It feels comprehensive, but there are plenty of gaps (it’s a list). Still, it’s interesting, mostly because for some of the folks listed other vocalists wrote the accompanying blurbs, offering insights in both directions. Like Iggy Pop (#75) on James Brown (#10):

And there was that scream. It was like an inner voice. It sounded like an assertion of rights of primitive man: “I am alive, and I can do things.” He used to describe his dancing as “African nerve control.” He had a point … He was a terrific editor. The one that flipped me out — I still remember being in the car, hearing it — is “I Can’t Stand It.” He was down to fuck the chorus, fuck the melody. This is barely a riff. But he pushes the group along like the coxswain on a Roman galley: Stroke, motherfucker, uh!

And a hearty, etc. Michael Jackson (#25) might be less than excited — his text was written by Fall Out Boy’s Patrick Stump. Chris Martin weighs in on Björk (#60). One thing to note: Besides Axl Rose (and, if you want to get classic, Robert Plant and Steven Tyler), RS isn’t that into heavy metal singers. Rob Halford should be pissed. Ozzy and Dio are weeping. Dion is not. Also: No Joey Ramone? Fleet Foxes aren’t #1, so don’t get your hopes up.

100 Mary J. Blige
99 Steven Tyler
98 Stevie Nicks
97 Joe Cocker
96 B.B. King
95 Patti LaBelle
94 Karen Carpenter
93 Annie Lennox
92 Morrissey
91 Levon Helm
90 The Everly Brothers
89 Solomon Burke
88 Willie Nelson
87 Don Henley
86 Art Garfunkel
85 Sam Moore
84 Darlene Love
83 Patti Smith
82 Tom Waits
81 John Lee Hooker
80 Frankie Valli
79 Mariah Carey
78 Sly Stone
77 Merle Haggard
76 Steve Perry
75 Iggy Pop
74 James Taylor
73 Dolly Parton
72 John Fogerty
71 Toots Hibbert
70 Gregg Allman
69 Ronnie Spector
68 Wilson Pickett
67 Jerry Lee Lewis
66 Thom Yorke
65 David Ruffin
64 Axl Rose
63 Dion
62 Lou Reed
61 Roger Daltrey
60 Björk
59 Rod Stewart
58 Christina Aguilera
57 Eric Bourdon
56 Mavis Staples
55 Paul Rodgers
54 Luther Vandross
53 Muddy Waters
52 Brian Wilson
51 Gladys Knight
50 Bonnie Raitt
49 Donny Hathaway
48 Buddy Holly
47 Jim Morrison
46 Patsy Cline
45 Kurt Cobain
44 Bobby “Blue” Bland
43 George Jones
42 Joni Mitchell
41 Chuck Berry
40 Curtis Mayfield
39 Jeff Buckley
38 Elton John
37 Neil Young
36 Bruce Springsteen
35 Dusty Sprinfield
34 Whitney Houston
33 Steve Winwood
32 Bono
31 Howlin’ Wolf
30 Prince
29 Nina Simone
28 Janis Joplin
27 Hank Williams
26 Jackie Wilson
25 Michael Jackson
24 Van Morrison
23 David Bowie
22 Etta James
21 Johnny Cash
20 Smokey Robinson
19 Bob Marley
18 Freddie Mercury
17 Tina Turner
16 Mick Jagger
15 Robert Plant
14 Al Green
13 Roy Orbison
12 Little Richard
11 Paul McCartney
10 James Brown
09 Stevie Wonder
08 Otis Redding
07 Bob Dylan
06 Marvin Gaye
05 John Lennon
04 Sam Cooke
03 Elvis Presley
02 Ray Charles
01 Aretha Franklin

You can read the texts and listen to sound samples at Rolling Stone. The voters were journalists and a bunch of people who can sing. You’ll see them listed over there, too.

Comments (633)
  1. Time to get relevant, Rolling Stone.

    • markus  |   Posted on Nov 12th, 2008 0

      This is a pretty shitty list, paul simon should be there, and on a serious note, allah- i agree, where is the ODB>??

      • Eve  |   Posted on Nov 15th, 2008 0

        Wow…that was EXACTLY my first thought too? Where is Paul Simon??

