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Rolling Stone Lists the 100 Greatest Singers of All Time

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Lists are an inane waste of time and perhaps the most obvious piece of evidence that someone doesn’t have anything new to say, but I can’t help it — I love them. Rolling Stone, having recently downsized its format to better look exactly like Blender, just named their “100 Greatest Singers of All Time” and in response, I’m just dying to weigh in with my own thoughts.

Now when it comes to “all time,” Rolling Stone seems to have forgotten that the world was invented slightly before Elvis showed up on the Ed Sullivan Show. So since neither Frank Sinatra nor Enrico Caruso appear on Rolling Stone’s list, we’ll assume that what they meant was the greatest singers of the rock era.

Before we start, let’s acknowledge that this is pretty much an impossible task. Exactly how do you compare the instrument that Aretha Franklin was born with to the one that Bob Dylan has been lugging around for the past 50 years? How many points do you get for being an entertaining front man? Can I pop Roger Daltrey up a few slots for his mesmerizing microphone hurling?

Personally, I give a lot of points for showmanship, but in my mind singing is all about conveying emotion, which means that I’ll take Kurt Cobain’s gut-wrenching screams over Patti Labelle and Michael Bolton’s stale vocal acrobatics every day of the week.

Number 1 Reason That the Rolling Stone List Sucks: Uh, dudes — where the hell is Levi Stubbs? You know the amazing leader of the Four Tops, the one that was just all over the news! Stubbs should have been in the top 20 and whoever forgot that he existed needs to be immediately shot.

The List

1. Aretha Franklin

Aretha’s usually a consensus choice in these things, but despite the fact that she has a nuclear powered howitzer inside of her, she wouldn’t be number one on my list. She’s fantastic, but she never really surprises me. She just always sounds like Aretha, not that there’s much wrong with that. Points deducted for continually appearing in dresses that expose more up top than Dolly Parton does when she showers. Points added for once subbing on an opera tune for an ailing Luciano Pavarotti with no rehearsal.

2. Ray Charles

He’s the bomb, but he has to be faulted for some of the schmaltz that he somehow constantly seemed too fond of or at least was intent on putting up with to please a middle of the road audience. Listen to Charles’ “You Don’t Know Me” and you’ll hear both. Ray ripping up a heartbreaking vocal, while for some reason being backed up by singers straight out of the Perry Como orchestra.

3. Elvis Presley

Number one for me and no one else comes close. Ignore for a second that Presley was the most beautiful human being of all time and that he was easily the most electric performer ever, Elvis in his prime could sing anything (rock, opera, metal, soul, blues, country – no problem). All the wonks will tell you he did his best work at Sun, but for me his immense '50s RCA output is so explosive that it puts everyone else to shame. It’s not just that Elvis had an amazing instrument, no one ever had so much fun putting it to use. Whirling back and forth from low to high, from raspy to angelically pretty, the only singer ever that could take any song and transform it into something that sounded like it came from somewhere else a galaxy or too away.

4. Sam Cooke

Died far too young, and wanted to be successful at the white bread Copa a little too much. Pretty much invented both Rod Stewart and Otis Redding. Who else could have gotten so much from a song as slight as "You Send Me"? When he sings “please hear my cry” in “Cupid” that’s exactly what it sounds like.

5. John Lennon

Famously hated his own voice and was constantly trying to disguise it, I find it nearly impossible to listen to anything Lennon recorded without smiling (well, with the exception of “Mother” – that song scares me to death). My personal favorites are the early ballads with the knockout bridges like “Anna” and “This Boy,” where Lennon cried out in agony for true love as wrenchingly as anyone who has ever walked the earth.

6. Marvin Gaye

Marvin should easily be second on this list. Gaye wanted to croon like Frank Sinatra, but had to settle for being the sexiest thing imaginable. Marvin was sexier clearing his throat than Madonna is during a nude photo shoot with Big Daddy Kane and Vanilla Ice. Marvin could be singing about “fish filled with mercury” in “Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology)” and women around the world would still be instantly erupting in sexual heat. Gaye’s 70s multi-layered vocal recordings are simply astounding – the man used a recording studio to turn himself into the ultimate vocal orchestra.

7. Bob Dylan

We could argue about this forever. Here he is at number 7, and without a doubt he never would have come close to making it past the audition phase of American Idol. Dylan forever changed the notion of what a singer was and could be. Once claimed that he was as good as Caruso and in his strung out, mid 60s electric period he might have been right, but Bob’s live recordings over the last 30 years have often sounded like Porky Pig unintelligibly wrestling with a foreign language. Despite the fact that he often claims to be just a song and dance man, he seems to care as little about showmanship as Miles Davis did.

8. Otis Redding

Gotta, gotta, gotta love Otis! Put the sweat into soul.

9. Stevie Wonder

Shares Ray Charles weakness for schmaltz and hasn’t been relevant for years, but he’s still worthy of his adopted last name.

10. James Brown

Up there with Elvis as an electric boogie front man, don’t let Eddie Murphy let you forget that he wasn’t just “hhhhhhheeeeeeeehhhhhhhhhh!” Listen to “Prisoner of Love,” Soul Brother Number One could sing with anyone.

11. Paul McCartney

Often sappier than the worst of Ray Charles and Stevie Wonder combined, listen to him belt out the end of “Hey Jude” and forgive him.

12. Little Richard

Whooooooooooooooop! I’m guessing Paul McCartney would have gladly switched places with his idol on this list.

13. Roy Orbison

Had he been born in Italy he would have been the greatest opera singer of all time.

14. Al Green

Getting doused with hot boiling grits? That’s got to be less than pleasant.

15. Robert Plant

“Does anyone remember laughter?” Robert can belt, but often times you just can’t stop laughing at the absurd things that are coming out of his mouth. Just because “Immigrant Song” is the funniest thing ever recorded doesn’t mean that it doesn’t kick ass too.

16. Mick Jagger

Jagger’s an inexhaustible performer, which is a good thing because he often sounds like a bloated grouper live. His leering recorded output and evil, sex drenched phrasing nevertheless justifies this slot.

