Music

The Greatest R&B Artists and Bands of All Time 

Ranker Music
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Updated April 24, 2020 27.6k votes 2.4k voters 36.3k views 278 items

List Rules Only R&B artists. No hip hop, urban contemporary, or soul singers should be on here.

A list of the best R&B artists. Though the definition of the genre has skewed over the years, at the heart of R&B music is rhythm and blues. And the artists who encompass this list are the best the genre has to offer. There are legends, both living and deceased who are on this list. There a good number of rock and roll hall of famers on this list, whose legacy lives on at the Cleveland museum. The beginning of what became to be known as R&B started with the Motown sound of the late 1960s. Under the stewardship of Berry Gordy, many of the most famous artists and singers in music history established themselves during this time. The Jackson 5, Stevie Wonder and Diana Ross were all a part of the Motown fabric that in time became THE place to be for up-and-coming R&B artists. Many of the greatest R&B groups are from this early, formative period. Sly & the Family Stone, Tina Turner, Aretha Franklin and Marvin Gaye among a group of amazing singers, whose careers started during this time.

That is not to say there aren't other great R&B artists from other eras. Prince, Alicia Keys and D'Angelo would be considered some of the best R&B singers whenever they burst onto the scene. The familiar R&B artists on this list should come as a surprise to no one. The odds are you've heard of nearly everyone on here. If not, then you should give them a listen because there's a reason why they're considered the greatest R&B singers of all time. Why would people label them as the top R&B artists? Give them a listen and you'll hear yourself.

This is the list of the best R&B artists. If you notice someone is missing, feel free to add him, her or them to this list. Vote or re-rank this list according to who you think is the greatest R&B artist of all time.

list ordered by
1
Michael Jackson is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Greatest R&B Artists and Bands of All Time
Genre: Motown Sound, Rock music & Electronic music; Nationality: United States of America

Albums: Thriller, Bad, Off the Wall, Dangerous, Michael, + more

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2
Marvin Gaye is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Greatest R&B Artists and Bands of All Time
Genre: Doo-wop, Motown Sound & Rock music; Nationality: United States of America

Albums: What's Going On, Here, My Dear, Let's Get It On, I Want You, + more

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The Best Marvin Gaye Songs of All Time #17 of 2,179 The Greatest Musical Artists of All Time #32 of 1,043 The Best Singers of All Time

3
Stevie Wonder is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Greatest R&B Artists and Bands of All Time
Genre: Motown Sound, Psychedelic soul & Pop music; Nationality: United States of America

Albums: Songs in the Key of Life, Innervisions, Talking Book, Stevie Wonder's Original Musiquarium I, Music of My Mind, + more

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The Best Stevie Wonder Albums of All Time #102 of 274 The Most Trustworthy Celebrities in the World #9 of 2,179 The Greatest Musical Artists of All Time

4
Prince is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Greatest R&B Artists and Bands of All Time
Genre: Hip hop music, Synthpop & New Wave; Nationality: United States of America

Albums: Purple Rain, Sign 'O' the Times, 1999, Love Symbol Album, Around the World in a Day, + more

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The Best Prince Songs of All Time #277 of 2,179 The Greatest Musical Artists of All Time #22 of 639 The Greatest Guitarists Of All Time

5
Aretha Franklin is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Greatest R&B Artists and Bands of All Time
Genre: Pop music, Rock music & Rhythm and blues; Nationality: United States of America

Albums: Lady Soul, I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You, Young, Gifted and Black, Respect, + more

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You Will R.E.S.P.E.C.T. Aretha Franklin Even More When You Hear About Her Remarkable Life #2 of 935 The Best Female Vocalists Ever #440 of 2,179 The Greatest Musical Artists of All Time

6
James Brown is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Greatest R&B Artists and Bands of All Time
Genre: Hip hop music, Doo-wop & Pop music; Nationality: United States of America

Albums: Live at the Apollo, Star Time, Funky Christmas, Santa's Got a Brand New Bag, I Got You, + more

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The Best James Brown Albums of All Time #51 of 2,179 The Greatest Musical Artists of All Time #445 of 1,043 The Best Singers of All Time

7
Whitney Houston is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Greatest R&B Artists and Bands of All Time
Genre: Pop music, Dance-pop & Contemporary R&B; Nationality: United States of America

Albums: The Bodyguard: Original Soundtrack Album, Whitney Houston, My Love Is Your Love, I'm Your Baby Tonight, The Preacher's Wife: Original Soundtrack Album, + more

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The Best Whitney Houston Albums of All Time #1 of 935 The Best Female Vocalists Ever #72 of 2,179 The Greatest Musical Artists of All Time

8
Ray Charles is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Greatest R&B Artists and Bands of All Time
Genre: Soul blues, Pop music & Rock music; Nationality: United States of America

Albums: The Birth of Soul, Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music, The Spirit of Christmas, Ray Charles at Newport, Genius Loves Company, + more

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The Best Ray Charles Albums of All Time #11 of 2,179 The Greatest Musical Artists of All Time #70 of 1,043 The Best Singers of All Time

9
The Jackson 5 is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Greatest R&B Artists and Bands of All Time

Albums: Christmas Album, 20th Century Masters: The Christmas Collection: The Best of Jackson 5, Diana Ross Presents the Jackson 5, ABC, The Jacksons, + more

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10
Sam Cooke is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Greatest R&B Artists and Bands of All Time
Genre: Pop music, Rhythm and blues & Jazz; Nationality: United States of America

Albums: Night Beat, Shake, Touch the Hem of His Garment: 23 Gospel Gems, Live at the Harlem Square Club, 1963, + more

