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In My Opinion: The Ten Greatest Male Vocalists of All Time

Purely based from my own opinions in music.

By Annie KapurPublished 5 years ago 10 min read
8

Male vocalists are abundant, especially in the era of music I am most interested in (the 1950s and 60s). But there are some that stand out as being the best in their field. I understand that we may not agree entirely on this list, but know that I have based this off my own personal opinions, so please don't go attacking me on social media, or saying nasty things about me–because I'll just block you on said social media site. Mostly, I want to stress that this is a top ten list, but there may be featured "more mentions" before we finish the list for good.

The best vocalists in my opinion are the ones who have range, style, and suave–they also create the best music out there, so there's not a single argument about that. Might I add before we begin, this is a list of male vocalists, there will be a list of female ones in the future–but I have found that I listen to more men than I do women. That's not something I do consciously, it's just there.

Let's get started on this list then. It will work backwards from 10 to 1, and so, I hope you enjoy getting a feel for which artists I think are the best in their field, and why.

10. Frank Sinatra

Born in 1915 in Hoboken, New Jersey–Sinatra was a legendary singer of Jazz, and the Blues, doing a great rendition of "The Birth of the Blues," which is featured on an amazing digital collection entitled BD Music Presents: Frank Sinatra. Frank Sinatra has had a profound influence on music with his voice being attempted to be copied by hundreds of artists in the Jazz, Blues, and Soul fields. His songs are still widely listened to today, and I think that he definitely deserves his space on the list of the ten greatest male vocalists of all time. The sheer power behind that voice is unreal.

My favourite songs recorded by Frank Sinatra:

  • "The Birth of the Blues"
    • Listen to it here.
  • "The Girl Next Door"
  • "Just One of Those Things"
  • "My Funny Valentine"
  • "They Can't Take That Away From Me"

9. Bobby Vee

Born in 1943 in Fargo, North Dakota–Bobby Vee was one of America's First real pop stars. He was a shining light of 60s pop music, and swing. He was super-talented with an amazing singing voice. He could sing soft, he could sing rough, and his covers of other people's songs are absolutely beautiful as well. I love Bobby Vee, and I'm a huge fan of his work; as you can probably imagine I was very upset when he died in 2016. His songs like "Devil or Angel," and "Rubber Ball" have endured through music history as some of the greatest pop songs ever recorded. Bobby Vee was also close friends with Bob Dylan, and has been mentioned in No Direction Home, and in Dylan's autobiography Chronicles: Volume 1. Bobby Vee had six gold singles during his career, and is still highly influential in the world of swing, pop, and rock music–becoming the 235th inductee into the Rockabilly Hall of Fame in 2011. For me personally, if you say you don't like Bobby Vee, then you're lying.

My favourite songs recorded by Bobby Vee:

  • "Rubber Ball"
  • "Bo Diddley"
  • "The Night Has a Thousand Eyes"
  • "Stayin' In"
  • "I Gotta Know"

8. Dion DiMucci

Born in 1939 in New York City, The King of Doo-Wop is known more by just his first name "Dion." He started out as the lead singer of the band Dion and the Belmonts, and continued solo from thereafter. His songs were, and are, super popular with his Rockabilly and Doo-Wop suiting powerful vocals, sounding brilliant with his own guitar work. The best thing about Dion is that he can pretty much sing in any style, and his song "The Wanderer" is possibly one of the greatest rock songs ever recorded. Though, with the Belmonts he also has many memorable classics that were absolutely huge in the 1950s. Today, Dion continues to record, and perform at the age of 79–and he seriously doesn't look 79 years' old at all. He has the same massive energy he has always had.

My favourite songs recorded by Dion DiMucci:

  • "The Wanderer"
  • "A Teenager in Love"
  • "Runaround Sue"
  • "Donna the Prima Donna"
  • "Lonely Teenager"

8. George Harrison

Born in 1943 in Liverpool, England - George Harrison is also known as the "Shy Beatle" or the "Quiet Beatle" because of his reserved nature. Unfortunately enough for the other three, Harrison has the most powerful and well-ranged vocals out of all of them and is the best guitar player in the band. Harrison's solo career is commonly remembered through the album All Things Must Pass which was a brilliant way to start his own legacy as his songwriting skills are proven to be extra powerful. He has worked alongside Bob Dylan, Jeff Lynne, Roy Orbison and Tom Petty in The Travelling Wilburys band and had an amazing career even after the Beatles broke up. His songs, his music, his vocals and his legacy live on as the strongest part of the Beatles even though the man himself may be in flesh no more. Harrison succumbed to cancer in 2001 - he was only 58 years' old.

