for your beautiful music.
I found Elliott through a Queens of the Stone Age cover of his song Christian Brothers. I thought the lyrics were beautifully potent and thought it'd be in my best interests to listen to him. Best decision I have ever made. His lyrics are are poetic as they are heart-breaking and they are sang with such grace. He is definitely in my top ten lyricists of all time. He rivals Kurt Cobain, Jim Morrisson and Bob Dylan.
A poet and musician. Rare combination these days. His lyrics and melodic voice translate his intensely depressing emotions in an paradoxically uplifting way. When listening to Elliot you are left feeling both happy and sad at the same time, something that only rare and masterful artist is capable of eliciting from his listener.
Peart is one of the most gifted and literate lyricists in popular music. His prose is packed with clever wordplay and references to other great works of literature. Yet they don't come across as too intellectual - anyone can relate to them.
Neils lyrics give something that you rarely ever see anymore. He takes complex ideas and intellectual ideas and puts them into rock. No one can top this guy. It's the thinking mans lyrics.
Powerful and moving. Peart has a passion for Sci-Fi, culture, and personal freedom. I would put him in the top 5, next to Paul Simon and Bob Dylan. He's a born Poet.
If Neil could sing his lyrics as good as he writes them, a black hole would emerge out of the awesomeness.
The music is simultaneously direct; aloof; complex and searingly direct. When lyrics appear...they can be appreciated and delighted-in even WITHOUT musical accompaniment...and merely as poetry. AGELESS: still 'discovering' after 30 years!
Ian is amazing and unbelievably prolific. He can hold our empty Faces up to the Hypocracies of our Society like perhaps only Joni Mitchell or Peter Gabriel have. He can be Lyrically extroverted as in Orion or My God; or bring a feeling of undescribable longing & unspoken sadness as with Nursie or Wondering
Aloud for example. -Brian P.
Man Anderson wipes his ass with them poet-wannabe rappers. Ian Anderson is not only a musical genius, lyric-wise he's also great. I bet all these Tupac fanboys can't even understand Thick as a Brick, Aqualung or a Passion Play. Agree with Dylan being number one though
Whoa. Never expected him to be that high for an often overlooked singer. But I mean, far from undeserved.
David Bowie really was an amazing lyricist. His songs evoke such images and show such thought. The way his lyrics flow are amazing, his innovations were delightful, and his lyrics fit the music so well! Maybe Bob Dylan was better at evoking images and maybe Bob Dylan was more innovative, but it was usually at the almost complete sacrifice of actual music.
One of the most creative musicians of all time, breaking the barriers of mainstream music forever.
His lyrics painted great pictures and told great stories.
He's been consistently a fantastic lyricist for almost 50 years and desrves to be a lot higher.
Bob marley is one of the greatest cultural icon throughout globe. A common man can identify himself in his songs. His lyrics are simple yet have a cutting edge to it. His songs like a medicine for millions out there.
"The stone that the builder refuse
Will always be the head corner stone. "
"The things people refuse
Are the things they should use. "
- Robert Marley "Corner Stone" (1973)
Perhaps the greatest and most inspiring Lyricist in the past 50 years. Bob Marley... The King of Kings
Bob Marley was a brilliant lyricist and possible the best that ever lived. To have ever lived. Music inspired by God and the people.
Life is one big road with lots of signs
So when you riding through the ruts don't you complicate your mind
What more do you want?
It's so sickening to see so many artist that shouldn't even be in the top 100 be ahead of bruce. This man is the one of the best if not the best lyricist of all time. He tells a story in each word he sings. He connects with everyone everywhere and knows how to reach personally as if you were actually talking with him. An he is quite witty. But it's not the websites fault, just the brain dead idiots that don't know what music is.
I can honestly say, I truly believe Bruce Springsteen to be a lyricist leagues ahead of both Bob Dylan and John Lennon. The Boss is the only lyricist whose lyrics I can just read as poetry and be totally satisfied.
Honestly don't believe that Lennon or Dylan ever wrote anything of that caliber.
Not only a great lyricist but probably the most perfectly rounded musician ever, great voice, great on guitar and the most amazing stage presence I've ever seen, but to top it all off a great song writer! Jungleland is just the most amazing song potentially of all time!
The boss is a master poet, it's unbelievable the isn't in the top 10 at least. That man brings the poetry to music every time, like in his first two albums, there is proved his ability to write incredible stuff.
I am astonished she is so far down the list! Many of the singer songwriters listed here, including list-leaders John Lennon and Bob Dylan -- as well as her friend and fellow Canadian Neil Young -- have gone on record stating their admiration for her genius as a lyricist. Moreover, hundreds of highly respected musicians (Jazz, Rock and County), including Diana Krall, Herbie Hancock, Prince, David Crosby, James Taylor, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Bryan Adams, Leonard Cohen, Joan Baez, Sarah McLachlan, Adam Duritz, and more have nominated Joni Mitchell as the best lyricist of all time. Pick any one of her dozens of albums and you will here brilliant lyrics in every song. If you want to pick just one, listen to Blue.
Joni is a different kind of lyricist. You can tell that she is a painter from listening to her songs and the way she uses lyrics to tell a story within them. Just listen to a beautiful song like the circle game which is simple but paints a beautiful picture about life and how we should keep moving forward. Of course she also has a more more melancholic side, songs like river and case of you really show you the kind of passion that she puts into her lyrics that cut deep into the soul. Joni is quite possibly the best female lyricist of all time.
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.
I don't understand why she is always so low on these lists. She is the best, by far. Even better than Dylan! And why are the first 29 all male?
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.
He was ahead of his time. The fact that he is all the way down here just proves that people still don't understand his genius. His lyrics are piece of art. For me, he's the best lyricist and should be at the top.
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."
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)
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.
Although initially overshadowed by his bandmates, George Harrison was eventually able to showcase his writing talents for which the music world and myself are eternally grateful. Both with and without The Beatles, George proved himself to be just as good as Lennon-McCartney. I can't help but wonder what genius we were deprived of by him not writing on the earlier records.
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...
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? "