Top 10 Greatest Rock Rebels

Which rock stars made it to our rebellious top 10 this week? Find out here.

Ultimate Guitar

Rock music and rebellious behaviour have always gone hand-in-hand. In some cases it means defying the law or speaking out against the government for a greater good, and in others it's the sheer hedonism that puts some characters into either a history books or a grave.

This week we asked UG readers to nominate and vote for the greatest rock rebels of all time. Thousands of votes later, the results are in. Do you agree with the final top 10?

10. John Lennon (The Beatles)

Disrupting the world of music with the Beatles wasn't enough for Lennon. His solo lyrics were full of rebellious wit and charm, most notably in "Imagine" where he challenges listeners to picture a world without religion or countries - and to some, it makes a lot of sense.

9. Tony Iommi (Black Sabbath)

The Black Sabbath guitarist single-handedly invented the metal riff. No really, it was an injury on one hand where he lost two fingertips that guided his style of playing, which went on to inspire generations of musicians dressed in black ever since.

8. Elvis Presley

Presley's appearance on NBC in the mid 1950s caused a hailstorm of controversy when he halted a performance of "Hound Dog" to grind and gyrate in front of a teenage audience. "Presley is a definite danger to the security of the United States," read an urgent message to the FBI's J. Edgar Hoover. "[His] actions and motions were such as to rouse the sexual passions of teenaged youth."

7. Lemmy (Motorhead)

Born as Ian Fraser Kilmister, Lemmy went on to front the fast and hard-rockin' Motorhead. A 2005 documentary claims he's bedded over 2,000 women, though he's since gone on record to say they inflated his "over 1,000" number. Lemmy claims to drink a bottle of Jack Daniels every day, besides whatever else his tank-like body can manage. But his most rebellious move? Ignoring normal conventions like getting huge warts removed from your face - Lemmy wears his like a badge of honor.

6. Ozzy Osbourne (Black Sabbath)

Christian groups have always targeted Ozzy for his supposedly satanistic influence on teenagers, but he disagrees. "We were never really into the occult," he said in an interview this week. "It was a hobby, until we started getting invites to black-magic rites in cemeteries. Then I got accused of doing this and biting that and there would be people picketing the arena with banners. But if you listen to the lyrics, there's nothing that's pro-black magic or pro-satanic worship."

5. Jim Morrisson (The Doors)

A prominent member of the so-called "27 Club" whose entrants died at the untimely age of 27. On one hand he was charismatic, attractive and a gentleman; on the other he was a hard-drinking womaniser who was arrested for indecent exposure and drink-driving on separate occasions. His confidence was unparalleled , and Morrison proclaimed himself the "King of Orgasmic Rock."

4. Kurt Cobain (Nirvana)

Kurt wanted Nirvana to be the biggest band in the world, but on his own terms. He brought loud, rowdy grunge rock to the mainstream and connected with disparate youth in a way few bands have done before or since, but the resulting success became his downfall and Cobain took his own life in 1994.

3. Dee Snider (Twisted Sister)

A surprise entry at number three. Dee Snider might not look like the third most rebellious rock figure in history, but UG voters are a solid authority on these matters so we'll take their word for it. Unless, of course, it's another attempt to nudge Snider to the top spot, as with our famous Top 10 Rock Chicks poll where he won. Good effort, pranksters!

2. Zach De La Rocha (Rage Against the Machine)

Rage Against the Machine were one of the most politically charged bands in history, and De La Rocha's powerful roar remains an iconic sound. Unconfirmed rumors claim he has links to guerrilla fighters in South America, but one thing is certain: La Rocha will never sell out on his political views, and only signed to a major label to amplify his views to a wider audience.

1. Johnny Cash

The original outlaw musician. Cash's early years were a torrent of drug abuse, and he could have dropped completely off the radar if he didn't comeback with the live "Folsom Prison Blues" which put him back at the top of the charts. In his older years, Cash made a triumphant return with producer Rick Rubin at the helm, and recorded some of his greatest work, including the moving Nine Inch Nails cover "Hurt."

That's the end of our top 10 rock music rebels. Do you agree with the results? Who would you add to the top 10 to improve the list? Let us know in the comments.

