Top 10 Pop Singer-Songwriters

01
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10. James Taylor

James Taylor
James Taylor. Photo by Michael Putland / Hulton Archive

James Taylor played a key role in kicking off the singer-songwriter movement of the early 1970s. He was the first non-British act signed to the Beatles' Apple record label. However, he didn't find significant success until signing with Warner Bros. in the US and releasing his second album Sweet Baby James in 1970. It included the #3 signature hit "Fire and Rain" and earned a Grammy Award nomination for Album of the Year. James Taylor hit #1 the next year with his cover of Carole King's "You've Got a Friend." 12 of his albums have been top 10 chart hits. He finally hit #1 with his Before This World album in 2015. Five of his singles have reached the pop top 10.

Top Pop Hits

  • "You've Got a Friend" - 1971 - #1
  • "Fire and Rain" - 1970 - #3
  • "Handy Man" - 1977 - #4
  • "How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You)" - 1975 - #5
  • "Mockingbird" with Carly Simon - 1974 - #5

Watch James Taylor sing "Shower the People"

02
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9. Alanis Morissette

Alanis Morissette
Alanis Morissette. Photo by Sonia Recchia / Getty Images

Alanis Morissette set a new standard for female singer-songwriters with her landmark 1995 album Jagged Little Pill. It presented an independent, emotional, and often angry woman with songs that made their way to the upper reaches of the pop singles chart one after another. Ultimately Jagged Little Pill sold 16 million copies in the US alone. It spent over a year in the top 10 on the album chart. She has won seven Grammy Awards and released four #1 hit albums. Seven of her singles have reached the top 10 at mainstream pop radio. 

Top Pop Hits

  • "Thank U" - 1998 - #2
  • "Head Over Feet" - 1996 - #3
  • "Ironic" - 1996 - #4
  • "Uninvited" - 1998 - #4
  • "You Learn" - 1996 - #6

Watch Alanis Morissette sing "You Learn"

03
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8. Neil Young

Neil Young
Neil Young. Photo by Kevin Winter / Getty Images

Neil Young first gained fame writing songs and performing as part of the groups Buffalo Springfield and Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. However, since branching out as a solo artist he has become noted for deeply personal music and a wide ranging exploration of musical styles. Neil Young has been twice inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame as a solo artist and as a member of Buffalo Springfield. Neil Young has released seven platinum certified albums as a solo artist. He has earned 24 Grammy Award nominations and won 2 including Best Rock Song in 2011 for "Angry World." In 1994 "Harvest Moon" was nominated for Record of the Year and Song of the Year.

Top Pop Hit

  • "Heart Of Gold" - 1972 - #1

Watch Neil Young sing "Old Man"

04
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7. Joni Mitchell

Joni Mitchell
Joni Mitchell. Photo by Frederick M. Brown / Getty Images

Joni Mitchell wrote some of the definitive folk pop songs of the 1960s including "Big Yellow Taxi," "Both Sides Now," and "Woodstock." Following her top 10 pop success in 1974 with "Help Me," she began to veer more into jazz-influenced music. Joni Mitchell is one of the most critically acclaimed songwriters of all time. Many other top songwriters cite her as a major influence on their careers. She has won nine Grammy Awards and is a member of the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame. Rolling Stone magazine has ranked Joni Mitchell as one of the top 10 songwriters of all time.

Top Pop Hit

  • "Help Me" - 1974 - #7

Watch Joni Mitchell sing "Woodstock"

05
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6. Carole King

Carole King
Carole King. Photo by Paul Morigi / WireImage

Carole King is known both for writing more than two dozen pop chart hits in the 1960s for other artists with her husband Gerry Goffin, and also for her success recording her own songs in the 1970s. By 2000 she had written or co-written 118 songs that reached the Billboard Hot 100. Carole King's Tapestry album is considered by many to be the definitive singer-songwriter album. It has spent over 300 weeks on the Billboard album chart and has sold over 10 million copies in the US alone. Carole King is a member of the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame and Songwriters Hall Of Fame. She has won six Grammy Awards and the album Tapestry as well as the songs "You've Got a Friend" and "It's Too Late" have been inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame. Beautiful, a Broadway musical based on the life and work of Carole King, debuted in January 2014 and won two Tony Awards.

Top Pop Hits

  • "It's Too Late" - 1971 - #1
  • "Jazzman" - 1974 - #2
  • "Sweet Seasons" - 1972 - #9
  • "Nightingale" - 1975 - #9

Watch Carole King sing "It's Too Late"

06
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5. Paul Simon

Paul Simon
Paul Simon. Photo by Michael Putland / Hulton Archive

In 1970 Paul Simon left his performance partnership with Art Garfunkel to seek what became an even more successful solo career. He is known for the intricacy of the social interactions depicted in his songs. Paul Simon has won 13 Grammy Awards and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame. The Library Of Congress presented him with their first Gershwin Prize for Popular Song in 2007. Seven of Paul Simon's solo albums reached the top 5 on the album chart. Four of them have been certified platinum for sales. Six of his singles reached the pop top 10 and "50 Ways To Leave Your Lover" went all the way to #1. In June 2016 Paul Simon announced that he is considering retirement.

