The 25 Best Rock Singers Of All Time
Did your favorite make the list?
As with any art, music is subjective. What might sound like perfection to your neighbor could be like nails on a chalkboard to you or vice versa.
However, some artists are clearly better than others. Whether they introduced the world to a new sound, have a vocal range that defies explanation or hit the top of the charts more times than you can count, they are the superstars of their industry.
Check out some of the most amazing singers who ever belted out a rock song, based on the number of hits they have had on the Billboard Hot 100 charts.
25. Patti Smith
Patti Smith started her career as a guitar-playing poet on the streets of New York. She released her first album in 1975 after forming the Patti Smith Group. Thanks to her distinct voice and creative lyrics in songs such as “Because the Night,” many view her as one of the best singers in rock.
24. Lita Ford
The England-born, America-raised rocker broke into the music scene as a guitarist for the all-female teenage rock band The Runaways in the 1970s. When the group dissolved, Ford made a name for herself with songs such as “Kiss Me Deadly” and “Close My Eyes Forever,” her duet with Ozzy Osbourne. She was inducted into the Hall of Heavy Metal History in 2019.
23. Jimi Hendrix
James Marshall Hendrix grew up in Seattle, where he took up playing the guitar as a teen. He formed his own group in the early ’60s while serving as a paratrooper for the U.S. Army. By 1965, he was performing with artists such as Tina Turner, Sam Cooke and Little Richard. Only a year later, Hendrix was in London, the star of the Jimi Hendrix Experience, recording hits such as “Purple Haze” and “The Wind Cries Mary.” His distinctive voice and guitar skills have inspired generations of hopeful rock stars.
22. Janis Joplin
A lifelong music lover, Janis Joplin joined the band Big Brother and the Holding Company in 1966 at the age of 23. Joplin’s soulful voice immediately caught the attention of audiences, and in 1969 she played Woodstock and released her first solo album. Although her vocals left a lasting mark on rock music, her career was incredibly shortlived as the singer known as the Queen of Rock died of an accidental overdose in 1970.
21. Chrissie Hynde
As a founding member of the rock band “The Pretenders,” Chrissie Hynde became known for her intense contralto vocals. She lent her distinctive sound to rock hits such as “Back on the Chain Gang” and “Brass in Pocket.” Hynde was inducted with her band into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2005.
20. Joan Jett
Joan Marie Larkin was another member of The Runaways who went on to have a notable career as a rock singer. The singer and her band Joan Jett & The Blackhearts fused genres such as punk, heavy metal and ’60s rock, producing memorable hits including “I Love Rock and Roll” and “I Hate Myself for Loving You.” Jett (along with the Blackhearts) was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2015.
19. Tina Turner
Tina Turner is an icon with a one-of-a-kind voice and a life story to match. After singing with and then leaving her abusive husband, this Queen of Rock and Roll has enjoyed a music career spanning more than half a century. Her hits include “Proud Mary” and “What’s Love Got to Do With It,” among many others.
18. Axl Rose
In his heyday with Guns N’ Roses, Axl Rose had an unmatched vocal range and distinctive singing style. In fact, he was once called the greatest vocalist ever. Listen to rock tunes such as “Paradise City” or “Sweet Child of Mine” and it’s not hard to see why.
17. Jim Morrison
As a film student at the University of California-Los Angeles, Jim Morrison befriended fellow student Ray Manzarek, an organist. Soon, they joined guitarist Robbie Krieger and drummer John Densmore and formed The Doors. His deep, haunting voice mesmerized fans. He died in 1971 at the age of 27.
16. Debbie Harry
Debbie Harry brought new wave music into the mainstream rock world with her edgy style and powerful vocals. She became famous for No. 1 hits such as “Heart of Glass,” “Call Me,” “The Tide Is High” and “Rapture” with her band, “Blondie.” The group was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2006.
15. Pat Benatar
Patricia Andrzejewski was born in Brooklyn, New York, to a former opera singer and later sang classically herself. After marrying military man Dennis Benatar, she started singing with a cabaret band. The marriage didn’t last, but her love of music endured. When she met up-and-coming guitarist Neil Giraldo, sparks flew in more ways than one. Benatar and Giraldo, who have been married since 1982, collaborated on memorable rock hits such as “Love Is a Battlefield” and “Hit Me With Your Best Shot.”
