Top 10 Best Lyricists of All Time

The Top Ten
1 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.

Well, I am shocked, stunned, and flabbergasted! Usually, I wouldn't be angry if my first choice is not on top. But it's Bob Dylan! He is on top. He is number one!

Anyone who's 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 will understand. There is no way this man is not on top.

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! I'll just only listen to George Harrison's Beatles songs and give up on John's solo career.

2 John Lennon John Winston Ono Lennon, MBE (9 October 1940 - 8 December 1980) 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... read more

Lennon had more in his locker than anyone else. Dylan was predictable, putting 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 wider range of writing, while the others usually wrote in one style.

The irony of all this was that Lennon knew he was superior to anyone else. His intellect was so far ahead. No one could match him in this department. His vision, leadership, and creative ability were too advanced and mostly misunderstood.

3 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.

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.

4 Eminem Eminem, born Marshall Bruce Mathers III, is an American rapper, actor and music producer born on October 17, 1972 in St. Joseph, Missouri. Eminem has sold over 300 million records making him the bestselling hip-hop artist of all time. In addition to his solo career, he is a member of D12 and (with Royce... read more

Unlike many in the music business, we have Eminem, who speaks to the grittiness of life. He doesn't just talk about the hope of a bright future but also the harsh truth of the normal, actual world we live in. As each day passes, the world is revealed to be more of what Eminem raps about than the hopeful world that is falsely promised.

Do I advocate against a future that's better? No, but he speaks about what is real and now, not like those who say one thing and live another. Because of this insight, his music actually stands ahead of the curve and sets itself apart from the rest in his field.

5 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... read more

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 the top three.

6 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... read more

Kurt Cobain deserves to be at least in the top three. 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 fame or money. He stayed in cheap hotels and never flaunted his wealth. He was honest and real, and that translated into his lyrics.

It's hard to find one song by Kurt about anything happy. A harsh upbringing, his bipolar disorder, 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.

7 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.

I would vote for Bob Dylan, but I see the legend that is Paul Simon is in 11th place! 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 in 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) transcend all those listed above. Many of them 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."

8 Neil Young Neil Percival Young is a Canadian singer-songwriter and musician, producer, director and screenwriter.

Beautiful symbolic lyrics, verging on Dylan's caliber. 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, Pocahontas, etc. He's brilliant!

The words to Thrasher are pure poetry. One single song makes me smile, laugh, cry, think, feel inspired, and even full of wanderlust and more. Amazing!

Definitely should be higher. Seriously, why is Kurt Cobain ranked higher?

9 Tupac Shakur Tupac Amaru Shakur, also known as 2Pac, was an American rapper and actor born on June 16, 1971 in East Harlem, New York. Tupac sold over 75 million records worldwide and has been referred to in multiple major publications such as Rolling Stone as one of the greatest music artists of all time. 2Pac was... read more

Tupac is a poet and a very good one at that. Tupac saved my life. I was going through a rough moment, being constantly bullied at school, yelled at 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 ever heard was Thugz Mansion, and it spoke to me. I later purchased his Better Dayz album on iTunes. Rest in peace, Tupac. You're truly the best to ever do it.

John Lennon and Bob Dylan were great when it came to poetry and songwriting. However, Tupac was still the greatest. 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 the God of Lyricism. RIP Makaveli.

10 Robert Plant Robert Anthony Plant (born 20 August 1948) is an English musician, singer, and songwriter best known as the lead singer and lyricist of the rock band Led Zeppelin.

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.

The best lyricist ever born. No one can give meaning to songs the way he does, just by making noises.

The Newcomers

? Kodak Black Bill K. Kapri is an American rapper better known by his stage name Kodak Black. He is noted for his singles "Roll in Peace", "Tunnel Vision", and "No Flockin", as well as his numerous legal issues.
The Contenders
11 Paul McCartney Sir James Paul McCartney (born 18 June 1942) 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... read more

The fact that Eminem is higher than Paul shows how bad we have fallen! Paul is the second-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, but no one else. Paul is a very underrated songwriter. He wrote great songs in The Beatles' career, like Get Back, I've Got a Feeling, Let It Be, and the full Abbey Road medley (some songs by John). He is no less than John and Dylan and absolutely above anyone 10 places ahead of him.

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

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 humanity's addiction to the fast lane. I wouldn't say he was a great poet, but as far as lyrics go, 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 songwriters to have ever lived. Just look at songs like 'The Unknown Soldier' and 'The End'.

13 Leonard Cohen Leonard Norman Cohen was a Canadian singer-songwriter, poet and novelist. His work explored religion, politics, isolation, sexuality and personal relationships. Cohen died on November 7, 2016 at the age of 82.

