Top 10 Most Influential Music Artists of All Time

The Top Ten
1 The Beatles The Beatles were an English pop rock band formed in Liverpool in 1960. The members consisted of John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr. They were soon known as the foremost and most influential act of rock era. Rooted in skiffle, beat, and 1950s rock and roll, the Beatles later... read more

They are not everyone's cup of tea, but they are probably the most influential band of all time. That's even an understatement. Lots of genres wouldn't have existed without them.

Creative studio geniuses is what this group really were. This is their legacy and how they should be remembered and revered. Their commercial success was almost in spite of what they were doing, rather than because of it. Don't forget they only toured for the first three years of their career.

From the end of '65 until their split at the end of '69, they just locked themselves in the studio. Yes, they had to keep the record labels happy, so they would release a number 1 every few months to achieve that. But it wasn't their focus and isn't how they should be assessed.

Their groundbreaking studio recording techniques and songwriting experimentation are the core of this group. They laid the foundations for the 50 years of rock and pop music that followed, leaving no area of music untouched by their influence. They belong in a category entirely on their own.

2 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

The greatest artist, the greatest entertainer, a superb composer, a brilliant person in terms of business and making music, and most importantly, a great humanitarian and a good person. Though a bit odd sometimes, it is what made him magical, cosmic, and unique.

He broke a lot of records, having 31 Guinness World Records, including best entertainer of all time, the artist who donated most to charities with donations of not less than $350 million, best-selling album of all time, highest-paid artist of all time, and many more. He is the most popular and the most famous.

Though a lot of Elvis and Beatles fans won't agree, however, wherever you go, Michael Jackson remains at the top. Moreover, some may not say so, especially if you're a Westerner, but the fact is that he is the most famous in the whole world. Ask anyone, may it be illiterate, someone from the Alps, or someone who knows no civilization, if you mention the name "Michael Jackson," then they'd all smile and say, "Hey, I know that man," while shrugging their shoulders if you ask about the Beatles or Elvis. Undeniably, no matter which angle you look at it from, Michael Jackson is the king of music.

3 Elvis Presley Elvis Aaron Presley (January 8, 1935 – August 16, 1977) was an American singer and actor. Dubbed the "King of Rock and Roll", he is regarded as one of the most significant cultural icons of the 20th century. His energized interpretations of songs and sexually provocative performance style, combined... read more

Elvis Presley is obviously the most influential artist of all time. All the artists ranked above and below him would likely agree. His voice, charisma, those hips and lips, and the remarkable ability to connect with an audience set him apart. One billion people watched Aloha from Hawaii.

On average, half a million people from around the world visit Graceland annually, making it the most visited residence after the White House. He mixed multiple genres to create a unique sound, even though it was just instinct. He was humble, fun-loving, and loved all over the world to this day.

It's hard to believe that he has such a global influence, both then and now. He's the most imitated, impersonated man there is. Yes, he's the king. I'm only 40, so don't assume I'm a baby boomer.

4 Queen Queen are an English rock band formed in London in 1970. The original lineup was Freddie Mercury (lead vocals, piano), Brian May (guitar, vocals), Roger Taylor (drums, vocals), and John Deacon (bass guitar, vocals). Before forming into Queen, Brian May and Roger Taylor had played together in a band... read more

Freddie Mercury had a unique and special singing voice in his expression of emotion, his range, and his use of vibrato and subharmonics. He was a talented pianist who, as Brian May said, played as if a drummer sat down at a piano and learned it. He had perfect timing.

Roger Taylor's falsetto in the 70s is like no other. Brian May has always been a skilled guitarist (I love his runs and bends) with a pleasant, warm tone to his singing voice. John Deacon wrote several iconic bass-heavy hits, including Another One Bites the Dust and Under Pressure, among others.

These four truly revolutionized music, even the music video, with their music video for Bohemian Rhapsody. I'll love them always.

5 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

Jimi Hendrix played from the heart. His soul was channeled through his music. He revolutionized the guitar sound and techniques. He inspired many of today's great guitarists and musicians in general and continues to be an inspiration.

Even 45 years after his death, he is still considered the greatest guitarist that has ever lived. Unfortunately, I wasn't born yet to witness his powerful, beautiful, and genuine performances, but I'm appreciative to be able to hear and watch him jam in videos. What a blessing to the whole world! Rest in peace, Jimi.

