What would the world be like if there were no singers or music? Singers are like stars, shining bright and far to illuminate our souls. Great music is so rare and when you listen, it feels like magic to the ears. As they say, music heals by speaking to the soul, bringing joy and peace. This is why we have rounded up a list of the best singers of all time to give you a glimpse into the talents that made and keep making the world go round.
Below is our list of the 33 best singers of all time:
1. Aretha Franklin
- Genre: R&B, Soul, Gospel, Jazz
Aretha Franklin, “The Queen of Soul,” is well known for her top-notch voice and emotional songs. Her deep voice and emotion can move you to tears. For example, in one of her live concerts, former President Barack Obama is seen wiping off tears. She’s ranked amongst the world’s top best-selling music artists, having global sales of over 75 million.
Some of her famous songs are “Respect” (1967), “Chain of Fools” (1967), and “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman.”
Franklin had gone through traumatic experiences. However, this did not discourage her from becoming a star.
She won 18 Grammy Awards and is certainly one of the most revered (and respected) musical artists in history. Furthermore, she was the first woman to be listed in the Rock and roll Hall of Fame in 1987. We love Aretha, and it’s easy to see why.
2. Freddie Mercury
- Genre: Rock
Mercury was the lead singer of Queen and is considered one of the greatest rock singers in history. Mercury was a songwriter and singer known for his perfect four-octave vocal range. He wrote 10 of the 17 hit songs for Queen, like “Somebody to Love” and “Bohemian Rhapsody.” He also had his solo albums like “Mr. Bad Guy,” which appeared in the top ten of the UK Album Charts.
Even with a flamboyant stage personality, would you believe that Mercury was shy when not on stage? Hard to imagine!
After his death, Mercury’s charisma is still present as it increased Queen’s popularity. As a result, they have a global sales of over 300 million records.
3. Stevie Wonder
- Genre: R&B, Soul, Pop, Jazz, Gospel, Funk
We love Stevie Wonder’s energetic performances and how he embraces life no matter the challenges. He’s also naturally talented with instruments. One thing we love about his music is his passion. Some tracks are inspired by real-life events like the “Isn’t She Lovely?” dedicated to his daughter Aisha.
Stevie Wonder gave up his music career to campaign for Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday to be declareda national holiday for three years.
Wonder has 25 Grammy Awards and several honorary degrees in honor of his music career. This iconic voice will live on far beyond our time here on earth, signifying his true greatness and staying power.
4. Michael Jackson
- Genre: Pop, Funk, Rock, Soul, R&B, Disco, Dance Pop
Do you always feel like dancing whenever you hear Michael Jackson’s songs? We certainly do. His energetic moves, such as the moonwalk, can brighten your mood. In addition, his mesmerizing voice is spellbinding; you’ll want to listen to his songs repeatedly once you get in the mood.
“The King of Pop,” as people call him, was talented, creative, and funny, and this is what contributed to his success. One of his (many) hit songs was “Billy Jean,” which was inspired by a true story.
Jackson shelved a whopping 39 Guinness World Records and is also the most awarded person in music industry history. No one can touch the King of Pop, regardless of his controversies.
5. Mariah Carey
- Genre: R&B, Pop, Hip-hop, Soul
Mariah Carey is also known as the “Songbird Supreme” because of her impeccable five-octave vocal range. She’s one of the greatest vocalists who inspire upcoming pop stars.
Have you ever tried singing her songs? They need some effort. For her, she can transition smoothly from her chest voice to the whistle register. Try that, and you’ll find yourself short of breath.
This diva was the first artist to have five singles rank number one on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. She’s been around for decades at this point, and her impact on the music industry can not emphasized enough.
6. James Brown
- Genre: R&B, Funk, Soul
Your life experiences can make or break you. But, James Brown, “The Godfather of Soul,” never let his hardships prevent him from becoming among the first ten inductees of the Rock and Roll Hall of fame. His vocals are energetic; his ability to scream on key was perfect even in his old age making him amongst the best singers of all time. James Brown has numerous awards and accolades to his name which easily showcases his prowess in his genre.
What’s your favorite James Brown song? Let us know by contacting us today.
7. Frank Sinatra
- Genre: Traditional Pop, Swing, Jazz
Do singers still make timeless music as Frank Sinatra did? He was an incredible singer who had an intimate and easy-to-understand vocal style that drew audiences in and prevented them from missing a single word. He was the greatest singer during his time, and his mastery could only match the likes of Michael Jackson, Elvis Presley, and Bing Crosby. Until now, Sinatra’s “New York, New York” is still a masterpiece.
Sinatra was an iconic figure in the 20th century with a park to his name, a post office dedicated to his honor, and a bronze plaque to remind people where he came from.
