Rolling Stone magazine listed the 100 best singers of all time back in 2008 with the help of many famous musicians who voted for their favorite artists. The “Boss” Bruce Springsteen was one of the voters who listed the 20 best singers of all time in his opinion at the time.
The 20 singers that Bruce Springsteen listed as the best of all time:
20 – Joe Strummer
Joe Strummer, was a British musician who was best known as the co-founder, lyricist, rhythm guitarist, and co-lead vocalist of punk rock band the Clash, formed in 1976
19 – Howlin’ Wolf
Howlin’ Wolf was a Chicago blues singer, guitarist, and harmonica player. Originally from Mississippi, he moved to Chicago in adulthood and became successful, forming a rivalry with fellow bluesman Muddy Waters. With a booming voice and imposing physical presence, he is one of the best-known Chicago blues artists.
18 – Smokey Robinson
Smokey Robinson was the founder and front man of the Motown vocal group the Miracles, for which he was also chief songwriter and producer.
He led the group from its 1955 origins as “the Five Chimes” until 1972, when he announced his retirement from the group to focus on his role as Motown’s vice president. However, Robinson returned to the music industry as a solo artist the following year. After the sale of Motown Records in 1988, Robinson left the company in 1990.
17 – Brian Wilson
He is the founder, in 1961, of the Beach Boys. He was the leading American composer in the 1960s. Also being one of the most creative musicians in popular music of the 20th century. Together with his brothers Dennis and Carl Wilson, cousin Mike Love and friend Alan Jardine, he performed songs that are part of the rock manual.
16 – Sam Moore
Sam Moore is an American vocalist who was a member of the soul and R&B group Sam & Dave from 1961 to 1981. He is a member of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, the Grammy Hall of Fame (for “Soul Man”), and the Vocal Group Hall of Fame.
15 – James Brown
James Brown was an American singer, songwriter and dancer. The central progenitor of funk music and a major figure of 20th-century music, he is often referred to by the honorific nicknames “Godfather of Soul”, “Mr. Dynamite”, and “Soul Brother No. 1”.
14 – Darlene Love
Darlene Love is an American popular music singer and actress. She was the lead singer of the girl group the Blossoms and she also recorded as a solo artist.
13 – Elvis Presley
Elvis Presley was born in January 8, 1935 and died August 16, 1977. Dubbed the “King of Rock and Roll”, he is regarded as one of the most significant cultural icons of the 20th century. His energized interpretations of songs and sexually provocative performance style, combined with a singularly potent mix of influences across color lines during a transformative era in race relations, led him to both great success and initial controversy.
12 – Hank Williams
Hiram “Hank” Williams was an American singer regarded as one of the most significant and influential American singers and songwriters of the 20th century. He recorded 35 singles (five released posthumously) that reached the top 10 of the Billboard Country & Western Best Sellers chart, including 11 that reached No. 1 (three posthumously).
11 – Johnny Rotten
John Lydon, also known by his stage name Johnny Rotten, is an English singer and songwriter. He is best known as the lead singer of the late-1970s British punk band the Sex Pistols, which lasted from 1975 until 1978, and again for various revivals during the 1990s and 2000s. He is also the lead singer of post-punk band Public Image Ltd (PiL), which he founded and fronted from 1978 until 1993, and again since 2009.
10 – Roy Orbinson
Roy Orbison was an American singer, songwriter, and musician known for his impassioned singing style, complex song structures, and dark, emotional ballads.
9 – Van Morrison
Sir George Ivan Morrison is a Northern Irish Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and record producer whose recording career spans seven decades.
8 – Mick Jagger
Mick Jagger is an English singer, songwriter, actor, and film producer who has gained worldwide fame as the lead singer and one of the founder members of the Rolling Stones.
7 – Jerry Lee Lewis
Jerry Lee Lewis (born September 29, 1935) is an American singer-songwriter, musician, and pianist, often known by his nickname, The Killer. He has been described as “rock & roll’s first great wild man.”
6 – Little Richard
Little Richard was one of the biggest stars in rock history who died at the age of 87 back in 2020. In his childhood in Georgia, Little Richard grew up listening to rapturous gospel singers in black churches and this influenced his singing. He also learned to play the piano in his teens, an instrument that would help him to become a rockstar.
Two bands that opened Little Richard concerts in the beginning of their careers were The Beatles and Rolling Stones, in the early 60s. In the last years of his life he just participated in some recordings throughout the years and toured until 2013.
5 – Aretha Franklin
Aretha Franklin began her career as a child singing gospel at New Bethel Baptist Church in Detroit, Michigan, where her father C. L. Franklin was a minister. At the age of 18, she embarked on a secular-music career as a recording artist for Columbia Records.
While Franklin’s career did not immediately flourish, she found acclaim and commercial success after signing with Atlantic Records in 1966.
4 – John Lennon
John Lennon is considered one of the most important musicains of all time due to his work with The Beatles and on his solo career. The musician is responsible for many important songs from the 60s and 70s.
3 – Bob Dylan
Bob Dylan was born at St. Mary’s Hospital in Duluth, Minnesota, on May 24, 1941. He grew up in Hibbing, Minnesota, on the Mesabi Iron Range west of Lake Superior. And he was the grandson of Russian Jewish immigrants. At the age of ten Dylan wrote his first poems and, as a teenager, taught himself piano and guitar.
He started singing in rock groups, imitating Little Richard and Buddy Holly. But when he went to the University of Minnesota in 1959, he turned to folk music, impressed by the musical work of the legendary folk singer Woody Guthrie, whom he visited in New York in 1961.
2 – Sam Cooke
Sam Cooke is considered to be a pioneer and one of the most influential soul artists of all time. He is commonly referred to as the “King of Soul” for his distinctive vocals, notable contributions to the genre and high significance in popular music.
1 – Ray Charles
Ray Charles was an American singer, songwriter, pianist, and composer. Among friends and fellow musicians he preferred being called “Brother Ray”. He was often referred to as “the Genius”. Charles was blinded during childhood due to glaucoma.
Charles pioneered the soul music genre during the 1950s by combining blues, jazz, rhythm and blues, and gospel styles into the music he recorded for Atlantic.
Bruce Springsteen (born September 23, 1949) is an American singer-songwriter and leader of the E Street Band. Nicknamed “The Boss,” he is recognized for his poetic lyrics, his Jersey Shore roots, his distinctive voice, and lengthy, energetic stage performances.
Springsteen has sold more than 135 million records worldwide and more than 64 million records in the United States, making him one of the world’s best-selling artists.
In an interview with Conan O’Brien back in 2020, Bruce Springsteen talked about what it takes to be a truly great artist. The host told Springsteen that he believes that “to be a truly great artist you need some components – anxiety, especially in your youth; an obsessive nature, plus a complicated relationship with a parent.” Then “The Boss” said: “Well, I believe that most successful, obsessive artists, have something very special eating at them, and that’s what makes them interesting to us.”
“There is an undescribable problem at their center that they’re constantly trying to sort out. It’s not completely ‘sort-out-able,’ but you can’t find elements of clues that bring you closer to the source. And this is how people are using their craft. This is how you can’t take your eyes off them or your ears,” Bruce Springsteen said.