Top 10 Greatest Songwriters 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.

Everyone knows Dylan is number one. It doesn't really matter what this website says. Look at the number of other musicians who have done his songs. It's easier to name the ones who haven't! Peter, Paul, and Mary alone did several of his songs. Three of the Byrds' biggest hits were Dylan songs. Jimi Hendrix only did three covers in his career, and two of them (All Along the Watchtower, Like a Rolling Stone) were written by Dylan. There isn't a songwriter in history with an inventory to match his.

Michael Jackson is number one! Are you kidding me? Bob Dylan is among the greatest poets of all time, not to mention songwriters. No one comes close to him. He wrote about ideas and subjects other songwriters didn't want to think about, like the song Hurricane. What he wrote was the truth, which is an ugly thing, but he managed to make it beautiful.

You are out of your mind if you think anyone deserves to be ahead of him because Dylan is a poet, and everything he wrote was perfect.

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

On what OBJECTIVE criteria would Lennon or McCartney not be number 1? Record sales, number 1 hits? Just what? Since there is no objective criteria on which they wouldn't be listed as number 1, there must be some other reason. I suggest it is this: since they are the obvious choice for number 1, it's always good to create controversy by picking someone else, as if this voter has some divine insight into songwriting that the rest of us mere mortals who actually vote with their wallets don't have. Since Lennon, Lennon/McCartney sold about 500 million more records than Dylan sold, you do the math on who the better songwriter is.

3 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

One of the greatest songwriters of our generation, and easily one of the best ever! In terms of recognition, his captivating stage presence and dancing, I think, overshadow his gifts for both singing and songwriting - gifts that make him one of my top favorite songwriters.

Michael Jackson not only wrote some of the best lyrics (which created universal anthems), but he also executed them with his unmatched singing talent in great triumph that is still felt today and forever.

The reason why he is the best songwriter is very simple: he wrote loads of songs that have a connection with him and ALL of his fans. They are all the better taken forward to the epicenter of Michael's creations. Moreover, in terms of quantity, Michael has still so many songs sleeping in vaults that will show in the future that he was still the King Of Songwriting. Wait for songs like "Breed," "Days in Gloucestershire," or "World of Candy"!

4 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

He's so good, I am envious. I mean, Yesterday came to him in a dream, Let It Be in a dream, Hey Jude while driving to Julian Lennon, Here, There and Everywhere while waiting for John to wake up from bed, Mull of Kintyre, a love song about where he was living, Yellow Submarine from a place between sleep and dream, Live and Let Die after being asked to write a song. I could go on and on.

He's just so effortless, and he has the perfect physical structure of songs in his mind. Each of his albums is the equivalent of another person's greatest hits, and he averages about one album per year since he was 20 years old.

I once read an internet article proposing that for a songwriter to achieve legendary status, he or she has had to write three well-known songs. So, for example, Dolly Parton has I Will Always Love You, Jolene, and Nine to Five. Paul Simon (in Simon and Garfunkel) has The Sound of Silence, Bridge Over Troubled Water, and The Boxer. Those songwriters could be considered a legend, or more likely (when you add three more well-known songs) a double legend. Yet, Paul McCartney has written hundreds of really well-known songs. His structure is just so perfect. He has written at least 500 truly great songs. 500 divided by 3 is about 166. So, he is a legend probably more than 166 times over.

So please, do not compare yourself or anyone else to him, or you will feel really inadequate. Maybe Bach (for counterpoint). Oh yeah, he plays bass, sings, piano, guitar, produces, etc.

Peace and love

5 Pal Waaktaar Savoy

Unknown by many, Pal's lyrics and melodies are a work of creative genius. The pop success of 'Take on Me' left many believing a-ha were no more than a pop band, but later albums, and even other tracks from a-ha's debut album "Hunting High and Low," demonstrated that there was more to this composer than met the eye.

Nine a-ha albums, five Savoy albums, and a number of collaborations later, Pal Waaktaar-Savoy is a consummate writer, capable of setting a phrase or refrain in such a way as to twist emotion downwards or send it soaring.

He is, most definitely, my number 1 songwriter.

6 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.

On TheTopTens' list of singer-songwriters, which is much more legitimate than this list, he is deservedly in the top ten, at number six.

Paul Simon is a lyrical genius, providing tunes such as Slip Slidin' Away and creating some amazing arrangements. I am shocked to see how low he is on this list.

The Sound of Silence, America, The Dangling Conversation, I Am a Rock, Flowers Never Bend with the Rainfall... Enough said.

7 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.

It is disappointing that Pete Townshend is ranked 59 on this list. He undoubtedly deserves a spot in the top ten of the greatest songwriters in the history of popular music. He wrote nearly every Who song, including all the tracks for their two rock operas.

