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The Best Singer-Songwriters
The Best Rock Poets

This is a "countdown" of the best singer-songwriters, based primarily on the number of chart-topping songs they have had to date. I have also included some interesting trivia about the artists ...

Kris Kristofferson: Me and Bobby McGee, Help Me Make It Through The Night, Lovin' Her Was Easier, Sundown, For The Good Times, Sunday Mornin' Comin' Down

Kristofferson got his start in the music business by landing a helicopter in Johnny Cash's backyard and presenting him with a song he had penned. Cash went on to record the song. Kristofferson later became a member of the legendary group The Highwaymen, along with Cash, Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings. 

Sade Adu: No Ordinary Love, Your Love Is King, Smooth Operator, The Sweetest Taboo, Cherish The Day, By Your Side, Soldier of Love [more than 100 million records sold]

Leonard Cohen: Hallelujah, Suzanne, Tower of Song, Song Of Bernadette, If It Be Your Will, I'm Your Man, many others [and even more covers because the man is a song-writing legend]

"Hallelujah," one of the most-covered songs in music history, has been described as "a song with the power to turn a rock arena into a cathedral."

Pink Floyd (Syd Barrett, Roger Waters, David Gilmour, Richard Wright, Nick Mason): Comfortably Numb, Learning To Fly, Hey You, Another Brick In The Wall, Is There Anybody Out There, Money, Shine On You Crazy Diamond, Us And Them, Time, Wish You Were Here, Mother, Echoes [not all chart-toppers, but some of the best lyrics and music ever written]

The inflatable pig on the cover of the 1977 release "Animals" escaped its tethers during a photo shoot and flew into flight lanes of Heathrow Airport, causing havoc for planes, then eventually landed in a field in Kent.

Led Zeppelin (Jimmy Page, Robert Plant, John Paul Jones, John Bonham), Roger Waters): Stairway To Heaven, Kashmir, Black Dog, Immigrant Song, Heartbreaker, Ramble On, Whole Lotta Love, D'Yer Maker, Rock And Roll, All My Love, When The Levee Breaks, The Rain Song [the group disdained to release songs as singles, but is still one of the most popular album and performance bands of all time]

When Jimmy Page was assembling the group, Keith Moon (the drummer for The Who) got word of his plans and predicted the group would go down "like a lead balloon" (a common English expression). Who bassist and keyboardist John Entwistle said it would be "more like a lead zeppelin." Page borrowed the phrase and manager Peter Grant changed the spelling to "led" in order to avoid possible mispronunciation.

Cat Stevens: Oh Very Young, Where Do The Children Play, Peace Train, Wild World, Morning Has Broken, Moonshadow, The First Cut Is The Deepest, Here Comes My Baby, Father And Son, Ready (To Love) [14 top 100 hits]

"Morning Has Broken" began life as a pagan Celtic folk tune. It was later converted into a Christian children's hymn. It then became an international hit for  the West's most famous Muslim singer, Cat Stevens. The song is an ecumenical movement!  

Dan Fogelberg: Ghosts, Nexus, The Reach, Only the Heart May Know, The Lion's Share, Make Love Stay, Longer, Netherlands, The Sand and the Foam, To The Morning, Hard to Say, Heart Hotels, Leader of the Band, Same Old Lang Syne, Run for the Roses [14 top 100 hits, and some of his best songs never charted]

Bob Dylan: Blowin' In The Wind, All Along The Watchtower, Lay Lady Lay, It Ain't Me Babe, Knockin' On Heaven's Door [24 top 100 hits, but surprisingly never a number one song]

Bob Zimmerman took his stage name from the great Welsh poet Dylan Thomas, becoming Bob Dylan.

Bruce Springsteen: Born To Run, Jungleland, Thunder Road, Rosalita, Because The Night, Blinded By The Light, Fire, Glory Days, Hungry Heart, She's The One, I'm On Fire, Dancing In The Dark [26 top 100 hits, but like Bob Dylan, he never had a number one single]

Neil Young: Heart of Gold, Ohio, Helpless, Cinnamon Girl, Only Love Can Break Your Heart, Old Man, After the Gold Rush, The Needle and the Damage Done, Southern Man [1 number one, 24 top 100 hits]

Neil Young wrote the song "Ohio" shortly after the infamous Kent State shootings.

