Who is the best singer of all time? When you ask people this question, many of the same names pop up in their answers: Frank, Ella, Whitney… But you might also hear some names that are new to you.
The following list includes the best singers from a variety of genres and eras, but it is far from comprehensive. These particular singers made the list because they have something that really makes them stand out, whether it’s their sound or presentation – or both! Of course, there’s no way we could fit every great singer here, so if you find your favorite singer missing, leave a comment below!
The 50 Best Vocalists of All Time
Before we go into the details of why each singer made the list, this infographic shows a small selection from our top 50. Click around, have a listen, and enjoy!
What Makes a Great Singer?
As you browse through this list of the best vocalists of all time, see if you can pinpoint what sets each singer apart. Was it their incredible vocal technique, their commanding stage presence, or the unique tone quality of their voice? Often, it’s a combination of these elements — along with an iconic song — that gives us the legendary singers we know and love.
It’s no secret that everyone has different tastes in singers. If you’re a singer yourself, think of this list as a way to discover new influences that may have been overlooked before, and maybe even pick up a new technique or two. Ask yourself: Was this singer popular because they were in the right place at the right time, or is there a timeless quality to their voice that transcends generations? What is it that makes a singer timeless?
Best Female Singers of All Time
Barbra Streisand has an extremely unique voice that has been enchanting audiences for over 50 years. Her gorgeous tone, belting prowess, and way with a ballad are only a few reasons why so many people adore her.
The power, the musicality, the feeling! These are the reasons why Aretha will forever be the “Queen of Soul.” Though many have tried to be her, there is just no topping the sassy original. No wonder she’s considered one of the best singers of all time.
This country legend had a rich voice that many consider to be one of the finest ever. Though Willie Nelson penned the hit song “Crazy,” he admitted that no one could sing it like Patsy. Her version is magical!
Not only did she have a youthful and beautiful tone, but Ella had musicianship like no other singer. She said she “learned to sing from the birds,” and after listening to this song you’ll believe her!
Although she may have started her musical journey as a drummer, Karen’s brother Richard encouraged her to share her gorgeous contralto with the world. The rest is history!
Best Male Singers of All Time
The King of Rock and Roll was such a presence. He took the world by storm with his unmatched charisma and beautiful baritone that he used in everything from rockabilly to ballads and even soulful gospel songs.
If you want to hear masterful phrasing, listen to Frank Sinatra. His cool, clear baritone is timeless. Like Ella, he was known for making each song his own — even nursery rhymes!
His soulful tenor could sell a song like nothing else. The polish in his delivery is another reason why singers will admire Sam Cooke for years to come.
Is there a rock vocalist alive that doesn’t wish they could sing like Freddie? The range, the sheer power, the showmanship! He’s a legend and one of the best singers ever for many reasons.
Many have compared Luther’s voice to velvet. The beautiful quality of his voice paired with the feeling in his singing are just a few reasons why he will always have millions of fans.
Best Pop Singers of All Time
Discovered at an early age, Celine is known for her amazing range and effortless sound. She takes great care of her instrument and you can definitely tell.
A soulful and distinctive sound, George could really tug at the heartstrings when he performed a ballad, or get us to dance with more lighthearted tunes. This is the mark of a singer with true versatility!
This versatile baritone is one of the best singers because of his special way with standards and ballads. He can also sing in Italian and has starred on Broadway. What can’t Josh do?!
An underrated yet greatly respected vocalist, k.d. lang is equally gifted in old school country, jazz, and pop standards. Her version of “Hallelujah” has been called one of the best ever.
This legend had a clear and soulful mezzo voice that could soar and tackle absolutely everything from dance songs to love songs. Skilled with vocal runs, she knew just how to use them tastefully.
Best Rock Singers of All Time
Her intimidating stage presence and steely tone: these are just two reasons why Grace will always be a queen of rock.
Ann sounds better than ever now that she is in her sixties! She studied healthy vocal technique, and it shows. Her sheer power has many calling her the “female Robert Plant.”
Still rocking in his seventies, because he can! The Red Rocker had an extremely powerful voice that made Van Halen a success, as well as his numerous other bands and solo projects.
No one can wail quite like Robert. His soaring tenor is legendary, as the front man of Led Zeppelin and as a soloist. He is another artist that many imitate, but simply can’t master.
Chris may be remembered for the sheer power and cut of his vocals, but he also had range! He was able to sing more subtle ballads that were equally impressive, whether with Soundgarden, Audioslave, or as a solo artist.