Then, there are the lesser-known artists ranked above him. At the end of their careers, they might wish for a fraction of Townshend's lasting relevance in music history. In my unbiased opinion, The Who are the third greatest band of all time, following The Beatles and Led Zeppelin. While the other three members are important, without Townshend as a key member, they might not rank among the 50 greatest bands.

His songwriting was vital to the band. Townshend is a genius songwriter and musician. Seriously, people need to recognize his talent!

8 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.

It just seems wrong to have Joni Mitchell sandwiched between someone named Tamer Hosny and someone named Nick Cave.

Hands down, number one. Better material than the overrated Dylan.

9 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

Yes, let's run through the list of people who have done her songs. Aretha (Natural Woman), Dave Mason (Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow), James Taylor (You've Got a Friend, among others), Grand Funk Railroad (Locomotion), Steve Lawrence (Go Away Little Girl), the Monkees (Pleasant Valley Sunday), the Beatles (Chains), the Shirelles (Love Me Tomorrow), etc. I challenge anyone to come up with a list of songs written by anyone above her (save for Dylan and the Beatles) that can equal Carole King.

A guy from Bon Jovi and a guy from Keane are ahead of this woman? She wrote Tapestry, for God's sake! Just think of all the legends who have sung her songs, like Aretha Franklin, and others.

10 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

He is an amazing songwriter. The first one is Bohemian Rhapsody, the anthem of rock music. But there are a lot of epic songs he wrote: Don't Stop Me Now, Love of My Life, Somebody to Love, Crazy Little Thing Called Love, We Are the Champions...

Too bad people don't listen to the lyrics. They are missing a lot! I was going to recommend you all to listen to the lyrics of Liar or something, but then I remembered that every Freddie song has brilliant lyrics, just like Brian, John, and Roger's.

Freddie was an amazing songwriter: Bohemian Rhapsody, Don't Stop Me Now, Love of My Life, Death on Two Legs, Innuendo, Crazy Little Thing Called Love, It's a Hard Life, Mr. Bad Guy, Love Me Like There's No Tomorrow, Princes of the Universe... and a lot more.

The Contenders
11 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

Cobain is the perfect songwriter. He took rock music back to its roots and performed with a pure rock spirit, similar to Hendrix's style. He had a way to use words in a very powerful, deep way. If Bukowski had been a rock'n'roller, he would've done something similar.

With "Smells Like Teen Spirit," he somehow managed to bring rock music back to the mainstream, while creating the ultimate pop song which, ironically, is a sharp critic of pop culture and vain entertainment. He could write a classic song and at the same time revolutionize a music scene. If he were still alive, he'd be ranked as highly as Lennon and McCartney in pop music history.

12 Yoshiki Hayashi Yoshiki Hayashi is a Japanese musician, songwriter, composer and record producer. Better known by his stage name Yoshiki, he is best known as the leader and a co-founder of the heavy metal band X Japan, for which he is the drummer, pianist and main songwriter. The band achieved breakthrough success... read more

Maybe for some, it takes a while to realize what the words he transformed into songs mean. But when you get their meaning, they make you cry every time you listen to them, sung or not. Some dispute his genius, but there's nothing to argue about. He just wrote a part of what humans feel.

Just that simple, to get people crying or at least be moved by some words. Come on guys, check the meanings of those ballads. You'll get what I'm blabbering about here. You won't lose your time. Just gain something instead.

Awesome lyrics, beautiful melodies. He creates so much emotion with his songs. His music ranges from classical to hard rock.

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

In my opinion, second only to Bob Dylan. Neil Young is absolutely amazing when it comes to songwriting. No one stands for rock and roll more than this guy. It's a shame people don't recognize him that much nowadays.

Neil Young is the best songwriter and singer that I know of. What kind of person would put him so low? His voice and songs are wonderful. He should be in the top ten.

Trapped on an island with only one artist's complete catalog to listen to for the rest of your life, it has to be Neil Young, says the 63-year-old guy.

14 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 this list would be quite different if everybody voting took some time to listen to the writing of Waters. There are a lot of great songwriters out there, but Roger has a very unique way of making powerful and meaningful lyrics, which blend perfectly with the music, resulting in the best-constructed songs of all time. Furthermore, his solo career and work with Floyd consist of albums, which are to be considered as a combined product of music and not just separate songs. These factors make Roger Waters the best songwriter ever.

15 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.

Leonard has written one of the most covered songs in recent years, Hallelujah. Think about that.

Better than anyone else on this list. Should be at the top.

Heartbreaking lyrics with great understated humor.