        • well i reckon cobain should be #1, then probably freddy mercury

          • I agree with you fully, Steve Perry has one of the most greatest vocals of all time, speaking of great vocals where the hell is Billy Joel on this list?

          • i agree with you on freddie being in the top 2, i personally feel he should be first, no one can hit the notes he can, i repeat no one.

          • @Jackflores32:

            Freddy is a great singers, one of my favorites, and an inspiration to me. But saying no one else can hit the notes he hit? That is a COMPLETE JOKE!!! thousands if not millions of other singers can hit them, including myself. You don’t have to try to disqualify other singers to prove he was a great singer, he was, and always will be one of the best, and you don’t have to knock others to make it so.

    • dan  |   Posted on Nov 21st, 2008 0

      wow worst list ever steve perry 76? are you kidding me he is one of the best singers ever and cobain put so high? he is terrible also were is phil collins?

    • Michael Jackson, Freddie Mercury, Fiona Apple, Mike Patton, Robert Plant, Jónsi Birgisson. Bjork, Trent Reznor, Thom York, Cee Lo, Cedric Bixler Zavala, Chris Cornell… C’MON Get with it! This is why this list doesn’t matter. At all. No one in this list’s music is going to make any less or more of a difference because of what number they fell into. Rolling Stone has an old school mentality, and Magazines like Alternative Press should be taken more seriously for new and interesting stuff. Every vocalist has something different to bring to the table, not just the highest note, or the best vibrato. This list simply cannot be taken seriously, it cannot exist unless you let it.

      • doesn't matter  |   Posted on Jul 4th, 2009 +1

        To put Michael Jackson, Freddie Mercury, and Robert Plant in the same category as Bjork clearly shows your ignorance.

      • doomage  |   Posted on Jul 22nd, 2009 0

        Fully! I agree mr. murphy-best lists are outdated, maybe back in the 50s when there many fewere musical acts would it be possible to arrange such a gouping; however, with the number of talented acts that now exist in the world (both english speaking and that other 70%) it is literally impossible, borderline unethical to perform such an act: each musician, vocalist, band, what have you, is so unique in their own right that you can’t simply classify best, even with a list of criteria that would be longer than the original list itself. Best is just too vague a term; it MAY be possible to compile a list of most influential or talented artists ever, but surely not a best catalog, it’s just too subjective.
        Anyway, that’s my piece, I’m going to quit before I end up writing a sequel to the Odyssey.

        • Totally agree! This list reads more like a “most influential list”, and even then many influential singers are left off. O.o Not too mention, they leave out many genres on this list, especially opera (Pavarotti, Maria Callas, etc) or people who sing in theater (ie Ethel Merman or Bernadette Peters to name a few), not to mention leaving off singers such Bruce Dickinson (Iron Maiden) who has a killer range and can express so much in his voice or Dio as mentioned in this article, or hell even Ozzy.

          Not to mention all the singers in other languages like Laura Fabian or Mylene Farmer or Selena or Jenni Rivera to name a few.

          There are just so many great singers out there… Rating “The best” is a joke. lol Influential yes, best, not really.

          God Bless ~Amy

      • Michael Jackson should deffinantly be #1

    • Tom  |   Posted on Dec 4th, 2008 +1

      the fact that Frank Sinatra is not even on the list is an absolute travesty, should be in the top ten easy. rolling stone, you should be ashamed of yourselves, you have lost all credibility.

    • Jed  |   Posted on Sep 8th, 2009 0

      Really? I have always considered Paul McCartney’s vocals to be alot stronger than John Lennon’s.

      • jim20  |   Posted on Feb 5th, 2010 0

        are u kidding me? listen to macca’s voice today(crawling like a turtle).if Lennon is lucky and still living today i bet u he bests macca for sure.

        • jaja nadie canta igual a los 70 años, todo se va acabando, y para que paul siga llegando notas altas a esa edad es algo de lo cual admirarse, y con una prueba para que se compruebe de que paul tiene mejor voz que john es, que simplemente john lennon nunca pudo cantar bien la de oh! darling,

      • I agree with you, Mc.Cartney’s vocals are so underrated these days. Maybe the judge him now at age 71, but during his prime years he had a vocal reach of almost 5 octaves. Even more varied and with a greater reach then Mercury or Daltrey. But on the other hand, you don’t have to be technically the best to be a great singer. Lennon’s vocals on Mother are sung with so much emotion, that it might be an adventage to be not that technically. Other examples are Fogerty during his CCR period or Neil Young. A smooth and technically good singer would probabely kill these songs.