14. Chuck Berry
Nicknamed the Father of Rock and Roll, Chuck Berry is known for his role in defining the genre. If you ever watched “Back to the Future,” you’ve caught a glimpse of how Berry’s “Johnny B. Goode” altered the direction of music for coming generations. In fact, it was the only rock song in a collection of books, art and music launched in 1977 aboard the Voyager Spacecraft meant to provide insight into Earth’s culture for any intelligent life that might find it.
13. Joni Mitchell
Native Canadian Roberta Joan Anderson moved to the U.S. after marrying folksinger Chuck Mitchell. Although the marriage ended, Joni Mitchell kept her married name and used it when she signed with Reprise Records in 1967. Her light, airy, mezzo-soprano voice made her a fast favorite on the folk-rock scene. She was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1997.
12. Freddie Mercury
Farrokh Bulsara was born in Zanzibar in 1946. Classmates nicknamed him Freddie, but there is only speculation on how he chose the surname Mercury. In the 1960s, he joined a band called Smile that eventually became known as Queen. Mercury’s tremendous range and vibrato made him an amazing rock singer. In fact, a scientific study suggests he was the best.
Schoolteacher and bass player Gordon Sumner gained the nickname Sting after a black and yellow striped jersey he was fond of wearing. He and some friends teamed up to create The Police in the late 1970s. His haunting, breathy voice and lyrical singing style helped the group earn induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. He went on to have a successful solo career as well.
10. David Bowie
Although he was born David Jones, this rock icon changed his name to avoid any confusion with the then-popular singer from the Monkees. David Bowie was a musical innovator. From his Ziggy Stardust persona to his hits such as “Changes” and “Space Oddity,” Bowie was an inimitable legend.
9. Ann Wilson
With her sister Nancy providing instrumental backup, Ann Wilson was the lead vocalist of Heart, but had some success as a soloist, as well. The group rose to fame in the ’70s with a soulful sound influenced by folk, rock and heavy metal. Her resonant voice was as powerful singing ballads like “These Dreams” as it was in rock songs such as “Crazy on You.”
8. Bruce Springsteen
This Rock and Roll Hall of Famer started out as a young man playing at bars in New Jersey. Bruce Springsteen released his first album in 1972 but didn’t have a hit until “Born to Run” in 1975. His gruff and gritty voice seemed to grow on people, and the singer soon became known as The Boss.
7. Steven Tyler
As the child of a music teacher, Steven Tyler had a lifelong love of music. He is a founding member of Aerosmith, who played their first gig in 1970. His multiple-octave vocal range paired with memorable songs such as “Dream On,” “Walk This Way” and “I Don’t Wanna Miss a Thing” have led to Tyler being considered one of the best rock singers.
6. Stevie Nicks
Stephanie Lynn Nicks was 27 when she joined Fleetwood Mac. Her husky, velvety voice is unmistakable and has made songs such as “Gypsy,” “Rhiannon” and “Edge of Seventeen” lasting hits. She was the first woman to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame twice.
5. Ozzy Osbourne
John Michael Osbourne was born in Birmingham, England, in 1948. Ozzy first gained fame as a founding member and the lead vocalist of Black Sabbath and went on to have a successful solo career after the band fired him. His soaring tenor voice has made songs such as “Crazy Train,” “Bark at the Moon” and “Mama I’m Coming Home” favorites of fans over several decades.
4. Grace Slick
The lead singer of Jefferson Airplane (and later, Jefferson Starship), Grace Slick reportedly didn’t think her own voice was very good. However, with songs to the rocker’s credit such as “White Rabbit” and “Somebody to Love,” many would beg to differ. She was nominated for three Grammys during her career as well.
3. Robert Plant
Robert Plant was just 19 years old when he joined the group that would be called Led Zeppelin. His first performance as lead singer was in 1968 and by 1969, the band was massively successful. Songs like “Stairway to Heaven” and “All My Love” show Plant’s powerful voice and impressive vocal range.
2. Mick Jagger
The frontman of the “Rolling Stones,” Jagger began singing with the group in 1962 when he was just 19 years old. More than half of a century later, he can still draw a crowd. His unique voice and unmatched showmanship have made him a rock icon.
What needs to be said about The King? From his humble beginnings in a two-room house to Graceland and everything in between, there will never be another Elvis. His smooth and sultry style definitely earn him the top spot in the list of best rock singers ever.