Top 20 Rock Singers of All Time

Freddie Mercury
Freddie Mercury. Photo by Steve Jennings / WireImage
01
of 20

Robert Plant

Robert Plant
Robert Plant. Photo by Michael Putland / Hulton Archive

While growing up in England, Robert Plant hid behind curtains and pretended to be Elvis Presley. In 1968 he joined the group Led Zeppelin after an audition in front of lead guitarist Jimmy Page. In the 1970s he was acclaimed by many as the world's greatest rock vocalist. Led Zeppelin's certified album sales exceed 100 million. After the group broke up in 1980, Robert Plant embarked on a successful solo career.

Watch Robert Plant sing "Black Dog" live 

02
of 20

Freddie Mercury

Freddie Mercury
Freddie Mercury. Photo by Steve Jennings / WireImage

Born and raised in Zanzibar and India, Freddie Mercury gained acclaim as the flamboyant front man for the rock group Queen. He was the lead vocalist on such classic songs as "Bohemian Rhapsody," "We Are the Champions," and "Somebody To Love." Queen were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2001. Freddie Mercury died tragically from AIDS complications in 1991.

Watch Freddie Mercury sing "We Are the Champions" live

03
of 20

Mick Jagger

Mick Jagger
Mick Jagger. Photo by Michael Hickley / Getty Images

The Rolling Stones' Mick Jagger has put showmanship front and center as just as important for being a great rock singer as his voice. The group's guitarist Keith Richards was a classmate when Mick Jagger was growing up. He was heavily influenced in the early years of the Rolling Stones by American blues and rock and roll. The Rolling Stones have been acclaimed as the "World's Greatest Rock and Roll Band" and have celebrated over 50 years as an active band. Nine of their albums have hit #1 on the US charts.

Watch Mick Jagger sing "Tumbling Dice" live

04
of 20

Paul McCartney

Paul McCartney
Paul McCartney. Photo by David Harris / Hulton Archive

Paul McCartney proved himself a superb rock vocalist in the early days of the Beatles. However, it's his performances on such songs as "Helter Skelter" and "I'm Down" that show off his abilities as a true rock screamer. His later work with Wings includes understated rock brilliance on songs like "Jet" and "Live and Let Die." Paul McCartney is credited with writing or co-writing 32 songs that reached #1 on the US pop chart.

Watch Paul McCartney sing "Live and Let Die" live

05
of 20

Janis Joplin

Janis Joplin
Janis Joplin. Photo by Tom Copi / Michael Ochs Archives

Janis Joplin's raw, soulful vocal style has made her one of the most acclaimed rock vocalists of all time. She first gained fame as the singer in the rock band Big Brother and the Holding Company. However, she experienced even greater success as a solo artist. Sadly, she passed away in 1970 at age 27. Her single "Me and Bobby McGee" was a posthumous #1 hit.

Watch Janis Joplin sing "Piece Of My Heart" live

06
of 20

Bruce Springsteen

Bruce Springsteen
Bruce Springsteen. Photo by Jamie Squire / Getty Images

Bruce Springsteen's distinctive rugged voice is noted by many as a distinctively American rock sound. His songs are centered around the experience of the American working class. Bruce Springsteen has sold more than 120 million records worldwide. In 2009 he was a Kennedy Center Honors recipient and in 2016 he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Watch Bruce Springsteen sing "Born To Run" live

07
of 20

Axl Rose

Axl Rose
Axl Rose. Photo by Peter Still / Redferns

Axl Rose grew up in Indiana being recognized as a "troubled and charismatic" delinquent. He was arrested more than twenty times and served multiple jail terms. He moved to Los Angeles in 1982 at age 20 to seek a music career. In 1985 he helped form Guns 'n Roses, one of the most critically acclaimed rock bands of all time. Their debut album Appetite For Destruction has sold more than 30 million copies worldwide. It is the bestselling debut album of all time. In addition to his work with Guns 'n Roses, Axl Rose began singing lead for AC/DC in 2016.

