35 Best American Singers of All Time (Most Famous)

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Written By Will Fenton

Founder of MidderMusic. From numerous bands to stints working in music shops, read more about me on the 'Here's My Story' page!

We’re dedicating today’s article to the best American singers of all time.

From Bob Dylan to Beyoncé, the US really has a lot of legendary musicians, so making a list of the top American singers wasn’t an easy task.

But we managed to make a selection of all the singers who Americans are very proud of. 

Keep reading to check if you’re familiar with all of them! 

1. Frank Sinatra 

Well, you’re surely familiar with our first artist – he is, after all, one of the most iconic singers of all time.

Frank Sinatra was really one of a kind.

His music was inspired by easy-listening tunes, jazz standards, and swing era – but he also added his own touch and brought jazz into the sphere of popular music.

In fact, Sinatra called himself a saloon singer – nevertheless, many of his tunes became timeless classics.

Sinatra’s greatest hits include “My Way”, “New York, New York”, and “Fly Me To The Moon”, just to name a few.

2. Bruce Springsteen

Bruce Springsteen is by far the most famous American singer in the world right now.

His career spans six decades, which means his music is familiar to all generations.

Springsteen’s impact on music, especially the rock genre, is undeniable – he released many successful albums and hits. 

“Born To Run”, “Dancing In The Dark”, and “My Way” are considered to be American classics.

And Rolling Stones magazine described him as “the embodiment of rock & roll.”

3. Aretha Franklin 

Known as the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin is widely regarded as one of the greatest American singers of all time.

She was a real creative force, especially in the 1970s, and many of her songs are considered classics, including “Respect”, “Chain of Fools”, and “Natural Woman.”

Aretha  won 18 Grammy Awards, and she was also the first woman to be listed in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987.

And she is also noted for her activism for civil and women’s rights.

Aretha Franklin was a skilled, hard-working, and conscious artist, and she inspired many singers that came after her.

4. Michael Jackson

It’s time to celebrate another American music legend – Michael Jackson.

The King of Pop was definitely a unique and innovative artist, and his contribution to music and culture in general was immense.

His music videos such as “Beat It”, “Billie Jean”, and “Thriller” are credited with breaking racial barriers.

His iconic album Thriller became the best-selling album of all time.

And, of course, he popularized moonwalk.

All in all, Michael Jackson really changed music history, and he will always be remembered as one of the most influential American musicians. 

5. Mariah Carey

Without a doubt, Mariah Carey is one of the most famous American singers in the world.

With a five-octave vocal range, she is also regarded as one of the best vocalists of her generation.

Moreover, Mariah was the first artist to have five singles rank number one on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. 

And her Christmas hit “All I Want For Christmas Is You” is literally everywhere during holidays – every single year.

Mariah Carey’s other big hits include “Hero” and “Always Be My Baby.” 

6. Elvis Presley

The King of Rock and Roll is, of course, among the top 10 most famous American singers in music history.

His voice and singing style were truly unique, and his live performances and unmatched energy made him a rock icon.

So it comes as no surprise that he was proclaimed the second best ‘Voice of the Century’ by BBC.

His songs “Suspicious Minds”, “Hound Dog”, and “Pretty Woman” are all-time classics.

All things considered, Elvis truly had a natural talent – and his superstar look was a cherry on the top. 

7. Bob Dylan 

Regarded as one of the greatest songwriters of all time, Bob Dylan definitely deserves a spot on this list.

He changed the meaning of popular music, and he influenced many artists who came after him.

Most of his best work originates in the 60s, and some of these songs became civil rights and anti-war anthems.

Since 1994, he has also published eight books of drawings and paintings.

That being said, Dylan is surely an innovative and versatile artist and a true living music legend.

Dylan’s most recognizable songs include “Mr. Tambourine Man”, “Hurricane”, and “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright.”

8. Whitney Houston

Nicknamed The Voice, Whitney Houston is another American music icon.

She had one of the most powerful voices, and with more than 200 million records sold worldwide, she is one of the best-selling artists of all time.

She is best-known for her masterful performance of Dolly Parton’s “I Will Always Love You.”

Although she didn’t originally write the song, her rendition inspired many singers to use it as an audition song and follow their dreams.

