The future of music

50 Best Singers of All Time

November 7, 2023
best singers of all time

I’ve compiled a definitive ranking of the best singers of all time across genres.

This list highlights iconic voices praised for their power, range, control, and unique tone.

Top picks of the best singers

  • Aretha Franklin
  • Freddie Mercury
  • Ray Charles
  • Elvis Presley
  • Frank Sinatra
  • Sam Cooke
  • Stevie Wonder
  • Michael Jackson
  • John Lennon
  • Mariah Carey

1. Aretha Franklin

Let’s start with The Queen of Soul.

Aretha Franklin was a big creative force, especially in the 70s.

And many of her songs are considered classics, including “Respect”, “Chain Of Fools”, and “Natural Woman.”

She was an honest and authentic singer, and she inspired many artists.

As an acknowledgment of her influence, Aretha won 18 Grammy Awards.

She was also the first woman to be listed in the Rock and roll Hall of Fame in 1987.

2. Freddie Mercury 

When thinking about the best vocalists of all time, Freddie Mercury immediately comes to mind.

Queen’s singer had incredible vocal abilities – he had a four-octave vocal range, to be more precise.

But he also had the work ethics and charisma to become a music legend.

Besides being an amazing singer and performer, Mercury was also a great songwriter – he has written 10 out of 17 Queen hit songs.

And he managed to do it all until the very end.

If you want to know more details from his personal life, you should watch “Bohemian Rhapsody” with Rami Malek as Freddie.

3. Ray Charles 

What makes a great singer?

Is it a powerful, unique voice or an impactful music career?

Well, Ray Charles had it both, and he is certainly considered one of the greatest singers of all time.

He 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 us a substantial musical legacy and timeless hits such as “Hit The Road Jack”, “Unchain My Heart”, and “I Got a Woman.”

4. Elvis Presley

Speaking of Elvis Presley, he is also a part of every top singers list. 

After all, he was the King of Rock and Roll.

His singing style was truly unique – it was smooth, confident, and effortless.

And his live performances and unmatched energy made him a rock icon.

Of course, he also made some all-time hits such as “Suspicious Minds”, “Hound Dog, and ”“Pretty Woman.”

And he was proclaimed the second best ‘Voice of the Century’ by BBC.

5. Frank Sinatra

And who is the BBC’s Voice of the Century, you ask?

Well, many consider Frank Sinatra one of the best voices of all time.

And his beloved soulful hits still live on.

Besides “My Way”, his timeless music includes “That’s Life”, “Fly Me to the Moon”, “New York, New York”, and many more.

He simply knew how to charm his listeners. 

His singing style was smooth and romantic, and he was loved by millions.

Sinatra may have come from humble origins, but he made a huge impact on music history and culture in general. 

6. 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 soul artists.

In other words, he is the King of Soul.

Besides having unmatched vocal abilities and a soul made for making music, Sam Cooke also took part in civil rights movements.

He used his influence and popularity to fight for racial equality.

7. Stevie Wonder

Stevie Wonder is also among the top singers of all time.

He was a talented, passionate singer who made genuine music inspired by real-life events.

He had major influence on many genres including rhythm and blues, soul, funk, gospel, jazz, and pop.

Wonder was also famous for his ‘one-man-band’ performances – he often used synthesizers and various electronic musical instruments.

He received several honorary degrees and awards including 25 Grammy Awards.

Besides his music, Stevie Wonder will also be remembered for his work as an activist for political causes.

8. Michael Jackson

Known as the King of Pop, Michael Jacskon definitely deserves a spot on the best singers list.

His contribution to popular culture was immense.

For starters, he popularized the moonwalk, his complicated signature dance moves.

He is the most awarded person in music industry history.

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

And  his iconic album “Thriller” became the best-selling album of all time.

All things considered, Michael Jackson really changed history, and he will always be remembered as one of the most influential musicians.

9. John Lennon

Speaking of influential musicians, we can’t skip John Lennon.

The famous singer made a huge impact on the music scene with The Beatles as well as his solo work.

He was also an incredible songwriter, and he poured his soul in everything he did.

For example, “Imagine” is considered one of the greatest songs of all time.

And Lennon’s masterful performance turned this song into a peace anthem.

In a way, he was loved for always stating who he was and where he was from, staying true to his Liverpool working class roots.

10. Mariah Carey

Mariah Carey is arguably one of the best vocalists of all time.

Whether you like her music or not, her singing skill is undeniable. 

She has a five-octave vocal range, and she also has a very interesting, distinctive voice.

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

And she has been around for quite a while now – her passion for music doesn’t fade away.

Some of Mariah Carey’s biggest hits include “Hero”, “Always Be My Baby” and, of course, “All I Want For Christmas Is You.” 

