17.9k voters

The Greatest Rock Songwriters of All Time

Updated September 12, 2020 355.4k votes 17.9k voters 118.1k views211 items

The greatest rock songwriters of all time have a lot in common. Firstly, they are some of the biggest names in rock music history. These household names have written some of the most popular songs. Secondly, even if you aren't too familiar with these songwriters, you've definitely heard their songs at least once or twice. You may not be familiar with their names or faces, but you should know their music. For some bizarre reason, you may not have heard of John Lennon or Paul McCartney, but you definitely have heard of The Beatles and their music. The same goes for Freddie Mercury and Queen, who like The Beatles' songwriting duo, wrote some of the most popular songs in music history.

Bob Dylan is widely considered one of the first songwriters to incorporate poetry, imagery and a social consciousness to rock music. His influence ranges far and wide. Many of the songwriters on this list count Dylan as one of the most important songwriters in rock history. He may not have had the same impact as Dylan, but Kurt Cobain has proven to be one of the most important songwriters in recent history. His career may have been short, but his impact on music history cannot be understated.

It's not easy to determine which of these songwriters is the greatest of all time. It's up to you to determine who is the greatest rock songwriter of all time by voting for who you think deserves that title.
  • 1
    Paul McCartney

    Paul McCartney

    Pop music, Rock music

    AlbumsFlaming Pie, Ram, McCartney, Chaos and Creation in the Backyard, Press to Play

    Sir James Paul McCartney (born 18 June 1942) is an English singer, songwriter, musician,... more on Wikipedia

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  • 2
    John Lennon

    John Lennon

    Blues-rock, Pop music

    AlbumsImagine, John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band, Double Fantasy, Milk and Honey, Walls and Bridges

    John Winston Ono Lennon (born John Winston Lennon, 9 October 1940 – 8 December 1980) was an... more on Wikipedia

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  • 3
    Bob Dylan

    Bob Dylan

    Blues-rock, Rock music

    AlbumsHighway 61 Revisited, Blood on the Tracks, Blonde on Blonde, The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan, Bringing It All Back Home

    Bob Dylan (born May 24, 1941) is an American singer-songwriter, author, poet, and visual... more on Wikipedia

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  • 4
    Elton John

    Elton John

    Pop music, Rock music

    AlbumsGoodbye Yellow Brick Road, Disney's Sing-Along: The Lion King, Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy, Madman Across the Water, Don't Shoot Me I'm Only the Piano Player

    Sir Elton Hercules John (born 25 March 1947) is an English singer, songwriter, pianist, and... more on Wikipedia

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  • 5
    Freddie Mercury

    Freddie Mercury

    Pop music, Rock music

    AlbumsThe Solo Collection, Barcelona, Mr. Bad Guy, Time, Guide Me Home

    Freddie Mercury (born Farrokh Bulsara; 5 September 1946 – 24 November 1991) was a British... more on Wikipedia

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  • 6
    Mick Jagger & Keith Richards
  • 7
    Paul Simon

    Paul Simon

    Rock music, Folk music

    AlbumsGraceland, Still Crazy After All These Years, So Beautiful or So What, Paul Simon, The Rhythm of the Saints

    Paul Frederic Simon (born October 13, 1941) is an American singer-songwriter and actor.... more on Wikipedia

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  • 8
    David Bowie

    David Bowie

    Rock music, Psychedelic pop

    AlbumsThe Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars, Hunky Dory, Diamond Dogs, Aladdin Sane, "Heroes"

    David Robert Jones (8 January 1947 – 10 January 2016), known professionally as David Bowie (,... more on Wikipedia

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  • 9
    Robert Plant

    Robert Plant

    Blues-rock, Rock music

    AlbumsRaising Sand, No Quarter: Jimmy Page and Robert Plant Unledded, Walking Into Clarksdale, Mighty Rearranger, Manic Nirvana

    Robert Anthony Plant (born 20 August 1948) is an English singer, songwriter, and musician,... more on Wikipedia

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  • 10
    Eric Clapton

    Eric Clapton

    Blues-rock, Rock music

    Albums461 Ocean Boulevard, Crossroads, Pilgrim, Journeyman, Tears in Heaven

    Eric Patrick Clapton, (born 30 March 1945) is an English rock and blues guitarist, singer,... more on WikipediaSpotify buy button

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  • 11
    Johnny Cash

    Johnny Cash

    Outlaw country, Christian music

    AlbumsAmerican V: A Hundred Highways, American IV: The Man Comes Around, At Folsom Prison, American Recordings, American III: Solitary Man

    John R. "Johnny" Cash (February 26, 1932 – September 12, 2003) was an American... more on WikipediaSpotify buy button

