Greatest rock singer of 20th century

John Lennon or Freddie Mercury?


with honourable mention to John Lennon.

Freddie Mercury?

You seem to be making the schoolboy error of equating best showman with best singer. 

  • Freddie of the two but the real choices should be Freddie or Bruce Dickinsohn.

Steve Perry had a great voice but Freddie Mercury for his epic songwriting combined with unique voice. John Lennon was overrated as f imo. 

  • Axl Rose loses points for being an utter thunderkhunt.
  • Turning up to gigs at 1am and playing to half empty crowds.
  • Reclassifying the rest of the band as hired hands.
  • Cancelling shows as his hair plugs hurt.

Yeah that does seem a little diva like. Could say the same for Lennon's Bollinger Bolshevik crap and wife beating/son abusing antics.

Big bruce for me clive, closely followed by JBJ and Axl

Hmmm, difficult one.

Chris Cornell, Bon Scott, Rod Stewart, Kurt Cobain



John Lennon?  Kurt Cobain?

Some of you need hearing aids.

The correct answer is Robert Plant.

Elvis Presley for the male category. Candi Staton for the wifies. 

Elvis.  Changed the entire musical landscape.

Alas his rock phase was about 2 years tops.  But it was enough.

Heh @ Tomlinorder

Springsteen has a great rock voice; maybe not the best of the century, but great nonetheless 

Jeff Buckley’s tragic early demise deprived us of some brilliant vocals 

Roger Daltrey on his night had, maybe still has, a huge voice

Some of these... I mean Ian Brown? The guy talks...  Talks! A weak, pathetic voice. I thought Sting had a weak voice until I heard Brown.

Good shouts already: Chris Cornell, Robert Plant, and Freddie.

I would add Rob Halford and Glenn Danzig.

I would not call a John Lennon a rock singer at all. He gave grit to the Beatles, but the rock voice was Paul. That's why Paul sang Helter Skelter, Oh Darling and Hey Jude. Closest thing by John is arguably Yer Blues.

Honestly, I sweated my bits off in the early 90s rave scene and looking like a hobo the next morning but this guy and those two tramps he influenced need to be locked up and jet hosed at least once a month like the police used to do with vagrants. 

‘Good choice Tom. Big Man Utd fan.‘

Yeah now you come to mention it, I prefer Liam, Noel, the fella from the Blossoms, Johnny Marr, and Bernard Manning.

If we throw the technical dimension out the window and focus on expression, Jack White deserves credit.

Luckily this is a greatest rock singer thread so we can avoid all the technically superior singers. This shows you all the top singers ranges and where they hit their highest and lowest notes:

Axl is clearly out in front as a technically superior singer but is also a massive tool. I think even he would go with Freddie as The Greatest as all the members of GnR were Queen fans.

If you go by technique, names like Mike Patton pop up, who never sang a pleasant note in his life.

Having seen most of the above, Freddie was great, both a great singer and a great showman.

I think the best ( or the one I enjoyed the most) I ever saw was Phil Lynott.

The Blossoms, unusually for people from Stockport, are not city fans but county fans. 

Liam grew up supporting Celtic. 

Yeah now you come to mention it, I prefer Liam, Noel, the fella from the Blossoms, Johnny Marr, and Bernard Manning.

Christ that's a motley crew. Get yourself a better class of celeb fan, like Mick Hucknall.


Iggy is an interesting one, def a good singer, but I think beats Freddie hands down as a "show man"

I have seen him countless times and Iggy at the Powerhouse in Birmingham was a show second to none.

Interesting fact about Mike Patton is that he has the largest range of all rock singers. Eddie Vedder has an incredible voice. Cornell was an excellent singer, but is in the same genre as Vedder and nowhere near as good so have left him out of my  top 5 which, off the cuff and in no particular order, would be:

Freddie Mercury, Eddie Vedder, Jon Bon Jovi, Mike Patton, Robert Plant

Lennon was obviously a great, but as a singer he is nowhere near the top. 

Jon Bon Jovi's an interesting one. There was a brief period in the early to mid-90s when he came very close to being a truly great rock star in a great band. They'd put the 80s big hair stuff to bed and could fill wembley and appear credible (Keep the Faith/These Days). Then it all went to shit. If you ever feel like cringing, just watch recent concert footage. It's all nasal voice and a bit tragic now. Some rock stars (Springsteen comes to mind) seem to age well, others become bad tribute acts. 

Some of these... I mean Ian Brown? The guy talks...  Talks! A weak, pathetic voice. I thought Sting had a weak voice until I heard Brown.

