Wednesday Question: Best Singers Of All Time?

In 2012, UG Top 10s have tackled bassists, drummers and guitarists. But what about the people who front it all with a voice of steel? Place your nominations here.

logo
Ultimate Guitar
19

Since opening the UG 'Top 10' nominations to reader nominations and votes this year, we've had some truly stellar lists.

So far you've tackled everything from the best rock guitarists to the top live recordings, but it's time to pay tribute to the people who front it all: the singers.

This week's Wednesday question is:

Who are the best singers of all time?

Since this is UG, we expect a pretty rockin' set of nominations, but you don't have to stick to rock and metal genres if the singer deserves it. That's not to say Pavarotti would be suitable, but it would be great to see a nod towards other genres in the comments.

It's fine to nominate people who scream as well as sing, of course.

Don't forget to nominate female singers too too - there might be fewer women in the rock world, but there are plenty who deserve your attention in this poll.

Place your nominations in the comments, and remember to upvote others that you agree with. We'll stack up the results and compile them in a post on Friday.

787 comments sorted by best / new / date

    N-D
    I'm not a fan of Queen, but I think, of course, Freddie Mercury should be in Top 10.
    TJWhonley
    its all about Robert Plant. can anybody but him sing kashmir?
    N-D
    If you take not only rock singers, I think James Brown was a great singer with incredible energy.
    The_DSO
    Along those lines, I have to add Louis Armstrong, Nat King King Cole and Tom Waits but why is Pavarotti not suitable? he has a magnificent voice, and can control it like no other person apart from maybe Feddie Mercury
    dannydesktop
    I like everyone you mentioned, they have great voices that suit a lot of styles but i probably wouldn't put them in a list of top singers.
    N-D
    And sorry for double post - you should check this video:
    N-D
    I know, he will not be included in the list, but Greg Puciato from The Dillinger Escape Plan is also a great vocalist - check out him:
    And good example of his live abilities (my favourite moment on 2:51):
    N-D
    Another great example of Mike Patton's skills as amazing vocalist and frontman:
    NightProwlerr
    Someones excited
    Schofey
    Not sure if he's been mentioned yet, but Miljenko Matijevic (Steelheart) is an amazing vocalist.
    hotdogs585
    Mike Patton, Nico De Gallo (The female singer from Star Fucking Hipsters), Paul Westerberg, Laura Jane Grace/Tom Gabel, William Elliott Whitmore, Brian Fallon, Michael Jackson, Shane Macgowan, Cedric Bixler Zavala. They all have personality and cannot be mistaken for anyone else.
    whywefight
    That's a pretty good list, but I never got why people put lists up to answer these questions. How is UG supposed to know what part of the list people are thumbing up?
    hotdogs585
    That's just because I really don't care if my entry makes it in. We all know the final list is going to either be garbage or will include the obvious singers that are only on the list out of nostalgia (Freddy Mercury, Robert Plant, etc) I just like the discussion.
    N-D
    Oh, of course, Mike Patton! Check out his vocal range:
    arnolddrummer
    If we're talking vocal range, let's get Mathew Bellamy in this. I know Ugers tend to not like him, but the man has an amazing voice.
    theogonia777
    I mean, A2 to C6 is a decent vocal range, but it's only three octaves and a minor third (a major 3rd if you count up to C#6). Guys like Mark Slaughter, Geoff Tate, Rob Halford, etc have almost a whole octave on him if that is his actual range. I mean, even I can go as high (C#6) and about a fourth lower (E2). Now, I don't have a great voice, but the point is that vocal range doesn't make someone a great singer. It's better to be able to have a great voice and a range of an octave and a 6th than four octaves of meh, and I really don't think MB's voice is that great, at least not compared to the guys that I mentioned that do in fact have 4 octave ranges (or used to, I don't know if the first two still do, and I