6 Led Zeppelin Led Zeppelin was an English hard rock band formed in London in 1968 as the New Yardbirds. The group consisted of Robert Plant (Vocal), Jimmy Page (Guitar), John Paul Jones (Bass, Keyboard) and John Bonham (Drums) and was very much the child of Jimmy Page who even financed their first tour. He had tasted... read more

The best band ever, objectively all band members are the best technical-wise in their categories. Combined with their love for hard rock and blues, and creativity in later years, they are unprecedented and visceral, almost enigmatic as gods of rock.

I don't consider the Beatles a rock band. They are more than that. But as the best rock band, the throne goes to the hammer of the gods: Led Zeppelin!

Where would we be without legendary Led Zeppelin? Their music is so diverse and truly inspiring. You never get sick of Bonham's thundering drums, Page's singing guitar, Plant's bluesy screams, and Jones's funky bass.

In a relaxed mood? Zeppelin. In a workout mood? Zeppelin. In a mood where you want to punch through drywall? Zeppelin. Want to be truly blown away? Zeppelin.

7 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.

In my opinion, he and Elvis should be above the Beatles as they both influenced the Beatles as well as being very influential themselves. I really respect the Beatles and I know they were extremely influential and creative. But one of the main things people always say about the Beatles is that most music since then wouldn't exist without them, and I agree.

But would the Beatles have existed without guys like Dylan, Elvis, Buddy Holly, Chuck Berry, Johnny Cash, and Justin Bieber? No, they wouldn't, so those guys also deserve some recognition and a shot at challenging the Beatles for first.

By the way, I'm not saying I necessarily think the Beatles shouldn't be first, and the Justin Bieber thing was a joke. And also, I'm pretty sure Beethoven, Mozart, Bach, and whoever else were very influential too.

8 Chuck Berry Charles Edward Anderson "Chuck" Berry was an American guitarist, singer and songwriter, and one of the pioneers of rock and roll music. He died on 18 March 2017.

His flaming blue guitar riffs have inspired and given birth to many artists on top of this list. They wouldn't be the same without him. Many, including The Beatles, Rolling Stones, and The Beach Boys, will tell you that they borrowed his guitar riffs early in their career.

Modern music owes everything to Chuck Berry. He was arguably one of the first, if not the first, storytellers in music. It should also be noted how he incorporated a social movement in the song "Roll Over Beethoven," a song that signifies rock and roll's increasing popularity at the time.

Without Berry, it's extremely difficult to see where music would be today.

9 Ludwig van Beethoven Ludwig van Beethoven was a German composer and pianist. A crucial figure in the transition between the Classical and Romantic eras in Western art music, he remains one of the most famous and influential of all composers. His best-known compositions include 9 symphonies, 5 piano concertos, 1 violin concerto,... read more

Great classical composer, but not the second most influential.

10 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

I mean, what more can you say? Easily the most influential artist to ever live. Not only were his tracks just utterly amazing and beautifully crafted, but he also pushed the music industry incredibly far at a shocking speed.

Sure, Ziggy was fashionably trendy, but everyone seems to forget about the albums that cemented him in history as one of the greatest musicians of all time (Station to Station, Low, Heroes, Blackstar, etc.). Everywhere you look has some relation to Bowie. If someone did it, I can guarantee Bowie paved the way. You can't get much greater than him.

The Contenders
11 Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, baptised as Johannes Chrysostomus Wolfgangus Theophilus Mozart, was a prolific and influential composer of the Classical era, born in Salzburg.

The most famous classical artist, presenting the prestigious models of classical melodies and structures, therefore impacting the European high class and afterward the entire world, listening and taking inspiration from classical music.

He should be in the top ten. His name and pieces are more recognizable than most of those in the top ten.

12 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

I think this list is very genre-biased (90% of the options have some sort of rock basis). Also, this list is incredibly "baby boomer" biased, meaning the vast majority of artists on this list became popular during the baby boomer generation. This list speaks more on the demographics voting as opposed to who was truly most influential in their genres.

And in rap, no man is truly more influential than Tupac Amaru Shakur. (Kanye West and Radiohead are heavily slighted on this list due to the baby boomer bias).

13 Nirvana Nirvana was an American grunge band that was formed in Aberdeen, Washington in 1987. Nirvana disbanded after Kurt Cobain committed suicide in 1994. The drummer of the band, David Grohl, went on to start the Foo-Fighters, an alternative rock band... read more

Nirvana brought grunge into the mainstream. Their story is interesting. They were the soundtrack to teens' lives in the nineties.