17. Tina Turner

She can belt. She can strut. Not very versatile, she has one power level – atomic devastation. She’d be way lower had I made this list.

18. Freddie Mercury

Often more absurd that Robert Plant, Mercury had an incredible instrument, and no one ever worked a crowd harder.

19. Bob Marley

Simon Cowell: I don’t know what you’re thinking …
Jason Castro: I was thinking Bob Marley! Yeah!

You don’t need to be stoned to rank him here, but it helps.

20. Smokey Robinson

If you’re ever in the inner city, do your best not to mention that Smokey sounds like a prepubescent girl. You could get your ass kicked.

21. Johnny Cash

Not exactly the best instrument on this list. Hardass cool and the ability to mind-blowingly interpret Trent Reznor with one foot in the grave goes a long way.

22. Etta James

Cadillac Records starring Beyonce coming to a theater near you.

23. David Bowie

Not exactly the most knowable empathetic singer, but that Christmas duet with Bing is incredible.

24. Van Morrison

"Jackie Wilson Said (I’m in Heaven When You Smile)" so you better believe that even Van wishes he were a notch or two lower on this list.

25. Michael Jackson

The most insane man in the history of the world still has a catalog that anyone would die for. No one has ever sounded so sexy, while at the same time being so asexual. The most unknowable artist of all time.

26. Jackie Wilson

Exhaustively dynamic performer, operatic voice, Elvis would tell anyone in earshot that Jackie Wilson was the whole package. He should easily be in the top ten.

27. Hank Williams

Died at 29, looked and sounded about 80. Deserves to have someone else besides George Hamilton portray him in the movies.

28. Janis Joplin

Most credible white female blues singer of all time. Someone is annoyingly imitating her in a bar near you. Her descendants should forever get a percentage of Southern Comfort profits.

29. Nina Simone

Haven’t really gone there, looking forward to getting to her. Music is fantastic because there’s always more to explore.

30. Prince

Can sing like a man or a woman. Prince can work himself into a frenzy with the best of them. Nutty as a fruitcake, but as Chris Rock once said, “Remember when we used to argue over who was better: Michael Jackson or Prince? Guess what? Prince won."

31. Howlin' Wolf

Haunting voice. Scarier than most horror movies.

32 Bono

Got away with naming himself Bono Vox (sort of Latin for Good Voice), lived to talk about it. If you get a chance, find his live version of Lennon's "Help" from U2's Amnesty International concert tour. The way he sings "my independence seems to vanish in the haze" never fails to make my spine tingle.

33. Steve Winwood

Loved those high energy Spencer Davis tracks. Often bores me. Where did he disappear to?

34. Whitney Houston

Cocaine is a hell of a drug. Compare the bombast of her performance of “The Star Spangled Banner,” with the more nuanced and emotional version by Marvin Gaye and you’ll hear why I have little use for her histrionics.

35. Dusty Springfield

Seemed to take Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction to remember how fantastic she was.

36. Bruce Springsteen

Fantastic performer, great guy, why do I have zero interest in anything he’s recorded since Darkness on the Edge of Town?

37. Neil Young

Great artist – doesn’t merit being up here this high.

38. Elton John

When he avoids the Donald Duck outfits and his schmaltzier side he’s fantastic.

39. Jeff Buckley

Haunting and doomed.

40. Curtis Mayfield

His voice was high and beautiful, he was a great writer and artist, but would be lower on my list.

41. Chuck Berry

Did his emphatic best with what he had. Chuck defined rock and roll attitude. His early sides were sped up to make him sound younger. “Too Much Monkey Business” may have invented rap.

42. Joni Mitchell

I know everyone worships her, but she doesn’t do anything for me.

43. George Jones

This is what a sad drunk should sound like.

44. Bobby "Blue" Bland

I'm too ignorant to comment.

45. Kurt Cobain

I saw Nirvana at the Cow Palace in San Francisco and was just astonished at how this guy could push his larynx beyond overdrive. It was like seeing John Lennon sing “Twist and Shout” for an hour and a half straight and seemed physically impossible, and yet although he was as screwed up as anyone on the planet, when you heard him scream, it sounded like he understood all the pain in the world and was absorbing it all inside of him to make you feel better.

46. Patsy Cline

Simple and wonderful.

47. Jim Morrison

I’m actually proud that Rolling Stone has him up here this high. The fact that he could really sing has too often been totally obscured by his looks, legend, and often buffoonish drunken behavior, but he was an amazingly authoritative stage presence who could command your entire attention without doing anything but standing slumping over his microphone stand. He could croon and scream and is for my money the most credible white blues singer ever.

48. Buddy Holly

“True Love Ways” is the prettiest song ever.

49. Donny Hathaway

Did you know that was him singing the Maude theme song? Sadly, didn’t live long enough to see himself become the go-to guy for American Idol contestants everywhere. Deserves to be much higher and as a vocalist was every bit as good as Stevie Wonder.

50. Bonnie Raitt

I find myself oddly attracted to her despite her age. We could delete her from this and I wouldn't care.

51. Gladys Knight

Sorry, I was always more interested in the Pips.

52. Brian Wilson

Before he destroyed his voice with substances, his ventures to the high range of his voice were the most earthly sign of angelic innocence to visit our world.

53. Muddy Waters

Those Led Zeppelin dudes owe his estate some serious money.

54. Luther Vandross

Never really a fan, but he died too soon.

55. Paul Rodgers

Way too high. Has a few classic sides, but trying to replace Freddie Mercury in Queen is either incredibly brave or incredibly stupid.

56. Mavis Staples

Definitely sang “Respect Yourself” better than Bruce Willis did.

57. Eric Burdon

Fantastic deep, scary voice. The poetry verses of “Spill the Wine” are absurd, but by the time he belts out the chorus, it doesn’t really matter.

58. Christina Aguilera

Being leagues better than Britney doesn’t merit anointing her an all time great. Talented, but something about her creeps me out. Would have won American Idol every year in her sleep.