16 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

While Bowie was a great songwriter, he had help with many of his songs. Besides, he was better known for being one of the greatest performers of all time, possibly second only to Michael Jackson.

I'm shocked no one voted for this dashingly brilliant guy. He is the most inspirational artist of the 20th century. Tons of today's bands owe him everything - music, style (hey, J-Rock lovers, visual kei was his invention). At least he deserves this for Ashes to Ashes.

He's so underrated. I just love this man.

17 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.

He deserves to be number one. Of course, there's the monumental 'Stairway to Heaven,' but apart from that, there are other, far lesser-known songs like 'Achilles Last Stand' and 'Carouselambra' (they're really really poetic). There's also the breadth of his songwriting, ranging from outpourings of longing such as 'Ten Years Gone,' to songs like 'Black Dog' and 'Trampled Underfoot,' which are rife with innuendos. And then, of course, there are Led Zeppelin's ten-minute epics.

I can't believe he isn't higher! Listen to the lyrics of their later works: Kashmir, Ten Years Gone, Carouselambra, All of My Love, Achilles Last Stand, Stairway to Heaven, No Quarter. He was and is a god dang poet! All of those songs have a deep hidden meaning, and when you find out what they actually mean, it hits you just how incredible he really was. He's a man out of time and really deserves more credit for his deep poetic lyrics.

18 Tim Rice-Oxley

I find it hard to fully express my admiration for this remarkable songwriter. His music resonates deeply, touching the most intimate aspects of human experience, transcending age, language, and gender. His melodies are not only melodic and catchy but sometimes dramatic and intense, speaking volumes on their own. There isn't a song by Tim that I don't enjoy.

His lyrics encompass a broad range of themes, from love and loss to the journey of aging, modern world issues, changes in people, losing friends, and the transformation of loved ones into strangers. Tim's lyrics have profoundly impacted my life, lifting me from dark places and showing me light. Tim, your work is truly magnificent!

19 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.

Billy Joel has more talent in his pinky than many artists considered to be great by today's standards, and nobody can tell a story through their songs like Billy Joel. I am a teenager in high school, and I listen to Billy Joel daily. My other recommendation is Elton John.

One of the greatest songwriters of all time. He is the only singer I feel like has truly written his life in his songs. Each song is like a scene or moment of his life. Just amazing.

My favorite songs that he made are Piano Man, The Entertainer, Angry Young Man, Running on Ice, My Life, Honesty, New York State of Mind, and Say Goodbye to Hollywood. Billy Joel should be #3 on the list. He's awesome!

20 Nick Cave Nicholas Edward Cave (born 22 September 1957) is an Australian musician, singer-songwriter, author, screenwriter, composer and occasional film actor, best known as the frontman of the rock band Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. Cave's music is generally characterized by emotional intensity, a wide variety... read more

Just fantastic! Every word, every sound, and every rhyme flow naturally. He is outstanding at what he does!

Only 21?! This guy is one of the best songwriters of all time. Just because he isn't as famous doesn't mean he is not one of the greatest.

Writing a song? It's a limiting term!

21 Richie Sambora Richard Stephen "Richie" Sambora is an American rock guitarist, producer, singer and songwriter who was the lead guitarist of the rock band Bon Jovi for 30 years. He is known for his work with Bon Jovi from 1983 to 2013. He is a very praised guitarist who played solos for songs like Dry County, Stranger... read more

Richie is so awesome! Not only has he contributed to a majority of Bon Jovi's songs, but his solo stuff is amazing too!

We all know that Richie Sambora is the greatest guitarist of all time, and yes, he's an equally amazing songwriter too!

22 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.
23 Brian Wilson Brian Douglas Wilson is an American musician, singer, songwriter, and record producer best known for being the multi-tasking leader and co-founder of the Beach Boys.

Brian is number one of a small group of true geniuses in "pop music," judged from pure musicality. With Paul McCartney in second place or maybe in a shared top position. The scales tip slightly in Brian's favor, in my opinion, due to his great to excellent work in recent, mature years.

Though moderately successful, his work since 1988's "Brian Wilson" has been sadly bypassed by much of the public. He deserves better, a grand revival.

While normally I would vote for Lennon, McCartney, or Dylan, Brian is simply too low. His songs are incredibly complex and beautiful. Just listen to Pet Sounds and Smile. He's a genius who unfortunately went under the radar before he put out his magnum opus because he was a depressed, mentally ill man who was being taken advantage of.

24 Smokey Robinson William "Smokey" Robinson, Jr. is an American singer-songwriter, record producer, and former record executive.
25 Stevie Wonder Stevland Hardaway Morris, known by his stage name Stevie Wonder, is an American musician, singer, songwriter, record producer, and multi-instrumentalist.

Name another musician whose work created a national holiday?

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