Her other famous hits include “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” and “I Have Nothing.” 

9. Stevie Wonder

When it comes to most popular US singers, Stevie Wonder is definitely high on the list.

He has been a creative force for nearly six decades now – in other words, he is a true living legend.

Stevie Wonder was just a kid when he started his musical career in the 1960s – he became known as a child musical prodigy, and at the age of 13, he became the youngest artist ever to top the chart.

Throughout his career, Wonder recorded many critically acclaimed albums and received 25 Grammy Awards.

He also became one of the best-selling music artists of all time.

Wonder’s most famous songs include “Superstition” and “I Just Called To Say I Love You.” 

10. Marvin Gaye

Marvin Gaye is hands down one of the most famous American singers in history.

He had an unforgettable silky voice that accompanied his songs brilliantly.

Gaye started out as an in-house session player and then began his music solo career.

Eventually, he became one of the most influential artists of his era.

He helped to shape the sound of Motown in the 1960s, and his music influenced several contemporary subgenres such as neo soul.

“Sexual Healing”, “Heard It Through The Grapevine”, and “What’s Going On” are just some of Marvin Gaye’s classics.

11. Prince 

In short, Prince was a musical genius.

And with his unique style, moves, and incredible stage presence, he was a superstar.

He was also a skilled multi-instrumentalist, and he often played most of the instruments on his recordings.

In fact, he played all the instruments for his first album For You, and all tracks on the album were produced, arranged, composed, and performed by Prince.

Besides his impressive vocal range and creativity, he was also known for his flamboyant, androgynous persona.

All in all, Prince was one of a kind, and his contribution to music and culture will never be forgotten.

12. James Brown

Dubbed the Godfather of Soul, James Brown is another iconic US singer who made his mark on American culture.

Brown was a leading figure in the funk genre and 20th century music in general, and he was one of the first 10 inductees into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

He was known for his hard work and unique vocal abilities, and many of his songs turned out to be timeless classics –  “I Feel Good” and  “Sex Machine”, to name a few.

His music was covered and sampled by many other famous musicians, including Madonna, Public Enemy, Run-D.M.C., Britney Spears, and George Michael.

Finally, Brown received numerous accolades and awards during his lifetime, and his work will be celebrated for many years to come.

13. Ella Fitzgerald 

Known as the First Lady of Song and Queen of Jazz, Ella Fitzgerald is regarded as one of the most influential American singers in history.

Fitzgerald was known for her scat singing, vocal improvisation with wordless vocables.

She is responsible for countless hits, and she collaborated with Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, and other music legends. 

Her most recognizable songs include “A-Tisket, A-Tasket”, “Dream A Little Dream”, and “It Don’t Mean a Thing.”

There’s no doubt about it – Ella Fitzgerald changed the music scene of her era, and her contribution to the jazz genre is immense.

14. Tina Turner 

Tina Turner is often referred to as the “Queen of Rock ‘n’ Roll”, although she also wrote in genres like R&B and soul.

Either way, she was a real creative force and hands down one of the most popular singers in America.

Before becoming a global superstar, Tina started out as the lead singer of the Ike and Tina Turner Revue.

And she eventually became one of the best-selling recording artists of all time.

Her biggest hits include “What’s Love Got To Do With It” and “The Best.”

15. Steven Tyler 

Although he also had a solo career, Steven Tyler is mostly associated with Aerosmith.

And it’s hard to imagine Aerosmith’s music without Steven Tyler’s voice.

He has one of the most powerful voices in the music industry.

But he is also known for his energetic live performance and even stage acrobatics.

All in all, he is an incredible performer, and one of the best rock singers of his generation.

16. Ray Charles 

Ray Charles is among the top American singers in history for a reason – he had incredible vocals as well as an impactful music career.

Plus, he made some iconic tunes such as “Hit The Road Jack” and “What I’d Say.”

Ray Charles truly had a golden voice, and his performances were full of surprises.

He influenced many famous artists such as Elvis Presley, Aretha Franklin, and Stevie Wonder.

And he left the world a substantial musical legacy – over the course of his career, he recorded more than 50 albums. 

17. Steve Perry

Dubbed The Voice, Steve Perry is widely known for his incredible singing skills.

He was the lead singer of the legendary rock band Journey, and he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of the band.

