Music

The Greatest Musical Artists of All Time 

Ranker Music
Originally by
Updated February 1, 2020 13.4M votes 71.8k voters 528.1k views 2,187 items

List Rules The best artists of any genre

When VH1 polled fellow artists to name the greatest artists of all time, it seemed like a good idea---but in reality, the list was truly flawed. According to them, Coldplay is better than Pearl Jam, Mariah Carey is only greater than six artists, etc! Not to mention other impactful artists were left off of the list. So I thought that maybe we try the countdown one more time, only this time with the perspective of true music fans...YOU..

This list will begin in no particular order, you will see some names that didn't appear in VH1's version, no artist appears on the countdown twice, and the order is not my personal opinion (I personally think Bob Marley is the greatest artist of all time). If you don't like how the list looks, you have the power to change it. This list includes some of the greatest female vocalists of the past 10 years, great current bands, and many of the best rock bands and artists of all time. Many of them are in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame - and some will be, eventually.

So many questions will be answered with the voting results on this list. Nirvana or Pearl Jam? 2Pac or Biggie? The Beatles or the Rolling Stones? Mariah Carey or Whitney Houston? Is Michael Jackson still the King or is Elvis the true immortal? Is Madonna still the undisputed Queen of Pop? Does anyone rock harder than Hendrix? Are Jay-Z and Beyonce the most powerful couple in music history? It's up to you to decide!

list ordered by
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Albums: A Night at the Opera, Queen, Innuendo, Queen II, Crazy Little Thing Called Love, + more

Labels: Parlophone, Island Records, Hollywood Records, EMI, Universal Music Group, + more

Queen are a British rock band formed in London in 1970. Their classic line-up was Freddie Mercury (lead vocals and piano), Brian May (lead guitar and vocals), Roger Taylor (drums and vocals) and ...more

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#5 of 2,218 The Best Rock Bands of All Time The Best Queen Songs of All Time Behind The Scenes Of The Movie 'Bohemian Rhapsody'

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Albums: Led Zeppelin, Led Zeppelin IV, Led Zeppelin II, Physical Graffiti, Houses of the Holy, + more

Labels: Atlantic Records, Warner Music Group, Polydor Records, Swan Song Records

Led Zeppelin were an English rock band formed in London in 1968. The group consisted of vocalist Robert Plant, guitarist Jimmy Page, bassist/keyboardist John Paul Jones and drummer John Bonham. ...more

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#2 of 2,218 The Best Rock Bands of All Time Infamous Stories From Led Zeppelin's Heyday Most Fans Don't Talk About The Best Led Zeppelin Songs

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Jimi Hendrix is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Greatest Musical Artists of All Time
First L added Genre: Blues-rock, Rock music, Experimental rock; Nationality: United States of America

Albums: First Rays of the New Rising Sun, Band of Gypsys, Voodoo Child: The Jimi Hendrix Collection, Live at the Fillmore East, Live at Woodstock, + more

Labels: MCA Records, Vee-Jay Records, Polydor Records, Reprise Records, Barclay Records, + more

James Marshall "Jimi" Hendrix (born Johnny Allen Hendrix; November 27, 1942 – September 18, 1970) was an American rock guitarist, singer, and songwriter. His mainstream career lasted ...more

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#86 of 1,057 The Best Singers of All Time The Best Jimi Hendrix Songs of All Timelisted on Rolling Stone's Top 100 Guitarists of All Time

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Ludwig van Beethoven is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Greatest Musical Artists of All Time
Genre: Opera, Classical music; Nationality: Germany

Albums: Symphony Edition, Classical Anthology, Symphonies Nos. 1-9 (feat. piano: Cyprien Katsaris), Eternal Classics, The Perlman Edition (disc 15: Bach), + more

Ludwig van Beethoven ( (listen); German: [ˈluːtvɪç fan ˈbeːthoːfn̩] (listen); baptised 17 December 1770 – 26 March 1827) was a German composer and pianist. A crucial figure in the ...more

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Eric Clapton is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Greatest Musical Artists of All Time
Genre: Blues-rock, Rock music, Reggae; Nationality: England

Albums: 461 Ocean Boulevard, Crossroads, Pilgrim, Journeyman, Tears in Heaven, + more

