Rolling Stone: 100 Greatest Vocalists

  • 1. Aretha Franklin
  • 2. Ray Charles
  • 3. Elvis Presley
  • 4. Sam Cooke
  • 5. John Lennon
  • 6. Marvin Gaye
  • 7. Bob Dylan
  • 8. Otis Redding
  • 9. Stevie Wonder
  • 10. James Brown
  • 11. Paul McCartney
  • 12. Little Richard
  • 13. Roy Orbison
  • 14. Al Green
  • 15. Robert Plant
  • 16. Mick Jagger
  • 17. Tina Turner
  • 18. Freddie Mercury
  • 19. Bob Marley
  • 20. Smokey Robinson
  • 21. Johnny Cash
  • 22. Etta James
  • 23. David Bowie
  • 24. Van Morrison
  • 25. Michael Jackson
  • 26. Jackie Wilson
  • 27. Hank Williams
  • 28. Janis Joplin
  • 29. Nina Simone
  • 30. Prince
  • 31. Howlin' Wolf
  • 32. Bono
  • 33. Steve Winwood
  • 34. Whitney Houston
  • 35. Dusty Springfield
  • 36. Bruce Springsteen
  • 37. Neil Young
  • 38. Elton John
  • 39. Jeff Buckley
  • 40. Curtis Mayfield
  • 41. Chuck Berry
  • 42. Joni Mitchell
  • 43. George Jones
  • 44. Bobby 'Blue' Bland
  • 45. Kurt Cobain
  • 46. Patsy Cline
  • 47. Jim Morrison
  • 48. Buddy Holly
  • 49. Donny Hathaway
  • 50. Bonnie Raitt
  • 51. Gladys Knight
  • 52. Brian Wilson
  • 53. Muddy Waters
  • 54. Luther Vandross
  • 55. Paul Rodgers
  • 56. Mavis Staples
  • 57. Eric Burdon
  • 58. Christina Aguilera
  • 59. Rod Stewart
  • 60. Bjork
  • 61. Roger Daltrey
  • 62. Lou Reed
  • 63. Dion
  • 64. Axl Rose
  • 65. David Ruffin
  • 66. Thom Yorke
  • 67. Jerry Lee Lewis
  • 68. Wilson Pickett
  • 69. Ronnie Spector
  • 70. Gregg Allman
  • 71. Toots Hibbert
  • 72. John Fogerty
  • 73. Dolly Parton
  • 74. James Taylor
  • 75. Iggy Pop
  • 76. Steve Perry
  • 77. Merle Haggard
  • 78. Sly Stone
  • 79. Mariah Carey
  • 80. Frankie Valli
  • 81. John Lee Hooker
  • 82. Tom Waits
  • 83. Patti Smith
  • 84. Darlene Love
  • 85. Sam Moore
  • 86. Art Garfunkel
  • 87. Don Henley
  • 88. Willie Nelson
  • 89. Solomon Burke
  • 90. The Everly Brothers
  • 91. Levon Helm
  • 92. Morrissey
  • 93. Annie Lennox
  • 94. Karen Carpenter
  • 95. Patti LaBelle
  • 96. B.B. King
  • 97. Joe Cocker
  • 98. Stevie Nicks
  • 99. Steven Tyler
  • 100. Mary J. Blige

This is a list of pop/rock/country/blues stars, many of whom sing well, or even better. But there are also performers on the list who are barely "vocalists," say Bob Dylan. As great an artist as Dylan is, his singing is just good enough to convey his songs. Other artists have done better with some Dylan songs, like Johnny Cash. But Dylan is simply not a vocalist.

The same could be said of Neil Young.

And where is John Mellenkamp? I just saw him in concert and he was terrific.

Stevie Nicks? Whatever her talents, her singing is just good enough.

Brian Wilson is a great songwriter, arranger, producer of music, but I don't think even Wilson himself would claim that he is a top vocalist.

The Everly Brothers were excellent singers, and ought to be much higher on the list.

An example of an excellent vocalist, better than at least half of this list, but who wouldn't make the list because she had only one hit, is Laura Branigan. Now she could really sing, but is not given enough cred.

Janis Joplin was less a "vocalist" than a force of nature.

I was waiting for someone to comment on this.

Bob Dylan can't sing-which makes me wonder if this list was really intended to be 'best songwriters that just happened to be vocalists', but whatever

Neil Young-"

Mellencamp never wowed me, but maybe I should check out some of his live performances

Stevie Nicks is fantastic

Brian Wilson has a pretty generic voice, in my opinion, and certainly isn't a GREAT vocalist

I'll second your point about the Everly brothers, should be much higher

I love Joplin's presence on the list, I've always been somewhat of a fan of her voice, for reasons unknown to even myself

I totally agree with your take and what you say here!!! Bob Dylan??? Brian Wilson??? John Lennon??? Rod Stewart??? Great music people and successful in so many ways...but this Rolling Stone list STINKS!! This is supposed to be about the greatest VOCALISTS (rock-pop). It is influenced by lyrics, success, total package, fame, etc...eny number of things except what is needed: assessment of pure vocalists who were pop-rock viable! the biggest omission to prove my point--someone that absolutely blows 25% of these signers out of the water as SINGERS???? Billy Mackenzie. He was with the Associates. Listen to Popera (the whole album) on You Tube to see what I mean...or YouTube him solo. To have Nicks, Wilson, Bowie, Dylan, etc. etc. and NOT have Billy Mackenzie??? Shows Rolling Stone to be an inbred, cliquish, shallow group....

Reed ? Helm? Nelson? Gregg Allman? Ahead of Bill Mackenzie as VOCALISTS??? I don't think so....

