Greatest Lead Singers in Rock History

There is a burning question in my soul, “Who is the greatest lead singer in Rock history?” I am sure it burns in yours as well. I have been trying to think through criteria to determine what would uniquely make them a great Rock lead singer. Here are some of the criteria I have chosen, feel free to add your own.

1) Stage Presence – Rock is all about the show, if you can’t entertain, you won’t be considered a candidate

2) Rock Arrogance – The best of the best know that they are the best, and it shows

3) A Uniquely Rock Voice – A great rock singer can scream, moan, talk, shout, or sing out of tune, they just have to sound Rock -n- Roll as they do it.

4) Staying Power – There are a lot of lead singers who just weren’t around long enough for the greatest to be truly measured. If you died early of an overdose or a plane crash, you can still be considered, but it may hurt your chances.

5) Great Band – The truly great ones raised up those around them to true greatness

Alright, so here is my list of top candidates and a thought or 2 about them, in no particular order.

Jim Morrison- The Doors – It is hard to think of him without picturing Val Kilmer, but the oozing sexual power of Jim Morrison and his weird, peyote driven artsiness is hard to deny

Steven Tyler – Aerosmith – What lips, what a weird face, what moves with a bandana tied mic stand, what a scream, wow

Mick Jagger – The Rolling Stones – Eerily similar to Steven Tyler, this geriatric rocker really helped define this category and even now in is 60’s he can still bring it

Roger Daltery – The Who – Well known, but slightly under the radar compared to some of these other leads, Roger Daltery has an ability to make haunting and power lyric linger through the power of his range presence “Meet the new boss, same as the old boss”

Grace Slick – Jefferson Airplane – When you hear her voice singing out “Don’t you want somebody to love, don’t you need somebody to love” the only answer is yes, yes, yes

Bono – U2 – Everything you could desire in a front man, larger than life personality, powerful vocals and lyrics, helping the poor, always wears sunglasses,Bono has it all

Tom Petty- Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers – Tom is know for his greatness, so much so that most people don’t know his band. This may actually hurt him in the long run

Axl Rose – Guns N Roses – “Shananananananana knees knees knees, I want to watch you  bleed” Axl defined the meteoric rise of GNR and also their demise. Is he selling cars now?

Anthony Kiedis – Red Hot Chili Peppers – Probably the shortest entry on this list, Kiedis is a ball of energy, punk style, and destructive behavior, kind of like his band.

Steve Perry – Journey – Probably the weakest band on this list, but how can you not love the homely, spandex wearing, bad haircut beauty of Steve Perry?

Robert Plant – Led Zepplin – Everyone goes through a Zepplin stage, usually in college or high school, and we are all better for it.

Eddie Vedder – Pearl Jam – Often unintelligible, always rocking, a big Neil Young fan, what is not to love about Eddie. By the way Pearl Jam’s new album is awesome, best stuff they have done in years

David Lee Roth – Van Halen – There has never been a bigger jerk in rock, but we said that Rock arrogance was a good thing, and he has a lot of it. Plus he does all of those cool ninja kicks on stage.

Ozzie Osbourne – Black Sabbath – It has been so long since Ozzie was known for great works like the Paranoid album instead of being a bumbling, stammering, shuffling dad, but that doesn’t discount that once he knew greatness

***Freddie Mercury*** – Freddie didn’t sit on this originally because although he had an amazing voice I always found it somewhat out of place in Rock. I always liked Queen but found them too popish and strange to consider them one of the greats. A ridiculous amount of people have commented otherwise, however, so I am adding him to the list to acknowledge their thoughts and so people can stop leaving the same comment.

Editors Note: Certain people were left off the list because of mitigating factors. There are no Beatles on the list because the greatness of the group overshadowed the greatness of the individuals. Performers who are best known for solo work were not put on the list these include Neil Young, Eric Clapton,Jimi Hendrix, Bob Dylan, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Janis Joplin, and others. Further, short lived bands or careers hurt people such as Kurt Cobain. Other  women I considered,  but left off the list, just for your knowledge are Deborah Harry of Blondie,  GwenStefani of No Doubt, Stevie Nicks of Fleetwood Mac, and Ann Wilson of Heart, but I am willing to hear arguments in favor of one of these if you have a valid case.

I will express my sentiments about the greatest of the great after hearing from you…..

178 thoughts on “Greatest Lead Singers in Rock History

  1. Freddie mercury and queen is rock!…lol and no matter if you find them to be as you say “poppish and strange” he is a rock singer/performer so in that context he is the greatest rock singer/performer/front man whatever you call it!….queen live aid ’85….that say’s it all!!!!!

  2. How was Queen *not* a rock band? Have you actually *listened* to them? Listen to their entire body of work. Tell me tracks like “Stone Cold Crazy”, “It’s Late”, “Sheer Heart Attack”, “Bohemian Rhapsody”, “Innuendo” and “Tenement Funster”…just to name a few…do not rock like a MF’er. Take a look at the many hard rock/metal bands they influenced. as far as range and power, freddie *is* god! no one would ever nor will ever command stadiums like he could.
    …and yes, Live Aid ’85 and the Live @ Wembley ’86 show says it all.

  3. …as for people like Kurt Cobain and Jeff Buckley who had short careers due to an untimely demise. it says something when vocalists who came before and after cite these individuals as influences. you shouldn’t base your decision on something as trivial as “oh, they had a short career…they don’t count”.
    need more proof? check out nick gilder, a one-hit wonder who has influenced people like billy corgan and brian aubert (silversun pickups). his one-hit rocks too, i must say.

  4. Really great list with one problem, the exclusion of Chris Cornell. He has been around for a little over 23 years. From Soundgarden to Audioslave, and Temple of the Dog, not to mention his solo work. He has a solid 4 1/2 octave range and can sing almost any style. Is also great frontman. Please consider re editing your list

    1. I AGREE,NICE REPLY.Cornell has progressed into one of the best ever.I can!t believe he gets left off these list.

  5. Everytime I see a list like this and van halen singers are brought up it’ts always david lee roth that gets up nobody ever gives any credit to sammy. Sammy hagar is a better singer/songwriter/entertainer tahn douchy dave. Plus not just with van halen but his work with montrose, solo work, and lately chickenfoot. C’mon throw sammy on the list. I was also upset bout other great singers that were left off the list such as sebastian bach; skid row, jeff keith; tesla, ann wilson; heart, bob seger; bob seger & the silver bullet band, david coverdale;whitesnaken jani lane; warrent, ronnie james dio; elf / deep purple / rainbow / black sabbath / dio, ronnie van zant; lynyrd skynyrd, jon bon jovi; bon jovi, bret michaels; poison and so many more

  6. What about Scott Weiland? Stp had hits after hits in the 90s. Then turned and went platinum twice with velvet revolver!!! Distinctive voice, persona.If you don’t think he deserves to be on this list, your stupid… STP was the best and biggest grudge band,period.

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