8. Elton John
- Genre: Pop Rock, Rock, Soft Rock, Glam rock
Dubbed the “Rocket Man,” Elton John is amongst the best-selling artists of all time, too. He sang a high falsetto voice which he could seamlessly slide from into a brutal rock roar. His “Sacrifice” song shows pure talent as it achieved a top spot on the UK charts.
Elton John had the most successful songwriting partnership with Taupin, making his showmanship significantly affect the music industry.
9. Otis Redding
- Genre: Soul, R&B, Rock
Redding is well known for his open-throated, electrifying, and sincere emotional delivery during his performances. He gave such stunning vocal prowess during his audition, and people were like, “this is not an audition; it’s a performance!” He was given the honorific nickname “King of Soul,” given to legendary James Brown and Sam Cooke, too. Redding had a significant influence on artists like George Harrison, amongst many others.
We’ve always wondered how his music career would be today if his life was not cut short at only twenty-six years old. It’s too bad that the world was deprived of more of his vocal mastery, but such is life.
10. Roy Orbison
- Genre: Pop, Country, Rock and roll, Rock
Elvis Presley stated, “Orbison was the greatest singer and had a perfect voice.” His music is known to be operatic, which gave him the nickname “The Caruso of Rock.”
Orbison’s music portrayed vulnerability, while other rock and roll artists were about masculinity. Maybe this is what made his music more popular and unique. He always had his sunglasses on, which you’d think was his signature, the truth, it was for fighting his shyness when on stage.
Roy Orbison’s awards and honors tell how talented he was.
11. Sam Cooke
- Genre: R&B, Soul, Gospel
Sam Cooke is considered to be amongst the pioneers of soul music and has been a role model to many. Also, Cooke is the “King of Soul” because of his flawless vocals.
Cooke could sing with a perfect posture, which ultimately showed he was in control. He was a significant influencer who contributed to the rise of artists like Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin, and Billy Preston.
Twenty-nine of Cooke’s songs ranked in the Top 40 on the Billboard Pop Singles chart. Cooke was part of the civil rights movement, which rallied for racial equality, too.
12. Bob Marley
- Genre: Reggae, Ska, Folk
“One good thing about music is that you feel no pain when it hits you,” said Bob Marley. Bob Marley’s songs have been hitting us for the longest time now, but they only leave your soul satisfied. He is known as one of the reggae pioneers who was a global figure. His music promotes peace, love, unity, and justice.
Marley is considered one of the best-selling music artists; even today, his music is more popular even among this generation. A BBC poll voted him as one of the best lyricists ever. He was a football lover, and he loved the presence of people from the sports.
Bob Marley is one of our favorite singers, with “One Love” being at the top of our list.
13. Elvis Presley
- Genre: Pop, Rock and roll, Gospel, Rockabilly, Country, R&B
Being the “King of Rock and Roll,” Presley is one of the most influential and critical cultural icons of the 20th century. His vocals were the best that we may ever experience from another artist. Presley also had a unique style when on stage. He had mastered a smooth and relaxed way of transitioning his vocals without making an effort.
In addition, Presley’s voice was so confident you could sense that he was in control. This earned him the No. 2 in “Voice of the Century” ranked by the BBC.
Presley is believed to break the ice for black music by some (although that is debated) as it was not allowed. His music record shows 146.5 million album sales in the US alone.
Elvis Presley also served in the military. Even if he’s not here with us, he is still being posthumously awarded for his great work when he was alive.
14. Whitney Houston
- Genre: R & B, Soul, Gospel, Pop, Dance
If you listen to Whitney Houston songs, then we know you’ve nursed a broken heart with her songs. Right? “The Voice,” as she was popularly known, had impeccable and energetic soulful vocals. Most of her songs will leave tears flowing from your eyes, as they are so emotional.
When Houston was growing up, she was surrounded by family and friends, mainly from the music industry, including her mother, an R&B singer.
Whitney Houston’s voice is the greatest of all, which came out effortlessly, and we believe no one can match her vocals. She had a mezzo-soprano vocal range, and her voice was an instrument.
The many awards and accolades during her career and posthumously are enough proof. We love all her songs, but our all-time favorite is “I Will Always Love You,” a cover of Dolly Parton’s same track.
15. Bob Dylan
- Genre: Blues, Rock, Gospel, Folk, Country, Jazz
Bob Dylan gave popular singing a new meaning. His meticulous and melancholy tune takes away emotions from his singing. Some say his voice is like sand and glue, while others call it rusty.
Dylan’s voice changed as he grew older, and it became more expressive and reflected vulnerability.
That being said, Dylan is an influencer, and he’s had an impact on artists like Bruce Springsteen and Conor Oberst. He is also a writer and is seen as the Shakespeare of his generation.
16. Etta James
- Genre: Blues, R&B, Soul, Gospel, Jazz, Rock and roll
According to the Rock and roll Hall of Fame, James is forever the matriarch of fame. She had a contralto vocal range, and her singing was versatile throughout her career. Her voice emanates power, rawness, strength, style, and emotions.