Watch Axl Rose sing "Paradise City" live

08
of 20

Ann Wilson

Ann Wilson
Ann Wilson. Photo by Daniel Knighton / FilmMagic

Singer-songwriter Ann Wilson and her sister guitarist Nancy Wilson joined the band Heart in the early 1970s. They became one of the most successful Canadian bands of all time. Heart have sold over twenty million albums and were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2013. Ann Wilson released her first solo album Hope & Glory in 2007. In 2015 she embarked on a solo tour as The Ann Wilson Thing. 

Watch Ann Wilson sing "Stairway To Heaven" live

09
of 20

David Bowie

David Bowie
David Bowie. Photo by Bob King / Redferns

David Bowie was one of the most influential rock vocalists of all time helping stretch the boundaries of rock into both avant garde and mainstream dance music territory. He was known for continual reinvention of his music and his image. David Bowie released his final studio album Blackstar to critical acclaim just two days before his death in 2016.

Watch David Bowie sing "Heroes" live

10
of 20

Bob Dylan

Bob Dylan
Bob Dylan. Photo by Gai Terrell / Redferns

Some observers believe the distinctive croak in Bob Dylan's voice diminishes his status as a top rock vocalist. However, they have missed the passion that he puts forth in such classics as "Like a Rolling Stone," "Just Like a Woman," and "Hey, Mr. Tambourine Man." Bob Dylan is a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2016.

Watch Bob Dylan sing "Mr. Tambourine Man" live

11
of 20

Bono

Bono
Bono. Photo by ShowBizIreland / Getty Images

U2's lead vocalist Bono was born Paul David Hewson. Beyond his illustrious career as front man for one of the world's greatest rock bands, he has worked as a philanthropist and occasionally put his celebrity might behind political causes. U2 have won 22 Grammy Awards and have sold more than 150 million records worldwide. Their 1987 landmark album Joshua Tree produced two #1 hit singles in the US "With Or Without You" and "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For."

Watch Bono sing "Sunday Bloody Sunday" live

12
of 20

John Lennon

John Lennon
John Lennon. Photo by Michael Putland / Hulton Archive

Both John Lennon and Paul McCartney had strong rock vocal chops with the Beatles and on solo material. Perhaps John Lennon's greatest rock vocal performance with the group is his lead on their cover of "Twist and Shout." Solo songs like "Cold Turkey" and "Mother" present a harrowing and moving rock vocal style. John Lennon died tragically from a gunshot wound in 1980.

Watch John Lennon sing "Instant Karma" live 

13
of 20

Neil Young

Neil Young
Neil Young. Photo by Tony Mottram / Hulton Archive

Canadian singer-songwriter Neil Young played a key role in the development of folk rock in the late 1960s as a member of the groups Buffalo Springfield and Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young. Later, with his own band Crazy Horse he began forging his own distinctive path with an unmistakable high tenor singing voice. Neil Young has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame both as a solo artist and a member of Buffalo Springfield.

Watch Neil Young sing "Hey Hey My My" live

14
of 20

Stevie Nicks

Stevie Nicks
Stevie Nicks. Photo by Paul Natkin / Getty Images

When Stevie Nicks and her boyfriend Lindsey Buckingham joined the English blues-rock group Fleetwood Mac in 1975, no one knew the legacy that would soon unfold. Fleetwood Mac became one of the most acclaimed pop groups of all time. "Dreams," written and sung by Stevie Nicks, became the group's only #1 pop single. As a solo artist, Stevie Nicks turned in a stronger rock direction and experienced significant success. Six of her solo albums have hit the top 10 on the album chart and her songs "Stop Draggin' My Heart Around," "Stand Back," and "Edge of Seventeen" are rock classics.