know Rob certainly doesn't). But I guess MB's voice not being so great is just my opinion, and others will disagree. But anyway, there are about a million classical/opera singers with far better voices than just about an rock/metal/blues/country/jazz/whatever vocalist, but nobody even cares about them. But as far as non-art music goes, some of the jazz guys like Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr, etc have absolutely amazing voices. I'm also going to say that I find Bruce Dickinson's voice to be the single worst part of Iron Maiden by far and pretty much any halfway decent power metal vocalist can outclass him, but again, that's my opinion and I'm sure a lot of people will disagree. I also feel like the guy from Dream Theater is pretty mediocre (and don't even care to look up his name), and Tom Waits, Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Leonard Cohen, and Robert Plant have objectively terrible sounding voices, but their voices fit their music very well which is in many cases far more important than actually having a good voice. I think as far as rock goes, the guys from CSN have great voices, especially their harmonies, though I don't like their voices that much. I guess I could say the same thing about the Byrds. Freddy Mercury is probably the best singer in all of rock though.
    Aero|
    Solid list. I just love you for actually including Cedric before I had the chance to voice his name. One of my favourites for sure.
    Bassplay_josh
    Jim Morrison
    I.shower.naked
    ToolCreedence
    Layne Staley is probably my favorite. Also, Phil Anselmo Mike Patton Maynard James Keenan Freddie Mercury Cedric Bixler-Zavala Steve Winwood Robert Plant David Gilmour Crosby Stills and/or Nash Al Green Steve Perry Jewel Norah Jones James Taylor Jeff Buckley Greg Allman Paul Rodgers (Bad Company) Tommy Giles Rodgers (BTBAM) Bill Withers Beth Gibbons (Portishead) Hope Sandoval (Mazzy Star) Jack Bruce (Cream) David Bowie Chino Moreno Ann Wilson (Heart) Meat Loaf Thom Yorke Van Morrison Pretty Random..
    CinderellaFan14
    Diamond David Lee Roth? You may not be all for his flamboyant persona in Van Halen, but you need to check out this song from his solo career. It's almost Pink Floyd-ish, it's insanely good.
    dannydesktop
    Morrison was a okay front man, great singer? I dunno he was kind of like a Elvis impersonator...
    Tkwndbobo
    Morrison was ok... he didn't really come off as all to versatile. However, take Roger Daltrey, he had range, tone, power. He is a magnificent singer, plus I saw him about a month ago and his voice has loss none of that power
    marijuanaman420
    Jimi Hendrix
    MrDo0m
    Jimi Hendrix is a vastly underrated lyricist and singer. Everyone thinks that it's all about his guitar playing, but the man had pipes and wrote meaningful, poetic lyrics.
    ihartfood
    Here's some good ones: Jeff Buckley Don Henley (the dude from The Eagles) Chris Cornell (Soundgarden, Audioslave) Adele Norah Jones Mikael kerfeldt (Opeth. Listen to their song Harvest, he has an amazing voice) Brent Smith (Shinedown. He has an amazing voice as well) and of course Eddie Vedder. His singing on the Into the Wild soundtrack, his ukulele album, and some of Pearl Jam's less known songs are amazing.
    KTbass
    dunno what to do. downvote you for adele or upvote for jeff buckley
    xonty
    Robert Plant and Geddy Lee
    Floyd Phoenix
    Love Rush and everything, but to be perfectly honest I wouldn't say Geddy has the best voice, awesome as it is. Also, haven't seen Dio anywhere..
    MetalHermit
    sonny sandoval(p.o.d.) tom araya(slayer) angelea garssow(arch enemy) john davis(korn) dont know his name but the guy from gojira.
    tele-disaster
    one problem with your choices, they dont SING. my choices would be marvin gaye,james brown,freddie mercury,albert and bb king,chris cornell,robert plant,pavorotti,roger daltrey.
    Chronologo
    Only Angela Gossow sings in that list, people think that gutural doesn't take technique, but Angela's gutural style does have a proper technique.
    CJSchecter96
    yes he is definetly up there. personally i think Myles Kennedy. the guy is simply amazing.
    Kriggs
    Chris Cornell