11. Marvin Gaye

Marvin Gaye started out as an in-house session player.

He then began his music solo career, and eventually became one of the most influential artists of that era.

He helped to shape the sound of Motown in the 1960s.

And his music influenced several contemporary subgenres such as neo soul.

Also, Gaye had a four-octave vocal range.

But more importantly, he had an unforgettable silky voice that accompanied his brilliant songs perfectly. 

12. James Brown

James Brown is dubbed the Godfather of Soul.

He was a leading figure in the funk genre and 20th century music in general.

He was known for his hard work and unique vocal abilities.

James Brown was one of the first 10 inductees into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

And numerous awards he received during his lifetime show that he was one of the most appreciated musicians at the time.

13. Elton John

Elton John is undoubtedly one of the most famous singers in the world.

The ‘Rocket Man’ is also one of the best-selling artists of all-time.

His falsetto voice and memorable hits still have a lot of influence on the music industry and popular culture.

Elton John’s most popular songs include “I’m Still Standing”, “Tiny Dancer”, and “Your Song.”

He has been collaborating with lyricist Bernie Taupin since 1967, and that’s considered one of the most successful songwriting partnerships in history.

14. Otis Redding 

Every living R&B and soul artist bows to Otis Redding.

He is considered a seminal artist in soul music and one of the best singers of all time.

Redding’s performances were always sincere, authentic, and electrifying.

And his music still lives on – some of his unforgettable songs include “I’ve Got Dreams to Remember” and “Try a Little Tenderness.”

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

15. Bob Dylan

Bob Dylan is widely considered one of the greatest songwriters of all time.

Of course, he was a fantastic singer and performer too.

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.

16. Steve Perry

Steve Perry was the lead singer of the legendary rock band Journey.

And he is widely known and appreciated for his incredible singing skills.

Moreover, Perry is dubbed ‘The Voice.’

He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of Journey in 2017.

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

17. Paul McCartney

Another Beatles member made it to the list of the best singers of all time.

Paul McCartney has a four-octave vocal range, and that enables him to sing all the demanding parts of the song.

He has an immense power in his voice, but he is also praised for his songwriting skills.

Many of the Beatles best hits came out of McCartney-Lennon collaboration.

But he also did some prominent solo work.

Nevertheless, McCartney is arguably one of the most influential musicians in history.

18. Whitney Houston

When it comes to the most powerful female voices in the music industry, Whitney Houston definitely stands out.

She was one of the best – and everybody knew that.

Nicknamed ‘The Voice’, Whitney garnered many awards and recognitions.

And with more than 200 million records sold worldwide, she is one of the best-selling artists of all time.

But more importantly, she inspired numerous aspiring singers to reach for their dreams.

19. Bob Marley

In short, Bob Marley was a rare music talent. 

He is considered one of the pioneers of reggae, and he became an important figure in popular culture.

And he remains a symbol of Jamaican culture, a Rastafari icon, and one of the best vocalists of our time.

He was only 36 when he died, but his music is still hitting us hard.

But as Marley said: ‘One good thing about music is that you feel no pain when it hits you.’

20. Etta James 

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

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.

“At Last” is her best-known song, but also gained fame with “I’d Rather Go Blind” and “The Wallflower.”

21. Ella Fitzgerald

Another incredible female voice we want to mention is Ella Fitzgerald.

Ella Fitzgerald was also known as the ‘First Lady of Song’ and Queen of Jazz.’

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

Fitzgerald recorded numerous hits and collaborated with Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, and so no.

She gave her last public performance in 1993, after a career of nearly 60 years.

22. Roy Orbison 

When it comes to old famous singers, it’s hard not to remember Roy Orbison.

He was a big star in the 60s.

And he will always be remembered as a great performer with an impassioned singing style.

On many occasions, his music was described as operatic –  that earned him the nickname “The Caruso of Rock.”

Orbison is also recognizable by his dark sunglasses that he wore on stage as a way of dealing with stage fright.

23. Mick Jagger

Mick Jagger isn’t only the founding member and the lead vocalist of one of the greatest rock bands of all time.

He is also a fantastic performer, vocalist, and songwriter.

His songwriting collaboration with Keith Richards is one of the most successful in history.

He gained global fame with The Rolling Stones, but he also did some solo work.

All in all, Mick Jagger is one of the most iconic living music legends.

24. Robert Plant

Robert Plant is another singer best-known for his work with a legendary rock band.

He was inducted with Led Zeppelin into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1995.

After the band broke apart, Plant continued to perform and make new music.

He is simply an inexhaustible source of talent and new ideas.

And his voice is simply one of the best in the field. 

Rolling Stone ranked him number 15 on their list of the 100 Best Singers of All Time.

25. Tina Turner 

Tina Turner is probably one of those singers’ names that will never be forgotten.

