The Top Singers Of All Time [Rock]
Rock ‘n Roll was built on charisma, will power and dumb luck and you might not think there is much training or practice involved where rock singer’s are concerned, but the top singers of all time were often masters of the voice and spent many years honing their craft, despire what their shirtless antics might lead you to believe. From the sheer range and prowess of guys like Chris Cornell and Freddie Mercury through to the bellowing low end of Bruce Springsteen and Eddie Vedder, this list of the top singers of all time is of course subjective to my tastes as a ‘rock guy’ – you’re welcome to add your favourite rock singers in the comments below! While some of my favourite singers ever aren’t exactly known for their vocal technique, we’ll focus more on singing ability and vocal chops in this list.
These singers aren’t in any particular order, as they really are the top singers of all time and each in a league of their own – here’s my picks for The Top Singers Of All Time [Rock]
If you were in high school any time during the 90’s, it’s likely you heard a Soundgarden hit or two in your time. Chris Cornell’s intimidating range and intense delivery had a stranglehold on 90’s Rock Radio and MTV. Chris’ impressive vocal technique was built over many years of trial and error, along with professional training along the way. Some say that Chris was simply a ‘gifted’ singer, but that really doesn’t do justice to the amount of time and work Chris put into his singing voice. Many singers spend a lifetime trying to reach the heights that Chris Cornell was able to soar through with ease – that isn’t a fluke, it’s a combination of natural gifts and dedication to his craft.
It’s said that every 20 years the same music comes back in style, and this has been true with Led Zeppelin twice over in my life so far. You can barely walk through a shopping mall without seeing a Zepplin shirt hanging on a mannikin, and the same was true for my highschool days in the 90’s – here we are 40 years sing their prime and yet Robert Plant’s golden mane is seen on the front cover of almost every Classic Rock magazine on the news stand. Plant was known for his naturally high Tenor range and seductive delivery, all chest and blonde locks, Robert Plant was every bit the quintessential Rock Star of his time in the same way Eddie Vedder and Chris Cornell were poster boys for 90’s grunge rock.
Queen’s 70’s albums were another fixture of my formative years as a budding musician, in part due to the fact they just ROCK, but mainly due to Freddie’s incredibly gifted natural talents as a singer and showman. With twice the range as many more professional trained singers, Mercury’s voice really has to be heard to be believed.
Many famous singers are known for the sheer range that the possess, but Eric Burdon was a little different, with his effortlessly low baritone range rivalling Elvis, and gritty blues belting delivery, Eric Burdon was a man on a mission, and one to be reckoned with. Eric Burdon is respected by many of the world’s best rock singers, and has been cited as an influence on guys like Jon Bon Jovi right through to Paul Rodgers and Steven Tyler.
As Journey’s wirey frontman, Steve Perry is a hard act to follow for any singer who wants to sing in his range or sing Journey songs. With a gritty and naturally high range, Steve Perry is one of the most well respected singers of all time, and rightly so.
Now we’re talking – Paul Rodgers is my all time favourite singer. While many FREE and Bad Company songs don’t “sound” particularly difficult to sing, they are often some of the trickiest songs to sing well, and this is mainly due to just how incredible a singer Paul Rodgers was, and still is to this day. Paul Rodgers always sang ‘for the song’, and you can always tell there is more power, more range and more tone at his disposal than he ever really let on – not once do you hear Paul Rodgers reach for a note or struggle to sing anything, even some of the higher material like Heartbreaker that will have you SWEARING he’s a Tenor, when he is naturally a baritone with a masculine low range. If that wasn’t enough, Queen respected his voice so much they offered him the gig as frontman for their band – even without the same soaring high range as Freddie Mercury. Who else could pull off that gig and come out with their head high and even earn new fans? Paul Rodgers might even be THE greatest rock singer of all time – Aretha Franklin certainly thought so!
As the high ranged foil to David Coverdale’s brooding baritone in the mid 70’s era of Deep Purple, and formerly of his own band of misfits Trapeze, Glenn Hughes is another widely respected singer who actually has more range and better vocal technique now than he did in his heyday as a 70’s rock god. If the Black Country Communion records are anything to go by, there is absolutely no stopping Glenn Hughes and his dynamite voice, even as he approaches his mid 60’s.
You might not think Big Jim is a great fit with all these other soaring singers with all the vocal range in the world, but what Jim sang, he sang well. Songs like The River Knows and Waiting for The Sun really show of Jim’s ability as a singer, not just as a bellowing, shouting maniac screaming about the end of days – did you eve hear Jim Morrison miss a note or change the key of any Doors songs? Of course not, and that’s because he really was one of the top singers of all time.
It’s crazy to think that as he approaches 70 years old, Steven Tyler still sounds just like Steven Tyler. There are many things that Steven does with/to his voice that really would have ended anyone else’s singing career decades ago, but somehow his voice always bounces back and he’s on stage swathed in exotic scarves screaming about groupies and drugs, or whatever the hell else Aerosmith songs are supposed to be about. One of my favourite records ever is Get Your Wings, which shows off stevens darker side and impressive singing ability, especially as the baritone that not too many people realise he is naturally. Range, grit, charisma, scarves – Steven Tyler had it all, and still does.
As you can see, becoming a great singer doesn’t really hinge on perfection or spot-on vocal technique. There is much more to becoming a great singer beyond singing exercises and practicing scales all day long – each of these singers lived and breathed their own singing style and sang with balance, control and power. Remember, singing is a process of balance, not a feat of muscular strength or brute force.
There are many more killer singers that are on the fringes of this list, and even more singers who I truly love who may not really make the cut as ‘great’ singers from a vocal technique perspective, from Kory Clarke, Eddie Vedder, Mark Lanegan, these guys had incredible voices in their own right and made do with what they had naturally.
Are there any other great singers you think I should add to this list? Let me know in the comments down below! If you are a budding singer and you need some help building your range like Chris Cornell, developing a killer tone like Steven Tyler and Eric Burdon, or you really just want to sing with a balanced middle range like Jim Morrison, a great place to start is the free foundations short courses available here at Bohemian Vocal Studio. When you’re ready to take your voice to the next level with professional voice coaching and practical guidance, you can book a Skype Lesson with me and we’ll start working towards extending your range and building control and consistency in your voice every time you sing.
Kegan DeBoheme is Bohemian Vocal Studio’s resident vocal coach and voice expert. He teaches professional singing and voice technique to students all around the world and enjoys providing tutorials like this one on how to improve your voice.