Smokey Robinson: The Tears Of A Clown, I Second That Emotion, Ooh Baby Baby, You've Really Got A Hold On Me [1 number one, 61 top 100 hits]

When asked to name America's greatest living poet, Bob Dylan initially named Smokey Robinson. Later, perhaps wanting to seem more cosmopolitan, he changed his favorite living American poet to Arthur Rimbaud, a dead French poet.

Freddie Mercury: Bohemian Rhapsody, Crazy Little Thing Called Love, Killer Queen, The Show Must Go On, Who Wants To Live Forever?, Somebody To Love, We Are The Champions, Play The Game, Under Pressure [2 number ones, 26 top 100 hits]

When Freddie Mercury was touring with Queen, he used to phone his cats and talk to them for hours on the phone.

U2 (Bono, The Edge, Larry Mullen Jr., Adam Clayton): One, Bad, Pride (In The Name Of Love), With Or Without You, I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For, Sunday Bloody Sunday, All I Want Is You, New Year's Day, The Sweetest Thing, Where The Streets Have No Name, Angel Of Harlem [2 number ones, 28 top 100 hits]

"One" was written when U2 was on the verge of breaking up and has been credited with keeping the best-selling group together.

Ann Wilson/Nancy Wilson: Dog and Butterfly, Magic Man, Barracuda, Dreamboat Annie, Straight On, Heartless, Never [2 number ones, 31 top 100 hits]

Heart's "Barracuda" was played at the 2008 Republican National Convention because presidential nominee John McCain's running mate Sarah Palin was known as "Sarah Barracuda" as a high school basketball star. (Later, she was called "Sarracuda" as a play on her name.) The Wilson sisters disapproved, as they disagreed with Palin's politics, and sent a cease-and-desist letter to John McCain's campaign. The McCain campaign continued to use the song, despite Nancy Wilson's statement to Entertainment Weekly that "Sarah Palinís views and values in NO WAY represent us as American women."

Billy Joel: Piano Man, Captain Jack, Shameless, Until The Night, Allentown, The Ballad Of Billy The Kid, Goodnight Saigon, An Innocent Man, New York State Of Mind, Scenes From An Italian Restaurant [2 number ones, 39 top 100 hits]

Neal Diamond: Cracklin' Rosie, I Am I Said, Red Red Wine, Sweet Caroline, You Don't Bring Me Flowers, America, I'm A Believer [3 number ones, 56 top 100 hits]

Ray Charles: Hallelujah I Love Her So, What'd I Say [3 number ones, 74 top 100 hits (although many were written by other songwriters)]

When Hoagy Carmichael wrote the music for “Georgia (On My Mind)” it was widely believed to be a song about a woman (his lyricist supposedly had eyes for Hoagy’s sister, Georgia), and it was not until the song appeared on Ray Charles’ 1960 concept album, “The Genius Hits the Road,” which celebrated different regions of the U.S., that it became a song about a state.

George Harrison: Something, While My Guitar Gently Weeps, Here Comes The Sun, Dark Horse, Give Me Love, What Is Life, My Sweet Lord [4 number ones as a solo artist, lots more as a Beatle]

Prince: Little Red Corvette, When Doves Cry, Kiss, Purple Rain, I Would Die For U, Nothing Compares 2 U, Purple Rain, Raspberry Beret, 1999 [5 number ones, 55 top 100 hits]

Paul Simon: Bridge Over Troubled Water, Loves Me Like A Rock, America, The Boxer, Cecilia, For Emily Wherever I May Find Her, Homeward Bound, I Am A Rock, My Little Town, The Sound Of Silence [5 number ones, 38 top 100 hits]

Katy Perry: Firework, I Kissed A Girl, E.T., The One That Got Away, Wide Awake, Part Of Me [7 number ones, 15 top 100 hits]

Babyface: End Of The Road, Change The World, Take A Bow, Not Gon' Cry [7 number ones, 95 top 100 hits]