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  • 12
    Stevie Nicks

    Stevie Nicks

    Classic rock, Pop music

    AlbumsBella Donna, Buckingham Nicks, Trouble in Shangri-La, Enchanted, Rock a Little

    Stephanie Lynn Nicks (born May 26, 1948) is an American singer and songwriter. Nicks is best... more on Wikipedia

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  • 13
    Brian Wilson

    Brian Wilson

    Pop music, Rock music

    AlbumsSMiLE, What I Really Want for Christmas, Orange Crate Art, That Lucky Old Sun, Brian Wilson

    Brian Douglas Wilson (born June 20, 1942) is an American musician, singer, songwriter, and... more on Wikipedia

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  • 14
    George Harrison

    George Harrison

    Pop music, Rock music

    AlbumsAll Things Must Pass, Cloud Nine, Living in the Material World, Thirty Three & 1/3, George Harrison

    George Harrison (25 February 1943 – 29 November 2001) was an English musician,... more on Wikipedia

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  • 15


    Hip hop music, Synthpop

    AlbumsPurple Rain, Sign 'O' the Times, 1999, Love Symbol Album, Around the World in a Day

    Prince Rogers Nelson (June 7, 1958 – April 21, 2016) was an American singer, songwriter,... more on Wikipedia

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  • 16
    Bernie Taupin

    Bernie Taupin

    Pop music, Rock music

    AlbumsTribe, Taupin, He Who Rides the Tiger

    Bernard John Taupin (born 22 May 1950) is an English-American lyricist, poet, and singer. He... more on Wikipedia

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  • 17
    Roy Orbison

    Roy Orbison

    Country pop, Pop music

    AlbumsThe Essential Roy Orbison, King of Hearts, Mystery Girl, Crying, The Orbison Way

    Roy Kelton Orbison (April 23, 1936 – December 6, 1988) was an American singer, songwriter, and... more on Wikipedia
  • 18
    Tom Petty

    Tom Petty

    Blues-rock, Heartland rock

    AlbumsFull Moon Fever, Wildflowers, Highway Companion, Mary Jane's Last Dance, Free Fallin'

    Thomas Earl Petty (October 20, 1950 – October 2, 2017) was an American singer-songwriter,... more on Wikipedia
  • 19
    Billy Joel

    Billy Joel

    Blue-eyed soul, Pop music

    AlbumsThe Stranger, Piano Man, 52nd Street, Glass Houses, An Innocent Man

    William Martin Joel (born May 9, 1949) is an American singer-songwriter, composer, and... more on Wikipedia

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  • 20
    Jim Croce

    Jim Croce

    Pop music, Rock music

    AlbumsSimply the Best: Time in a Bottle: His Greatest Hits, Jim Croce Smash Hits, Singer Songwriter, Bombs Over Puerto Rico, Life and Times

    James Joseph Croce (; January 10, 1943 – September 20, 1973) was an American folk and rock... more on Wikipedia

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  • 21
    Roger Waters

    Roger Waters

    Folk rock, Progressive rock

    AlbumsThe Pros and Cons of Hitch Hiking, Amused to Death, When the Wind Blows, Music From the Body, Ça Ira

    George Roger Waters (born 6 September 1943) is an English songwriter, singer, bassist, and... more on Wikipedia

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  • 22
    Don Henley

    Don Henley

    Pop music, Rock music

    AlbumsThe End of the Innocence, Building the Perfect Beast, I Can't Stand Still, End of the Innocence, Dirty Laundry

    Donald Hugh Henley (born July 22, 1947) is an American musician, singer, songwriter, record... more on Wikipedia

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  • 23
    Neil Diamond

    Neil Diamond

    Pop music, Rock music

    AlbumsThe Christmas Album Volume II, Hot August Night, The Christmas Album, The Jazz Singer, Home Before Dark

    Neil Leslie Diamond (born January 24, 1941) is an American singer-songwriter, musician and... more on Wikipedia

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  • 24
    Stevie Wonder

    Stevie Wonder

    Motown Sound, Psychedelic soul

    AlbumsSongs in the Key of Life, Innervisions, Talking Book, Stevie Wonder's Original Musiquarium I, Music of My Mind

    Stevland Hardaway Morris (born May 13, 1950), better known by his stage name Stevie Wonder, is... more on WikipediaSpotify buy button

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  • 25
    David Gilmour

    David Gilmour

    Blues-rock, Rock music

    AlbumsOn an Island, David Gilmour, Remember That Night, About Face, Live in Gdańsk

    David Jon Gilmour ( GHIL-mor; born 6 March 1946) is an English multi-instrumentalist, singer... more on Wikipedia