Music
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.
Photo:
...more
  • 1
    Paul McCartney
    4,336
    4,529

    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

    More Paul McCartney 

    The Best Paul McCartney SongsThe Best Paul McCartney Albums of All Time

  • 2
    John Lennon
    4,218
    4,469

    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

    More John Lennon 

    28 Facts You Didn't Know About John LennonThe Best John Lennon Songs

  • 3
    Bob Dylan
    4,294
    4,926

    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

    More Bob Dylan 

    The Best Bob Dylan Albums of All TimeThe Best Bob Dylan Songs

  • 4
    Elton John
    3,212
    3,514

    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

    More Elton John 

    The Best Elton John Songs, Ranked by FansAll Of The Inaccuracies In 'Rocketman'

  • 5
    Freddie Mercury
    5,677
    3,811

    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

    More Freddie Mercury 

    Regular People Who Met Freddie Mercury Describe What He Was Like#16 of 316 The Greatest Singers of the Past 30 Years

  • 6
    Mick Jagger & Keith Richards
  • 7
    Paul Simon
    3,532
    4,087

    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

    More Paul Simon 

    The Best Paul Simon Solo Songs of All TimeThe Best Paul Simon Albums of All Time

  • 8
    David Bowie
    3,466
    4,152

    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

    More David Bowie 

    The Best David Bowie Songs of All TimeFun Facts You Didn't Know About David Bowie

  • 9
    Robert Plant
    1,995
    2,035

    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

    More Robert Plant 

    The Best Robert Plant Albums of All Time12 Fascinating Facts You Didn't Know About Robert Plant

  • 10
    Eric Clapton
    2,292
    2,383

    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

    More Eric Clapton 

    All the Drugs, Murder, Adultery, and Disaster Around Eric Clapton's LaylaThe Best Eric Clapton Albums of All Time

  • 11
    Johnny Cash
    2,637
    2,323

    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

    More Johnny Cash 

    The Best Johnny Cash Songs of All TimeThe Best Johnny Cash Albums of All Time

  • 12
    Stevie Nicks
    1,794
    2,320

    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

    More Stevie Nicks 

    Fascinating Stories From Stevie Nicks’s Love LifeThe Best Stevie Nicks Albums of All Time

  • 13
    Brian Wilson
    2,337
    3,175

    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

    More Brian Wilson 

    The True Story Behind The Film 'Love And Mercy'The Best Brian Wilson Albums of All Time

  • 14
    George Harrison
    3,063
    3,810

    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

    More George Harrison 

    The Best George Harrison Albums of All Time#31 of 542 The Greatest Guitarists Of All Time

  • 15
    Prince
    2,207
    2,664

    Prince

    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

    More Prince 

    The Best Prince Songs of All Time10 Songs You Had No Idea Were Written by Prince

  • 16
    Bernie Taupin
    1,279
    1,888

    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

    More Bernie Taupin 

    #15 of 225 The Greatest Living Rock Songwriters#6 of 32 Celebrities Turning 70 In 2020

  • 17
    Roy Orbison
    1,249
    1,502

    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
    2,824
    2,099

    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
    2,153
    2,196

    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

    More Billy Joel 

    The Best Billy Joel Songs of All TimeThe Best Billy Joel Albums of All Time

  • 20
    Jim Croce
    932
    1,380

    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

    More Jim Croce 

    The Best Jim Croce Albums of All Time#225 of 753 People We Wish Were Still Alive

  • 21
    Roger Waters
    2,471
    2,947

    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

    More Roger Waters 

    The Best Roger Waters Albums of All Time#18 of 186 The All-Time Best Rock Bassists

  • 22
    Don Henley
    1,360
    1,749

    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

    More Don Henley 

    The Best Don Henley Albums of All Time#14 of 603 The Best Rock Vocalists

  • 23
    Neil Diamond
    1,083
    1,234

    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

    More Neil Diamond 

    The Best Neil Diamond Albums of All Time#1485 of 2,443 The Most Influential People of All Time

  • 24
    Stevie Wonder
    1,658
    2,114

    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

    More Stevie Wonder 

    The Best Stevie Wonder Songs of All TimeThe Most Underrated Stevie Wonder Songs

  • 25
    David Gilmour
    1,695
    1,861

    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