59. Rod Stewart

Should be much higher, but has consistently made career decisions that make George W. Bush’s look brilliant in comparison.

60. Björk

Too whacked out and weird for me to objectively rate, I may be just too stupid to get it. Love the Spike Jonze video for “It’s So Quiet.”

61. Roger Daltrey

“Yeah!”  Early in his career he was the least interesting presence in the Who, but he constantly got better and became one of the best front men ever.

62. Lou Reed

Does nothing for me. Zero. The Velvets are easily the most overrated band of all time. Sorry.

63. Dion

Criminally all but forgotten, the King of Doo Wop.

64. Axl Rose

Dude, seriously, what happened to you?

65. David Ruffin

An egomaniac and far less than the greatest human being in the world, nevertheless when he bragged that he was the Temptations, he was pretty much correct. “My Girl” sounds slight and worthless sung by anyone else in the history of the world. Should be in the top 20 – disagree? Listen to “My Whole World Ended (The Moment You Left Me).”

66. Thom Yorke

I know that I’m legally supposed to worship Radiohead, but I’m not convinced that Thom Yorke deserves to be on this list.

67. Jerry Lee Lewis

He’s 150 or so, and still scares the living daylights out of me. I’d never say one bad word about the Killer.

68. Wilson Pickett

Not convinced.

69. Ronnie Spector

I still have no idea why the Ronnettes made the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Her being higher than fellow Phil Spector player Darlene Love is a sick joke.

70. Gregg Allman


71. Toots Hibbert

“Pressure Drop” right?

72. John Fogerty

Just serviceable, without his songwriting he’s still stuck in Lodi.

73. Dolly Parton

Sadly let her breasts eclipse her talent. Fantastic, but trying to get Sylvester Stallone to sing was a mistake of epic proportions.

74. James Taylor

Pleasant enough – probably more effective than Ambien.

75. Iggy Pop

Minus the sideshow, doesn’t do much for me.

76. Steve Perry

God, I hate Journey. Are the lead singers from Styx and REO coming up next?

77. Merle Haggard

I’m not going to even pretend that I’ve listened to any Merle Haggard. Seems like it would have been cool to party with him though.

78. Sly Stone

Cocaine is a hell of a drug. Saddest flameout of all time.

79. Mariah Carey

The most successful recording artist of all time! Is that amazing or what? Amazing voice, amazing body, much of her work makes me form a silly smile. Could anyone else have taken an inane song like “Touch My Body” and made it so absurdly enjoyable.

80 Frankie Valli

Incredible range, sounds uniquely annoying at any pitch.

81. John Lee Hooker

Ranking these blues legends is tough. All the guys on the list get huge props for the danger in their voices, but B.B. King probably out sings any of them on a good night.

82. Tom Waits

Who am I to argue with Scarlett Johansson?

83. Patti Smith

With all due respect, Chrissie Hynde would be a better choice.

84. Darlene Love

Should have been a bigger star, but was dwarfed by Phil Spector’s ego and belief that he could just stick any singer in front of his wall of sound.

85. Sam Moore

Loved him in Tapeheads.

86. Art Garfunkel

Too slight of an artist to be here.

87. Don Henley

As Mojo Nixon once cheerfully sang: “Don Henley must die/Don’t let him get back together with Glen Frey.” To Henley’s credit he once drunkenly popped up on stage with Mojo and showed that he had a sense of humor.

88. Willie Nelson

There’s a lot more there than meets the eye.

89. Solomon Burke


90. The Everly Brothers

If I could tell them apart, I’d tell you which of them I like better. Hint: It’s the one that sings the solo breaks in “Cathy’s Clown.”

91. Levon Helm

Pretty much defines the best of what it means to sound country.

92. Morrissey

The Smiths' rep in England has somehow now reached Beatles level. God or buffoon, no one has ever walked that line as well as Morrissey.

93. Annie Lennox

Probably ahead of her time, but seems in desperate need of a sense of humor.

94. Karen Carpenter

What no Donny Osmond? Pretty voice and pretty shallow at the same time.

95. Patti LaBelle

I hate what I call Star Search singing – trills in search of a reason. The worst example of this came during what I think was a Grammy tribute to Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell by Patti Labelle and Office Space favorite Michael Bolton. I can’t prove it, but Marvin and Tammi sounded like they felt every note they sang to each other. Patti and Michael were like bad metal guitarists who know a lot of scales.

96. B.B. King

Should be higher.

97. Joe Cocker

He has skills, but after John Belushi had his way with him, how can I possibly take him seriously?

98. Stevie Nicks

Please don’t let Stevie find out that she was lower than Karen Carpenter.

99. Steven Tyler

I really wish that I had missed “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing.” Proves that you can have a legendary career just by imitating Mick Jagger.

100. Mary J. Blige

What no R. Kelly?

Feel free to tell me who besides Levi Stubbs was criminally ignored. Here are some I think merited consideration.

  •  Elvis Costello
  • Ray Davies
  • Joe Strummer
  • John Lydon (No, I’m not kidding!)
  • Aimee Mann
  • Aaron Neville
  • Bon Scott
  • Billie Holliday
  • Frank Sinatra
  • Robin Zander
  • Clyde McPhatter
  • Ben E. King
  • Fiona Apple
  • Michael Stipe
  • Eric Carmen
  • Steve Marriot
  • David Lee Roth (Yeah, I said it — David Lee Roth!)
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About Brad Laidman

  • Madly


  • Roscoe79

    way under the radar, but Maria McKee

  • San Diego Doug

    this list produced by Rolling Stone, is an embarrassment to reality, common sense, & humanity:

    the likes of Sinatra, Ann Wilson, Celine Dion, Lou Gramm, Ronstadt, Levi Stubbs, Streisand, Billie Holliday, George Straight ……

    Stevie Nicks only made #98
    Mariah Carey only made #79
    Christina Aguilera only made #58 ……

    Whitney only made #34
    Freddie Mercury only made #18
    Robert Plant only made #15 ……
    ALL 3 SHOULD BE IN THE TOP-10, w/o question.