My favourite songs written and recorded by George Harrison:

  • "Taxman"
  • "Here Comes the Sun"
  • "Art of Dying"
  • "While My Guitar Gently Weeps"
  • "My Sweet Lord"

6. Prince

Born in 1958 in the city of Minneapolis, Minnesota–Prince is possibly the greatest Funk/Soul singer in all of history, and that's not even just my opinion, that's more of a fact. Known for having an amazing vocal range, and brilliant power behind his voice, Prince's vocals were up there with Michael Jackson's, and the two have been compared ever since the famed AMAs. He currently stands as one of the best selling artists of all time, and his songs are just as popular as they have ever been. Rolling Stone Magazine even listed Prince at number 27 on their 100 Greatest Artists of All Time. Unfortunately, we lost Prince in 2016–he was only 57 years' old. But, we will never lose his legacy, we will make sure of that!

My favourite songs recorded by Prince:

  • "1999"
  • "Raspberry Beret"
  • "When Doves Cry"
  • "Little Red Corvette"
  • "Darling Nikki"

5. Buddy Holly

Born in 1936 in Lubbock, Texas–Buddy Holly was the shining light of new rock and roll, and has since, inspired many many people to create this new rock and roll in his honour. The Beatles named themselves after Holly's band, The Crickets. When Buddy Holly played in Duluth, Minnesota, and a 17 year old went, and felt Buddy Holly look straight at him–he went on to become Bob Dylan. Don McLean wrote a song about the plane crash that ultimately killed Buddy Holly, dubbing it "The Day the Music Died." Other artists that have been inspired by Buddy Holly include: Dion DiMucci, Brian May of "Queen," Paul Anka, Don Everly, and many, many more. Quite a lot of artists have been inspired to do what they do, because Buddy Holly broke the barriers of rock music, and made something completely new and inventive. He was so young, nobody could believe he could sing so well. His songs still resonate today, and since, he has not been forgotten. He died at the age of 22 in possibly the most famous plane crash in all of history. It was, as they say, "The Day the Music Died."

My favourite songs recorded by Buddy Holly:

  • "I'm Gonna Love You Too"
  • "Brown Eyed Handsome Man"
  • "Everyday"
  • "Modern Don Juan"
  • "Midnight Shift"

4. Sam Cooke

Born in the January of 1931 down in Mississippi, Sam Cooke became one of the greatest singers of soul music this world has ever seen. His voice was powerful, had range, and he was a brilliant soul. His songs have resonated through the years, and have been covered by numerous artists including Aretha Franklin. But, I'm sorry, nobody can sing Sam Cooke quite like the man himself. Not only a brilliant singer, he was also an amazing songwriter–he wrote one of the masterpieces of soul music "A Change is Gonna Come." He passed away at the age of 33, when he was shot dead by Bertha Franklin in circumstances that most claim to be homicide. But it's clear that even over fifty years after his death, "Twistin' the Night Away," can still make you feel great when you're down.

My favourite songs recorded by Sam Cooke:

  • "A Change is Gonna Come"
  • "Twistin' the Night Away"
  • "You Send Me"
  • "Bring it on Home to Me"
  • "That's It, I Quit, I'm Movin' On"

3. Michael Jackson

Born in the August of 1958 in Gary, Indiana–The King of Pop made his name performing with his brothers in the successful pop and soul group The Jackson 5 (later on The Jacksons). Jackson began his solo career with the album Off the Wall, and followed it up with the greatest selling album of all time, which also contains the greatest selling single of all time–"Thriller." From there, Jackson went from "Bad" to "Dangerous," and from "HIStory" to "Invincible," and created some of the most well-known social justice, and racial harmony anthems this world has ever seen. A keen supporter of children's charities, Jackson was also an avid philanthropist–writing "Man in the Mirror," and giving all the earnings to charity. He has gone on to become a figurehead of music, and one of the greatest selling artists of all time. Unfortunately, in 2009, we lost Michael Jackson–but his legacy continues to be one of the greatest legacies ever left by any music artist in all of human history.