She made a big impact on popular culture and music industry

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

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.

26. Prince 

Prince is one of the iconic musicians that had a wide vocal range.

His recognizable falsetto and high-pitched screams are an essential part of his music.

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

Prince was honored with many awards, including the Academy Award for Best Original Song Score.

Along with his incredible talent and creativity, he also had a rather flamboyant personality, and all of that ultimately made him a music icon. 

27. Janis Joplin

Janis Joplin is one of the most popular female rock stars.

She was noted for her incredible vocal abilities and distinctive mezzo-soprano vocals.

And although she died way too early, she managed to make a huge impact on popular culture and many other artists. 

“Me & Bobby McGee” is one of her biggest hits, although it was originally written by Kris Kristofferson.

Either way, she made the song her own – she left a recognizable mark in every song she ever recorded.

28. Al Green 

Albert Leornes Green, or better known as Al Green, is a famous musician known for his excellent vocal skills.

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

But even more importantly, he pours his soul into everything he does.

You can feel that especially in the soul hit songs he recorded in the 70s.

29. Dolly Parton 

Dolly Parton is a country star.

But she also has one of the best singing voices of all time.

“Jolene” is arguably one of her biggest hits; it’s a timeless country song about the fear of another woman stealing your man. 

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.

30. Celine Dion

Celine Dion is known for her powerful singing voice.

It’s a central part of all her songs.

Many of her songs are also very sentimental, and she is prone to tackling spiritual or socially relevant topics.

Either way, she is loved by millions around the world.

She is best-known for her ‘Titanic’ song “My Heart Will Go On”, but she has released many hits ever since.

And she is still actively performing and touring.

31. Little Richard 

Richard Wayne Penniman, known by his stage name Little Richard, was an American musician, singer, and songwriter. 

He is best-known for his song “Tutti Frutti” released in 1995.

And earned the nickname “Architect of Rock and Roll.”

However, his music inspired artists across many genres, from rock to hip hop.

He even taught Paul McCartney how to improve his voice.

32. Barbra Streisand 

With a career spanning over six decades, Barbra Streisand is a living legend.

She is one of the stars of the Golden Age of Hollywood.

And she is still active – she is heading back out on tour in 2023

As you might assume, Barbra Streisand is one of the best-selling artists and a receiver of many awards.

But people love and respect her because of her distinctive voice and endless energy. 

33. Kenny Rogers

Kenny Rogers was an American country singer and star.

He charted more than 120 hit singles across various genres, and that’s quite impressive.

But he was best-known for his country hits.

They are always easy to listen to, and his raspy but soothing voice fits them perfectly.

Of course, he also received numerous awards, and he had many fans around the world, especially in the USA.

In 1986, he was voted the “Favorite Singer of All Time” in a joint poll by readers of USA Today and People.

34. Bono 

Of course, we can’t skip a vocalist of one of the most influential rock bands in history.

Bono Vox truly made a difference with U2, even though he recently claimed he doesn’t really like his early work.

But U2’s iconic early hits and ballads (like “With Or Without You”) show the power of Bono’s singing voice and his ability to convey deep emotions.

The Irish singer is also known for his activism for human rights and social justice causes.

35. Smokey Robinson

Smokey Robinson is a versatile man – he is a successful songwriter, record producer, actor and former record executive director.

But he is best-known for his unmatched voice and intricate singing skills.

He performed both with a Motown group The Miracles and as a solo artist.

Smokey was awarded multiple prizes and medals.

And that’s only a part of the recognition he deserves for his contribution to popular music.

36. David Bowie 

If anyone made an impact on the music industry, it was David Bowie.

He wasn’t only a fantastic singer – he also used to embody his song and ‘wear’ different personas.

He was a definition of authenticity, free expression, and innovative sound.

It’s hard to pick Bowie’s best songs, but the world will undoubtedly always remember songs like “Heroes”, “Space Oddity”, and “Ashes To Ashes.”

37. Van Morrison 

There is something about Van Morrison’s that makes you want to sit back and take it easy.

His heartwarming tunes in a combination with his distinctive, soothing voice are a true gem.

The Irish singer influenced artists of many genres, from rock and folk to jazz and blues. 

And he created many popular hits throughout the years.

After all, he has a recording career that spans six decades.

38. Nina Simone

Eunice Kathleen Waymon, known professionally as Nina Simone, is a music legend.

Her voice was something different – it managed to touch people in such a profound way.

She was also a quite versatile artist, tackling various styles such as folk, gospel, jazz, pop, and classical.

But regardless of the style she chose, she added something authentic and new to it.

Besides being a famous singer, Nina Simone was a talented pianist and a civil rights activist. 

39. Stevie Nicks

Stevie Nicks is best-known for her work with Fleetwood Mac.