    Dylan at #7, and Lennon at #5, are likely the cruelest jokes of this entire debacle. even putting Lennon in top-20, or Dylan in top-50, is very debatable.

    Elvis, Aretha, Ray Charles, & Marvin Gaye…. are the only ones in top-10, that definitely should be there. Sam Cooke, Wonder, Redding, & James Brown, should certainly be in top-20 or so, but they likely should NOT be in top-10 all-time.

    other than all the complete blunders listed above, whoever put this list together…. really did a fantastic job. – LOLOL

    actually… overall, this list here is a major FAIL !!

  • anita bath

    Hahaha r. Kelly that’s silly. I don’t know how you think the velvet underground is over rated. Lou should be a little closer to jim morrison if not before, yess there not really comparable but they are in a sense that they wrote incredible lyrics and they do deliver. Lou has a voice that could take you wherever he wants to take you and I believe jim has that same thing.

  • Vic

    Lou Gramm, the greatest voice of all time……

    • San Diego Doug

      certainly one of the best 100 of all-time, and should have been on the list, w/o debate.

      but he’s hardly the greatest of all-time.

  • Jonathan

    Greg Lake. Don’t care for a lot of his music, or his personality, but he had a great instrument. Alison Krauss. Tim Buckley. Jo Stafford. Sandy Denny. The writer is correct about Steve Marriott (other than misspelling his name) , wrong as he can be about Paul Rodgers. Annie Haslam. Vince Gill. Ralph McTell. Sarah Vaughan, way ahead of Nina Simone. Anita Baker. It’s such a shame she never really found a songwriter/producer to showcase that incredible voice beyond Rapture. Teddy Thompson. Linda Thompson, if we’re talking interpretation and not purely vocal cords. Hell, I could probably come up with another 100, most of whom would be better singers (have a better vocal instrument) than the people on the RS list. The writer brought up Caruso; if we’re admitting classical and opera singers, and talking purely about the voice then of course none of the people on RS’s, or the writer’s, or my list is in serious contention.

  • Griff

    Billy Joel for christ’s sake!!

    • San Diego Doug

      i’m a big fan of Joel’s music…. MANY of the songs…. and still have them on my iPod today.

      and overall, he was a great singer-songwriter & great performer, etc.
      but technically, he is not an outstanding singer, in many regards.

      the poor guy has actually been voted onto multiple lists in the past, of the “worst Pop singers” of all-time. – – – ouch !!

  • DLS

    One glaring omission is Ella Fitzgerald!

  • joeyoungecc

    Wth is your beef with Steve Perry’s technical skills, range and sound? If you don’t like his music, that’s fine, but vocally, he smashes most on this list and should in anyone’s top 20. FOR THE RECORD: Perry out-sings Jagger, Stewart, Lennon, McCartney, Wonder, Brown and King while brushing his teeth.

  • Clay


  • Guest

    Ella Fitzgerald

  • asha m

    I was wondering when R.Kellys name was going to be mentioned. Dont 100% agree with the list as you’ve left him out.

  • Ethan

    How can Neil diamond not be in the top 30, never mind not even on the list?! That is an insult to music!

  • kglnyc

    Kate Bush

  • lelo

    what!!!!!???? no celine dion….


    the list was cool i think i wanda pick johnny gill, victor wills and definitely levi stubbs

  • Mike Arrigali

    Did I miss something? . . .Linda Ronstadt’s name not on the list? That should be impossible. One of the greatest set of pipes ever in a female singer. Also multiple Rolling Stone covers. How did she get passed over? Forget all the cover songs and evaluate the voice. Top ten all-time in my book.

  • jaydillon

    Ronnie James Dio

  • karmarig

    Sacrilege to exclude Chris Cornell. And Nina Persson will always have a place in my player. Fuck your list. Eddie Vedder! =)

  • Neonlike

    Mariah, Whitney, Bjork all should have been higher on the list. They have incredible voices from a technical perspective – much more so than almost all of the top 50.
    Chris Cornell was brutally robbed and raped in this list. Probably one of the best rock singers of all time – I kept thinking he would have been in the top five as I was clicking through because I hadn’t seen him yet.
    Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald ? Not on the list? But Elvis is #1? That’s laughable. Rolling Stone is merely pandering to its subscribers. The list is “best singers of all time” not “most popular music icons that the rolling stone team has decided are the best”

  • Andy

    Dame Shirley Bassey should be in top 10

  • val

    no louis armstrong???

  • Beatleman

    George Harrison! Definitely the most underrated Beatle.

  • BK

    Who missed seeing Paul Simon on this list, me or Rolling Stone?

  • Aviva

    Barry Gibb? Graham Nash? David Gilmour? And I don’t understand how Christina Aguilera makes it at all. Definitely not great. Insane that she beats Roger Daltrey. And I agree with that other guy about Ian Gillan.

  • Catherine

    Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra anyone?

  • Wouldn’t a panel of 85-year-old Rolling Stone critics, having directly witnessed a longer period of modern musical history than, say, 35-year-old Rolling Stone critics, be that much better qualified to make a judgement as to the best singers of “all time”?

  • Really?

    What schmucks at RS made this list? These people must be 85 years old. How the hell is Robin Zander NOT on this list? Freddie Mercury NOT in the top 3? RETARDS!!!!

  • conner

    It included one grunge singer and in my opinion it was the worst one. Scott Weiland, Eddie Vedder, Layne Staley, and Chris Cornell should all be above Kurt Cobain and none of them even made the list.

  • Ryan

    King Diamond IMO should be up there. he is awesome!