And he ranked No. 76 on Rolling Stone’s 100 Greatest Singers of All Time.

Perry also had a successful solo career between the mid-1980s and mid-1990s.

Nevertheless, his voice is mainly associated with Journey and their hits such as “Don’t Stop Believin’” and “Separate Ways.” 

18. Eddie Vedder 

Eddie Vedder is hands down one of the best vocalists in the music industry.

His incredible voice is an essential part of every Pearl Jam song.

But he also released multiple solo albums, including this year’s Earthling.

He also appeared as a guest vocalist in Temple of the Dog, a band formed by another great vocalist Chris Cornell. 

All in all, Vedder contributed to the rock genre a lot, both as a Pearl Jam’s member and a solo artist.

19. Sam Cooke

“A Change Is Gonna Come,” “Bring It on Home to Me,” “You Send Me”… Sam Cooke recorded so many timeless songs during his lifetime.

He was a pioneer and one of the most influential American soul singers.

So although his life and career were cut too short, he managed to make his mark.

But he made a difference in other ways too – he took part in civil rights movements, and he used his influence and popularity to fight for racial equality.

20. Janis Joplin

Janis Joplin is one of the most iconic American rock stars of the 20th century. 

She was widely known for her incredible vocal abilities and distinctive vocals.

Joplin’s death was also premature, but she managed to make a huge impact on popular culture and her music still keeps inspiring new generations of musicians. 

“Me & Bobby McGee” is one of her biggest hits, although it was originally written by Kris Kristofferson  – she changed the lyrics a little bit though.

But she made the song her own, and along with “Piece Of My Heart” and “Summertime”, it’s considered her signature song. 

21. Otis Redding

Otis Redding is one of the best American singers of all time and a seminal artist in soul music.

He was a talented songwriter and singer, and his live performances were always mesmerizing. 

His singing style influenced many soul artists of the 1960s.

Some of Reddin’s most memorable songs include “I’ve Got Dreams To Remember” and “Try a Little Tenderness.”

And shortly before his tragic death in a plane crash, Redding wrote and recorded his most iconic song “(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay.” 

22. Stevie Nicks 

Stevie Nicks joined Fleetwood Mac in 1975, and helped it become one of the greatest bands in music history.

But she also produced music as a solo artist, and her song “Edge Of Seventeen” is an iconic rock hit.

Rolling Stone named her the “Reigning Queen of Rock and Roll” – because that’s what she really is.

Nicks has incredible vocal power, and that’s one of the reasons she has a well-deserved spot on this list. 

23. Dolly Parton 

Born in Tennessee, Dolly Parton started singing when she was 7, and eventually became a country star.

With a career that spans nearly five decades, she is arguably one of the most famous American singers of all time.

Her greatest hits include “Jolene”, “9 To 5”, and “I Will Always Love You” (popularized by Whitney Houston.)

Parton is also a successful businesswoman – she owns a record label and an entertainment company. 

All things considered, she is a talented and versatile artist who worked hard to get where she is now.

24. Al Green

Al Green is another US-born singer who made an impact on the music scene, especially the soul genre. 

He is best known for his series of soul hit singles in the early 1970s, including “Let’s Stay Together” and “Love And Happiness.” 

And he remains one of the best vocalists in the music industry.

He has great control of his voice, but his singing also sounds so smooth and effortless.

Green won 11 Grammy Awards so far, including  the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.

25. Willie Nelson 

With a career spanning 7 decades, Willie Nelson is a living legend.

As one of the main figures of outlaw country, he made a huge impact on the country genre. 

He started off as a songwriter though – he wrote Patsy Cline’s “Crazy”, for example.

Nelson’s albums Shotgun Willie (1973), Redheaded Stranger (1975) and Stardust (1978) brought him commercial success, and he maintained his popularity in the following decades.

He is responsible for many iconic songs such as “Always On My Mind” and “On The Road Again.” 

26. Johnny Cash

Johnny Cash is widely regarded as one of the best country singers of all time, even though he also worked in other music genres.

The Man in Black was known for his deep baritone voice and memorable music characterized by percussive guitar.

He achieved a lot with his Tennessee Three backing band, and in a way, he created a subgenre of his own.

