The 50 Greatest R&B Artists

  1. James Brown
  2. Michael Jackson
  3. Stevie Wonder
  4. Ray Charles
  5. Aretha Franklin
  6. Louis Jordan
  7. Marvin Gaye
  8. Sam Cooke
  9. Little Richard
  10. Fats Domino
  11. The Temptations
  12. Smokey Robinson & The Miracles
  13. Otis Redding
  14. Prince
  15. Diana Ross & The Supremes
  16. Jackie Wilson
  17. Sly & The Family Stone
  18. The Drifters
  19. Big Joe Turner
  20. Donna Summer
  21. Al Green
  22. Ike & Tina Turner / Tina Turner
  23. The Four Tops
  24. Chuck Berry
  25. The Impressions
  26. Janet Jackson
  27. The Isley Brothers
  28. Etta James
  29. The Platters
  30. Wynonie Harris
  31. Parliament / Funkadelic / George Clinton
  32. Solomon Burke
  33. Billy Ward and his Dominoes
  34. Isaac Hayes
  35. Whitney Houston
  36. Barry White
  37. The Orioles
  38. Gladys Knight & The Pips
  39. Earth, Wind & Fire
  40. The Jackson 5 / The Jacksons
  41. Curtis Mayfield
  42. The Ravens
  43. Lionel Richie / The Commodores
  44. Mariah Carey
  45. The Flamingos
  46. Wilson Pickett
  47. The Coasters
  48. Bo Diddley
  49. The Marvelettes
  50. War
Author Comments: 

This list covers all branches of the R&B music kingdom: jump blues, doo-wop, rhythm & blues, soul, funk, disco/boogie, contemporary R&B, and all of their respective offshoots. Artist rankings are based on influence, impact, and popularity. Note that this is a new revision in the works. Expect 50 more entries to round out the Top 100 soon.

Good list! Those top ten look almost unassailable.

Thanks :)

Yeah, I think the top ten are pretty solid candidates. The rest could possibly use some work as far as rearranging, but overall I think I got the most important artists all here.

Very good list. I pretty much agree with the top 10, and everything else seems fairly accurate but could probably use a little bit of rearranging like you said. Overall, you did an excellent job naming the best artists from both older and newer generations of R&B (very pleased to see D'Angelo and R. Kelly on here).

Thanks. Eventually I'll revise the list and try to make it a bit more accurate.

What makes Michael Jackson greater than Prince in your opinion?

In terms of influence, I would give Prince a slight advantage. While both artists are responsible in the shaping of contemporary R&B, Prince was also significant in helping popularize the synth funk (and Minneapolis sound) that came into vogue in the '80s.

In terms of impact, I would give MJ the upper-hand. MJ is a cultural icon on par with Elvis Presely and The Beatles. He's generally considered the preeminent entertainer and is among the most (if not the most) awarded recording artists of all time. However, there's no doubt that Prince scores exceptionally well in impact, too -- and he actually slightly surpasses MJ in critical acclaim. Still, it's not nearly enough to eclipse MJ in this criterion.

Now, in terms of popularity, MJ basically crushes Prince. We're talking approximately 400 million records sold to 100 million records sold. As far as lasting popularity goes, I'd guess that their respective hits are generally played on radio with around the same regularity; that's harder to determine though.

All in all, Michael Jackson is the more significant artist.