201 comments sorted by best / new / date

    No Rick Astley?
    Bob Marley was a rebel
    I want to know where the HELL Johnny Rotten and Sid Vicious are!?
    Again, downvotes without explanation. Can one person please explain to me how Bob Marley was not a rebel? Anybody, please!
    AGREE 100% Zach was a sperm count in his daddy's sack when Bob Was holding his fist high!!.....This is the worst list ever!
    yeah,but Zach De La Rocha,pfff,pls they can put one even more modern *****
    Dee Snider is a bad ass, just watch that big court hearing he attended on behalf of the band. Can't remember the details but he grabbed the court by the balls with his intelligence.
    He came in with his clothes he wears as usual, grabbed a note out off his asspocket and held an unbelievable great speach love him
    Dee Snider is SO worth being on the list! The PMRC canshuvit, but wheres ZAPPA!? hahahah but maybe not #3, Lennon shoulda been higher...
    No Bob Dylan? Neil Young? Lemmy at number 7? Okay I dont give a f--k but Johnny Cash is absolutely rebel of the rebels
    Darth Wader
    Yeah!!! I nominated Bob Dylan on Wednesday. Ridiculous. Of course with UG we get two Black Sabbath members. Tony Iommi a rebel because he lost two, that is stupid. He should not be on the list. Makes no sense. And no Bowie?
    Lemmy? Seriously? Yeah, he drinks, smokes, lives in a bus and shags women 24/7... that confronting society and pre-established values in what way? Way to confuse the "badass" with the "rebel", but oh well, what can you expect from these polls... I'd certainly add Bowie, Dylan and Chuck Berry in there, too, otherwise it's kinda decent.
    Also, excuse me, but NO GODDAMN FRANK ZAPPA?
    The fact that he's not on here makes the whole thing look like a joke. Top 3 at LEAST.
    First motorhead album was considered the worst album ever at the time, but he said F**k it and kept making that kind of music...Lemmy is truly one of the only rockers to never sell out
    9 out of 10 bands do this. Perhaps it's time to stop and think why you're into the music thing if critics have a say on the way you make music, innit? Take Sabbath for an example - their first 4 albums were shot to shit by the music press and still they kept going on...
    The man got kicked out of "Hawkwind" (one of the seminal British stoner bands) for getting too Fucked up on hard drugs... That's reasonably rebellious..
    Fuck yeah, a Bowie reference for once, not to mention Dylan and even Berry. Thank you so much! You, my friend, are a person who gets it. I also noticed that, in a lengthy conversation, nobody else mentions Bowie, one of the greatest and most influential musicians of all time. Educate yourselves and open your minds, people. He wasn't my thing for a long time either, but that's the thing about truly great artists. Your mind needs time to adjust to them, because you simply won't get it at first, but when you finally figure it out, you're in a whole new world of musical bliss. Give it a try.
    Don't forget that lemmy is an outspoken anarchist, which is pretty rebellious to most
    um you do realise where the term "motorhead" comes from right? its a person jacked up on speed, lemmy is known to takes lots and lots and lots of speed
    So are many musicians. How's that rebellious?
    by breaking the law?????
    It's a little more than that though. People break the law all the time. Rebellious music implies something more politically charged. Something of a message. It could be De La Rocha being very explicitly political, or something like Chuck Berry going against the more easy listening blues and funk and cranking it up to rock out. As mentioned before, it's a conflict between "badass" and "rebel". We'd have a long list if we included every musician that used heavy drugs.
    "or something like Chuck Berry going against the more easy listening blues and funk and cranking it up to rock out." And the interracial underage trolling. That was a huge deal back then mainly because of it being interracial.
    Keith Moon?
    The first man in history to throw a TV out of a hotel window.
    Uhhh? and... That makes him one of the most rebellious figures in a genre overwhelmed with rebellious figures?
    I continue to wish that somebody would explain to me how a rich rock star with a record company at his back throwing a tv out of a window makes him a rebel. He did it because he felt like it and knew that there would be absolutely no real consequences for him if he did it because he had the fat wallet to get him out of it. If I threw a tv out of a hotel window, that would be rebellious, because I make 9 dollars an hour, and, therefore, would have to have a pretty significant reason for doing so, because I wouldn't be able to simply buy my way out of it. A lot of rich people act like *****s because it will never affect them. Does that make them rebellious as well? I would appreciate it if somebody posted an actual response, as opposed to mindlessly clicking a button because they like Kieth Moon.
    Dee Snider looks intimidating... Poor Zach is afraid of it.
    dee might be here as a joke but he did testify against congress on the issue of censorship
    The lack of Frank Zappa in this list is disturbing. Also, I think people confused "badass" with "rebel". However, the #1 spot is unmistakably Johnny's. PS: UG could've put the picture where Johnny Cash's giving the finger to the Folsom Prison's warden.
    Ron Butchko
    Dee Snider might actually belong at #1 simply due to his appearance before the senate. Younger kids might not remember this so here it is:
    Whether you like his music or not this is both rebellious and badass!
    Why does Dee Snider's inclusion have to be a prank? Maybe he shouldn't be at #3, but I think he at least deserves a spot because of how he stood up to the PMRC censorship witch hunt in the '80s. Eloquently told Tipper Gore off in front of Congress. Bold move.
    Love Jim Morrison man, anybody who's a fan of him, The Doors, or just music history, read "No One Gets Out Alive" guy was seriously out there.
    No GG Allin? Not as famous as the others on this list but still noteworthy.
    GG Allin was a POS and a rapist, that's not rebellion, that's called being a ****ing terrible person. I would never be in a band with, or befriend anyone that thinks he was of any importance whatsoever.
    he would beat random people and just rape girls at his live shows and he would smear feces on himself on stage....thats not rebellious thats just going full retard
    No Bob Dylan? No Zappa, Neil Young, Pearl Jam (rebeled against Ticketmaster)?
    Where's Rihanna?
    Personally I think Morrison was more of a rebel than 4,3,2 and possibly even 1
    Jokes about Dee Snider aside, there should be at least one female entry on this list.
    Bob Dylan's rebelliousness is beyond this list. He's such a rebel, he probably refused to be in it.
    Sorry. no "rebel" list is complete without Henry Rollins, or especially GG Allen, who makes everyone else on this list look like choir boys.
    God, I've already talked to someone else about this, but please stop confusing egotism and shock value for rebellion. It's not the same. GG Allin was an *****, end of story. His selfishness is as far as his revolution goes, very similar to many revolutionary leaders who become dictators.
    Ozzy? He lives under the whip of Sharon Osbourne and has been a poseur since the 90's with his laughable 'goth' appearance. Hardly a rebel.
    Cash was a good number 1, but seriously, there are no punk musicians in here what-so-ever, and that is a failure for this list.
    The #1 spot did put a smile on my face. But I still think this list needs Frank Zappa.