Music

The Greatest R&B Artists of All Time 

Ranker Music
Originally by
Updated February 2, 2020 15.7k votes 1.5k voters 65.4k views 221 items

When it comes to the pop charts, R&B artists tend to be among the most popular. The best R&B singers have been topping the pop charts for years as rhythm and blues has remained a bedrock of music. Emerging as a genre in the 1940s, R&B also incorporates soul and funk. Many of of the top R&B artists are household names and their songs chart-toppers. Though R&B has its roots in African-American music, the best R&B singers have crossed over and due to their radio smashes, they're able to sell out arenas across the globe.

So, that said, who are the best R&B artists? Since this list takes a look at every R&B singer, there are going to be a number of excellent choices. That's why you'll see R&B icons like Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston, Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder, along with newer R&B stars such as Beyonce, Alicia Keys, Adele, Usher and Drake on here. All of these great artists are known as some of the best rhythm and blues singers, so their inclusion shouldn't come as a big surprise.

Ultimately, it's up to you to determine who is the best R&B artist. If you notice that someone isn't on this list and should be, feel free to add them. Vote or re-rank this list according to how you think it should reflect your opinion on R&B. This list answers the questions "who are the best rhythm and blues bands of all time?" and "who is the greatest rhythm and blues musician ever?" If you know enough about the genre, please vote based on the quality of the band's music instead of just voting for the most popular rhythm and blues bands that you might've heard of.

list ordered by
1
Stevie Wonder is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Greatest R&B Artists of All Time
Motown Sound, Psychedelic soul, Pop music
2
Michael Jackson is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Greatest R&B Artists of All Time
Motown Sound, Rock music, Electronic music
3
Marvin Gaye is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Greatest R&B Artists of All Time
Doo-wop, Motown Sound, Rock music
4
Aretha Franklin is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Greatest R&B Artists of All Time
Pop music, Rock music, Rhythm and blues
5
The Temptations is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Greatest R&B Artists of All Time
Doo-wop, Rock music, Rhythm and blues
6
Ray Charles is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Greatest R&B Artists of All Time
Soul blues, Pop music, Rock music
7
Sam Cooke is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Greatest R&B Artists of All Time
Pop music, Rhythm and blues, Jazz
8
James Brown is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Greatest R&B Artists of All Time
Hip hop music, Doo-wop, Pop music
9
Whitney Houston is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Greatest R&B Artists of All Time
Pop music, Dance-pop, Contemporary R&B
10
Al Green is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Greatest R&B Artists of All Time
Smooth soul, Rhythm and blues, Soul music
11
Prince is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Greatest R&B Artists of All Time
Hip hop music, Synthpop, New Wave
12
Gladys Knight & the ... is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Greatest R&B Artists of All Time
Gladys Knight & the Pips Rhythm and blues, Soul music
13
Usher is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Greatest R&B Artists of All Time
Contemporary R&B, Hip hop, Pop
14
Boyz II Men is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Greatest R&B Artists of All Time
Hip hop music, Pop music, Contemporary R&B
15
B.B. King is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Greatest R&B Artists of All Time
Blues-rock, Soul blues, Rock music
16
Gladys Knight is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Greatest R&B Artists of All Time
Rhythm and blues, Soul music, Gospel music
17
Aaliyah is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Greatest R&B Artists of All Time
Hip hop music, Pop music, Neo soul
18
Barry White is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Greatest R&B Artists of All Time
Disco, Rhythm and blues, Soul music
19
Mariah Carey is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Greatest R&B Artists of All Time
Pop, Contemporary R&B
20
Etta James is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Greatest R&B Artists of All Time
Rock music, Rhythm and blues, Rock and roll
21
Chaka Khan is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Greatest R&B Artists of All Time
Hip hop music, Adult contemporary music, Disco
22
Alicia Keys is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Greatest R&B Artists of All Time
Hip hop music, Pop music, Neo soul
23
Four Tops is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Greatest R&B Artists of All Time
Doo-wop, Pop music, Rock music
24
Anita Baker is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Greatest R&B Artists of All Time
Adult contemporary music, Quiet storm, Smooth jazz
25
Chuck Berry is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Greatest R&B Artists of All Time
Rock music, Rhythm and blues, Rock and roll