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The Greatest Rock Songwriters of All Time

Updated January 22, 2021 353.9k votes 18.6k voters 121.7k views213 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.
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  • Paul McCartney1
    4,455
    4,508

    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

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  • John Lennon2
    4,329
    4,465

    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

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  • Bob Dylan3
    4,373
    4,860

    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

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  • Elton John4
    3,311
    3,536

    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

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  • David Bowie5
    3,574
    4,049

    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

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  • Freddie Mercury6
    5,780
    3,750

    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

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  • Paul Simon7
    3,551
    4,042

    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

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  • Mick Jagger & Keith Richards8
  • Brian Wilson9
    2,433
    3,131

    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

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  • Prince10
    2,310
    2,636

    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

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  • Robert Plant11
    2,094
    2,084

    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

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  • George Harrison12
    3,130
    3,701

    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

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  • Johnny Cash13
    2,746
    2,301

    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
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  • Eric Clapton14
    2,363
    2,397

    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
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  • Stevie Nicks15
    1,867
    2,369

    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

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  • Bernie Taupin16
    1,334
    1,901

    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
  • Stevie Wonder17
    1,743
    2,062

    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
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  • Jim Croce18
    994
    1,433

    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

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  • Tom Petty19
    2,865
    2,047

    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

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  • Billy Joel20
    2,258
    2,145

    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

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  • Roger Waters21
    2,501
    2,855

    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

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  • Roy Orbison22
    1,297
    1,534

    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

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  • David Gilmour23
    1,746
    1,835

    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

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    #6 of 639 The Greatest Lead Guitarists Of All Time#334 of 583 The Greatest Entertainers of All Time

  • John Denver24
    770
    1,181

    John Denver

    Western music, Pop music

    AlbumsRocky Mountain Christmas, Christmas Like a Lullaby, A Christmas Together, Take Me Home, Country Roads

    Henry John Deutschendorf Jr. (December 31, 1943 – October 12, 1997), known professionally as...  more

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  • John Fogerty25
    1,923
    2,227

    John Fogerty

    Americana, Blues-rock

    AlbumsDeja Vu All Over Again, Hoodoo, Centerfield, The Blue Ridge Rangers, Revival

    John Cameron Fogerty (born May 28, 1945) is an American musician, singer, and songwriter....  more

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