List of Famous Organists

List of famous organists, with photos, bios, and other information when available. Who are the top organists in the world? This includes the most prominent organists, living and dead, both in America and abroad. This list of notable organists is ordered by their level of prominence, and can be sorted for various bits of information, such as where these historic organists were born and what their nationality is. The people on this list are from different countries, but what they all have in common is that they're all renowned organists.

This list features people like David Bowie and Elton John.

From reputable, prominent, and well known organists to the lesser known organists of today, these are some of the best professionals in the organist field. If you want to answer the questions, "Who are the most famous organists ever?" and "What are the names of famous organists?" then you're in the right place. 
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  • Sir Elton Hercules John (born 25 March 1947) is an English singer, songwriter, pianist, and composer. He has worked with lyricist Bernie Taupin since 1967; they have collaborated on more than 30 albums. John has sold more than 300 million records, making him one of the world's best-selling music artists. He has more than fifty Top 40 hits, as well as seven consecutive number-one albums in the United States, 58 Billboard Top 40 singles, 27 Top 10 singles, four of which reached number two and nine of which reached number one. His tribute single "Candle in the Wind 1997", rewritten in dedication to Diana, Princess of Wales, sold over 33 million copies worldwide and is the best-selling single in the history of the UK and US singles charts. He has also produced records and occasionally acted in films. John owned Watford F.C. from 1976 to 1987 and from 1997 to 2002, and is an honorary Life President of the club. Raised in the Pinner area of London, John learned to play piano at an early age, and by 1962 had formed Bluesology. He met his longtime musical partner Taupin in 1967, after they both answered an advert for songwriters. For two years they wrote songs for artists including Lulu, and John worked as a session musician for artists including the Hollies and the Scaffold. In 1969 John's debut album, Empty Sky, was released. In 1970 his first hit single, "Your Song", from his second album, Elton John, reached the top ten in the UK and the US. John has also had success in musical films and theatre, composing for The Lion King and its stage adaptation, Aida and Billy Elliot the Musical. John has received five Grammy Awards, five Brit Awards, an Academy Award, a Golden Globe Award, a Tony Award, a Disney Legends award, and the Kennedy Center Honor. In 2004 Rolling Stone ranked him 49th on its list of 100 influential musicians of the rock and roll era. In 2013 Billboard ranked him the most successful male solo artist on the Billboard Hot 100 Top All-Time Artists, and third overall, behind the Beatles and Madonna. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1994 and the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1992, and is a fellow of the British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors. He was knighted by Elizabeth II for "services to music and charitable services" in 1998. John has performed at a number of royal events, such as the funeral of Princess Diana at Westminster Abbey in 1997, the Party at the Palace in 2002 and the Queen's Diamond Jubilee Concert outside Buckingham Palace in 2012. John has been involved in the fight against AIDS since the late 1980s. In 1992 he established the Elton John AIDS Foundation and a year later he began hosting his annual Academy Awards Party, which has since become one of the highest-profile Oscar parties in the Hollywood film industry. Since its inception the foundation has raised over £300 million. John, who announced he was bisexual in 1976 and has been openly gay since 1988, entered into a civil partnership with David Furnish on 21 December 2005; they married after same-sex marriage became legal in England and Wales in 2014. Presenting John with France’s highest civilian award, the Legion d'honneur, in 2019, French President Emmanuel Macron called him a "melodic genius" and praised his work on behalf of the LGBT community. In 2018 John embarked on a three-year farewell tour.