Best Country Singers of All Time
You believed every word Tammy sang! She poured everything she had into her classics and made no apologies for it. She is one of the best singers of all time due to the feeling she put into each and every song.
One of the undisputed kings of country music, this tenor really seemed to live his sad songs — much like his ex-wife, Tammy!
The twang, the tears, the authenticity! Kitty inspired so many great country artists that came after her.
This legend packed such power with her sassy lyrics. The “Coal Miner’s Daughter” is still singing today, collaborating with artists like Jack White.
Being a great singer is more than just having a great voice. Sometimes, it’s all about the emotion and life you put into a song. And the Man in Black is proof of that.
Best Opera Singers of All Time
By far the most revered opera singer of all time for good reason. Maria is the soprano who had it all: a great voice, thrilling stage presence, and ultimate musicianship.
This Italian superstar tenor had an instantly recognizable voice. His high notes seemed so easy that his nickname was “King of the High Cs”!
This American baritone had a big voice and a big personality, making him a beloved star for opera audiences everywhere.
Perhaps the greatest tenor you haven’t heard off! Even Pavarotti himself was in awe of this Swedish singer.
Arturo Toscanini said this Italian soprano had the “voice of an angel.” Renata was often praised for her gorgeous tone, and it’s easy to hear why.
Best R&B Singers of All Time
This legend had a massive range that he used very expressively. Although he started as a doo-wop singer, he found his voice performing songs with powerful messages.
It’s no wonder it seems so easy for Toni: her mother was a trained opera singer who stressed the importance of vocal technique! This artist is a true contralto with low notes to spare.
It may surprise you because he has such a big range, but Stevie is a baritone! His sweet, soulful sound and timeless melodies are what make him a legend.
Who’s the boss? Ms. Diana Ross! A singer can learn a lot from her class and stage presence, and the way she used her sweet-sounding voice.
Still sounding fantastic, this Motown legend has a warm and very powerful mezzo voice that younger singers of today would envy.
Best Broadway Singers
With a belt as strong as her stage presence, Patti LuPone is without a doubt the most revered grand dame of the Great White Way.
This booming and bright baritone voice still has plenty of fans to this day, and rightly so. He is also the father of another fabulous musician – Bonnie Raitt!
The emotion she puts into each and every song is no doubt why Bernadette is a favorite of composer Stephen Sondheim.
Her impossibly clear and pure soprano voice was featured in blockbuster movies, but she got her start on the stage, enchanting in classics such as My Fair Lady.
There is no one who can out-belt “the Merm!” The sheer brassiness in her voice and personality made her an icon on stage and on screen.
Greatest Singers of Yesteryear
Judy is one of the finest singing actresses of all time. When she performed, you believed she truly lived each song.
Nat King Cole
Nat was wonderful not only because he had such a warm tone, but because he knew that singing simply was more than enough to sell a song.
They called him the “Velvet Fog” because of his beautiful tenor voice. Mel was also a great improviser and quite skilled at scat singing.
Her rich, clear voice lended itself beautifully to both uptempo novelty numbers as well as heartfelt ballads.
This amazing voice is one of the best of the 1960s. She used to compete with Barbra Streisand for the same roles in NYC when they were first starting out.
Greatest Singers of Today
Don’t let the crazy costumes fool you: this lady has an absolutely wonderful voice that is as amazing in pop music as well as jazz standards.
His tenor voice is not only beautiful and unique, but he sounds just as good live as he does on recordings.
Sara’s slightly smoky tone paired with her heartfelt lyrics make this amazingly talented singer one of the best out there right now.
The powerful and emotional delivery of her songs are on par with some of the greats from the past, including Patsy Cline.
Not only does Queen Bey put on a great show, but she also has a killer voice. This internationally adored diva mixes it up between catchy dance tunes and massive ballads, earning her a place among the greatest singers ever!
There you have it: our 50 best vocalists of all time. Whenever you need a bit of singing inspiration, you can come back to this page and discover another vocal gem. One of the most important things you can do as a singer is listen to and study the greats — after all, many of them got their start by imitating the singers that came before them.
There are so many fantastic singers in the world that it would be impossible to include all of them on this list. That’s why we want to hear from you. Who would YOU say is the best singer of all time? Let us know in the comment section below and be sure to check out the singers listed in other comments!
We hope that some of these vocalists inspired you to take your own singing skills to the next level. Remember that each one of these singers started out as beginners, and through practice and perseverance worked their way up to the top. Working with a vocal coach is the single best way to improve your singing ability, whether you’re looking to join the ranks of these great singers or you’d just like to casually improve your voice.