Top Pop Hits

  • "50 Ways To Leave Your Lover" - 1975 - #1
  • "Kodachrome" - 1973 - #2
  • "Loves Me Like a Rock" - 1973 - #2
  • "Mother and Child Reunion" - 1972 - #4
  • "Slip Slidin' Away" - 1977 - #5

Watch Paul Simon sing "Diamonds On the Soles of Her Shoes"

07
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4. Prince

Prince
Prince. Photo by Kevin Winter / Getty Images

Prince gained acclaim for his flamboyant performance style, but it is his powerful songwriting that underscores all of the surface style. He won seven Grammy Awards and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame. Prince sold over 100 million records worldwide. 16 of his albums were certified platinum led by the Purple Rain soundtrack certified for over 13 million in sales. 19 of Prince's singles reached the pop top 10 and five of them went all the way to #1. Prince received 32 Grammy Award nominations and won seven times. He was twice nominated for Album of the Year. Prince died in April 2016 at age 57.

Top Pop Hits

  • "When Doves Cry" - 1984 - #1
  • "Lets Go Crazy" - 1984 - #1
  • "Kiss" - 1986 - #1
  • "Cream" - 1991 - #1
  • "Batdance" - 1989 - #1

Watch Prince sing "The Beautiful Ones"

08
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3. Billy Joel

Billy Joel
Billy Joel. Photo by Michael Putland / Hulton Archive

As depicted in his first hit single "Piano Man," Billy Joel did serve a six month residency at the Executive Piano Bar on Wilshire Boulevard in Los Angeles in 1972. 17 of his albums have been certified platinum and his two disc greatest hits collection has been certified an amazing 21 times platinum. Billy Joel is a member of the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame and Songwriters Hall of Fame. 13 of his singles have hit the pop top 10 including three that went all the way to #1. Billy Joel has earned 24 Grammy Award nominations. He won Record of the Year and Song of the Year for "Just the Way You Are" and Album of the Year for 52nd Street.

Top Pop Hits

  • "It's Still Rock and Roll To Me" - 1980 - #1
  • "We Didn't Start the Fire" - 1989 - #1
  • "Tell Her About It" - 1983 - #1
  • "Just the Way You Are" - 1977 - #3
  • "My Life" - 1978 - #3

Watch Billy Joel sing "You May Be Right"

09
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2. Bruce Springsteen

Bruce Springsteen
Bruce Springsteen. Photo by Ebet Roberts / Redferns

In an interesting twist, early in his career Bruce Springsteen was considered to possibly be a "new Bob Dylan" due to the word pictures he would paint in his songs and his chronicling of the American experience. However, it was not long before he carved out his own unique place in popular music. Bruce Springsteen has sold over 65 million albums in the US alone. He has received 20 Grammy Awards and earned 49 nominations. His first 10 studio albums have all been certified platinum and his mammoth Live: 1975-1985 set has been certified 13 times platinum on its own cementing Bruce Springsteen's status as one of the top live performers of all time. He has reached the top 10 on the pop singles chart twelve times. Bruce Springsteen is a member of both the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Songwriters Hall of Fame.

Top Pop Hits

  • "Dancing In the Dark" - 1984 - #2
  • "Hungry Heart" - 1980 - #5
  • "Glory Days" - 1985 - #5
  • "Brilliant Disguise" - 1987 - #5
  • "I'm On Fire" - 1985 - #6

Watch Bruce Springsteen sing "Born To Run"

10
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1. Bob Dylan

Bob Dylan
Bob Dylan. Photo by Steve Morley / Redferns

Bob Dylan is considered by many to be the top songwriter of all time in popular music. He has released 16 platinum certified albums. Among his songs are such protest classics as "Blowin' In the Wind" and "The Times They Are A-Changin." Bob Dylan has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame and the Songwriters Hall Of Fame. He has received twelve Grammy Awards out of 43 nominations and six of his recordings have been inducted into the Grammy Hall Of Fame. In 2012 Bob Dylan was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. He is credited with selling more than 100 million records worldwide.

Top Pop Hits

  • "Like a Rolling Stone" - 1965 - #2
  • "Rainy Day Women #12 & 35" - 1966 - #2
  • "Positively 4th Street" - 1965 - #7
  • "Lay Lady Lay" - 1969 - #7

Watch Bob Dylan sing "Tangled Up In Blue"