  • David Robert Jones (8 January 1947 – 10 January 2016), known professionally as David Bowie, was an English singer-songwriter and actor. He was a leading figure in the music industry and is considered one of the most influential musicians of the 20th century, acclaimed by critics and musicians, particularly for his innovative work during the 1970s. His career was marked by reinvention and visual presentation, with his music and stagecraft having a significant impact on popular music. During his lifetime, his record sales, estimated at 140 million albums worldwide, made him one of the world's best-selling music artists. In the UK, he was awarded ten platinum album certifications, eleven gold and eight silver, and released eleven number-one albums. In the US, he received five platinum and nine gold certifications. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996. Born in Brixton, South London, Bowie developed an interest in music as a child, eventually studying art, music and design before embarking on a professional career as a musician in 1963. "Space Oddity" became his first top-five entry on the UK Singles Chart after its release in July 1969. After a period of experimentation, he re-emerged in 1972 during the glam rock era with his flamboyant and androgynous alter ego Ziggy Stardust. The character was spearheaded by the success of his single "Starman" and album The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, which won him widespread popularity. In 1975, Bowie's style shifted radically towards a sound he characterised as "plastic soul", initially alienating many of his UK devotees but garnering him his first major US crossover success with the number-one single "Fame" and the album Young Americans. In 1976, Bowie starred in the cult film The Man Who Fell to Earth, directed by Nicolas Roeg, and released Station to Station. The following year, he further confounded musical expectations with the electronic-inflected album Low (1977), the first of three collaborations with Brian Eno that came to be known as the "Berlin Trilogy". "Heroes" (1977) and Lodger (1979) followed; each album reached the UK top five and received lasting critical praise. After uneven commercial success in the late 1970s, Bowie had UK number ones with the 1980 single "Ashes to Ashes", its parent album Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps), and "Under Pressure", a 1981 collaboration with Queen. He reached his commercial peak in 1983 with Let's Dance; the album's title track topped both UK and US charts. Throughout the 1990s and 2000s, Bowie continued to experiment with musical styles, including industrial and jungle. He also continued acting; his roles included Major Jack Celliers in Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence (1983), Jareth the Goblin King in Labyrinth (1986), Pontius Pilate in The Last Temptation of Christ (1988), and Nikola Tesla in The Prestige (2006), among other film and television appearances and cameos. He stopped touring after 2004 and his last live performance was at a charity event in 2006. In 2013, Bowie returned from a decade-long recording hiatus with The Next Day. He remained musically active until he died of liver cancer two days after the release of his final album, Blackstar (2016).
  • Freddie Mercury (born Farrokh Bulsara; 5 September 1946 – 24 November 1991) was a British singer, songwriter, record producer, and lead vocalist of the rock band Queen. Regarded as one of the greatest lead singers in the history of rock music, he was known for his flamboyant stage persona and four-octave vocal range.Born in 1946 in Zanzibar to Parsi parents from India, he attended English-style boarding schools in India from the age of eight and returned to Zanzibar after secondary school. In 1964, his family fled the Zanzibar Revolution, moving to Middlesex, England. Having studied and written music for years, he formed Queen in 1970 with guitarist Brian May and drummer Roger Taylor. Mercury wrote numerous hits for Queen, including "Killer Queen", "Bohemian Rhapsody", "Somebody to Love", "We Are the Champions", "Don't Stop Me Now", and "Crazy Little Thing Called Love". He also led a solo career and served as a producer and guest musician for other artists. Mercury died in 1991 at age 45 due to complications from AIDS. He confirmed the day before his death that he had contracted the disease. In 1992, a tribute concert was held at Wembley Stadium. As a member of Queen, Mercury was posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2001, the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2003, and the UK Music Hall of Fame in 2004. In 1990, he and the other Queen members were awarded the Brit Award for Outstanding Contribution to British Music, and one year after his death Mercury was awarded it individually. In 2005, Queen were awarded an Ivor Novello Award for Outstanding Song Collection from the British Academy of Songwriters, Composers, and Authors. In 2002, Mercury ranked number 58 in the BBC's poll of the 100 Greatest Britons.