She joined the band in 1975, and helped it become one of the greatest bands ever.

But she also produced music as a solo artist.

Her voice is truly incredible, and Rolling Stone named her the “Reigning Queen of Rock and Roll.”

Because that’s what she is.

40. Neil Young 

Neil Young’s recognizable voice is regarded as one of the best. 

His voice is sometimes described as a lonesome tenor.

And one thing is for sure – he knows how to convey emotions through a song.

Neil Young’s career is also impressive.

He started out in the 60s, became a part-time member of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, was inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame twice… 

And that’s only a small part of it.

Either way, he certainly deserves a spot on this list.

41. Steven Tyler 

It’s hard to imagine Aerosmith without Steven Tyler.

His voice is a crucial part of every Aerosmith classic, and although he also does some solo work, he is best-known for his Aerosmith hits.

Tyler has a truly powerful vocal range, and he often incorporates screams in his singing style.

That explains his nickname the “Demon of Screamin’.”

42. Jeff Buckley

Jeff Buckley was a talented American singer, songwriter, and guitarist.

During his short but impactful career, he recorded many beautiful songs.

One of his most recognizable songs is the cover of Cohen’s “Hallelujah”, one of the best cover songs of all time.

And that’s exactly the song that shows Jeff Buckley’s incredible, heart-wrenching vocals.

43. Hank Williams

Hank Williams is considered one of the most influential American singers and songwriters of the 20th century.

He wasn’t known for his extraordinary vocal range, but there was something very genuine and memorable in his voice.

With his small cries, hiccups, and narrations, he defined the sound of the genre.

But Williams did even more than that – he helped transform country music into a cultural force. 

44. Johnny Cash

Another artist that helped shape country music is Johnny Cash.

He rose to fame in the rockabilly scene though, and ended up being one of the most memorable singers of all time.

His rendition of “Hurt” is simply iconic, and it shows his vocal skills perfectly.

Cash’s calming bass-baritone voice is one to remember.

45. Adele 

If you’re looking for the best female voice of the past decade, Adele is certainly somewhere on the top.

As a singer, she doesn’t hold back – she showed us her incredible vocal skills in the very beginning. 

And she proved the world that she is here to stay.

Adele is also a great songwriter, sentimental and honest.

Her hard work and talent earned her multiple awards, and her album “21” became the world’s best-selling album of the 21st century.

46. Jim Morrison 

This list wouldn’t be complete without Jim Morrison.

Just like Bowie, Jagger, and Plant, he had the charisma of a rockstar.

And his baritone is legendary – along with his wild personality and poetic lyrics.

He is regarded as one of the most influential frontmen in rock history, both by fans and music critics.

47. Chris Cornell

Chris Cornell was best-known for his work with Audioslave and Soundgarden.

But he also released some great solo albums.

And one of the things that connects all of his work is his voice – his distinctive and heart-wrenching baritone.

He had a vocal range of nearly four octaves, and he also had the ability to sing very high in the tenor range.

All in all, Chris Cornell is considered one of the best vocalists of all time for a good reason.

48. Axl Rose

When thinking about iconic rock voices, Axl Rose also comes to mind.

His voice is powerful and wide-ranging, and he defined the overall sound and atmosphere of Guns N’ Roses.

He has been included on the list of the greatest singers of all time by various media outlets.

And it’s easy to see why – the moment you hear “Sweet Child O’ Mine” or any of his other signature songs, you realize Axl’s abilities and talent.

49. Bruce Springsteen

Bruce Springsteen is arguably one of the most popular singers of all time.

He helped form the heartland rock style of music – he combined mainstream rock with lyrics about American working life.

And one of the things that got him on the right track and helped him become successful was his voice.

And, of course, his devotion to music and intricate songwriting skills.

As a result, Springsteen was inducted into both the Songwriters Hall of Fame and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

50. Joni Mitchell

Joni Mitchell is one of those singers that can leave you speechless.

While she sings, she sounds like she’s doing it effortlessly, yet she manages to convey deep emotions and thoughts.

And her voice sounds soft and powerful at the same time.

Joni Mitchell released many successful albums throughout the years, including the iconic album “Blue.”

Rolling Stone called her one of the greatest songwriters ever.

And who are we to disagree?

Best Singers of All Time – Final Thoughts

Although there are so many great artists that deserve to be mentioned, it’s time to wrap it up.

It’s not easy to pick the best singers of all time, as there are many factors to consider.

However, all of the names we mentioned today are widely regarded as the greatest singers of all time. 

Will Fenton

Will, the founder of MIDDER, is a multifaceted individual with a deep passion for music and personal finance. As a self-proclaimed music and personal finance geek, he has a keen eye for futuristic technologies, especially those that empower creators and the public.

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