  • Fanto

    Metal has been neglected. Rob Halford has one of the best vocal ranges in music, and has incredible vibrato. Also, Ronnie James Dio has a powerful, moving voice that is truly unique that no one can imitate. He’s sang not just metal, but hard rock and classic rock. He sings straight from his heart. I’m sure this list is based on hits and popularity, just like anything else from Rolling Stone. They are neglecting true talents to shine the light on populars. Others that are being totally ignored:
    Bruce Dickinson(Iron Maiden)
    Donny VanZant(.38 Special)
    Brad Delp(Boston)
    Geddy Lee(Rush)
    Ian Gillan(Deep Purple)
    Ozzy Osbourne(from his Black Sabbath days)

  • Pat Brown

    Sting. Also, Otis Redding sung My Girl the best

  • Gary

    This is not about great singing voices, if it were you would have Steve Perry, Freddie Mercury, Robert Plant, Roy Oribson in the top ten. Many on list have great songs that sold records and people liked there music. Dylan could not sing……. Jagger had his style but not a great voice. Seems to be more about popularity then actual vocal ability. On the womens side Whitney, Celine, Streisand, all great voices. Again, All had there “sound” which made them great in there own way but most did not have great voices with the power and range of those I mentioned.

  • JustBeingReal

    any body that puts Elvis Presley in the top 50 let alone #1 is kidding themselves and buying into hype and nostalgia.

    Elvis Presley was a pretty good singer. That’s all.

    He is not, and never was a great singer.

    When I think of GREAT male singers I think of people like Levi Stubbs, David Ruffin, Marvin Gaye, Luther Vandross, Michael Jackson, Freddie Mercury, Steve Perry, and the greatest of them all- STEVIE WONDER.

    Those guys could SANNNNNNNNNNNNNNNG.

    Elvis could just sing.

    Remove the Elvis goggles and just listen to the records and voices at face value.

    Be honest with yourselves. Elvis was a good singer, not a truly mind-blowing one- like all of those guys I mentioned just above.

  • Jared

    What about Madonna, Streisand, Whitney Houstoun, sinatra…some of the most successful artists of all time

  • aindamais

    Any list that fails to include Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald (!!!), Louis Armstrong(?!?!?), Nat King Cole, Tony Bennett, Shirley-over-145-million-records-sold-Bassey (who, at 74, blasts most of the abovementioned singers off the effin stage) & so many many others is a complete waste of my time. Well at least Bowie got acknowledged, that’s a step in the right direction. But seriously, people, get it right. Or was it a rock-mostly-but-hey-we’ll-also-squeeze-some-other-fellows-in list? `Cause you should’ve named it accordingly, then, not “100 Greatest Singers of All Time”.

  • David Bulgarelli

    When I was pressing ‘next’ at Number 2, I thought for sure Number 1 had to be Frank Sinatra, since he wasn’t on the list yet. Nope.

    I might in time be able to forgive Freddie Mercury not being in the Top 10 (or Top 5), but leaving off Frank is just incorrect.

  • Geoff

    Layne Staley…

  • bbokl

    This interpretation is hilariously populist.

  • Michael Joseph

    Ronald Isley!!!!!!

  • Matt

    I haven’t read all the comments, but why have I not seen a single mention of Tom Jones? From a technical and ability perspective he is (IMHO) the best vocalist in history. He is a showman and has been performing for 40 years. This isn’t a list of the top singers, it’s a list of RS favourites. Bob Dylan is a great and influential artist, but would not be in the top million as far as vocal ability goes.

    It’s also a very USA/British centric list. While most of the great rock acts came from these places, I wonder if singers like Michael Hutchence from INXS (yes, I’m Australian!)were considered.

    Others too far down the list are Freddie, Mike Patton, Chris Cornell and Michael Jackson. Also, anyone who thinks Paul McCartney is overrated on this list, listen to ‘Oh Darling’. Done in one take! Legendary!

    My number one is Freddie Mercury though. I think he beats Tom Jones because of the passion he sang with and the way he could pour his soul out with a ballad over his piano one minute and the next be displaying his raw rock power while commanding 100,000 people. Died 19 years ago today and I still feel sad when I think about it.

    This is the beauty of music. We all have our own opinions.

  • Christmas

    Michael Jackson is # 1 by far
    I don’t understand alot of the artists on here

  • NICK DRAKE (dare to say more haunting/tragic than Buckley)
    Bruddah Iz (?)–the guy had acoustics (and the girth) of an opera house
    Jackson Browne
    Thom Yorke (did I miss him in the list?)
    Warren Zevon’s in the company of Waits and Dylan for the “dragged-over-gravel” vogue
    Ryan Adams
    NICK DRAKE…ugh. Perhaps the most hauntingly tragic voice until passed the baton to Buckley.

    I can abide Lou Reed, but that model chick (Nico?)…gag me with a screwdriver

  • ian

    here’s mine
    1.steve perry
    2.freddie mercury
    3.paul mccartney
    5.sammy davis jr.
    6.michael jackson
    7.marvin gaye
    8.robert plant
    fuck it im done…throw in sinatra wherever

  • Matthew

    hey losers what about sinatra, dean martin, louis armstrong, sammy davis jr, bobby darin. i mean shit they are better than almost all the people on the list and more popular and have done more for the industry and they are american icons and legends and yet they arent on the list. i mean what the fuck

  • maconlists

    ANN WILSON !?!

  • Jason

    Between the singers that are on here that shouldn’t be, the ones that aren’t but should and the positions of some of the ones that are there, this list is ridiculous. It’s a tough task no doubt, but you could have put a bunch of names on pieces of paper and randomly drawn better than this. If it was a better list I would at least have fun debating it, but it’s so bad that it isn’t even worth it.

  • Howlin’ Wolf

    Umm, where the hell is Billie Holliday. She should be in the top twenty yet she’s not even on the list. I have to admit that besides that glaring omission, this list is way better than their “artists” list.

  • Oh, Wanderlusting has a good point. Mike Patton should be on there (If that’s the singer of Dream Theater).

  • Yet again, metal artists are left out of lists…Here are some singers that NEED to be added:

    1.Eric Adams of “Manowar”-Hands down the greatest singer. He can scream like a “god” and sing like an angel.
    2.Michael Sweet of “Stryper”-An amazing singer and can belt out some wicked metal screams.
    3.Bruce Dickinson of “Iron Maiden”-His voice range is awesome. It could be used greatly for opera and can used be for metal and can do some pretty nice screams.

  • Mike Patton! HELLO?????!!!!