    • Where is Eddie Kendricks at

    • WHERE IS LAYNE STALEY????? Could hit notes that mercury couldnt touch? really? mainstream crap.

    • Wow… not a good list AT all. Curt Cobain but no Chris Cornell?!?! GEOFF TATE?


    • Where the hell is Layne Staley? He Should be top 10 if not top 5. He can hit notes most the list cannot. I like Kurt but please get rid of him and put layne in his spot. He deserves a spot atleast. No one has a more chilling voice than layne.

  2. syd  |   Posted on Nov 12th, 2008 +1

    Kurt Cobain a better singer than Christina Aguilera. Neil Young a better singer than Patti LaBelle.

    The only justification for clicking on this article is Axl Rose looks like he’s doing a “Woo! Woo!” choo-choo train hand-motion whilst sucking a big black dingaling in that photo.

    • fart  |   Posted on Nov 12th, 2008 0

      you mean he’s not?

    • doesn'tmattter  |   Posted on Jul 4th, 2009 0

      hahahahahahhahahahaahahahahahahahahahahhahahahahahhah. That’s the funniest thing I’ve heard in a while. Seeing how Kurt Cobain and Neil Young can’t sing AT ALL, your comment is gut wrenchingly funny.

    • h  |   Posted on Nov 13th, 2009 +2

      “Kurt Cobain a better singer than Christina Aguilera.”

      Yeah, in your dreams, pal. You probably also agree with Rolling Stone that Bob Dylan is indeed a better singer than Freddie Mercury, based on your logic.

    • LMFAO you must be high or drunk or just plain retarded.

  3. No Molly Siegel=fuck this shit! Morrissey is also way too low.

  4. fred  |   Posted on Nov 12th, 2008 0

    Bono? Why? Why? Why?

  5. paolo  |   Posted on Nov 12th, 2008 0

    unless “like a rolling stone is some” joke I don’t get, I think #97 should be joe cocker.

    I agree with adrienne’s comment though, this list is pretty ancient.

  6. taking it too seriously guy  |   Posted on Nov 12th, 2008 0

    you have the gall to call your list the greatest singers of all time, and then choose to narrow it to 100 people…that’s the problem here…

    there are random old singers peppered throughout, but then it’s like wheres frank sinatra or billy holiday or ella fitzgerald etc who are all better than mary j blige for example

    its just such a broad and endless concept with constricting it with eras or genres that its never going to please anyone because in essence its flawed , very flawed


  7. paolo  |   Posted on Nov 12th, 2008 0

    uhh. I mean joe cocker.

  8. Michael  |   Posted on Nov 12th, 2008 0

    Where is David Byrne?

  9. Wow this list has pissed off soo many people. I think that might have been the goal of the whole exercise.

  10. drooling idiot  |   Posted on Nov 12th, 2008 0

    drool drool drool! list list list! smash smash smash!

  11. Ruben  |   Posted on Nov 12th, 2008 0

    63 Dion

    Celine Dion?


  12. jeff buckley at #39? that’s it?

  13. big zuu  |   Posted on Nov 12th, 2008 0

    wtf rolling stone….
    thom yorke is not number 66, nor is he below fucking axl rose

  14. Rkye  |   Posted on Nov 12th, 2008 0

    I hate to be the person who hates on lists, but Dylan? Anywhere near this list? Much less top ten? Fuck Rolling Stone

  15. Every list pisses a million people off.

    I’m a little sad there’s no Cedric Bixler Zavala. Especially since RS loves TMV so much. Maybe it’s just Omar.

    Also, I don’t see Brian Wilson, but there’s no way he couldn’t be on there so I probably just missed him.

  16. bono > neil young. witney houston > jeff buckley. christina aguilera > thom yorke. oh god

    • doesn't matter  |   Posted on Jul 4th, 2009 0

      Oh God no, they put three great vocalists higher than three mediocre ones, whatever will we do?!