My favourite songs recorded by Michael Jackson:

  • "Give in to Me"
  • "Smooth Criminal"
  • "Someone in the Dark"
  • "Black or White"
  • "You Rock My World"

2. Elvis Presley

Born in the January of 1935 down in Mississippi, Elvis Presley is better known as either The King of Rock and Roll, or just "The King." As one of the greatest singers of all time, Elvis Presley created some of the most well-known, and best selling rock and roll anthems in all of history–including the famed "Jailhouse Rock." Elvis has inspired everyone from Michael Jackson, and Bob Dylan to Buddy Holly, Queen, and many of the stars of 70s and 80s rock music. His songs, and his voice have resonated, because not only did he sing well on record, his live performances are brilliant as well with a lot of his live albums selling massively throughout his life, and after his death. Unfortunately, in 1977 we lost Elvis Presley after he suffered cardiac arrest–aged only 42.

My favourite songs recorded by Elvis Presley:

  • "King Creole"
  • Listen to it here.
  • "Such a Night"
  • Listen to it here.
  • "The Wonder of You"
  • Listen to it here.
  • "If I Can Dream"
  • Listen to it here.
  • "Long Tall Sally"
  • Listen to it here.

More mentions!

Before we get on to Number 1, I would like to give some mentions of singers I think were/are very good, but didn't make the list. Remember, this is just male vocalists–females will come out later.

Hank Williams (1923-1953)–Born in Alabama, USA

My favourite song by Hank Williams:

"Kaw-Liga"

Listen to it here.

Al Jolson (1886-1950)–Born in the Russian Empire

My favourite song by Al Jolson:

Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?

Listen to it here.

Bill Haley (1925-1981)–Born in Michigan, USA

My favourite song by Bill Haley:

"Rock a Beatin' Boogie"

Listen to it here.

Bob Marley (1945-1981)–Born in Saint Ann Parish, Jamaica

My favourite song by Bob Marley:

"One Love"

Listen to it here.

David Bowie (1947-2016)–Born in Brixton, UK

My favourite song by David Bowie:

"It's Gonna Be Me"

Listen to it here.

James Brown (1933-2006)–Born in South Carolina, USA

My favourite song by James Brown:

"Please Please Please"

Listen to it here.

Jeff Buckley (1966-1997)–Born in California, USA

My favourite song by Jeff Buckley:

"Hallelujah"

Listen to it here.

Johnny Cash (1932-2003)–Born in Arkansas, USA

My favourite song by Johnny Cash:

"Get Rhythm"

Listen to it here.

Ritchie Valens (1941-1959)–Born in California, USA

My favourite song by Ritchie Valens:

"Come on, Let's Go"

Listen to it here.

Freddie Mercury (1946-1991)–Born in Stone Town, Zanzibar

My favourite song by Queen:

"I'm Going Slightly Mad"

Listen to it here.

1. Bob Dylan

Born in May of 1941 up in Duluth, Minnesota–Bob Dylan is known worldwide as the King of Folk Rock. His voice is adaptable to many different genres including: country, rock, folk, gospel, jazz, and even new wave pop. Bob Dylan has pretty much done it all, and continues to do it with new songs coming out every few years. His output is incredible, his voice is amazing, his songwriting skills are legendary, and his presence is undeniable. From anti-war anthems like "Masters of War," to racial harmony anthems like "The Times They Are a-Changin,'" to folk rock classics as in "Like a Rolling Stone," and "Rainy Day Women," to gospel/soul anthems like "In the Summertime," and "Gotta Serve Somebody." There is no doubt about the fact that Bob Dylan, in my humble opinion, is the greatest male vocalist of all time.

My favourite songs by Bob Dylan (a selection):

  • "Mississippi"
  • "Jokerman"
  • "In the Summertime"
  • "The Wicked Messenger"
  • "Senor"
list
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About the Creator

Annie Kapur

200K+ Reads on Vocal.

English Lecturer

🎓Literature & Writing (B.A)

🎓Film & Writing (M.A)

🎓Secondary English Education (PgDipEd) (QTS)

📍Birmingham, UK

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Comments (4)

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  • Derek Wildstar4 months ago

    why are the pics all wrong? and show me one song where Bob, Ritchie or Johnny out-sing Jeff Buckley.

  • Kendall Defoe 9 months ago

    Sinatra at 10? Dylan at 1? We need to have a serious conversation one day...

  • Dylan Hillerman2 years ago

    My namesake at numero uno! Loved the unpredictable and insightful list!

  • Someone whose output dwarfs mine. Some excellent inclusions there . Great article. You got a subscription, and you may want to join us in the Vocal Social Society on Facebook here https://www.facebook.com/groups/376191867241324 as I am sharing this story in the Something Borrowed tab

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