Iggy Pop said, and I quote, "Kurt Cobain was truly a nobody from nowhere who reached out and touched the world. And he may have touched it right in its wound."

Nirvana was the most influential band of the '90s. They were so important because '90s rock was going stale. Nirvana came along and influenced everyone.

Kurt Cobain was so good. Nirvana needs to be higher!

Why is Nirvana so low on the list? They are the kings of their genre. They changed the face of music in the '90s.

Cobain is one of the most influential musicians of all time. Come on, people!

14 Pink Floyd Pink Floyd are an English progressive rock band formed in 1965 in London, England. They achieved international acclaim with their progressive and psychedelic music. The band consisted of 5 members - David Gilmour (Vocals and Guitar), Syd Barrett (Vocals and Guitar), Nick Mason (Drums), Roger Waters... read more

Helped shape Progressive Rock and Psychedelia. Dark Side of the Moon is arguably the best album of all times, and the proceeding three are remarkable as well.

Truly one of the greatest bands of all times.

It's totally my opinion. I am not writing this to disgrace Pink Floyd, as I also want them to be higher on the list. But it's wrong to say that they should be above Elvis or the Beatles.

Yes, there is no doubt they are great. Even I listen to them more than any artist after the Beatles and Eric Clapton. Two of my top five favorite albums are "Wish You Were Here" and "Dark Side of the Moon."

15 Madonna Madonna Louise Ciccone, known professionally as Madonna, is an American singer, songwriter, actress, and businesswoman. She influenced a lot of singers such as: Lady Gaga, Jennifer Lopez, Rihanna, Beyonce Knowles and Britney Spears. She is known as Queen of Pop and at modern pop culture specifically... read more

Madonna should certainly be ranked among the top 5. She's up there with Michael Jackson and Elvis Presley as a solo artist. Every female pop solo artist since her is directly or indirectly influenced by her. If you removed Madonna from history, the whole pop landscape today would be unrecognizable.

And I daresay her influence transcends the world of entertainment quite considerably too.

History will prove that Madonna is one of the most influential pop artists of all time. She sculpted the fashion, ideology, music, and culture of the 1980s and 1990s. This statement may be controversial as she is still viewed from a contemporary perspective.

When she is gone, her historical significance will finally be realized. Mark my word.

16 Black Sabbath Black Sabbath were a Heavy Metal band formed in Birmingham, England in 1968 by guitarist and songwriter Tony Iommi, singer John "Ozzy" Osbourne, bassist and main lyricist Geezer Butler and drummer Bill Ward... read more

You can argue these guys are number 1, 2, 3, or 4. They started Heavy Metal, which has become a giant genre of music. Have you ever been to Metallica or Slayer? These guys sell out everywhere. Underrated for sure.

Black Sabbath paved the road for metal. And not only that, they are legends.

I think people are forgetting the meaning of this list. It's not the best musicians. It's the ones who influence.

How is Metallica above Black Sabbath? Don't get me wrong, I like both, but without Black Sabbath, there wouldn't be any metal at all.

17 David Garrett David Christian Bongartz, better known by his stage name David Garrett, is a record-breaking German pop and crossover violinist and recording artist.
18 Bob Marley Robert Nesta "Bob" Marley was a Jamaican reggae singer, songwriter, musician, and guitarist who achieved international fame and acclaim.

Not only did Bob Marley fight for the rights of Jamaica and other countries actively, but he also made a career after having to fight his whole life in a violent part of Jamaica. Then, with his career, he fought for the rights of the world as his fame increased steadily.

Eventually, the whole world was his stage. I also consider him the first person in the world to actually practice what he preached.

This list is so Western-centric. Come on! The question is who was/is most influential. I am an anthropologist who has lived in more than a dozen countries. I now live in Papua New Guinea, in a remote village where you see Marley t-shirts. "Get up! Stand up!" The same goes for villages in Namibia, Thailand, and Colombia. Marley t-shirts, Jah Rastafari! Beatles? What social movement did they ever inspire? No t-shirts in Cambodia. Elvis? No one in a village in PNG has any idea who he is. No t-shirts in Chile.

Marley died in 1981 - 36 years ago. He only had an international career of less than five years. Think about that! And today, he is still the most popular and influential musician in 90 percent of the world. If you are really talking about influence, then wake up to the real world. The Beatles, Michael, and Elvis together have not had a tenth of the influence Marley had - and continues to have.