Labels: RSO Records, ATCO Records, Deram Records, Polydor Records, Reprise Records, + more

Eric Patrick Clapton, (born 30 March 1945) is an English rock and blues guitarist, singer, and songwriter. He is the only three-time inductee to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame: once as a solo ...more

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Paul McCartney is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Greatest Musical Artists of All Time
Genre: Pop music, Rock music, Experimental rock; Nationality: United Kingdom, England

Albums: Flaming Pie, Ram, McCartney, Chaos and Creation in the Backyard, Press to Play, + more

Labels: Decca Records, Swan Records, Parlophone, CBS Records, EMI, + more

Sir James Paul McCartney (born 18 June 1942) is an English singer, songwriter, musician, composer, and record and film producer who gained worldwide fame as bass player for the Beatles. His ...more

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#1 of 299 The Greatest Living Rock Songwriters The Best Paul McCartney Songslisted on Famous Left Handed People

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Stevie Wonder is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Greatest Musical Artists of All Time
First L added 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

Labels: Motown Records, Tamla Records

Stevland Hardaway Morris (born May 13, 1950), better known by his stage name Stevie Wonder, is an American singer, songwriter, musician and record producer. A prominent figure in popular music, ...more

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#116 of 275 The Most Trustworthy Celebrities in the World #8 of 1,057 The Best Singers of All Time The Best Stevie Wonder Albums of All Time

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Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart ... is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Greatest Musical Artists of All Time
Genre: Opera, Ballet, Art song; Nationality: Holy Roman Empire

Albums: Symphony Edition, Classical Anthology, Eternal Classics, Concertos for Flute, Harp and Orchestra (Orchestra: Saint Paul's Philharmonic Orchestra; Flute: Ubaldo Rosso; Harp: Ursula Mazurek; Conductor: Silvano Frontalini), + more

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (27 January 1756 – 5 December 1791), baptised as Johannes Chrysostomus Wolfgangus Theophilus Mozart, was a prolific and influential composer of the classical era. Born in ...more

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Paul Simon is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Greatest Musical Artists of All Time
Genre: Rock music, Folk music, Folk rock; Nationality: United States of America

Albums: Graceland, Still Crazy After All These Years, So Beautiful or So What, Paul Simon, The Rhythm of the Saints, + more

Labels: Legacy Recordings, Hear Music, Warner Bros. Records, Columbia

Paul Frederic Simon (born October 13, 1941) is an American singer-songwriter and actor. Simon's musical career has spanned seven decades with his fame and commercial success beginning as half of ...more

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#3 of 299 The Greatest Living Rock Songwriters The Best Paul Simon Solo Songs of All Timelisted on Famous Left Handed People

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Albums: The Last DJ, Damn the Torpedoes, Into the Great Wide Open, Southern Accents, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, + more

Labels: MCA Records, Warner Bros. Entertainment, Shelter Records, Backstreet Records, American Recordings, + more

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers (alternately Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers) were an American rock band from Gainesville, Florida. Formed in 1976, the band originally comprised Tom Petty ...more

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#30 of 2,218 The Best Rock Bands of All Time #45 of 381 The Best Pop Artists of the 1980s The Most Fascinating Facts You Didn't Know About Tom Petty

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First L added Genre: Hip hop; Nationality: United States of America

Albums: The Marshall Mathers LP, The Slim Shady LP, The Eminem Show, Infinite, Recovery, + more

Labels: Aftermath Entertainment, Web Entertainment, Game Recordings, Mashin' Duck Records, Rawkus Records, + more

Marshall Bruce Mathers III (born October 17, 1972), known professionally as Eminem (; often stylized as EMINƎM), is an American rapper, songwriter, record producer, record executive, film ...more

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#140 of 453 The Greatest Singers of the Past 30 Years #229 of 282 The Best (Male) Actors Working Today The Best Eminem Songs of All Time

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Aerosmith is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Greatest Musical Artists of All Time
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Albums: Toys in the Attic, Pump, Permanent Vacation, Aerosmith, Get a Grip, + more

Labels: Castle Classics, Geffen Records, Columbia

Aerosmith is an American rock band formed in Boston, Massachusetts, in 1970. The group consists of Steven Tyler (vocals, keyboards), Joe Perry (guitar), Tom Hamilton (bass), Joey Kramer (drums), ...more

