Top 10 Best Singer/Songwriters of All Time

The Top Ten
1 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

I often wonder about people's knowledge of songwriting and what criteria they base their judgments on. John Lennon is the greatest songwriter ever, winning by a country mile. No one comes close to him, not even Dylan. He transformed the Beatles into prophets and led them forward. McCartney's greatness shined only when he was guided. Most other songwriters are limited and predictable. Lennon was far more diverse and had more up his sleeve.

I get so fed up hearing about Dylan as a songwriter. He wasn't one. He used music to convey his poetry. He was essentially a protest writer and became an icon of that movement. I don't understand why the music industry is so obsessed with him. What else did he have? Nothing. He was envious of Lennon's intellect and influence.

Some of Dylan's songs lacked a chorus and bridge. His version of Norwegian Wood was a joke, and his Christmas album was embarrassing. In the '80s, he produced nothing of note. Lennon, on the other hand, was more prolific and consistent in both lyrics and melody. So when someone thinks of the Beatles, it's Lennon's vision and leadership that made them great.

Please don't come back with petty arguments, like saying it was Dylan who did this or that, because those points won't wash with me. And in any case, I will counteract anything you say.

2 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.

Why Bob Dylan? Because there was no other artist who has performed this consistently over the course of over 50 years. I will generously ignore his "Reborn Period" in the 80s. Even during that time, he wrote "good mainstream music", but it wasn't anything extraordinary or interesting.

The only two artists who rival his songwriting are obviously Lennon and McCartney. However, neither of them performed this consistently. Lennon died too soon (Roll On John), and even he had a bad period. McCartney just wasn't the same after the Beatles breakup.

Why is it that Dylan keeps reinventing himself over the years, transitioning from Protest Folk singer to Rockstar, then back to Folk, to Country, to Blues, to Gospel, and then to some unique music style? Only to release a Sinatra cover album and shift to a more jazzy style afterward? Yes, the Beatles' music was more diverse, and Dylan never ventured into the more eccentric genres (Looking at you, I Am The Walrus). But the Beatles seemed to experiment with different styles, often moving on after just one or two songs.

It's challenging to argue against the Beatles musically because this is where they outshine Dylan. Nevertheless, Dylan explored a vast range of styles, and his songwriting is impeccable. When the Beatles put their array of instruments aside and didn't produce an album like Sgt. Pepper, Dylan was just more effective.

Or is it because his lyrics are simply unparalleled? I've seen many claim that Lennon wrote superior lyrics, but I disagree. Dylan's rhyme schemes were more intricate, his imagery richer. He could convey the essence of a song without being explicit. Compare songs like Mr. Tambourine Man and Desolation Row to anything Lennon penned. While Lennon was a talented lyricist, he often kept things simple. He wasn't a poet in the same vein as Dylan.

Which brings me to my next point: Dylan was, in essence, a poet. John Wesley Harding is an album comprised of songs that were... more

3 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

I will give Dylan his due for being a great songwriter, but McCartney has him beat. By your own admission, he is the most successful songwriter in history. That should say it all. He wrote more great songs than Lennon, and even on some of Lennon's best songs, Paul co-wrote many of them.

I could agree with McCartney as number one. It's a toss-up between Lennon and Dylan for the second spot, and I would give it to Lennon. Both were great, but Lennon wrote more hits.

While one could debate the complexity of his lyrics in some of his songs (primarily his earlier ones), Paul McCartney combined his musicianship with his songwriting in a way that even John Lennon didn't achieve. Every word in his songs seemed to harmonize perfectly with the music. It's as if the lyrics he wrote and the melodies accompanying them were puzzle pieces that fit seamlessly together.

4 Josh Groban Joshua Winslow "Josh" Groban is an American singer, songwriter, actor, and record producer. His first four solo albums have been certified multi-platinum, and he was charted in 2007 as the number-one best selling artist in the United States, with over 22.3 million records.

Artists like Dylan, Mitchell, and Cohen are mere footnotes compared to this monumental songwriting talent. Thanks to those who voted wisely on this top 10!

5 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.

Simon's work has been consistently excellent for over five decades, with many of his songs becoming timeless standards. His body of work can now be compared to that of the world's most celebrated composers and poets throughout history. His lyrics are not only exceptional and poetic but also deeply moving and profound.

Furthermore, his melodies have significantly influenced the evolution of popular music post-1960. His creations always offer intriguing insights into the human experience, always underscored by a deep love for humanity.

