The 50 Best Singers From All Genres & Generations [Infographic]

50 Best Singers of All Time

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!

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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

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.

Aretha Franklin

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.

Patsy Cline

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!

Ella Fitzgerald

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!

Karen Carpenter

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

Elvis Presley

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.

Frank Sinatra

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!

Sam Cooke

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.

Freddie Mercury

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.

Luther Vandross

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

Celine Dion

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.

George Michael

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!

Josh Groban

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?!

k.d. lang

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.

Whitney Houston

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

Grace Slick

Her intimidating stage presence and steely tone: these are just two reasons why Grace will always be a queen of rock.

Ann Wilson

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.”

Sammy Hagar

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.

Robert Plant

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 Cornell

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

Tammy Wynette

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.

George Jones

One of the undisputed kings of country music, this tenor really seemed to live his sad songs much like his ex-wife, Tammy!

Kitty Wells

The twang, the tears, the authenticity! Kitty inspired so many great country artists that came after her.

Loretta Lynn

This legend packed such power with her sassy lyrics. The “Coal Miner’s Daughter” is still singing today, collaborating with artists like Jack White.

Johnny Cash

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

Maria Callas

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.

Luciano Pavarotti

This Italian superstar tenor had an instantly recognizable voice. His high notes seemed so easy that his nickname was “King of the High Cs”!

Robert Merrill

This American baritone had a big voice and a big personality, making him a beloved star for opera audiences everywhere.

Jussi Björling

Perhaps the greatest tenor you haven’t heard off! Even Pavarotti himself was in awe of this Swedish singer.

Renata Tebaldi

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

Marvin Gaye

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.

Toni Braxton

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.

Stevie Wonder

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.

Diana Ross

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.

Gladys Knight

Still sounding fantastic, this Motown legend has a warm and very powerful mezzo voice that younger singers of today would envy.

Best Broadway Singers

Patti LuPone

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.

John Raitt

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!

Bernadette Peters

The emotion she puts into each and every song is no doubt why Bernadette is a favorite of composer Stephen Sondheim.

Julie Andrews

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.

Ethel Merman

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 Garland

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.

Mel Tormé

They called him the “Velvet Fog” because of his beautiful tenor voice. Mel was also a great improviser and quite skilled at scat singing.

Rosemary Clooney

Her rich, clear voice lended itself beautifully to both uptempo novelty numbers as well as heartfelt ballads.

Cass Elliot

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

Lady Gaga

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.

Sam Smith

His tenor voice is not only beautiful and unique, but he sounds just as good live as he does on recordings.

Sara Bareilles

Sara’s slightly smoky tone paired with her heartfelt lyrics make this amazingly talented singer one of the best out there right now.

Brandi Carlile

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.

When you’re ready to take your vocal skills to new heights, check out the online singing classes available at TakeLessons Live, or sign up for lessons with a local teacher!

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21 replies
  1. Maria R.
    Maria R. says:

    I really enjoyed this Blog! It showed me all the timbers and styles that have captivated our hearts over the years. It is amazing how a song well sung can bring us to tears or make us laugh and feel joy in a way that nothing else can. There is really so many reasons to take lessons and expand one’s potential. Getting professional tutelage insures we don’t damage our vocal cords, trying to get better. PLUS it also prevails the shortcuts only a professional can make available and can eliminate the time you waste not even knowing what you’re doing wrong. Great Piece! Thanks 😉

  2. J. K.
    J. K. says:

    I loved this blog, I really appreciate that you mentioned Freddie Mercury, Robert Plant, and Stevie Wonder, but there are other great singers you haven’t mentioned. Michael Jackson and Axl Rose were not in the list, but they deserve to be listed.

  3. ADB
    ADB says:

    The list could definitely use some more jazz singers. To me the biggest omission is Sarah Vaughan (!). But there are also many other great ones, like Billie Holiday, Dinah Washington, Carmen McRae, Johnny Hartman, Tony Bennett, Helen Merrill, Nancy Wilson, and many more.

    • Citizen K
      Citizen K says:

      Actually, this is one of the best lists I’ve seen, very well put together. Narrowing down to 5 by genre is pretty difficult to do, considering the pool of great singers we’ve heard over the years. I especially feel you hit the nail on the head with the best female singers of all time. Karen, Ella, Aretha & Barbra are locks although, as ADB mentioned above, Sarah Vaughan should definitely be in there somewhere (maybe move Patsy to country or yesteryear) .. Dionne Warwick, Minnie Riperton, Dusty Springfield, Ray Charles and many more deserve heavy consideration as well, but you’ve pretty much covered it – kudos

  4. Ron
    Ron says:

    Freddie Mercury is the best and it’s not even close. He is not a rock singer. People identify Queen as solely a Rock group but just look at Another One Bites the Dust, Who Wants to Live Forever, Crazy Little Thing Called Love, Innuendo, Love of my Life, Stone Cold Crazy and The Millionaire Waltz. Their catalogue of variety is insane. Also, Freddie’s solo songs such as Barcelona and La Japonaise and Living on my Own just show how out of this world he was. Then consider his legendary live performances and that he wrote so many of Queen’s hits. He is truly in a class of his own.

  5. Chris
    Chris says:

    Is this a “greatest” list? Or most popular? Because “greatest” in country should include Vince Gill and Martina McBride.

  6. Mar
    Mar says:

    Mariah Carey should be in the top female of all time. Mariah is legendary, all of the octaves she can reach!

  7. George
    George says:

    “Best pop singers of all time” How about to at least name the King of Pop for instance? He should be putted on place, he’s a king for the reason…

  8. Dee
    Dee says:

    This list was better than most I’ve seen. Many give the impression there was no music before 1955. I was happy to see Karen Carpenter recognized. I would have found places for John Denver, Johnny Mathis and Linda Ronstadt, but maybe that’s just me. And, I definitely feel there should be a category for best harmony group. Sometimes the magic isn’t in one voice, but in the weaving of several voices.

  9. Thomas Gosselin
    Thomas Gosselin says:

    Was there crack involved during the creation of these lists???
    Where is Mariah Carey? She is literally the most successful female singer of all time…the biggest selling female recording artist in history. She has the most #1 singles (18), more than any other solo artist male or female and secondonly to the Beatles (20) she also has the #1 song of the decade on both the 1990s and 2000s. One Sweet Day is the longest running #1 song of all time (only recently being tied by Despacito). Not only has she been credited by nearly every single vocalist that came after her (Beyonce, Kelly, Jessie, Jojo, Lady Gaga, Demi, Ariana justto name a few) as one of their biggest influences, she was named the Greatest Voice of All Time. She is responsible for bringing pop and r&b/hip-hop/rap collaborations to the mainstream and making music what it is today. People often credit Madonna as one of the biggest influences on the music industry but it really is Mariah who has been one of the biggest influences in the music business and people don’t recognize her contributions. Most of the singers and music we have today would not exist as they are had it not been for Mariah and her contributions. Oh yeah let’s not forget that she wrote and writes almost every single one of her songs with the exception being her covers of other songs.


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