From mod to grunge, rock singers have been defining the way fans listen to music for decades. It’s that little bit of grit and truth that makes rock’s genres so honest, captivating and real. For the most part, it is the singer’s responsibility to draw in the listener with a combination of vocal abilities and stage presence. Here are ten of the most iconic rock singers of all time, who’s voices have defined genres and defied people’s expectations.
Number Ten: Debbie Harry
Blondie is one of the most popular bands to have come out of the New York punk and new wave scene with Debbie Harry being one of the scene’s most iconic figures. Getting her start at Max’s Kansas City’s upstairs room, where she also worked as a waitress, her raw yet feminine vocals helped launch a genre. It also didn’t hurt the band’s popularity that Harry played up her sex appeal every chance she got.
Number Nine: Mick Jagger
Fronting one of the biggest rock bands on the planet, Mick Jagger’s vocals and commanding stage presence have translated into not just success for the Rolling Stones, but contributed to their legendary status as well. Over the last 50-plus years, his legacy has found its way into song lyrics (Maroon 5’s “Moves Like Jagger”) and inspired countless other vocalists to start bands themselves.
Number Eight: Robert Plant
The voice of Led Zeppelin, Robert Plant has been playing music in one form or another for more than 50 years. Showcasing his wide vocal range in both his band and solo work, he has earned best vocalist accolades from Hit Parader, as well as in reader polls from Planet Rock and Rolling Stone.
Number Seven: Steven Tyler
The power of Steven Tyler’s voice is undeniable when he sings those high notes. His four-octave range and over-the-top stage presence have made Aerosmith one of the greatest rock bands of all time, and Tyler one of the best rock singers.
Number Six: Bono
No one sounds quite like Bono. The Irish rocker’s big voice and slight accent while singing put U2 in a genre of stadium rock all their own. It is because of his notoriety that he is able to use his band’s fame for good, most notably producing the Red campaign to bring attention to the AIDS epidemic in Africa.
Number Five: Kurt Cobain
Not only did Kurt Cobain have a unique, gravely, raw voice unlike any other artist, but his voice gave disaffected youths in the 1990s something to hold onto and make their own. Though not enthusiastic about the way frontmen get treated as the voice of the group, his impact was undeniable.
Number Four: Roger Daltrey
As frontman for The Who, Roger Daltrey’s three-and-a-half-octave vocal range has become as iconic as his songs. Known for his wild stage presence, in particular the act of swinging his microphone around (which numerous pop-punk and alternative bands copy to this day), he continues to be recognized as a “rock god.”
Number Three: Axl Rose
Axl Rose has one of the largest vocal ranges in the industry, spanning more than five octaves. When he sings, he hits some very impressive notes in the upper register. Though the fate of Guns ‘N’ Roses is always up in the air (they are planning to reunite at Coachella 2016), Rose has continually raged on as one of the most legendary hard rock bands.
Number Two: Joan Jett
Joan Jett is one of the most hard-rocking women in music today. Starting out with The Runaways and eventually starting her own band, The Blackhearts, she has been a fixture in the punk and rock scenes for more than 40 years. She has released some of the most iconic rock songs ever, displaying her raw vocals with a sneer.
Number One: Freddie Mercury
One of the most iconic frontmen ever, Freddie Mercury is known for his colorful stage presence and operatic vocal arrangements. With a vocal range spanning four octaves, he is able to hit outstanding high notes and lower ones, sometimes all within one song. Classic Rock named him the “best rock singer of all time” and by AllMusic as “one of rock’s greatest all-time entertainers,” as well as “one of the greatest voices in all of music.” Thank you for reading our list of the top 10 rock singers of all time. We hope you enjoyed it!