    N7Crazy
    I'm mostly just impressed you got +80 this far down - not slamming on Cornell of course, it's just that most people only read the top 15, then scroll directly to the bottom to post their own, which is a shame, since fx. this comment still hasnt got the sufficient amount of "+" to justify how awsome Cornell is!
    KwikyLemons
    Layne Staley, you can't have a best singers list without him.
    dewitt
    Fun Fact: Back when he was playing drums, his band mates used to make fun of him for hoping to one day be a lead singer.
    billabong3150
    If your going to say Layne Staley I think you should include Jerry Cantrell and Layne together...their harmonies were awesome and a huge part of their sound.
    harvMM7x
    Rob Halford. In his day, the range and power of his voice was unmatched, perhaps only by Ronnie James Dio
    GhostPlayground
    No one has better range than the King.
    The fact that his average song contains tons of overlapping vocal tracks (all performed by him) makes him even more amazing.
    Chronologo
    With all the due respect that Diamond deserves, and I like his work a lot you can't compare his falsetto technique to a more demanding vocal technique like the one that Halford used. Ppl tend to mistake anything that's higher as falsetto when in reality Halford used full head voice.
    qrEE
    Halford used falsetto all the time though... Bruce is one of the few guys who hardly used falsetto.
    latem yvaeh
    Rob had a six-octave range in his prime...I think that's better than KD's, but they're both fantastic nevertheless.
    GhostPlayground
    Not dissing Halford (he was a fantastic singer) but i think that King Diamond is a bit better than him because of his ability to compose his vocals as though he's composing a symphony. The fact that he has the ability to overlap so many vocal tracks onto almost every one of his songs, and the fact that he can switch between octaves as quickly as he can makes him a more technically advanced singer than Halford. Also, at one point in time King Diamond held the record for the highest note sung by a human. c6, before someone else broke the record by singing c7.
    qrEE
    Clearly you don't know much about octave ranges... he most likely did NOT have a six octave range. King Diamond has a much higher range, without competition, and King's is only MAYBE a 5. Six octaves is ridiculous. You have to go into whisper tone territory to do that.
    KingNothing666
    Dio, Bruce Dickinson, Rob Halford
    Kwyjibo2006
    Robert Plant
    Abacus11
    Maynard James Keenan
    dewitt
    ...has never displayed anything greater than an average vocal talent.
    Abacus11
    I don't know man... calling MJK "average vocal talent" is pretty crazy if you ask me. He's got amazing control, beautiful tone and an extremely creative sense of melody. Listen to his vocals again (especially on Tool's "Aenima" and A Perfect Circle's "Mer De Noms") but his whole discography is impressive to say the least. I'd rank him as one of the best rock/metal vocalists of the last 25 years.
    SunshineMusicO
    I hope you are joking. MJK is a brilliant tenor Although most recently, his voice hasn't been too great, but he sounded awesome in the 90s and earlier 00s
    hendrix04
    Robert Plant
    xplosive59
    Frank Sinatra and Aretha Franklin. Neither my favourites, but this is about the best not personal favourites.
    ChucklesMginty
    Sinatra 100% One thing people forget is if you listen to a lot of his songs without vocals, it sounds like it would be impossible to sing over! But his phrasing both rhythmically and melodically was second to none.
    Baphometronic
    Chris Cornell, Myles Kennedy, Roger Daltrey, Freddie Mercury, Jeff Buckley, Jacko, David Gilmour
    bowchickawowwow
    Janis Joplin
    crazysam23_Atax
    ...was terrible.
    vppark2
    maybe your ears are biased then or are just sexist
    SGofawesome
    No, she really was just...not qualified for the best. She was unique, sure, but still not the best.
    vppark2
    Well, i always thought of her as one of the best. When u think of the best female singers, i usually think of Janis. My opinion of course.
    getawaygman
    Eddie vedder