  • MattyG

    How about Brad Delp.. Lead singer for Boston. To me, top 10 greatest rock singers of all time. Not even on the RS top 100

  • Maggie B.

    First and foremost, to Ali (#42): The day Carrie Underwood makes any list of Greatest Singers is the day that music has lost all respect for itself. While she has a respectable mid-range, it’s nothing special, and then she ruins any song she comes in contact with by belting out notes that are too high for her voice. Also, to whomever mentioned Leonard Cohen: brilliant lyricist, a downright poet, but never really reknowned for his stellar vocals. Unique vocals, yes. Stellar, I think not.

    Now that I have that off my chest, I’d like to quote what Rolling Stone posted beside their online article: “Rolling Stone asked artists–including Bruce Springsteen, Jim James of My Morning Jacket, Alicia Keys and many others–along with journalists and industry insiders to name their favourite singers of the rock era. Those ballots were recorded and weighted according to methodology developed by the accounting firm of Ernst & Young, which then tabulated and verified the results for Rolling Stone.”
    Based on this, I can forgive the fact that Billie Holliday and Frank Sinatra were “forgotten” (although the title of this list should be changed to “100 Greatest Singers of The Rock Era, in the Opinion of Some Rather Mediocre (Though Very Famous) Modern Pop Stars and a Lot of Rolling Stone Magazine Staff Members”), but they then try to pass it off as credible because an “accounting firm” tabulated the results for them. Give me a break. What they did was have all of their panalists write down their Top 20 Favourite Vocalists (favourite, not best) from “The Rock Era”, and then have this “accounting firm” figure out who got “favourited” the most. They might as well have taken a poll on Facebook (though, granted, the majority of people on Facebook have never heard of 90% of these artists, being occupied as they are by the vocal stylings of Miley Cyrus, The Jonas Brothers, Taylor Swift, and their computers).
    The Rock Era lasted until about 1981, so what’s Kurt Cobain doing on this list? (Not that he didn’t have a great voice, but Rolling Stone really needs to get their guidelines straight. Cobain was not “Rock Era”, as it’s defined.) Same goes for Mariah Carey (who also has a wonderful voice when she’s taking herself seriously, but who didn’t release her first album until 1990).

    My final verdict is that this is not a horrid list – there are in fact many phenomenal singers on this list, though I’m wondering myself where Elvis Costello disappeared to – but that it should be renamed to something that represents how it was actually conceived.

  • Me Jr.

    Here is is my top 3:

    1. Dave Mustaine (Megadeth)
    2. Neil Young
    3. Johan Hagg (Amonamarth)

  • brian

    I was shocked that you left off the list of all people, Linda Ronstadt! This beautiful and talented artist has sold over 50 millio-n records, has had a couple of #1 hits, and on top of everything else has acquired an i-ncredible 11 grammy awards, not to mention multiple ones in 3 straight decades! Also she graced the cover of your publication an incredible 7 times in her ”heyday” I’d li-ke to know why she was left off the list? Could it be that she is 63, and past her prime?, or could it be that she has put on weight?, if that is it, then you have really got your nerve. I got the privilege of going to MerleFest and despite age and weight gain, that woman showed she can still belt it out just like she could in her”younger days”She should have been in the top ten, and Elvis should have been #1 Come on! yall can do better than that!

  • Violin Cello

    Two things that bother me more than anything else about the list are the omission of Frank Sinatra and Bob Dylan being above Freddie Mercury, by 11 spots, mind you. Dylan should be all the way down at #100, if you ask me. Yes, being a great singer isn’t ONLY about technical skill, but since this list isn’t the “100 Most Emotional Singers Of All Time”, technical skill actually plays a big part here, and Dylan’s placement on the list, especially above others who can whisper more beautifully than Dylan sings, is a travesty, to put it mildly. Rolling Stone is bollocks.

  • Ali

    i just think mariah carey should have been placed in a much higher rate! she hit the highest note ever recorded according to guinness book of world records not to mention her 8 octave range, and so does mary j blige and michael jackson deserve to have a higher rate on the list. I felt as though the list was more as a tribute to legends in the music industry then great singers because vocally there are a lot of great singers today that are greatest singers who deserve this distinction such as jennifer hudson, robin thicke, amy winhouse, alicia keys and carrie underwood.

  • ibobenn

    I’m not sure if I missed her, but I think Ann Wilson should be on there…… Her control stunned me when I saw her in concert, and she was wailing(in a good way).

  • Dexter

    In reality, there is no way to list “the greatest” because it is usually a matter of opinion. Even if one attempts to be unbiased, there is no way around it. Whitney should have been at the top of that list above Aretha. Elvis was not a great singer. Steve Perry of Journey should have been in the top 10. Shirley Bassey should have been in the top 10. John Lennon had a decent voice but he is no great singer. But that’s just MY opinion. I also notice that there is only 1 woman in the top 10….interesting no? There is clearly a preference for male voices here. Lists….all of them….are subjective and biased. Like people mags 50 most beautiful…..I can predict every year that most of them will be white. lol. But of course it is a white magazine run by white people. Wonder how the list would look if the members of the board where comprised of many backgrounds of people. hmmmmmm?

  • Jonah

    THe reason people like Frank Sinatra,Louis Armstrong and Tony Bennet aren’t on here are becaue this is a rock and roll singer list. I think Aretha Franklin or Elvis are both good choices for number 1. and I think that Ray Charles and James brown should switch places. I don’t see what’s so great about Ray CHarles , I mean he’s good , but James Brown is a much more soulful singer ( maybe I should listen to more Ray Charles) . Also How did Bob Dylan make it in the top 10? He didn’t event singing with a growl in your voice . Many people like Louis Armstrong and Little Richard before him used growls in their voices. and even a diehard Beatle fan like me , thinks that maybe John Lennon should be at 12 and Little Richard could move up to the top , where is Paul Simon , and Why is Garfunkel so low. my top 10 list would be like

    1 Aretha Franklin
    2. Elvis Presley
    3. James Brown
    4. Sam Cooke
    5 .Freddie Mercury
    6 . Ray CHarles
    7. Little RIchard
    8. Stevie Wonder
    9. Robert Plant
    10. Ray Charles
    11. John Lennon

  • Paul

    Any time Rod Stewart is praised, he should be refered to as “English” Rod Stewart, to distinguish him from that awful American pop idol who moved here around 1974. I always thought that “sellout” was a word critics made up so that they would have something to talk about, but the difference between English Rod Stewart and American Idol Rod Stewart is night and day. Prior to 1974, Stewart might rank in the top ten or twenty. After 1974, he’s almost unlistenable.