  • 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, he is one of the most successful musicians of the 20th century. Wonder's "classic period", between 1972 and 1977, is noted for his funky keyboard style, personal control of production, and series of songs integrated with one another to make a concept album.Blind since shortly after his birth, Wonder was a child prodigy known as Little Stevie Wonder leading him to sign with Motown's Tamla label at the age of 11. In 1963, the single "Fingertips" was a No. 1 hit on the US Billboard Hot 100 when Wonder was aged 13, making him the youngest artist ever to top the chart. Wonder started his "classic period" with Music of My Mind and Talking Book (both 1972), the latter of which featured the No. 1 hit "Superstition". It is one of the most distinctive and famous examples of the sound of the Hohner Clavinet keyboard. Innervisions (1973) won Album of the Year at the 16th Grammy Awards. Fulfillingness' First Finale (1974) also won Album of the Year at the 17th Annual Grammy Awards. Songs in the Key of Life (1976) won Album of the Year at the 19th Annual Grammy Awards, making Wonder, along with Frank Sinatra, the most Album of the Year's winner with three. He is also the only artist to have won the award with three consecutive album releases. Wonder's 1970s albums are regarded as very influential; the Rolling Stone Record Guide said they "pioneered stylistic approaches that helped to determine the shape of pop music for the next decade".Wonder has sold over 100 million records worldwide, which placed him among the best-selling music artists of all time. He has won 25 Grammy Awards, making him one of the most awarded artists of all time. He was the first Motown artist and second African-American musician to win an Academy Award for Best Original Song, for the 1984 film The Woman in Red. Wonder was inducted into the Rock and Rock Hall of Fame and Songwriters Hall of Fame, and received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. He is also noted for his work as an activist for political causes, including his 1980 campaign to make Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday a holiday in the United States. In 2009, Wonder was named a United Nations Messenger of Peace.
  • 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, the Brandenburg Concertos, and the Goldberg Variations, and for vocal music such as the St Matthew Passion and the Mass in B minor. Since the 19th-century Bach Revival he has been generally regarded as one of the greatest composers of the Western art musical canon.The Bach family already counted several composers when Johann Sebastian was born as the last child of a city musician in Eisenach. After being orphaned at age 10, he lived for five years with his eldest brother Johann Christoph Bach, after which he continued his musical development in Lüneburg. From 1703 he was back in Thuringia, working as a musician for Protestant churches in Arnstadt and Mühlhausen and, for longer stretches of time, at courts in Weimar—where he expanded his repertoire for the organ—and Köthen—where he was mostly engaged with chamber music. From 1723 he was employed as Thomaskantor (cantor at St. Thomas) in Leipzig. He composed music for the principal Lutheran churches of the city, and for its university's student ensemble Collegium Musicum. From 1726 he published some of his keyboard music. In Leipzig, as had happened during some of his earlier positions, he had difficult relations with his employer, a situation that was little remedied when he was granted the title of court composer by his sovereign, Augustus, Elector of Saxony and King of Poland, in 1736. In the last decades of his life he reworked and extended many of his earlier compositions. He died of complications after eye surgery in 1750 at the age of 65. Bach enriched established German styles through his mastery of counterpoint, harmonic and motivic organisation, and his adaptation of rhythms, forms, and textures from abroad, particularly from Italy and France. Bach's compositions include hundreds of cantatas, both sacred and secular. He composed Latin church music, Passions, oratorios, and motets. He often adopted Lutheran hymns, not only in his larger vocal works, but for instance also in his four-part chorales and sacred songs. He wrote extensively for organ and for other keyboard instruments. He composed concertos, for instance for violin and for harpsichord, and suites, as chamber music as well as for orchestra. Many of his works employ contrapuntal genres such as fugue. Throughout the 18th century Bach was mostly renowned as an organist, while his keyboard music, such as The Well-Tempered Clavier, was appreciated for its didactic qualities. The 19th century saw the publication of some major Bach biographies, and by the end of that century all of his known music had been printed. Dissemination of scholarship on the composer continued through periodicals exclusively devoted to him, and publications such as the Bach-Werke-Verzeichnis (BWV, a numbered catalogue of his works) and new critical editions of his compositions. His music was further popularised through a multitude of arrangements, including the Air on the G String.