19 The Who The Who is an English rock band formed in London, England in 1964. The most recognizable lineup was Roger Daltrey (lead vocals), Pete Townshend (guitar), John Entwistle (bass guitar), and Keith Moon (drums). They are best known for their live performances and hit songs Baba O'Riley, My Generation, and... read more

Basically, any on-stage pyrotechnics were thanks to these guys. They were the kings of wrecking instruments. Yes, it is true that it doesn't take much skill to destroy an instrument, but The Who were just so good at incorporating that into their shows.

Plus, Pete Townshend introduced the Windmill arm for guitarists.

20 Buddy Holly Buddy Holly, born Charles Hardin Holley (September 7, 1936 – February 3, 1959) was an American musician and singer-songwriter who was a central figure of mid-1950s rock and roll. He was a rising star when a tragic plane crash struck him down at age 22... read more

Rock and Roll and all subsequent music would not be what it is today had it not been for the influence of Buddy Holly. What would music be like today if it weren't for that unfortunate plane crash in 1959?

A lot of people haven't heard of him. But don't forget, rock music came from America BEFORE England. He affected all rock music to come, which took hold in England.

He is the one who came up with the format of only needing a lead singer, lead guitar, and a rhythm section of bass and drums.

21 James Brown James Joseph Brown was an American singer, songwriter, dancer, musician, record producer and bandleader. A progenitor of funk music and a major figure of 20th century popular music and dance, he is often referred to as the "Godfather of Soul".

Bob Marley, The Rolling Stones, Michael Jackson, and Prince all claimed him as a huge influence (with Prince and Michael claiming him as their primary influence). That alone should earn him a place in the top 10, but the fact that he's the most sampled musician ever and laid the groundwork for rap and funk should make him top 5.

James Brown's loops, yells, and horn stabs will be featured in rap and electronic music forever, and his dance moves have been and will be watched by any credible dancer that followed him. For him not to be in the top 10 is ignorant.

22 The Rolling Stones The Rolling Stones are an English rock band formed in London in 1962. The first settled line-up consisted of Brian Jones (guitar, harmonica), Ian Stewart (piano), Mick Jagger (lead vocals, harmonica), Keith Richards (guitar), Bill Wyman (bass) and Charlie Watts (drums)... read more

A band that has been performing for over 50 years is The Rolling Stones.

They weren't the originators of blues rock, but they made it their own and influenced many others in the process.

Keith Richards is not the most technical guitarist in the world, and he knows that. He leaves it to people like Clapton and Page. But no one compares to him in rhythm. His variations in tuning mean that when he plays, it's the perfect tone for what he wants to achieve. Tom Morello himself said that even though he's persisted for many years, he still can't achieve the same sound Keith does with his riffs. Bear in mind, Keith also did this without all the effects and distortion tricks of many other guitarists.

Mick Jagger is another huge influence on music everywhere and has one of the most iconic, although jittery, dance styles ever (hence "Moves Like Jagger" by Maroon 5).

What other band can you just see a logo and automatically know who it is?

23 Prince Prince Rogers Nelson (June 7, 1958 - April 21st, 2016) was an American musician, best known for being one of the most popular and influential artists from the 80s, with songs such as "Purple Rain", "Little Red Corvette", "1999", and "When Doves Cry" .

I saw him live on so many occasions, but only met him once. He was an interesting guy who had a different thought process from us normals. He remains the most inspirational guy I ever met in my life.

He should be number one.

Rest in peace to an icon whose shows were the stuff of legends. The soundtrack to my youth. He rocked therefore he was! The very best up there with the greats.

Prince could do anything! Instruments, songwriting, entertaining, etc. He also adapted his music with the times over and over.

24 The Velvet Underground The Velvet Underground was an American rock band, active between 1964 and 1973, formed in New York City.

I think people misunderstood the name of the topic. It is a list of the most influential musicians, not the best. So, who is influenced by Michael Jackson? There must be artists who were the source of inspiration for many artists, not for listeners.

That's why VU and Dylan should be in the top three.

You can thank these guys for punk music and any band that got influenced from this genre.

Their influence is so great and far-reaching that it's comparable to the Beatles.

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

Pearl Jam, Black Crowes, Rage Against The Machine, and even the Sex Pistols claim they were influenced by Rod Stewart and the Faces. Need I say more?

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