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#12 of 350 The Greatest Classic Rock Bands The Best Aerosmith Songs of All Time Insane Stories From Aerosmith's Drug-Fueled Rise To The Top

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Chuck Berry is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Greatest Musical Artists of All Time
First L added Genre: Rock music, Rhythm and blues, Rock and roll; Nationality: United States of America

Albums: The Great Twenty-Eight, Maybellene, Two Great Guitars, Rock, Rock, + more

Labels: ATCO Records, Chess Records, Mercury

Charles Edward Anderson Berry (October 18, 1926 – March 18, 2017) was an American singer and songwriter, and one of the pioneers of rock and roll music. With songs such as "Maybellene" ...more

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#85 of 714 The Best Rock Vocalists The Best Chuck Berry Albums of All Timelisted on Rolling Stone's Top 100 Guitarists of All Time

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Marvin Gaye is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Greatest Musical Artists of All Time
First L added 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

Labels: Motown Records, Tamla Records, Columbia

Marvin Gaye (born Marvin Pentz Gay Jr.; April 2, 1939 – April 1, 1984) was an American singer, songwriter, and record producer. He helped to shape the sound of Motown in the 1960s, first as an ...more

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George Harrison is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Greatest Musical Artists of All Time
cfletcher4956 added Genre: Pop music, Rock music, Experimental rock; Nationality: England

Albums: All Things Must Pass, Cloud Nine, Living in the Material World, Thirty Three & 1/3, George Harrison, + more

Labels: Swan Records, Parlophone, Zapple Records, EMI, Dark Horse Records, + more

George Harrison (25 February 1943 – 29 November 2001) was an English musician, singer-songwriter, and music and film producer who achieved international fame as the lead guitarist of the ...more

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#99 of 453 The Greatest Singers of the Past 30 Years The Best George Harrison Albums of All Timelisted on Rolling Stone's Top 100 Guitarists of All Time

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Ray Charles is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Greatest Musical Artists of All Time
First L added 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

Labels: ABC Records, Atlantic Records, Swing Time Records, Rhino Entertainment, Concord Records, + more

Ray Charles Robinson (September 23, 1930 – June 10, 2004), professionally known as simply Ray Charles, was an American singer, songwriter, musician, and composer. Among friends and fellow ...more

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#96 of 453 The Greatest Singers of the Past 30 Years #23 of 1,057 The Best Singers of All Time The Best Ray Charles Albums of All Time

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Johann Sebastian Bach is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Greatest Musical Artists of All Time
Genre: Classical music; Nationality: Germany

Albums: Die kompletten Werke von Johann Sebastian Bach, The Organ Works, Bach Edition, Volume V: Cantatas, Volume II, + more

Johann Sebastian Bach (31 March [O.S. 21 March] 1685 – 28 July 1750) was a German composer and musician of the Baroque period. He is known for instrumental compositions such as the Art of Fugue, ...more

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#53 of 926 People We Wish Were Still Alive #359 of 653 The Greatest Guitarists Of All Time Crazy Facts About Johann Sebastian Bach

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Antonio Vivaldi is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Greatest Musical Artists of All Time
Genre: Classical music, Baroque music; Nationality: Italy

Albums: Classical Anthology, Vivaldi 5 Concerti Per Oboe; Concerto Per Oboe & Fagotto RV 545; Heinz Holliger, Klaus Thunemann, Great Violin Concertos, Classic Gala, + more

Antonio Lucio Vivaldi (UK: , US: , Italian: [anˈtɔːnjo ˈluːtʃo viˈvaldi] (listen); 4 March 1678 – 28 July 1741) was an Italian Baroque musical composer, virtuoso violinist, teacher, and priest. ...more

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#295 of 926 People We Wish Were Still Alive #8 of 374 The Best Classical Composers

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Albums: Abbey Road, Revolver, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, The White Album, Rubber Soul, + more

Labels: Swan Records, United Artists Records, Parlophone, ATCO Records, EMI, + more

The Beatles were an English rock band formed in Liverpool in 1960. With a line-up comprising John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr, they are regarded as the most ...more