Watch Stevie Nicks sing "Edge of Seventeen" live

15
of 20

Kurt Cobain

Kurt Cobain
Kurt Cobain. Photo by Frank Micelotta Archive / Hulton Archive

Kurt Cobain is remembered as both leader of the rock band Nirvana and the face of the grunge rock movement that emerged from Seattle in the late 1980s and early 1990s. His emotional vocals reveal the pain and frustration that accompanied much of Kurt Cobain's personal life. He committed suicide in 1994. Nirvana were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame their first year of eligibility and the group have sold over 25 million albums in the US although they only released three studio albums.

Watch Kurt Cobain sing "Lithium" live

16
of 20

Roger Daltrey

Roger Daltrey
Roger Daltrey. Photo by Larry Hulst / Michael Ochs Archives

Shortly after the Who formed in the mid-1960s, Roger Daltrey asserted himself as the group's charismatic leader. As the group's popularity grew, he became less of a dominant figure and shared the spotlight with guitarist and songwriter Pete Townshend. In addition to his vocal contributions to the Who, Roger Daltery also embarked, with some success, on an acting career. He also recorded a series of solo albums. The Who have sold over 100 million albums worldwide.

Watch Roger Daltrey sing "Won't Get Fooled Again" live

17
of 20

Jim Morrison

Jim Morrison
Jim Morrison. Photo by Estate of Edmund Teske / Michael Ochs Archives

Jim Morrison co-founded the group the Doors in 1965. Two years later they hit #1 on the pop chart with "Light My Fire." Jim Morrison was acclaimed an iconic rebel among rock singers. He was arrested for indecent exposure and attempting to incite riots at Doors live performances. Jim Morrison died at the age of 27 in Paris in March 1971.

Watch Jim Morrison sing "Light My Fire" live

18
of 20

Steven Tyler

Steven Tyler
Steven Tyler. Photo by Mark Davis / Getty Images

Aerosmith lead vocalist Steven Tyler has identified an experience of seeing a Rolling Stones concert at age 17 as a particular influential event. Aerosmith came together in 1970 and in 1972 they signed a recording contract with Columbia Records. In 1976 the group hit the pop top 10 with both "Dream On" and "Walk This Way." Since then Aerosmith have become rock icons with Steven Tyler's screaming vocals and flamboyant style of dress leading the way. The group have sold more than 150 million records worldwide.

Watch Steven Tyler sing "Dream On" live

19
of 20

Jon Bon Jovi

Jon Bon Jovi
Jon Bon Jovi. Photo by Paul Natkin / Getty Images

Jon Bon Jovi grew up in New Jersey and has claimed to be a blood relative of Frank Sinatra. He joined the rock group Scandal briefly in 1983. After receiving a recording contract, he formed the group Bon Jovi in 1983. They experienced a significant breakthrough with the 1986 #1 hit album Slippery When Wet that includes the anthems "You Give Love a Bad Name" and "Livin' On a Prayer." Bon Jovi have sold more than 130 million records worldwide. Jon Bon Jovi has also experienced some solo success with his song "Blaze of Glory" hitting #1 on the pop chart.

Watch Jon Bon Jovi sing "Livin' On a Prayer" live

20
of 20

Ozzy Osbourne

Ozzy Osbourne
Ozzy Osbourne. Photo by Christie Goodwin / Redferns

Early in his career, Ozzy Osbourne set the standard for heavy metal vocalists to come as lead vocalist with Black Sabbath. After being fired from the group in 1979, he had a highly successful solo career and eventually rejoined the band releasing the album 13 in 2013. Ozzy Osbourne credits the song "She Loves You" by the Beatles with inspiring his musical career.

Watch Ozzy Osbourne sing "Iron Man" live

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Lamb, Bill. "Top 20 Rock Singers of All Time." ThoughtCo, Mar. 30, 2017, thoughtco.com/best-rock-singers-4135640. Lamb, Bill. (2017, March 30). Top 20 Rock Singers of All Time. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/best-rock-singers-4135640 Lamb, Bill. "Top 20 Rock Singers of All Time." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/best-rock-singers-4135640 (accessed November 18, 2017).