James contributed to bridging the gap between R&B and rock and roll, making her an iconic figure in musical history. She was a significant influencer and has led to the rise of many artists in the music industry over the years.
17. Paul McCartney
- Genre: Pop, Rock, Classical
You probably know him from the Beatles, where he was a co-lead vocalist and bassist. McCartney has a composed musical style. His voice is versatile, but his belting power is one of the greatest in the music industry.
Paul McCartney has a four-octave vocal range, enabling him to create a unique and impactful sound with his voice. His crucial solo track is “Maybe I’m Amazed.”
18. Mick Jagger
- Genre: Rock, Pop, Blues
Jagger is one of the best artists in Rock and Roll history. He was the lead vocalist, creative force, and one of the founders of the Rolling Stones. His vocals are perfect and unmatched and became stronger as he got older. His falsetto on “Fools to Cry” is smooth and natural. Academics have even analyzed Jaggers’ performance style, which allows for self-invention.
Mick Jagger has bagged several awards and accolades with The Rolling Stones and his solo work. Although he loved doing solo work, he had his greatest success with the iconic band.
- Genre: Rock, Post-punk
Bono is commonly known for his emotional, open-throated belting. He’s the lead vocalist in the U2 band. Whether his lyrics are about politics, religion, or social themes, his delivery is always magnificent. Be sure he’ll take you with him when he gets lost in his melody.
You’ll know it’s Bono singing when you hear “whoa-oh-oh,” which he loves to add to almost every song. He loves having a physical connection with his audience, where he mostly pulls female fans from the crowd to dance with them.
U2 is one of the most popular and successful bands in history, and Bono’s vocal execution plays a large roll in the band’s lasting power.
20. Tina Turner
- Genre: Rock, R&B, Pop, Soul
She’s popularly known as the “Queen of Rock’ n’ Roll.” Turner rose to fame when she was the lead singer of the Ike and Tina Turner Revue. Later, she went on her own and started a remarkable and successful solo career. Her most fantastic hit song was “What’s Love Got to Do With It,” which garnered her fans worldwide.
Tina Turner’s voice is direct, raw, fearless, and full of passion, and according to Mellisa Etheridge, “It defies classification.”
21. Ray Charles
- Genre: R&B, Rock and Roll, Soul, Pop, Jazz, Gospel
Charles is known to be the most influential singer ever. He was commonly referred to as “Brother Ray” or “The Genius.” He had a golden voice that included shrieks, shouts, breaks, screams, etc.
An excellent example of Ray’s work is “Hit The Road Jack”, written by Percy Mayfield. This hit song became a timeless masterpiece that earned Charles a Grammy Award.
Ray’s successful career influenced top artists like Elvis Presley, Stevie Wonder, and Aretha Franklin. This shows his style is top-notch, and he will remain the one of the greatest singers of all time.
22. Marvin Gaye
- Genre: R&B, Soul, Gospel, Progressive Soul, Jazz, Funk
Marvin Gaye was an international recording star known for his “Sexual Healing” and “Let’s Get it On” songs. His involvement in shaping the sound of Motown earned him the nickname “Prince of Motown.” He is also referred to as the “Prince of Soul.”
Gaye was a versatile vocalist who had a four-octave vocal range. His smooth, silky and clear voice leaves you yearning for more. He also evokes emotions in his lyrics, which makes you become part of his performance.
Although Gaye died early, he was a significant influencer of Tupac Shakur, Stevie Wonder, and Frankie Beverly.
23. Robert Plant
- Genre: Rock, Folk, Hard Rock, Blues, Country
Plant’s successful music career started in a rock band known as Led Zeppelin, where he was a lead singer and lyricist. He ventured into solo performances when the band broke up. He had an excellent voice which made him enjoy his music for over 50 years. In addition, the girlish voice makes his songs more lively and full of energy.
Plant was an influencer of artists like Freddie Mercury, Jeff Buckley, and Geddy Lee. The first time we listened to “29 Palms”, I could not get enough of the lyrics. We’re sure we’re not alone in this.
- Genre: Funk, Rock, Soul, Pop, R&B
If there was a person who should be awarded for his high-pitched screams, call him Prince. When you hear Prince’s voice on a track, you almost question whether he is insane or not!
Think of his “Now” song; honestly, the screaming is crazy. He’s also a naturalist who slides effortlessly to different registers. Prince is widely known for his flamboyant persona and showmanship. In addition, he has been a significant influence on high-ranking singers, including Bruno Mars, Justin Timberlake, Lady Gaga, and many others.
Besides being a great artist, he’s known to have a great sense of wardrobe and is also a multi-instrumentalist. He’s definitely one of the most iconic artists of all time.