    rockfreak611
    Also, I find the lack of Paul McCartney (or any Beatle for that manner) in this comments section disturbing.
    rockfreak611
    never understood what the hype was behind vedder's voice. sure, it's iconic, but to me there's a difference between "distinctive" and "best singer of all time". Not knocking him at all, but I think there are more noteworthy people that deserve to be in a top 10 list before him, IMHO.
    crazysam23_Atax
    I hope you're kidding...
    dewitt
    He hasn't made much use of it throughtout his career, but Eddie Vedder is actually a great singer. I don't lime admitting this because I hate what he usually does with his voice, but he's got respectable talent.
    metallicmud
    Hasn't done much with his career? Are you serious. That man has a great voice that was inspiring in the day mate.
    jrob08
    Brandon Boyd of Incubus. Not just one of the best voices in rock music, but a voice that really compliments the band's sound, which is also important.
    TheWarpRider
    Chris Cornell. Seriously. (Ok, besides Robert Plant)
    p.s. go and listen to the vocal only track of that. No effects or double tracking or anything what so ever (in the 90/91 parts) besides a bit of reverb.
    sscaner
    Bruce Dickinson, Ronnie James Dio, Rob Halford, Michael Kiske, Jorn Lande, Rusell Allen...
    Drm316
    I'm glad I'm not the only one who also thought about Kiske Right on man!
    PoorePlaysBass
    It's Chris Cornell. This isn't even a question. Whether he's 27:
    Or 45:
    He's got range, power, emotion, the complete deal.
    billat10oclock
    Matthew Bellamy and Freddy Mercury.
    billat10oclock
    Is it because I spelled "Freddie" wrong?
    bevski208
    No, it's because it's cool to hate on Muse on UG apparently. Matt has a sick voice, but his music isn't br00tlz enough for most UGers
    Sloan7
    I honestly think at this point that Muse is the new Queen. Matt's voice is cool and everything but geeze they're just so damn diverse with EVERY album.....
    fadeproofloco
    damn them for being diverse. they should just release the same albvum every time i guess. while i am here it would be a travesty if ian gillan doesnt make it on to this list. other people who are great singers chris cornell peter gabriel freddie mercury till lindemann has got a good growl on him sevan kand myles kennedy cory taylor paul rodgers
    Shavyi
    Yeah, on UG, it's definitely cool to hate bands people think they are to mainstream, like Muse or Metallica for example. Just check the post saying James Hetfield or Axl Rose...
    billat10oclock
    The irony of hipster rock guitar players.
    Guitaristallday
    Muse is really annoying though, that's why. They don't know how to use noise properly
    third(-)eye
    So because you personally find their MUSIC annoying, he can't be on the list for his VOICE? Gud logikz der.
    Sloan7
    What tracks are you talking about? I think they're one of the most educated bands out there and really know what they're doing (being as popular as they are because I know there are thousands of better educated musicians out there). That being said I think Muse knows what they're doing in the studio and everything is probably intentional. I wouldn't think they're a band that makes mistakes in the studio let alone the final mixes of their songs.
    hotdogs585
    I don't think you know what hipster means
    billat10oclock
    Hipster: Disliking mainstream culture (including music) in favor of less known obscure things. Most hipsters will hate on mainstream things because it is mainstream.
    Kueller917
    Jeff Buckley, Freddie Mercury, Matt Bellamy, and Peter Silberman I think are amazing singers.
    Garland41
    This list needs more Chris Cornell, Ex.
    Also Bruce Dickenson, Tarja Turunen(Nightwish), Jon Anderson(Yes), Eddie Vedder, and Ian Gillan.
    woody182
    Brandon Boyd has the best vocals ever in my opinion. Perfection. Chris Cornell is also amazing, Bradley nowell from Sublime is incredible Johnny Cash's old man vocals aren't the best ever vocals but I think his voice complements his music on the American recordings almost better than any other musisiacian has. Just my opinion