Do you want to make sure that passionate musicians are not in conflict? Ask them which singer is on the list of top 10 greatest. You can probably come up with 50 names if you have enough time. It all comes down to preference and taste.
Because so many people have voiced their opinions, we can see which singers have the greatest mass appeal. This should be taken into consideration. These are my picks and I expect to hear complaints about “that person shouldn’t be there” or “where’s my favorite singer on the list?”
Bottom line, every artist listed would appear on most listeners’ lists. It would be reasonable to assume that most of these artists would also appear on the top 10 wealthiest musicians in the world. Only a few do. You can probably guess which ones as you read. Let’s now count down the top 100 greatest singers…
#10 – James Brown
GENRE: FUNK AND SOUL
James Brown is one the most energetic vocalists of all time. It’s evident in his recordings and on the stage. There are many honors, awards and halls of fame he has received. He is a top-ranking singer on most lists of greatest musicians.
A singer leaves a lasting legacy when they are the most-sampled artist of all time. This honor is held by Brown. Imagine the royalty checks that flow in from this alone. Rarely are artists given titles that everyone can agree on. James Brown is the “Godfather of Soul.”
Trivia Facts – James Brown has released 57 studio albums. His life was an amazing ride. His social activism was outstanding. He was also accused of many things and found guilty of some. Many tribute concerts were held in his honour.
#9 – Steve Perry
GENRE: ROCK & ROLL
Although he is most well-known for his role as lead singer in the band Journey, Steve Perry also has a distinguished solo career. Perry, like James Brown, was given the moniker “The Voice” by Jon Bon Jovi.
Perry is inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. He is regarded as one of the greatest singers of all times and well-known for his singing abilities. Perry can sing F#2 through A5, making him known as a “high-tenor altino”. He is the voice of 80’s arena music.
Trivia Facts Steve Perry’s debut solo album went two-times platinum. He scored one diamond, ten gold, and three gold records with Journey, making them one the most successful bands ever. Their 80’s songs are still a top download in iTunes and other apps.
#8 – Paul McCartney
GENRE: SOFT RICK & POP
Paul McCartney is a multi-instrumentalist that made his name with The Beatles. 32 of his songs have reached the top spot on the Billboard Hot 100. These songs were often co-written with John Lennon. He is remembered for his solo career, Wings and collaborations with Michael Jackson.
Sir Paul has been knighted and honored in many ways. He also has one of the best voices that has ever graced the microphone. He is one of the most important musicians and people on this planet.
Trivia Facts Sir Paul McCartney is twice featured in the Guinness Book of World Records. This recognizes him as both the most prolific songwriter and the most respected composer and performer. McCartney’s Yesterday song is the most-covered song ever, with over 2,200 artists remaking it.
#7 – Aretha Franklin
GENRE: SOUL, JAZZ, BLUES, DOO-WOP, R&B & GOSPEL
With her hit song respect in 1967, Aretha Franklin’s music career took off. This attention made it clear that everyone recognized her incredible vocal abilities. Her peers quickly proclaimed her “The Queen Of Soul” and she was a household name. She was still topping charts and releasing gold records in 1998.
She has had 112 singles charted on the Billboard charts and won 18 Grammy Awards. She is also one of the most successful music artists in history, with over 75 million records sold worldwide. She is also the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s first female inductee. She is also a member of almost every other music hall-of-fame.
Trivia Facts Aretha has received the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the National Medal of Arts. Rolling Stone rates her the #1 greatest singer of all-time, but I’m not prepared to go so far. She has even been awarded a Pulitzer Prize!
#6 – Frank Sinatra
GENRE: JAZZ. SWING. EASY LISTENING. & POP.
Frank Sinatra is twice as popular as Aretha Franklin, who sold 75 million records. He is perhaps the most influential and popular musician of the 1900’s. The Rat Pack was a group of musicians that operated the Las Vegas casino venues circuit for many years. He was the leader of the group.
There are many awards for lifetime achievement, music and government awards. Time magazine has even called him one of the most influential (not just a musician). His voice can still be heard in entertainment to this day. He was an amazing showman who left as much of a legacy as Michael Jackson.
Trivia Facts. Frank Sinatra’s likeness has been portrayed in many movies, TV shows, and even a miniseries that was based on his own life. Sinatra believed that The Godfather was secretly inspired by his life. He recorded a total of 59 studio album!
#5 – Ella Fitzgerald
Ella Fitzgerald, also known as “The First Lady of Song”, is well-known for her entertainment value and vocal skills. Professionals admired her diction, clarity of tone, timing, phrasing and ability to improvise with her scat singing. Her most prestigious awards are the 14 Grammys, National Medal of Arts and Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Her musical career was stabilized by the Chick Webb Orchestre, but grew alongside her solo career. She reached a high point when she started appearing on TV as a guest and in movies. When she started collaborating with other great vocalists, she was firmly established as one of the greatest singers ever.