  • William Martin Joel (born May 9, 1949) is an American singer-songwriter, composer, and pianist. Commonly nicknamed the "Piano Man" after his first hit and signature song of the same name, he has led a commercially successful career as a solo artist since the 1970s, having released twelve studio albums from 1971 to 1993. He is one of the best-selling music artists of all time as well as the sixth best-selling recording artist and the third best-selling solo artist in the United States, with over 150 million records sold worldwide. His 1985 compilation album, Greatest Hits Vol. 1 & 2, is one of the best-selling albums in the US.Joel was born in 1949 in The Bronx, New York, and grew up on Long Island, New York, both places that influenced his music. Growing up, he took piano lessons at the insistence of his mother. After dropping out of high school to pursue a musical career, Joel took part in two short-lived bands, The Hassles and Attila, before signing a record deal with Family Productions and kicking off a solo career in 1971 with his first release, Cold Spring Harbor. In 1972, Joel caught the attention of Columbia Records after a live radio performance of the song "Captain Jack" became increasingly popular in Philadelphia, prompting him to sign a new record deal with the company and release his second album, Piano Man; after releasing two more albums, Streetlife Serenade and Turnstiles, Joel released his critical and commercial breakthrough album, The Stranger, in 1977. This album became Columbia's best-selling release, selling over 10 million copies and spawning several hit singles, including "Movin' Out (Anthony's Song)", "Just the Way You Are", "Vienna", "Only the Good Die Young", and "She's Always a Woman"; another song on this album, "Scenes from an Italian Restaurant", is Joel’s favorite of his own songs and has become a staple of his live shows.In 1978, Joel's album 52nd Street was his first album to peak at #1 on the Billboard 200 chart. Joel released his seventh studio album, Glass Houses, in an attempt to further establish himself as a rock and roll artist; this release featured "It's Still Rock and Roll to Me" (Joel's first single to top the Billboard Hot 100 chart), "You May Be Right", "Don't Ask Me Why", and "Sometimes a Fantasy". His next album, The Nylon Curtain, was released in 1982, and stemmed from a desire from Joel to create more lyrically and melodically ambitious music. An Innocent Man, released in 1983, served as an homage to genres of music which Joel had grown up with in the 1950s, such as rhythm and blues and doo-wop; this release featured "Uptown Girl" and "The Longest Time", two of his most popular songs today. After releasing the albums The Bridge and Storm Front in 1986 and 1989 respectively, Joel released his twelfth and final studio album, River of Dreams, in 1993. He went on to release Fantasies and Delusions, a 2001 album featuring classical compositions composed by Joel and performed by British-Korean pianist Richard Hyung-ki Joo. Joel also provided voiceover work in 1988 for the 27th animated Disney film, Oliver & Company, in which he provided the voice of the character Dodger, and contributed to the soundtracks to several different films, including Easy Money, Ruthless People, and Honeymoon in Vegas. Across the 20 years of his solo career, Joel produced 33 Top 40 hits in the US, all of which he wrote himself, and three of which ("It's Still Rock and Roll to Me", "Tell Her About It", and "We Didn't Start the Fire") managed to peak at the top of the Billboard Hot 100 charts. Joel has been nominated for 23 Grammy Awards, winning five of them, including Album of the Year for 52nd Street. Joel was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame (1992), the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (1999), and the Long Island Music Hall of Fame (2006). In 2001, Joel received the Johnny Mercer Award from the Songwriters Hall of Fame. In 2013, Joel received the Kennedy Center Honors, for influencing American culture through the arts. Since the advent of his solo career, Joel has held a successful touring career, holding live performances across the globe in which he sings several of his written songs. In 1987, he became one of the very first artists to hold a rock and roll tour in the Soviet Union following the country's alleviation of the ban on rock and roll music. Despite largely retiring from writing and releasing pop music following the release of River of Dreams, he continues to tour; he frequently performs at Madison Square Garden in Manhattan. Joel has been in several relationships, including marriages to Elizabeth Weber Small, model Christie Brinkley, and Katie Lee. Since 2015, he has been married to Alexis Roderick, his 4th spouse.