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#1 of 2,218 The Best Rock Bands of All Time Behind The Scene Stories From The Recording Of The Beatles' 'Abbey Road'listed on The Best English Boy Bands

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Louis Armstrong is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Greatest Musical Artists of All Time
Genre: Swing music, Traditional pop music, Jazz; Nationality: United States of America

Albums: Hot Fives and Hot Sevens, American Freedom, C'est si bon, Louis Armstrong and King Oliver, Porgy & Bess, + more

Labels: Gennett Records, Columbia

Louis Daniel Armstrong (August 4, 1901 – July 6, 1971), nicknamed Satchmo, Satch, and Pops, was an American trumpeter, composer, vocalist and occasional actor who was one of the most influential ...more

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#34 of 926 People We Wish Were Still Alive #83 of 199 Rock Stars Whose Deaths Were The Most Untimely The Best Louis Armstrong Albums of All Time

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The Mamas & the Papa... is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Greatest Musical Artists of All Time

Albums: If You Can Believe Your Eyes and Ears, Deliver, The Mamas & the Papas, Monday, Monday, + more

Labels: Dunhill Records

The Mamas & the Papas was an American folk rock vocal group that recorded and performed from 1965 to 1968, reuniting briefly in 1971. They released five studio albums and seventeen singles, ...more

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#135 of 2,218 The Best Rock Bands of All Time #70 of 350 The Greatest Classic Rock Bands Jaw-Droppingly Out-Of-Control Stories From The Mamas & The Papas

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Neil Diamond is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Greatest Musical Artists of All Time
Genre: Pop music, Rock music, Folk music; Nationality: United States of America

Albums: The Christmas Album Volume II, Hot August Night, The Christmas Album, The Jazz Singer, Home Before Dark, + more

Labels: MCA Records, Bang Records, Uni Records, Columbia

Neil Leslie Diamond (born January 24, 1941) is an American singer-songwriter, musician and actor. With 38 songs in the Top 10 on the Billboard Adult Contemporary charts, Diamond has sold more ...more

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#40 of 299 The Greatest Living Rock Songwriters #74 of 1,057 The Best Singers of All Time The Best Neil Diamond Albums of All Time

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First L added Genre: Lubbock sound, Rock music, Rockabilly; Nationality: United States of America

Albums: Buddy, 20 Golden Greats, What You Been A-Missin': What You've Been A-Missin', The Buddy Holly Story, That'll Be The Day, + more

Labels: Decca Records, Brunswick Records, Coral Records

Charles Hardin Holley (September 7, 1936 – February 3, 1959), known professionally as Buddy Holly, was an American musician and singer-songwriter who was a central and pioneering figure of ...more

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#102 of 1,057 The Best Singers of All Time #70 of 2,218 The Best Rock Bands of All Time What Actually Happened The Day The Music Died?

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Dean Martin is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Greatest Musical Artists of All Time
Genre: Swing music, Traditional pop music, Vocal jazz; Nationality: United States of America

Albums: Christmas With the Rat Pack, Dino / You're the Best Thing That Ever Happened to Me, A Winter Romance, Christmas With Dean Martin, Christmas With Dino, + more

Labels: Reprise Records, Capitol Records

Dino Paul Crocetti (June 7, 1917 – December 25, 1995), known famously as Dean Martin, was an American singer, actor and comedian. One of the most popular and enduring American entertainers of ...more

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#91 of 329 The Greatest Actors Who Have Never Won an Oscar (for Acting) The Best Dean Martin Albums of All Time

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Linda Ronstadt is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Greatest Musical Artists of All Time
Genre: New Wave, Rock music, Latin American music; Nationality: United States of America

Albums: A Merry Little Christmas, Heart Like a Wheel, What's New, 'Round Midnight, Blue Bayou, + more

Labels: Verve Music Group, Asylum Records, Vanguard Records, Elektra Records, Capitol Records

Linda Maria Ronstadt (born July 15, 1946) is a retired American popular music singer known for singing in a wide range of genres including rock, country, light opera, and Latin. She has earned ...more

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#28 of 969 The Best Female Vocalists Ever #256 of 381 The Best Pop Artists of the 1980s The Best Linda Ronstadt Albums of All Time