6 Michael Jackson Michael Jackson (Michael Joseph Jackson; August 29, 1958 – June 25, 2009) was an American singer, dancer, and songwriter. He passed away from cardiac arrest caused by a propofol and benzodiazepine overdose on June 25, 2009. He donated (at least) a remarkable 500,000,000 dollars to charity. Michael... read more

He did write most of his songs, and if you disagree, then I suggest doing some research. Here are just some of the songs written entirely by him: Smooth Criminal, Beat It, Billie Jean, Earth Song, Will You Be There, Speechless, Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough, Bad, The Way You Make Me Feel, Wanna Be Startin' Something, Workin' Day and Night, Morphine, I Just Can't Stop Loving You, Do You Know Where Your Children Are, Much Too Soon, Stranger in Moscow, D.S., Who Is It, and Another Part of Me. He wrote 4 out of the 9 songs on Thriller and 9 out of the 11 songs on Bad.

Not to mention, he co-wrote songs like Black or White (only the rap part wasn't written by him), Remember the Time, Ghosts, Unbreakable, You Rock My World, Hollywood Tonight, Xscape, Love Never Felt So Good, Keep the Faith, Is It Scary, Scream, Tabloid Junkie, Break of Dawn, Whatever Happens, Dangerous, and Blood on the Dance Floor. It's true that he has hit songs that weren't written by him, such as You Are Not Alone, Thriller, and Man in the Mirror. However, most of his hits were definitely written by him.

7 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

Freddie Mercury is an amazing singer and a superb songwriter. His songs are all original, and he can write across a range of genres from hard rock to ballads to opera. He wrote Bohemian Rhapsody, one of the greatest songs ever, and We Are The Champions, one of the best anthems ever, among others.

It's worth noting that he wrote Crazy Little Thing Called Love in about 10 minutes in a bathtub with a guitar, even though he wasn't proficient at playing the guitar and was limited to a few chords. Such talents are rare. Freddie Mercury should be considered one of the greatest - if not THE greatest - singer/songwriters ever.

8 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

I hate the fact that everywhere I see the top songwriter list, I see Bob Dylan. Now, I'm a Dylan fan. But this whole "Dylan is the greatest" notion is pissing me off. I like "Blowing in the Wind." I like "The Times They Are a Changing." I like "Tambourine Man," but I don't know what the hell it means. And I love "The Hurricane." But what are his top songs? Why are they considered the greatest ever?

Every time I see one of these lists, people expect me to believe that these Dylan songs are superior to "The River," "Darkness on the Edge of Town," "Stolen Car," "Born in the USA," "My Hometown," "Nebraska," "Reason to Believe," or any regular old Springsteen song?

We're just supposed to believe that Dylan is the greatest?

Anybody who's a music lover probably loves Dylan. I do too. But anybody who's ever tried to write a song knows who he or she is trying to emulate.

This "Dylan = number 1" notion is just ridiculous.

9 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.

I think Roger should be ranked higher than 7. He wrote all the lyrics for The Dark Side of the Moon, The Wall, Wish You Were Here, and Animals. All four of those albums are some of the greatest albums of all time. In addition, he has also had an amazing solo career and is a phenomenal live act.

Even though he brought Pink Floyd's reign to an end with his overpowering ego, his songwriting and lyrical genius cannot be denied by anyone. This applies to both his work in Pink Floyd and his solo career.

Pink Floyd became the biggest rock band of all time because of the inspiration of Syd Barrett, the guitar work of David Gilmour, and the brilliant songwriting of Roger Waters.

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

It's great to see Neil in the top 20. What stands out about this list, with the exception of Groban, is that those featured are not only excellent songwriters but have also influenced other talented songwriters. This list doesn't include fleeting successes. Aside from the questionable inclusion of Groban, it's a solid list.

Needle and the Damage Done, Heart of Gold, Are You Ready for the Country, Down by the River, and Like a Hurricane are just a few examples of his beautiful lyrics. Leonard Cohen, Tom Waits, and Neil Young should easily be at the top, but unfortunately, artists like Josh Groban have taken those spots. Neil Young deserves to be in the top 5.

The Newcomers

? Dave Mason
The Contenders
11 Elton John Sir Elton Hercules John (born Reginald Kenneth Dwight; 25 March 1947) is an English singer, pianist and composer. Collaborating with lyricist Bernie Taupin since 1967 on more than 30 albums, John has sold over 300 million records, making him one of the best-selling music artists of all time. He has... read more

To the person who criticized Elton John for not writing his lyrics, you're correct. However, he composes all the melodies for all his songs, often completing entire songs within 30 minutes. Moreover, he plays the piano and sings all his songs! Instead of criticizing someone you don't admire, go and support your favorite singer/songwriter.