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Rising Soul Singer Sam Cooke Perished Under Mysterious Circumstances In 1964 And The Case Is Still Unsolved #100 of 2,179 The Greatest Musical Artists of All Time #305 of 1,043 The Best Singers of All Time

11
The Temptations is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Greatest R&B Artists and Bands of All Time

Albums: The Temptations Christmas Card, The Very Best of Christmas, The Temptations Sing Smokey, Diana Ross & The Supremes Join The Temptations, Meet The Temptations, + more

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The Best Temptations Albums of All Time #41 of 2,179 The Greatest Musical Artists of All Time #52 of 350 The Greatest American Rock Bands

12
Al Green is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Greatest R&B Artists and Bands of All Time
Artie_Moon added Genre: Smooth soul, Rhythm and blues & Soul music; Nationality: United States of America

Albums: Call Me, The Christmas Album, White Christmas, Greatest Hits, I'm Still in Love With You, + more

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The Best Al Green Albums of All Time #33 of 311 The Greatest Living Rock Songwriters #128 of 2,179 The Greatest Musical Artists of All Time

13
Mary J. Blige is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Greatest R&B Artists and Bands of All Time
Genre: Hip hop music, Contemporary R&B & Rhythm and blues; Nationality: United States of America

Albums: Mary, My Life, What's the 411?, The Breakthrough, No More Drama, + more

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The Best Mary J. Blige Albums of All Time #51 of 935 The Best Female Vocalists Ever #311 of 2,179 The Greatest Musical Artists of All Time

14
Otis Redding is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Greatest R&B Artists and Bands of All Time
Genre: Southern soul, Soul blues & Rock music; Nationality: United States of America

Albums: Otis Blue: Otis Redding Sings Soul, The Dock of the Bay, The Immortal Otis Redding, Love Man, The Great Otis Redding Sings Soul Ballads, + more

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The Best Otis Redding Albums of All Time #116 of 2,179 The Greatest Musical Artists of All Time #115 of 398 The Best Frontmen in Rock

15
Frank Ocean is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Greatest R&B Artists and Bands of All Time
Genre: Alternative hip hop, Contemporary R&B & Pop; Nationality: United States of America

Albums: Channel Orange, nostalgia, ULTRA., unreleased, MISC., + more

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The Best Songs Ft. Frank Ocean #1,092 of 2,179 The Greatest Musical Artists of All Time #629 of 1,043 The Best Singers of All Time

16
Aaliyah is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Greatest R&B Artists and Bands of All Time
Genre: Hip hop music, Pop music & Neo soul; Nationality: United States of America

Albums: Aaliyah, One in a Million, I Care 4 U, Age Ain't Nothing but a Number, Back & Forth, + more

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17
Luther Vandross is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Greatest R&B Artists and Bands of All Time
Genre: Hip hop music, Adult contemporary music & Contemporary R&B; Nationality: United States of America

Albums: This Is Christmas, Every Year, Every Christmas, Home for Christmas, Dance With My Father, + more

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The Best Luther Vandross Albums of All Time #371 of 2,179 The Greatest Musical Artists of All Time #255 of 1,043 The Best Singers of All Time

18
Usher is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Greatest R&B Artists and Bands of All Time
Genre: Contemporary R&B, Hip hop & Pop; Nationality: United States of America

Albums: Confessions, Rhythm City, Volume 1: Caught Up (bonus disc), My Way, Usher, + more

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19
Curtis Mayfield is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Greatest R&B Artists and Bands of All Time
Artie_Moon added Genre: Psychedelic soul, Chicago soul & Rhythm and blues; Nationality: United States of America

Albums: Superfly, Curtis, The Anthology: 1961-1977, Curtis/Live!, Roots, + more

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The Best Curtis Mayfield Albums of All Time #259 of 2,179 The Greatest Musical Artists of All Time #356 of 639 The Greatest Guitarists Of All Time

20
Alicia Keys is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Greatest R&B Artists and Bands of All Time
Genre: Hip hop music, Pop music & Neo soul; Nationality: United States of America

Albums: Remixed & Unplugged in A minor, As I Am, Unplugged, Girl On Fire, The Diary of Alicia Keys, + more

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21
Lauryn Hill is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Greatest R&B Artists and Bands of All Time
Genre: Hip hop music, Alternative hip hop & Neo soul; Nationality: United States of America

Albums: The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, MTV Unplugged 2.0, Ms. Hill, Greatest Singles Collection, MTV Unplugged, + more

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22
Brandy Norwood is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Greatest R&B Artists and Bands of All Time
Genre: Hip hop music, Pop music & Dance-pop; Nationality: United States of America

Albums: The Best of Brandy, Afrodisiac, Full Moon, Brokenhearted, Brandy, + more

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23
Chaka Khan is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Greatest R&B Artists and Bands of All Time
Genre: Hip hop music, Adult contemporary music & Disco; Nationality: United States of America

Albums: Ask Rufus, Come 2 My House, Rufus, Masterjam, Chaka, + more

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24
Mariah Carey is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Greatest R&B Artists and Bands of All Time
Genre: Pop and Contemporary R&B; Nationality: United States of America

Albums: Daydream, Music Box, Mariah Carey, The Emancipation of Mimi, Butterfly, + more

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25
TLC is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Greatest R&B Artists and Bands of All Time

Albums: Crazy Sexy Cool, Ooooooohhh ... On the TLC Tip, 3D, FanMail, Crazy Sexy Hits: The Very Best of TLC, + more

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