25. Al Green
- Genre: R&B, Gospel, Soul, Provressive Soul
AI Green is a songwriter, producer, singer, and pastor. He’s among the best singers of all time and is celebrated as a great soul singer. Green’s voice is pure magic—when he starts to sing, you want to hang in there until the last word. He could control his voice perfectly and portray great emotion to take you into your world.
Did we mention how sexy and romantic his voice is? In addition, his voice is smooth and soothing, as shown in his “Love and Happiness” hit song. It’s true, Al Green’s songs are timeless classics that leave your soul rejuvenated.
26. Smokey Robinson
- Genre: Soul, Pop, R & B
Smokey Robinson has an unmatched voice that he delivers effortlessly. His high tenor that he transitions smoothly into falsetto is mesmerizing, making you repeatedly fall in love with his voice.
His songs are full of romance, radiating a youthful passion. This is what makes Robinson stand out among other artists.
27. Kenny Rogers
- Genre: Pop, Soft Rock, Country
Kenny Rogers is one of the top country music artists ever. His voice was rough and refined, eliciting emotions like no one else. Rogers’ raspy voice and his easy-to-listen-to songs make him legendary. With our music listening prowess, we’ve heard no one come close to his voice.
Kenny Rogers’ songs are full of encouraging messages and wisdom, making them stand out. While all his songs are all-time classics, “The Gambler” remains our favorite.
28. Dolly Parton
- Genre: Country, Country Pop, Gospel, Bluegrass
A undeniable legend. A talented diva. A sweet voice. There are many ways to describe Dolly Parton. Her high pitched soprano voice is unique, and you can tell it has contributed greatly to her success.
Dolly Parton is considered to be among the best female country music artists. She has topped the Billboard country charts, making it an outstanding achievement.
She’s had so many hits and influenced so many artists over the years that it’s undeniable that she’s one of the greatest artists of all time. We still listen to “Jolene” over and over again today.
29. Céline Dion
- Genre: R&B, Pop, Rock, Gospel
Known for her powerful vocals, Céline Dion is amongst the best singers ever. Her voice transitions smoothly from deep whispers to dead-on high notes. She has been successful in both French and English songs.
Céline Dion delivers her songs in a sentimental yet breathtaking manner, whether it’s about poverty, love, or spirituality.
Despite the criticism she receives, when Dion’s songs hit the airwaves, be sure that they will become great hits. She has received massive success over the years, and we’re sure you’ve heard her Titanic song “My Heart Will Go On” which may be the greatest movie song of all time.
30. Steve Perry
- Genre: Rock
Perry is widely known for his role as the lead singer in the Journey band. He has had a successful career with the band and his solo career. He’s also referred to as “The Voice” for having the most incredible voice ever. His tone is described to be between Sam Cook and Aretha Franklin. In addition, his angelic voice makes him one of the best male artists and amongst the best singers of all time.
If you’ve not listened to his songs yet, start with “Foolish Heart,” and you’ll quickly want to hear more of his voice.
31. Ella Fitzgerald
- Genre: Swing, Jazz, Soul, Pop, Blues, Rock and roll
Ella Fitzgerald was also known as the “First Lady of Song” and “Queen of Jazz” because of her flawless and smooth voice. Many band musicians have admired her impeccable timing and intonation.
Fitzgerald had a troubling childhood, but she overcame that when she ventured into music and became successful.
32. Barbra Streisand
- Genre: Traditional Pop, Disco, Broadway
Also known as the “Queen of the Divas,” Streisand is one of the most successful female entertainers of all time. Her career in entertainment spans over six decades. With her signature use of belting technique and full-bodied vocals, Streisand was able to meld the styles of show tunes and jazz with contemporary pop music.
In addition, her voice is one of a kind, and it has been described as everything from “sultry” to “soulful.” Also, her music is often described as “emotional” or “moving.”
There’s no doubt that anyone who has heard her sing can tell you she has a lot of passion for her singing. Furthermore, hers is a perfect blend of classic and contemporary elements of Broadway, Jazz, and even Country.
33. Little Richard
- Genre: Gospel, Rhythm & Blues, Rock & roll.
Little Richard was known for his energetic performance style, flamboyant costumes, and unique music. His songs were often built around the structure of boogie-woogie and included elements of Gospel, R&B, and Rock & Roll.
Richard’s music influenced many musicians, including The Beatles. He’s famous for hit songs like ‘Tutti Frutti’ and ‘Long Tall Sally.’ There was never a dull moment with Richard on stage.
Now that you know who the best singers of all time are, we hope this list will guide you when picking the best songs for your all-time playlist.
As the Head Editor at Music Grotto, Liam edits content produced from over 30 professional music/media journalists and contributing writers. He works closely with journalists and other staff to format and publish music content for the Music Grotto website. Liam is also the founding member of Music Grotto and is passionate in disseminating editorial content to its readers.