For me, melody is far more important than lyrics. If I'm not a fan of the melody, no matter how exceptional the lyrics are, I won't enjoy the song. Elton John crafts the best melodies ever.

12 Rod Stewart Roderick David "Rod" Stewart is a British rock singer-songwriter. Born and raised in London, he is of Scottish and English ancestry.

"Gasoline Alley", "Every Picture Tells A Story", "Born Loose", "Scarred and Sacred", "I Was Only Joking", and "True Blue" are just a few of his more than 200 self-penned songs. Then there are his songwriting partnerships with Ronnie Wood. Some of the greatest rockers ever written include "Stay With Me", "Pool Hall Richard", "Borstal Boys", and many more. Rod Stewart is still writing. Listen to his albums "Time" and "Another Country" and be amazed.

I love and enjoy the one and only Sir Rod Stewart. He's one of the best entertainers of all time! I adore his voice, dance moves, and humor. Rod is a gentleman, a family man, and he donates to charities. He's truly a good man.

13 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 was the backbone of Nirvana. In terms of intelligence, he surpassed many others on this list. Considering his upbringing, he had an impressive vocabulary, and his lyrics harmonized with his music beautifully. He could write about a vast array of topics, but his darker, surreal lyrics and music stand out from the rest. If he were still alive, he and Nirvana would be remembered as one of the greatest bands ever. Rest in peace, Kurt.

Also, Johnny Cash should be on this list. At least in the Top 5.

He is simply one of the greatest songwriters of all time. He established a genre and became the voice of an entire generation. He voiced all the angst that covered teenagers. He accomplished many things in his life. Kurt Cobain is amazing.

14 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.

Baba O'Riley, Won't Get Fooled Again, My Generation, and I Can See For Miles (the first metal song) are just a few of the more than 100 songs he wrote for the band. Where are Mick Jagger and Keith Richards? They should be at least in the top five.

I can't believe he's not in the top ten. He's my favourite songwriter of all time! He writes from the heart, expressing all the anger he feels through his songs. He is angry with the world and himself.

Why isn't he in the Top 10? Just listen to his songwriting on albums like Tommy, Who's Next, Quadrophenia, and The Who Sell Out. This list is an insult!

15 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.

What an amazing musician. Metallica wouldn't exist without him. He is the main songwriter, the writer of guitar riffs, a great guitarist, and of course, a fantastic vocalist. He began creating legendary metal songs when he was 18.

Listen to songs like One, Fade To Black, Enter Sandman, UnForgiven, The Day That Never Comes, and Master Of Puppets. You will understand that he is the best lyricist, with profound meanings within his compositions.

It's so true. His songwriting skills are sublime. Roamer? One? The Unforgiven trilogy? I don't know where to start.

16 Billy Joel William Martin Joel is an American singer-songwriter, composer and pianist. Commonly nicknamed the "Piano Man", he has been making music since the 1960s, releasing popular albums throughout the '70s, '80s and '90s.

I'm unsure of the age demographic of the posters here, but Billy Joel has both written and performed some of the most iconic songs in history. Additionally, he has composed numerous tracks for other artists.

Billy Joel is phenomenal! Among my favorite songs of his are Piano Man, Angry Young Man, The Entertainer, and Say Goodbye to Hollywood. We Didn't Start the Fire, Honesty, My Life, and Seen the Lights Go Out on Broadway are also exceptional.

He's truly incredible! His mastery of the harmonica, piano, and vocals is commendable. He has crafted numerous timeless songs, solidifying his title as the piano man.

17 Barry Gibb Barry Alan Crompton Gibb is a British singer, songwriter and record producer who rose to worldwide fame as a co-founder of the group Bee Gees, one of the most commercially successful and critically acclaimed groups in the history of popular music.

In objective terms, based on hits and record sales, Barry Gibb should be number 2 behind McCartney/Lennon. Gibb's songs were more intricate than those of the Beatles. He also wrote numerous hits for other artists in diverse styles. He's often dismissed as "disco," but he had great success both before and after that period.

History speaks for itself. They didn't always produce my kind of music, but you can't argue with their success. Actually, the Bee Gees wrote some beautiful acoustic-type ballads before they transitioned to disco. To Love Somebody, Gotta Get a Message to You, First of May, Massachusetts, and Holiday were all beautiful ballads.

18 Jackson Browne Clyde Jackson Browne is an American singer-songwriter and musician who has sold over 18 million albums in the United States.