Just a clarification: Laura Branigan actually had three Top Ten singles, so there is even less reason for her to have been overlooked.

On this list I see...Nina Simone (an acquired taste at best who really deteriorated) and...Roni Spector (whose claim to fame is in her last name), but I don't see...Linda Ronstadt, a genuine vocalist--strong, versatile, lotsa hits. That is absurd, and makes this list another of RS's follies.

Everyone on here is great, but I have to say he isn't my favorite, but Michael Jackson should be higher if not number 1, he has voice machines replicated after his voice. How Frank Sinatra and Barbara Striesand did make this list is surprising also (also not my particular taste in music.)

Bob Dylan has a better voice than Whitney Houston or anyone lol???

Poor list

seriously no chris cornell? the guy has one of the best ranges in rock music history. definitely a better vocalist than cobain too come on now

Yeah, absolutely. I've said it before, Rolling Stone has a hard-on for Nirvana. They have to be on every list they make. I'm sure if they could've gotten away with putting Kurt in the top 10 on this list, they would have put him there.

I realise these lists are arbitrary, and just opinion, but come on, John Fogerty at number 72!! The most awesome voice in rock and roll, in music anywhere really, with me not caring at all for the opera singers.
And Garfunkel so low. His voice is so beautiful, and of course there is no David Surkamp, who could really hit those high notes.
This list is possibly the worst list ever in regards to top 100s in the rock world. John Fogerty is number one easily, and there is also no Ian Gillan. Who could ever forget the vocals on 'Child in Time'? Absolutely sublime.
But as I wrote, these are only opinions and this is mine.

No George Michael!! his voice is better than more than half the people on this list!

Freddie Mercury should be number 1, without a doubt.
And of course, Rolling Stone focuses on the huge bands like the Beatles, Stones, Zeppelin etc. while completely ignoring metal/grunge ones like Iron Maiden (Bruce Dickinson), Judas Priest (Rob Halford), Soundgarden (Chris Cornell) and Pearl Jam (Eddie Vedder), all of whom have far greater vocalists than bands like Nirvana. I really hate how Rolling Stone always jumps on Kurt Cobain's cock when it comes to lists like these. If they made a greatest bassists/drummers list, Dave Grohl/Krist Novoselic would probably be in the top 10 of each.

How is Whitney Houston 34? Greatest vocalists? She has to be top 5 as a vocalist.RS sucks.

Tired of seeing Aretha at the top of these lists. I know it is only my personal opinion, but there are those who agree that Tina Turner is better.

Bob Dylan (7) is a better "vocalist" than Freddie Mercury (18), Smokey Robinson (20), Michael Jackson (25)??? Don't think so...

I don't see Brad Delp (Boston). Brad was an incredible multi-octave vocalist. A travesty not to see his name here. No Ann Wilson (Heart)? Linda Ronstadt? How about Emmylou Harris or Chrissie Hynde?

Patsy Cline, Annie Lennox and Karen Carpenter are ranked way too low.

Agree with listereen-Janis was a force of nature, but not a great vocalist (love her anyway).

Don Henley, but not Glen Frey or Joe Walsh? Like the Everly Brothers, they should all be on the list as "The Eagles".

A lot of unworthy inclusions and unforgivable omissions in this list.

'Tired' of seeing Aretha? you may not like her, but in terms of greatness she just obliterates everyone.

And no, they're not saying 'better', they're saying 'greater', though I don't see how Dylan is greater than most of the vocalists he's ahead of, i agree...

And stop whining about your personal favourites not being on the list. Yeah, you like them. So what?

And Janis is not a GREAT vocalist? May not be a favourite of yours, but her greatness is immense.

Good point.


Brad Delp. Amen. Where the hell is he? Move Karen and Whitney up. And where is Ann Wilson? Billy Joel. And more recently, I'd even fight for Hayley Williams, Lacey Mosley. Better than Aguilera.

Freddie Mercury not at the top? Kind of sad really... I was hoping to see Mike Patton, but I definitely see why he's not on it.

Just noticed Christina Aguilera on there. ugh.

The Abba-singers, Agnetha Fältskog and Annifrid Lyngstad, could be on the list.

Fantastic singers.

I think if you are a better singer it stands to reason that you are a greater singer. You may not have had all the hits, that's just the way it goes, because these days it's not about the songs as such, it's about how the singers or groups are promoted, and it's been that way for more than 30 years. And let's face it, most music these days is crap, but just like all the posts on this topic, that is just my opinion.
For mine though, and yes, he is my favourite singer of all time, John C. Fogerty is by the greatest, and best, of all the rockers, but there are a lot of great vocalists and I just love the way the debate is going on here.

Bruce Springsteen is higher than Elton John?!?!?

Freddy Mercury should be #1, MJ should not be 25, hecould be #1 or AT LEAST top 5

Bob Marley is not higher than Johnny Cash,sorry but no.

Robin Zander? Don Henley? I didn't see Sting? Tom Jones? Rick Danko? Richard Manual?


Great to see my favorite singer up at #4

Steve Perry????????
why one of the greatest voices of all time is not in list

He's at 76

how the hell did bob dylan make top ten hell how do he even get top 100 rolling stones just have a soft spot for first he come in number 2 artist of all times now this. so your telling me bob dylan sings better then micheal jackson, whitney houston, steve perry, smokey robinson, freddy mercury, robert plant, roger daltry and more. rolling stone is fucking stupid

One of the most favorite is Elena Jane Goulding known as Ellie Goulding, she is an English singer or multi-instrument. Rare people ability to achieved success in very short time. This younger became the second artist to both top the BBC’S annual sound of poll. Now fans ready for her next concerts in different places. ellie goulding concert tickets 2013 are available at

Adam Lambert. Streisand. Sinatra.