      • I completely agree…Who the hell puts Axl Rose over Thom Yorke? I understand he has a pretty unconventional style of singing but that doesn’t mean he’s a worse singer…I would even go so far as to say Yorke is a better singer than Kurt Cobain

  17. cptmrvl  |   Posted on Nov 12th, 2008 0

    Wow it kinda sucks the only result when searching for “ved” points to “All Rights Reserved” at the bottom. …eddie vedder?

  18. doys  |   Posted on Nov 12th, 2008 0

    I’d add Liam Gallagher 1993-2002

  19. Verolicas69  |   Posted on Nov 12th, 2008 0

    Jeff Buckley is an amazing singer, his voice is out of this world!!
    Jeff Buckley NY Tribute will be Monday, November 17th, 7pm at Arlene’s Grocery . It would of been his 42nd birthday.

  20. move freddy mercury up, please

  21. steve  |   Posted on Nov 12th, 2008 0

    what about the guy from clap your hands say yeah!!!??!?!?!?!

    just kidding but seriously, good shit that wouldnt make a list like this: jeff mangum, antony haggarty, beth gibbons to name a few…

  22. Black Jesus  |   Posted on Nov 12th, 2008 0

    Where is Robin Peckinhold, Jim James, or Ben Bridwell?

  23. maverick  |   Posted on Nov 12th, 2008 -1

    We all know that Bob Dylan is one of the greatest poets of all time, but he shouldn’t have even been considered to be put on this list, let alone at number 7.

  24. dafs  |   Posted on Nov 12th, 2008 +1

    I totally agree with this list. I’ve been telling people for years that David Bowie is the 23rd greatest singer of all time.

  25. Fredo  |   Posted on Nov 12th, 2008 0

    RollingStone should die and be buried with their countless, irrelevant lists.

  26. dan  |   Posted on Nov 12th, 2008 0

    cedric bixler zavala…honestly he’s one of the top frontmen of all time. at least top 100.

  27. dan   |   Posted on Nov 12th, 2008 0

    stevie nicks? 98? ….. maybe they mixed up her and stevie wonder …. great performer, not a great singer

    • doesn't matter  |   Posted on Jul 4th, 2009 -1

      Why don’t you remove the wax buildup from your ears, because it’s obviously obstructing your hearing if you don’t realize Stevie Wonder is a great singer.

  28. M@X  |   Posted on Nov 12th, 2008 0

    Ian Gillan.. David Coverdale.. Dio …. Haldford, Dickinson… hello????

    • Tay  |   Posted on Dec 8th, 2008 0

      dude, I so agree with you, how the fuck do Mary J Blige and fucking Bono make it on this list of so called greatest singer, but operatic metal legends don’t?

      • doesn't matter  |   Posted on Jul 4th, 2009 0

        Because operatic metal legends should be imprisoned for the crap they spew into a microphone.

  29. Ace Freebird  |   Posted on Nov 12th, 2008 0

    It’s good to see “Smoke” Robinson on this list. I’ve always liked “Smoke” Robinson.

  30. Craig  |   Posted on Nov 12th, 2008 0

    Where is Micahel Stipe! He should be in the top 10! Also Where is Robert Smith. I can’t believe they think Mary J Blidge is better than Robert Smith! WTF!

  31. eric  |   Posted on Nov 12th, 2008 +1

    is it about how your voice sounds? or your tone and how you bring it across. you don’t have to be pavarotti or whatever to be an amazing singer, so i think that’s the justification of having dylan in the top ten. it’s how he sings, not how well.

    • seth  |   Posted on Nov 12th, 2008 +1

      yea i don’t think most are noticing that TOM WAITS is on this list. i think its safe to say this isn’t american idol.

  32. bob  |   Posted on Nov 12th, 2008 0

    the list is appropriately weighted towards 60s r&b, but no diana ross? wuh?

  33. d  |   Posted on Nov 12th, 2008 +1

    The folks complaining about Dylan don’t really seem to understand how rock music works. It’s not about the range, but the delivery. See also: Tom Waits, Iggy Pop, Lou Reed, Chuck Berry, Johnny Cash.