Jackson Browne is among a handful of top singer-songwriters. To look at those ranked above him reveals that someone doesn't truly understand what it means to be a singer-songwriter. His body of work is extensive and widely recognized.

Moreover, there are very few singer-songwriters who have influenced the careers of others as he has. Browne has certainly influenced artists like Glen Frey, Don Henley, Warren Zevon, Bonnie Raitt, and JD Souther, among others.

19 Bon Jovi Bon Jovi is a hard rock/pop rock band formed in 1983, which had a streak of successful albums in the late 1980s. The band originally consisted of lead vocalist Jon Bon Jovi, guitarist Ritchie Sambora (left in 2013), bassist Alec John Such (left in 1994), keyboard David Bryan, and drummer Tico Torres... read more

Jon Bon Jovi possesses the rare gift of creating powerful lyrics from the heart and then transforming them into magical tunes. He's been doing it exceptionally well for over 30 years and shows no signs of stopping. His songwriting and artistry, combined with his incredibly talented band, are on par with greats like Dylan and the Stones. This is a body of work that will forever be considered among the greatest of all time.
Rhonda R

Bon Jovi is the best band! Listening to their music has given me strength. The talent of the instrumentalists is exceptional, but the frontman, Jon, is truly one of the best. Every performance he delivers is from the heart. His voice is absolutely beautiful. Thank you, Bon Jovi, for making such incredible music!

20 Carole King Carole King is an American composer and singer-songwriter. She is the most successful female songwriter of the latter half of the 20th century in the USA, having written or co-written 118 pop hits on the Billboard Hot 100 between 1955 and 1999. King also wrote 61 hits that charted in the UK, making... read more

One can gauge the talent of a songwriter by the number of artists eager to cover their songs. Notable performers such as Aretha Franklin, the Osmonds, the Beatles, James Taylor, the Drifters, the Everly Brothers, Steve Lawrence, and Grand Funk Railroad are just a few of the diverse artists who have recorded songs by Carole King. In this respect, I believe Ms. King is on par with legends like Bob Dylan, the Beatles, and possibly Buddy Holly.

I'm not suggesting that this list is biased, but it's puzzling why the top 20 is exclusively male. Women have significantly contributed to the world of songwriting as well.

21 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 was one of the most unique and influential musicians in the music industry. He's a legend. It's so sad that he died. Bowie may be gone, but his music will live on. Rest in peace, David Bowie.

What is wrong with people? David Bowie is clearly one of the best. He should be at least top ten.

The fact that Bowie is so low on this list makes the entire list irrelevant. Ridiculous.

22 Stevie Wonder Stevland Hardaway Morris, known by his stage name Stevie Wonder, is an American musician, singer, songwriter, record producer, and multi-instrumentalist.

People from different generations have loved his many classics. They sound as fresh and soulfully good now as ever. He wasn't only an extremely gifted songwriter. He also recorded and performed live superbly with that God-given voice. The debate is really between him and McCartney in the end.

If you don't believe he ought to be ranked higher, listen to Songs in the Key of Life or Innervisions, two of the greatest albums ever.

Stevie is one of the greatest. He belongs in the Top 10.

23 Beck Beck Hansen, known by stage name Beck, is an American singer, songwriter, producer and multi-instrumentalist. He is mostly known for his musical composition, as well as a palette of sonic genres.
24 John Denver Henry John Deutschendorf Jr., known professionally as John Denver, was an American singer-songwriter, actor, activist and humanitarian, whose greatest commercial success was as a solo singer, starting in the 1970s.

It's good to see a list that gives Denver his due. Maybe his songs don't have any deep, dark meanings, but that wasn't who the man was. He wrote simple, heart-touching melodies. I've heard that the melody and words to Annie's Song came to him in fifteen minutes while he was riding up a ski lift. That showcases a talented man with a special gift. He was not a bad actor either, especially if you've seen Oh God with him and George Burns.

He was an exceptional talent in both singing and writing. I can't think of better love songs than "For You", "Never a Doubt", and "Perhaps Love".

25 Tom Petty Thomas Earl "Tom" Petty was an American musician, singer, songwriter, multi instrumentalist and record producer.

That's what I like about this list. It's good to finally see people like Lightfoot, Taylor, Petty, Van Morrison, and Denver get their due. These are people who have established that they are among the all-time great songwriters, not just those who have had a hit or two. With maybe a couple of exceptions, this is a very intelligent top twenty.

He's my favorite. He makes the best songs with the simplest melody and story. I love Refugee and Don't Come Around Here No More, which is about Alice in Wonderland and hallucinogens.

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