Trivia Facts A fire at Universal Studios Hollywood in 2008 destroyed much of her material. We can assume that most of her masters were digitized by then. Fitzgerald was known for being shy. Fitzgerald was once shy and took part in a Broadway show that generated more than a million dollars in just two weeks in 1975. That’s a lot today.
#4 – Freddie Mercury
GENRE: HARDROCK, MUSIC HALL GLITTER & PROG ROCK
Freddie Mercury is perhaps the greatest rock singer ever. His incredible four-octave range is what made him famous. Although he died young, he managed to get into every music hall and win numerous awards. According to the BBC, he’s ranked among the Greatest Britons.
His singing and life were so extraordinary that stage plays, musicals and biographical films have been made about him and Queen. He is one of the most successful artists of all time with Queen.
Trivia Facts Many people wonder if Freddie Mercury’s death was what rekindled Queen’s popularity, but this argument is irrelevant now. It’s been 21 years since their death and they are still topping the digital charts and retaining their fan base. His passing brought attention to a serious disease and showed how his contributions went beyond music.
#3 – Marvin Gaye
GENRE: SOUL & R&B, FUNK & POP, & JAZZ
Marvin Gaye was a key figure in the shaping of Motown’s sound, earning him the title of “Prince Motown” as well as the “Prince Soul” titles. He influenced the sound of future R&B subgenres such as neosoul and quiet storm. He was no surprise to be in the R&B Music, Songwriters, and Rock and Roll Hall of Fames as well as receiving a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.
Gaye’s four-octave vocal range is well-known. This was a testimony to his singing abilities, as he mostly recorded in baritone or tenor ranges. His music has been covered by many artists, and even sampled by metal musicians.
Trivia Facts Marvin Gaye was a “tax exile”, in Europe, for a time in the 1980’s. On January 1, 1985, VH1 aired his rendition of the national song at the 1983 NBA All-Star performance. Even after his death in 1984, his estate still makes millions of dollars per year!
#2 – Stevie Wonder
GENRE: SOUL & POP, R&B & FUNK, & JAZZ
Stevie Wonder is one the greatest songwriters and musicians ever. Because he used electronic instruments in a heavy way before others, he’s been regarded as a pioneer in genres like R&B, Funk and Rock, Pop, and Soul.
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He has sold more than 100 million records and won 25 Grammys. He is in every Hall of Fame, and has a star on Hollywood Walk of Fame. He was the only musician to be named a United Nations Messenger of Peace. Many honorary degrees were awarded to him, including Yale University’s Doctor of Music.
Trivia Facts Stevie Wonder is blind. He is tied with Frank Sinatra as the recipient of the most Grammy Awards for Album of the year awards. Kanye West stated that his goal was to compete with innervisions as well as Songs In The Key of Life which are two of Stevie’s most important albums. This is a high standard!
#1 – Michael Jackson
GENRE: POP, SOUL, FUNK, R&B, ROCK, DISCO, & DANCE
Michael Jackson is undoubtedly one of the greatest singers of all time. He was also called the “King” of Pop. He is a cultural icon and the greatest entertainer in music history. It would be futile to try and talk about all his awards. They extend to the world of dance. He is the true king.
Jackson credits James Brown and Diana Ross as being his influences. Jackson began his singing career as a soprano and eventually moved up to the tenor range.
Trivia Facts – Michael Jackson did not have formal music training. He was unable write or to read music notation and could play multiple instruments to some degree. When describing the music that he was hearing, he preferred to beatbox.
Runners up: Who’s almost a best singer?
Rest in peace, a few artists have a chance to bump another great artist out of the top 10, and claim their rightful place among the stars. You can’t ignore their vocal talent, even though they may be working in different genres or appear inflated by the media. These are…
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GENRE: EXPERIMENTAL, ART POP, AVANT-GARDE, & ELECTRONICA
Music historians and music analysts are often interested in Bjork’s music. They try to unravel her experimental songwriting that defies genre. Her music and shows feel more like live art installations. They involve filmmakers, photographers and fashion designers. Her vocals are truly top-notch.
Bjork mentions Joni Mitchell, Chaka Khan and Kate Bush among her influences. Her soprano ranges from E3 through D6. Rolling Stone, NPR and many other companies include her on their “greatest voices of music” lists. However, she is not yet at the top. Soon!
Trivia Facts Bjork had surgery to remove a polyp from her vocal cords. She claims that her “cords feel as good as before nodule”. There will be lots of competition over the next few years as she brings a lot of her proteges.