Mick Jagger/Keith Richards: Angie, Wild Horses, Miss You, Shattered, Paint It Black, Waiting On A Friend, Beast of Burden, Fool To Cry, Sympathy For The Devil, Brown Sugar, Satisfaction [8 number ones, 58 top 100 hits]

George Michael: Faith, Father Figure, Careless Whisper, One More Try, Kissing A Fool [8 number ones, 25 top 100 hits]

Elton John/Bernie Taupin: Candle In The Wind, Love Lies Bleeding/Funeral For A Friend, Border Song, Rocket Man, Your Song, Daniel, Sacrifice, Levon, Tiny Dancer [9 number ones, 67 top 100 hits]

Carole King: The Loco-Motion, Up On The Roof, You Make Me Feel Like A Natural Woman, Hi-De-Ho, I Feel The Earth Move, It's Too Late, So Far Away, You've Got A Friend, Been to Canaan [9 number one songs, 188 top 100 hits]

Carole King prefers James Taylor's version of "You've Got A Friend" to her own.

Stevie Wonder: Superstition, You Are The Sunshine Of My Life, Ebony And Ivory, Lately [10 number ones, 63 top 100 hits]

Madonna: Cherish, Express Yourself, La Isla Bonita, Justify My Love, Like A Prayer, Live To Tell, Lucky Star, Papa Don't Preach, Ray Of Light, Rescue Me, Take A Bow [12 number ones, 57 top 100 hits]

Madonna is not a virgin, as she lost her virginity to the captain of her high school football team. But she really is a material girl, with an estimated net worth of $650 million.

Barry Gibb: How Can You Mend A Broken Heart, Words, I Started A Joke, Run To Me, Islands In The Stream, Guilty, [16 number ones, 41 top 100 hits]

Barry Gibb of the Bee Gees wrote “To Love Somebody” specifically for Otis Redding, but Redding died before he was able to record it.

In 1978 Barry Gibb had one week in which four of the top five songs in the Billboard 100 were his compositions and another week in which five of the top ten were his. He also holds the Billboard 100 record for having once penned six consecutive #1 hits, which sat at the top of the charts for 27 straight weeks: "How Deep Is Your Love," "Stayin’ Alive," "(Love Is) Thicker Than Water," "Night Fever," "If I Can’t Have You," "Shadow Dancing" and "Grease."

Mariah Carey: Vision Of Love, Someday, I Don't Wanna Cry, One Sweet Day [18 number ones, 44 top 100 hits]

Michael Jackson: Bad, Beat It, Billie Jean, Black or White, Smooth Criminal, Dirty Diana, We Are The World, They Don't Care About Us, Remember The Time [18 number one songs, 76 top 100 hits (including his stints with the Jackson 5/Jacksons]

The Jacksons' 1972 hit “Never Can Say Goodbye” was written by actor Clifton Davis.

John Lennon/Paul McCartney: Imagine, Yesterday, Let It Be, Hey Jude, A Day In The Life, Eleanor Rigby, Lady Madonna, Revolution, I'll Follow The Sun, Get Back, Help!, Give Peace A Chance, You Got To Hide Your Love Away, many others [32 number ones for McCartney, and 26 for Lennon]

The "Mother Mary" of "Let It Be" was not the virgin Mary, but Paul McCartney's mother, who appeared to him in a dream.

High Honorable Mentions

Joni Mitchell, Jackson Browne, Johnny Cash, June Carter Cash, Buddy Holly, Willie Nelson, Dido, Gordon Lightfoot, Alanis Morissette, Neil Diamond, Elvis Costello, Carly Simon, James Taylor, Don McLean, David Bowie, Michael Jackson, Jon Bon Jovi, Kurt Cobain, Axl Rose, Jim Morrison, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Nicks, Harry Nilsson, Eminem, Brain Wilson, Tom Waits, Randy Newman, John Fogerty, Steve Earle, Al Green, Dolly Parton, Sly Stone, Sting, Patti Smith, Christine McVie, Pete Townshend, Jewel, Fiona Apple, Tom Petty

Related Pages: The Best Singers of All Time, The Best Singer-Songwriters, The Best Female Singer-Songwriters, The Best Female Poets, The Best Sappho Translations

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