The Ian Brown suggestion has to be a joke.  His voice is notoriously crap.

Axl massively overrated. He famously introduces the GNR live version of Whole Lotta Rosie with the words “I ain’t no Bon Scott”. And then proves it. The band also prove they’re no AC/DC. Awful cover version.

'in the same genre as Vedder and nowhere near as good'

LOL, what?

What Goose said.

I like Jack Black's spoken obituary for Chris Cornell at a Metallica concert: "Sometimes he would sing a note that doesn't exist."

Bento  - so bad that ACDC picked axl to be their new front man?

Mercury (tbf not just a showman; astonishing vocal range and ability).



Maybe Liam actually

John Lennon? No way - great song writer. But rock singer? Not even the best in his own band...



Matt Bellamy from Muse. Incredible upper range and an outstanding guitarist simultaneously.

Also Showbiz came out in 99 before anyone says he's 21st C

Who could actually sing, in contrast to pretty much everyone else mentioned on this thread.

XX chromosomes clearly a handicap in this race, however

Love the first four Muse albums, but Bellamy is too limited as a singer for true greatness. Falsetto, lots of pathos and a very decent scream (last one on Falling Down is amazing!), but nothing you would not get elsewhere. His guitar is where it's at. The live versions of his solo on Invincible are hard to believe.

I popped in again to see what's going on and the answer is still Robert Plant.

With a nod to whoever suggested Elvis.

  • Who are these cuckolds being proposed?
  • Instead of Ronnie James Dio, we get....Ian Brown???

nothing you would not get elsewhere

Unwalt I take issue with this, in that other singers who do a similar thing e.g. Thom Yorke, do it worse. In fact, Matt Bellamy would do Radiohead's entire back catalogue better. Imagine him doing Fake Plastic Trees for example. Agreed with everything else you say.

The answer is in fact Ronnie James Dio. Listen to Caught in the Middle and tell me I’m wrong. 

Stevie Nicks - and I write as a Fleetwood Mac fan - is a lovely vocal stylist but not even the best female vocalist in her band.

Really?  I mean, just as a singer?

BTW I'm assuming the Lennon suggestion was a joke or just to fet things going.  Not rock, and he barely sings.

Oh Periclean how dare you 

landslide is one of the rare songs that can make me cry 

Don't get me wrong Linda, I really like her work.  But don't you think she sounds ever so slightly like a goat?

  • Was considering throwing Dio into the mix.
  • Holy Diver always worth a listen.
  • His work with Sabbath was often even better than the Ozzy era.

Mercury (for his sheer experimentation)

Springsteen (for his sustainable performance across the decades)

Clapton (for crossing the spectrum and mastering all)

Turner / Houston - amazing range and variety

Axl - still as my personal favourite

Some of you lot must be on drugs.

Many of these suggestions are pitiful.

Think before you post.

Clapton as a singer?  Surely not.

Van Morrison is fabulous but not rock. 

A few good shouts, lots of terrible shouts.  Cornell probably the best shout.  Freddie Mercury is a very limited singer, technically

JC has it with Ronnie James Dio  

Cornell proponents: I'm interested to hear more of his work.  Suggestions?

Perclean, try

  • Cornell's acoustic cover of Nothing Compares to You, it's on Youtube.
  • Audioslave: Be Yourself (if you only listen to one, make it this), Like a Stone and Cochise.
  • Soundgarden: The Day I Tried to Live.


Grace Slick...if in doubt, ‘go ask Alice...’

+1 for Jim Morrison amongst the boys.  Debbie Harry probs for the girls. Not a massive Blondie fan but she had a truly ace voice in her day. 

Van Morrison is a great singer but its not rock! 



Oh, and make sure to give Slaves and Bulldozers and Beyond the Wheel a listen (both by Soundgarden).

For pure vocal ability and technique, Don Henley (Eagles).  His live performances sound like perfect studio takes and he can still do it in his 70s, whilst drumming.  Phenomenal!

Karen Carpenter was in no way a rock singer!

Jazzy/pop/easy listening maybe, but not rock. 

I would never describe John Lennon as a "rock singer". 

John Lennon’s singing and all of his solo work incredibly overrated IMHO. 

Dio, Plant and Axl all great calls, but they can grate somewhat depending on the song.

Paul Rodgers, David Coverdale, Prince and Lou Gramm deserve mention. Perhaps not the greatest, however. 


I would never describe John Lennon as a "rock singer". 

What was he then? 

Perhaps some of our Celtic colleagues would join me in voting for the great Donnie Munro.