As someone who has listened to all of the artists in the current top twenty, and would identify as a fan of most, I can say that Leonard Cohen wins this contest by a landslide. Bob Dylan had his preachy Christian period, while John Lennon and Paul McCartney frequently wrote silly, nonsensical songs 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, but Leonard Cohen was still going strong, releasing "Popular Problems" only two years back to critical acclaim at the age of 82.

Roger Waters was in a mainly instrumental band with fewer 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 great songs in their own right, but they're not necessarily lyrical masterpieces. Rappers also belong in a different category in my opinion, as do overly venerated dead people, although it's nice to see Elliott Smith in that top 10.

14 Ian Anderson Ian Scott Anderson is a Scottish-born musician, singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist whom is best known for his work as the lead vocalist, flautist, and acoustic guitarist of British rock band Jethro Tull.

The music is simultaneously direct, aloof, complex, and searingly direct. When lyrics appear, they can be appreciated and delighted in even without musical accompaniment, merely as poetry. Ageless: still 'discovering' after 30 years!

Ian is amazing and unbelievably prolific. He can hold our empty faces up to the hypocrisies 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 indescribable longing and unspoken sadness, as with Nursie or Wondering Aloud, for example.

- Brian P.

15 Elliott Smith

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, 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 lyricists, such as Cobain for his originality and Lennon for just doing what he does best. But in my opinion, Elliott should be much more appreciated for his amazing work.

16 Neil Peart Neil Ellwood Peart, (September 12, 1952 - January 7, 2020) was a Canadian musician and writer best known as the drummer and primary lyricist of the rock band Rush. Peart received numerous awards for his musical performances, including an induction into the Modern Drummer Hall of Fame in 1983, making... read more

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.

Neil's lyrics offer something that you rarely ever see anymore. He takes complex and intellectual ideas and puts them into rock. No one can top this guy. It's the thinking man's lyrics.

Powerful and moving. Peart has a passion for sci-fi, culture, and personal freedom. I would put him in the top five, next to Paul Simon and Bob Dylan. He's a born poet.

17 David Bowie David Robert Jones, known professionally as David Bowie (January 8, 1947 - January 10, 2016) was an English singer born in London, the son of a fundraiser and a waitress. He is credited for his experimental and creative musical discography which has won praise and accolades for many critics and fans... read more

David Bowie really was an amazing lyricist. His songs evoke such images and show such thought. The way his lyrics flow is 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.

18 Bob Marley Robert Nesta "Bob" Marley was a Jamaican reggae singer, songwriter, musician, and guitarist who achieved international fame and acclaim.

Bob Marley is one of the greatest cultural icons throughout the globe. A common man can identify himself in his songs. His lyrics are simple yet have a cutting edge to them. His songs are like medicine for millions out there.

"The stone that the builder refuse
Will always be the head cornerstone."

"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 possibly the best that ever lived. Music inspired by God and the people.

19 Joni Mitchell Roberta Joan Mitchell, professionally known as Joni Mitchell, is a Canadian singer-songwriter. Drawing from folk, pop, rock, and jazz, Mitchell's songs often reflect social and environmental ideals as well as her feelings about romance, confusion, disillusionment, and joy.

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 across Jazz, Rock, and Country, 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 hear brilliant lyrics in every song. If you want to pick just one, listen to Blue.

20 Bruce Springsteen Bruce Frederick Joseph Springsteen (born September 23, 1949) is an American musician, singer, songwriter, and humanitarian. He is known for his work with the E Street Band. Nicknamed "The Boss", Springsteen is widely known for his brand of poetic lyrics, Americana, working class and sometimes political... read more

It's sickening to see so many artists, who shouldn't even be in the top 100, ahead of Bruce. This man is one of the best, if not the best, lyricists of all time. He tells a story in each word he sings.

He connects with everyone everywhere and knows how to reach out personally, as if you were actually talking with him. And he is quite witty. But it's not the website's fault, just the brain-dead idiots who 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, I don't believe that Lennon or Dylan ever wrote anything of that caliber.

21 Till Lindemann Till Lindemann is a German singer, songwriter, musician, actor, poet, and pyrotechnician. He is best known as the lead vocalist and frontman of the German Neue Deutsche Härte band Rammstein.
22 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... 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.

23 George Harrison George Harrison (1943 - 2001) was an English guitarist, singer, songwriter, and music and film producer who achieved international fame as the lead guitarist of the Beatles.

Although initially overshadowed by his bandmates, George Harrison was eventually able to showcase his writing talents, for which the music world and I 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 underrated both in terms of his guitar playing and his lyrics. He's a brilliant writer. Drawing inspiration from some of the greats in the field like Dylan and Lennon, his lyrics both in the later Beatles era (e.g., Within You Without You, Something) and in his solo career are excellent.

24 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 too 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 you gotta agree he should be recognized immediately after. If you disagree, well, besides the fact that you're wrong, you need to listen to his album, "Berlin."

25 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 a 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?"

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