    I can’t listen to Journey either – but Steve Perry does has a great voice – just not in my house.

    I love Waylon & Willie, but would have picked Waylon well ahead of Willie. In fact, I’d have picked Waylon up near the top. Fantastic voice and an underappreciated guitar player.

    I’d have picked Don Henley much higher.

    My favorite singers are McCartney, Lennon, Gene Clark, Ronstadt, Presley, Bing Crosby, Elton John, Billie Holliday, Sinatra, Daltrey, Jennings, Plant, Henley, Nelson, Helm, Wonder, English Rod Stewart, James Taylor, Sly Stone & BB King. I love to hear Louis Armstrong sing for the joy/sadness in his voice, but I wouldn’t say he had a great voice. Dylan, Neil Young, and Springsteen are great to listen to, despite their voices. Clapton & Hendrix too.

  • Paul

    I have to say that Dylan, Springsteen, and Young are among my very favorite performers, but none of them can sing a lick. Dylan is unintelligible most of the time. He doesn’t sing like that to be expressive – he sings like that because he can’t do any better. Young actually sings with the melody, but his voice is incredibly thin and shaky. There’s a reason Richie Furay sang Neil’s songs on the first Buffalo Springfield album. (I’m not a big Richie Furay fan, but he had a great voice.) Springsteen’s a better singer than Dylan or Young, but his voice is very limited. These three guys are probably among the top ten rock songwriters, and generally have terrific backing bands. Personnally, I’ll take great songwriting over great singing anytime, but these guys are not even close to great singers. Linda Ronstadt may be the biggest exception to the rule, absolutely incredible singer. I would put Rondstadt in the top ten, or at least 20.

  • Duke Winnemucca

    Come on Rolling Stone!…or the panel that put the list together for the magazine. How could Sinatra not be in the top 10??? Where is Linda Ronstadt, one of the greatest voices ever? Nat King Cole, Tom Petty, Barry White, Teddy Pentergrass, Barbra Streisand, Dionne Warwick, Carl Wilson, Dean Martin, Aaron Neville,David Lee Roth, Levi Stubbs, Lou Rawls, Peter Cetera . Karen Carpenter is much higher. Rod Stewart, Dion both higher. Eva Cassidy had the voice of an angel. But they should all be deported for leaving Sinatra off the list, let alone out of the Top 10.

  • Life_sucks_in_tv

    The list is really non-sense! How they can put people such as Christina Aguilera, Bono (for good sake that guy is *beep*), Bob Dylan and many more and forget about Frank Sinatra (that is really a crime against music), Morten Harket (The guy from A-HA [famous for songs such as Take On Me ( the guy can hang over a high pitch for 22 seconds in two ocasions and that is incredible for a male voice !), The Living Daylights, Hunting high and low, The Sun Always Shines on TV, Celice, White Canvas, You are the one and many more], Chaka Khan, Louis Armstrong, Mel Tormè…

    Honestly the list seems to be made by a stupid 13 year old teenager…

  • awlick

    how did he leave off tom petty, trey anastasio (phish), dave matthews, john mayer, zach de la rocha (rage against the machine), jerry garcia (the dead), and LOUIS ARMSTRONG…? this is just a dumb thing to do.. name the top 100 singers of all time without mentioning some sort of criteria on how they graded them..

  • stuart

    you know scott weiland is still selling records 36 million to be exact

  • Derek

    Where the fuck is Tom Petty? God, the Rolling Stone magazine never gives the man the credit he deserves. Fuck ’em.

  • Portica Harris

    Where is Barry White and Teddy Pentergrass. They were some of the best singers in the 80’s.

  • awesome-o

    Rolling Stone as a magazine originated with the rise of rock and roll, which can be said to have started with Elvis. So of course they wouldn’t include Enrico Caruso– he’s out of their framework. Likewise, I’m sure there are fabulous 19th century opera stars who you wouldn’t consider for your list.

  • Vince Wilson

    This list is surely a ‘B’ list to any real list.
    There are a lot of great artists on this list but also a lot of pretenders those people that Rolling Stone need to pander to for future subscriptions. Anyone happy to be on this list has to ask why for example truly great singers that even they respect like Frank Sinatra, Barbra Streisand, Scott Walker, Chaka Khan, Bette Midler, Mel Tormè, Tony Bennett, Shirley Bassey, Dionne Warwick and Sarah Vaughan are missing?

  • I blogged about this very subject…you bring up better points than me. LOL! But the message is the same…STOP WITH THE LISTS!!!!!!!

  • zingzing

    oh, glenn…

  • I agree with #1 –

    IMO Karen Carpenter should be in the top ten, and so should Barbara Streisand…and maybe Alanis Morrisette, too.

    Why? Because they – like Aretha, Louis Armstrong, Johnny Cash, and John Cougar Mellencamp – all sang with their hearts. The most tone-deaf voices in Creation become wonders when the heart becomes one with the voice.

  • zingzing

    linda thompson.

  • Ruth

    I agree with a previous poster regarding Emmy Lou Harris. Great voice. I would also add Linda Ronstadt, Vince Gill, Alison Krauss, Mahilia Jackson, Eva Cassidy, Neil Diamond, Josh Groban, John Denver,Phil Collins, and Dan Fogelberg.

    He’s non existant on your list. Such an awesome legandary talent. From early days with Temple of the Dog, Soundgarden, Audioslave to now a solo artist. big dissapointment to find Cornell absent from your list.