  34. Shane  |   Posted on Nov 12th, 2008 0

    It cracks me up that Art Garfunkel is on the list, but Paul Simon is nowhere to be seen.

    Token complaint: I’ll agree that Freddie should be higher. Also, I’m not understanding the presence of Steve Perry…unless it’s ironic.

  35. Richard  |   Posted on Nov 12th, 2008 0

    Axl ‘FUCKING’ Rose should be first

  36. Bender Bending Rodriguez  |   Posted on Nov 12th, 2008 0

    The way I see it, you’ve got to have EITHER Elvis Costello OR Daryl Hall on this list. If you want to include emotional singers able to convey raw feelings with brilliant songs (as RS seems to do on this shitlist), then EC deserves a high spot — I mean, Dylan and Lennon in the top ten aren’t known for their great singing. Now, if you want pitch-perfect singing mutants, DHall is a freak who happens to sing mostly shit.

    To omit both seems odd.

  37. Jason  |   Posted on Nov 12th, 2008 0

    i think they were talking about dion..not celine dion, but i could be wrong

  38. Isolabella  |   Posted on Nov 12th, 2008 0

    There were a lot of tone deaf journalist that compiled this list.

  39. A.J.  |   Posted on Nov 12th, 2008 +1

    Just a couple of thoughts:

    Bob Dylan is my favorite Rock and Roll singer of all time. Nobody extracts more emotion out of a set of lyrics than Dylan. If you don’t think Dylan can sign, I challenge you to listen to “Moonshiner” of the first bootleg album, or “Forever Young,” or “Girl From the North Country,” or “Simple Twist of Faith,” or countless other examples. Seeing Lou Reed on the list does surprise me, I love the guy to death, but what song of his is best known for his vocal performance? What is the definitive Lou Reed vocal performance?

    I would switch John and Paul’s position.

    Ther should be more Beach Boys on the list. But no way is Mike Love a better singer than Brian Wilson, I’m sorry it is just impossible. Listen to Brian’s 1967 demo of “Surf’s Up.” I personally think Brain, Carl, and Bruce Johnston had better voices than Mike, with Dennis closely trailing.

    Biggest omission on the list: Levon Helm

  40. Millsner  |   Posted on Nov 12th, 2008 0

    No Mark E. Smith, no credibility.

  41. jim james wrote a sweet little thing for levon helm.

    stop being so fucking perfect, jim james.

    also, it is CRIMINAL to leave eddie vedder off this list.

  42. A.J.  |   Posted on Nov 12th, 2008 0

    my bad, 91

  43. Yeah, I have to echo the Vedder sentiment. Aside from just his whole ridiculous awesomeness, he spawned a whole generation of shitty alt-rock imitators. Not many singers today are trying to be Axl Rose, but everyone wants to be Eddie Vedder.

  44. Brian Wilson had the best falsetto while Carl had the best all around “voice”. Mike Love just talk-sang most of the early leads. You’re probably unfamiliar with their later albums.

  45. becker  |   Posted on Nov 12th, 2008 0

    try saying something about Jann and his friends…bono,Dave, etc—you can’t…thats funny…that being said, BJORK?! come on???? and don’t give me some hipster trendy bullshit about how transcending her voice is…DALTREY behind XTINA?! WTF?! Obviously RS and their legendary staff can’t get their junk out of each others mouth…JACK BRUCE? BRUCE DICKINSON? OZZY? DARYL FUCKIN HALL? JOHN OATES?…..MICHAEL MCDONALD? TOTO?

  46. shoegaze45  |   Posted on Nov 12th, 2008 0

    Wheres Vince Neil?

  47. becker  |   Posted on Nov 12th, 2008 0

    C’MON…NO WAY IS LENNON BETTER THAN MCCARTNEY…..i should really get back to work…..NO ZEVON?!? BULLSHIT!!!

  48. becker  |   Posted on Nov 12th, 2008 0


  49. on second thought it’s SUPER weird that eddie vedder isn’t included because he is one of Jann’s pals.

  50. Allah  |   Posted on Nov 12th, 2008 0

    All right, in all seriousness…Where the Fuck is the Old Dirty Bastard?

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