Cash released many successful albums and songs throughout his long career, but his 1968 album Johnny at Folsom Prison is arguably his most popular album. 

27. Barbra Streisand 

With a career spanning over six decades, Barbra Streisand is a legendary diva.

She is one of the stars of the Golden Age of Hollywood, so it’s incredible that she is still active and touring.

Streisand is generally one of the best-selling artists of all time, and a receiver of many awards – she is among the few artists awarded an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony. 

And she is still loved by millions for her distinctive voice and endless energy. 

Barbra Streisand’s greatest hits include “Memory”, “Somewhere”, and “The Way We Were.”

28. Etta James 

Jamesetta Hawkins, known professionally as Etta James, was one of the most influential and versatile singers in her time.

She started her career in 1954, and she performed in various genres including soul, rock and roll, gospel, and R&B.

Her vocal performances were enchanting, and her earthy voice left no one indifferent.

Etta James’ best-known song is “At Last”, but she also achieved great success with “I’d Rather Go Blind” and “Something’s Got A Hold On Me.”

29. Billie Holiday

Nicknamed “Lady Day”, Billie Holiday was an innovative jazz and swing music singer known for her hauntingly beautiful voice and impressive improvisational skills.

She also introduced new ways of manipulating phrasing and tempo, and she influenced many jazz musicians that came after her. 

Billie Holiday had a short career and life, but she managed to create a substantial musical legacy. 

Her most notable songs include “Solitude”, “Strange Fruit”, and “Blue Moon.”

30. Billy Joel

Billy Joel is an American singer, songwriter, and pianist who rose to fame in the 1970s.

He is nicknamed the “Piano Man”, after his album and signature song. 

Joel is also one of the best-selling music artists of all time, and many of his 80s songs remain popular to this day, including “Uptown Girl” and “We Didn’t Start The Fire.”

All things considered, he is without a doubt one of the most successful American singers.

31. Beyoncé

Speaking of successful American singers… This list wouldn’t be complete without Beyoncé.

She rose to fame as a member of the iconic group Destiny’s Child, but she became even more popular after embarking on a solo career.

Thanks to her incredible vocal abilities, performance skills, and endless creativity, Beyoncé established herself as one of the most important singers in the music industry.

Throughout her career, she recorded many chart-topping hits – “Crazy In Love”, “Halo”, “Break My Soul”, just to name a few. 

32. Karen Carpenter 

Karen Carpenter is a legendary American singer best known for her work with her brother Richard – together they performed as the Carpenters.

The Carpenters were one of the biggest-selling American pop groups of all time, and their music wouldn’t be the same without Karen.

She was a great vocalist, but she was also an amazing drummer.

Unfortunately, her life was cut short due to anorexia.

However, her talent and music legacy will never be forgotten.

33. Madonna 

Of course, we didn’t forget about the Queen of Pop.

Madonna is definitely one of the most famous singers in American history, with a career now spanning over three decades.

She moved from Michigan to New York at the age of 20, and eventually became the best-selling female recording artist of all time.

From 80s hits like “Material Girl” and “La Isla Bonita” to modern pop songs like “Hung Up” and “Living For Love”, Madonna really created an impressive catalog of hits.

And she doesn’t seem to be running out of inspiration and energy.

34. Kurt Cobain 

When it comes to the best American rock singers in history, Kurt Cobain is hard to forget.

As the lead vocalist, guitarist and primary songwriter of Nirvana, Cobain was definitely the most influential musician of his generation.

He committed suicide when he was 27, but he managed to make his longlasting mark on the rock genre. 

Some of Nirvana’s most iconic songs include “Smells Like Teen Spirit”, “Come As You Are”, and “Lithium.” 

35. Nat King Cole 

Let’s finish this list with one of the most iconic American jazz artists in history: the one and only, Nat King Cole.

Over the course of his career, Cole recorded a large number of successful hits, and he was generally one of the most popular entertainers in the 50s and the 60s.

Besides making popular hits and performing with his trio, Cole also acted in films and performed on Broadway, so he was also a cultural icon.

Best American Singers – Final Thoughts 

There are many other famous singers from the U.S.A. who deserve to be on this list, so it wasn’t easy to make the final cut.

On the other hand, all of the artists we included made a significant impact on the American music scene and culture in general.

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