  • Lindsey

    Lindsey Buckingham as usual. Underated fo everything. Brilliant Guitarist, Songwriter, Singer and Producer.

  • Jim

    Brian Wilson at #52 is an outright sin. Seriously, they put John Lennon and Bob Dylan in the top 10, and they put one of rock’s most brilliant falsettos all the way at 52? Absolute rubbish.

  • rroseselavy

    OMG, and I just remembered Emmylou Harris. How on earth did they manage to leave her off?

  • rroseselavy

    Your picks for Elvis Costello, Aaron Neville, and David Lee Roth are spot on. I would also add Ann Wilson and Dionne Warwick(e). The list is a little sexist: Tom Waits but not the she-Waits, Rickie Lee Jones? I wouldn’t have either, I’m just saying.

  • Muffy

    OMG! You called Elvis “The greatest singer of all time” ROFL

  • dugg

    andre 3000, cee lo green, theres a couple modern guys who casn belt it out. i mean, rock aint dead, ya know?

  • Rubin Tyree

    Another left off the list …. Ian Gillan

  • Jordan “Boss” Richardson

    Scott Weiland > Kurt Cobain. Oh yeah, I went there.

  • jodi

    what about Sting?

  • Riki Rushing

    I agree that lists are such a waste of time, but nonetheless peculiarly intriguing… like a car wreck you have to look at… and then it’s a mess and you have to look away.

    CHRIS CORNELL should have been included. Obvious!

    Rolling Stone used to be such a better magazine.
    What happened?
    Too commercial…

  • I don’t know if this list is really really reliable, many people liked Elvis and up to now he is still living it. There are people here that for me are in the wrong spots. Maybe interchange it and I will surely agree. There are many also that I do not know. Maybe its because of my age, I only know few.

  • MC

    I’m so glad to see Chris Cornell’s name mentioned a few times here. When I read the Rolling Stone article, I couldn’t believe the number of great singers who were not included. Most notably, Chris Cornell! The Rolling Stone has never been a publication which I’ve had any respect or regard for and ridiculous lists like this are the reason why!

  • Absolutely Robin Zander, the man of a thousand voices, should have been on the list. The guy could sing with his lips stapled together and a bag over his head and still sound beyond amazing.

  • warriorwoman

    I agree with you, Brad. These lists are usually a waste of time and just a popularity contest.

    Having said that, I’m appalled that my favorite vocalist didn’t even make it. Chris Cornell is now 44 years old, but he STILL has a voice that can out perform a majority of the singers mentioned. His notable strengths are his stamina and range. Add to that the passion he puts into his singing and you have quite an accomplished vocalist. He’s #1 on my list.

  • Aaron Jeter

    I also think Dylan was way too high and Brian Wilson/ Elton John and Karen Carpenter were too low. Obivously it was greatest of rock era…how else could you exclude Sinatra and Nat King Cole. Some other notables missing are…Teddy Pendergrass, Barry White, Sade, Chaka Khan, Paul Simon and The BeeGees.

  • brad laidman

    Per Dylan – he can still sing when he wants to – mostly talking about live performances where he doesn’t seem to care much – Real Live, Dylan and the Dead, Bobfest

    I’m not sure what to say about his much mocked grammy performance of Masters of War – it’s unintelligable – but the statement plus the speech make it one of my favorite appearences anywhere by anyone.

  • Agree with you about Robin Zander, and would probably add Alice Cooper too. But you’re just plain wrong about Dylan. Singing is about much more than tonal quality, and his phrasing is unmatched anywhere in music, save for maybe Sinatra (who I also agree with you about).


  • zingzing

    maybe i missed nick cave. for his work in birthday party alone, he deserves at least a top 20 showing. and where’s beefheart? and i’m the world’s biggest bowie fan (at least in my house)–but even i scoff at putting him before van morrison. come on. that’s just… insulting.

    and the velvets as most overrated band? ha! that’s crazy talk. maybe lou’s voice is rather trying at times… (but you obviously haven’t heard the blue mask if you say that it does nothing for you.)

    the velvet’s work from 66-70 is probably the most important run of albums made during the rock era. you can trace whole genres to little studio goofs. it wasn’t particularly lou’s voice that was so important, although his speak-sing style has certainly been aped endlessly since. it was the guitars, it was the subject matter, it was the knowing primitivism, it was the raw emotion, the volume, the constant shaking up of their sound, the acceptance of the avant garde, the lack of any boundaries. they were light-years ahead of anybody else at the time.

  • JC Mosquito

    I think this list should itself be on the list of fave lists of all time – well,that’s my opinion anyway.

  • Toshala

    I agree. These lists DO seem to be put together by people picking their favs and not really keeping TRUE to the idea of the TITLE including the word “GREATEST”. Certainly by NOT including Chris Cornell, the list is meaningless to me. His fans spoke and were heard with MTVs similar list…………he was #12 there…..for RS to completely disinclude him on theirs proves to me their IDEA of such a list is simply not worthy.

  • Britt

    I agree, ridiculous not to have someone like Chris Cornell on a list like this. And given that Kurt Cobain was thought worthy of inclusion as a singer, Eddie Vedder should certainly be there as well. And of the recent crop of newcomers, why not a brilliant British soul diva like Leona Lewis – knocks spots off Mariah Carey.

    A lot of people here seem to be here on the basis that they are someone’s favourite artist – or that they wrote great songs, or fronted a great band – rather than for the actual quality of their singing. Musicbiz types seem to be just like the public voting on American Idol or The X Factor – they vote subjectively for those who mean something to them personally. Not necessarily for the greatest voices.

  • Elvis is definitely No.1! Karen Carpenter didn’t have a pretty voice…She had an amazing voice with a seamless range. Plus, she was a drummer.
    Freddy Mercury was incredible. Too far down on the list!

    Some criminally ignored vocalists:

    Bruce Dickinson
    James Labrie
    Glen Danzig
    Colin Hay
    Chris Cornell
    Chuck Shuldiner
    Matt Barlow
    King Diamond
    Ian Campbell