GENRE: SOUL, GOSPEL, & R&B
Sam Cooke, also known as the “King of Soul”, played an important role in the rise of artists such as Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder, Curtis Mayfield, and Stevie Wonder. Even being credited with inventing soul music, he’s been called the “King of Soul.” His smooth, effortless vocal delivery is what everyone loves.
Cooke’s death was tragically premature, but that didn’t stop Cooke from winning nearly every posthumous music award. We have an amazing collection of music thanks to his 14 studio albums.
Trivia Facts Over a seven-year period, Cooke had 30 hits in the U.S. Top 40 and many more after his death. He went to the same Chicago high school as Nat King Cole. He began his career as a singer at the age of six with his siblings, in a group called The Singing Children.
GENRE: R&B & POP, HIP HOP & SOUL
Mariah Carey is known as the “Songbird Supreme” because of her incredible five-octave vocal range, and use the whistle register. Her first album reached number one on the Billboard charts for 11 weeks consecutively. She is the only artist to have all five of her first singles reach number 1. She holds the record of solo artist with the most number one singles.
Although she lists many of the top 10 artists as her personal inspirations, she most often compares her to Whitney Houston (below), and Celine Dion (below), who she recognizes as an influence on her vocal style. MTV and Blender magazines ranked her the best voice in music.
Trivia Facts Mariah carey refers to herself as an alto. However, music critics have called her a Coloratura Soprano. Polyps in her vocal cords are responsible for her ability sing high notes. The most iconic Christmas song is her “All I Want for Christmas” now.
GENRE: R&B & SOUL, GOSPEL & DANCE
Whitney Houston is both the most-awarded female artist and the best-selling musician of all time. She is the only artist to have seven consecutive number-one singles in the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 charts. She also successfully merged with film acting, like many others.
Houston is known as “The Voice” in the music industry, and also “Queen of Pop”, due to her extraordinary talent. Her vocal range is within the mezzo-soprano category. She is on almost every list of the top vocalists. Whitney is the only artist I know of that has been called an influencer by more artists than Whitney.
Trivia Facts Her death in her early years was a tragedy that effected many documentaries and biographical films about her life. She also received numerous posthumous awards.
Honorable Mentions for The Best Singers of All Time
It’s difficult to pick just a handful of top performers and runners-up, especially with so many singers that could fill a list of 100. Who wants to read all that? Here are eight more greats from all time that deserve at least a quick shout-out:
- Mandy Moore has a wonderful voice that is pure joy to listen to, once she has moved beyond pop music. Her folk music is a treat to see. Unfortunately, her focus has shifted to acting recently.
- Jon Anderson Yes, he has the voice like an angel. Although some say he is “hate it, love it”, others claim it is a unique and enjoyable voice that makes him a favorite of those who love him. https://e941e26fed0e3c61fd5df3f72db5b24d.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html
- John Denver would be the man you want to sing to to sleep every night. His songs of love, songs about nature and general adventures blend perfectly with his command over the vocals as an instrument.
- Adele was one of the newest artists on the list. She quickly established her place with her powerful voice, touching topics and songs. Although she has taken some steps back in recent years, we will be able to enjoy more of her music.
- Amy Winehouse was another incredible talent that we lost too soon. She was poised for a revival of the 70’s sound, particularly soul and funk. Although her career was brief, she had a lasting impact.
- Celine Dion might be their most cherished song. She is a world-class talent and I place her in the same category as Whitney Houston or Mariah Carey.
- Ronnie James Dio may seem odd considering he works within the metal genres. But if you pay attention, you’ll see what appears to be a classically trained vocalist, though he claims he didn’t receive any training.
- Linda Ronstadt for many decades was a dominant voice of rock, country and light opera. Younger people may not be familiar with her name but you can listen to her “best” recordings.
We may have missed your favorite singer because we only listed 25 of the most notable. We’d love to hear your opinion on who deserves more recognition, and if there are any reasons why one of our choices is not worthy. It’s a tough decision, but I will argue with you!
The Top 10 Greatest Singers of All Time
This table lists the 10 greatest singers of all-time. It includes their names as well as their genre.
|1||Michael Jackson||Pop, Soul, Funk, R&B, Rock, Disco, & Dance|
|2||Stevie Wonder||Soul, Pop, R&B, Funk, & Jazz|
|3||Marvin Gaye||Soul, R&B, Funk, Pop, & Jazz|
|4||Freddie Mercury||Hard Rock, Music Hall and Glitter. & Prog Rock|
|5||Ella Fitzgerald||Swing, Bebop, Pop, Jazz, & Blues|
|6||Frank Sinatra||Jazz, Swing, Easy Listening, & Pop|
|7||Aretha Franklin||Soul, Jazz, Blues, Doo-Wop, R&B, & Gospel|
|8||Paul McCartney||Soft Rock & Pop|
|9||Steve Perry||Rock & Roll|
|10||James Brown||Funk & Soul|