Music

The Greatest Living Rock Songwriters 

Lon Harris
Originally by
Updated April 7, 2020 184.4k votes 13k voters 157.4k views 303 items

List Rules Only individual songwriters of *rock songs* who are still alive. No duos. No bands.

Update: Follow Ranker's official New Rock 2020 playlist on Spotify!

Who is the best songwriter alive today? The musician responsible for the lyrics and music that's the most memorable, significant and lasting in all of rock history, who is still with us today. We're talking, over the course of an entire career, the person who has written the most great songs--the best songwriters of the 21st century. A few things to keep in mind: (1) Songwriting teams are acceptable if they truly worked together (for example, Elton John writing music to Bernie Taupin's lyrics). When possible, as in the case of John Lennon and Paul McCartney, separate them and focus on individual songwriting. (2) LIVING songwriters. Living. (3) I think the ratio of "great songs" to "not good songs" is important to consider. If someone has 2 classic albums of great songs and then 5 albums worth of garbage, that impacts the overall view of the career, no matter how good the original work was. Something to keep in mind.

Add your own selections below and vote up the people you feel are worthy of the title of Greatest Living Rock Songwriter. PLUS, if you have Spotify, you can listen to full songs from each of the listed songwriters on our Ranker playlist!

list ordered by
1
Paul McCartney is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Greatest Living Rock Songwriters
Genre: Pop music, Rock music & Experimental rock; Nationality: England
2
Paul Simon is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Greatest Living Rock Songwriters
Genre: Rock music, Folk music & Folk rock; Nationality: United States of America
3
Bob Dylan is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Greatest Living Rock Songwriters
Benjamin Dunn added Genre: Blues-rock, Rock music & Folk music; Nationality: United States of America
4
Willie Nelson is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Greatest Living Rock Songwriters
Genre: Outlaw country, Americana & Traditional pop music; Nationality: United States of America
5
Bob Seger is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Greatest Living Rock Songwriters
autosurvive added Genre: Blue-eyed soul, Heartland rock & Rock music; Nationality: United States of America
6
Alice Cooper is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Greatest Living Rock Songwriters
autosurvive added Genre: Glam metal, Experimental rock & Shock rock; Nationality: United States of America
7
Brian May is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Greatest Living Rock Songwriters
dreapress added Genre: Rock music, Heavy metal & Pop rock; Nationality: United Kingdom
8
Ranker Video
KirkSaw added Genre: Synthpop, Sufi rock & Nasheed; Nationality: England
Cat Stevens
9
Gordon Lightfoot is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Greatest Living Rock Songwriters
Genre: Pop music, Rock music & Folk music; Nationality: Canada
10
Elton John is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Greatest Living Rock Songwriters
Genre: Pop music, Rock music & Piano rock; Nationality: United Kingdom
11
Mark Knopfler is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Greatest Living Rock Songwriters
looksharp added Genre: Celtic rock, Blues-rock & Rock music; Nationality: Scotland
12
Don Henley is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Greatest Living Rock Songwriters
Genre: Pop music, Rock music & Country rock; Nationality: United States of America
13
Michael Stipe is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Greatest Living Rock Songwriters
FrankieBruchis added Genre: Jangle pop, Pop music & Alternative rock; Nationality: United States of America
alternative rock Political commentary
14
Ranker Video
TVs Frank added Genre: New Wave, Pop music & Rock music; Nationality: United Kingdom
15
Stevie Nicks is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Greatest Living Rock Songwriters
Genre: Classic rock, Pop music & Rock music; Nationality: United States of America
16
Ranker Video
Genre: New Wave, Rock music & Pub rock; Nationality: United Kingdom
17
Ranker Video
Randolph Strauss added Genre: Ballad, Country pop & Pop music; Nationality: United States of America
18
Brian Wilson is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Greatest Living Rock Songwriters
Genre: Pop music, Rock music & Outsider music; Nationality: United States of America
19
Jackson Browne is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Greatest Living Rock Songwriters
Genre: Rock music, Folk music & Folk rock; Nationality: United States of America
20
Kris Kristofferson is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Greatest Living Rock Songwriters
danmedsker added Genre: Outlaw country, Rock music & Folk music; Nationality: United States of America
21
Bono is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Greatest Living Rock Songwriters
MarioArley added Genre: Rock music, Alternative rock & Post-punk; Nationality: Republic of Ireland
22
Tom Waits is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Greatest Living Rock Songwriters
Genre: Blues-rock, Rock music & Folk music; Nationality: United States of America
23
Robert Plant is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Greatest Living Rock Songwriters
autosurvive added Genre: Blues-rock, Rock music & Folk rock; Nationality: United Kingdom
24
Ranker Video
Pallknowing1 added Genre: Folk rock, Progressive rock & Art rock; Nationality: England
25
Al Green is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Greatest Living Rock Songwriters
Genre: Smooth soul, Rhythm and blues & Soul music; Nationality: United States of America