Have you been wondering who the greatest musicians of all time are? What makes these individuals to be deemed the greatest in what they do? From multi-talented personas, to an eclectic fusion of vocals and instruments, what makes a great musician goes beyond topping charts or curating the best world tours.
When it comes to being the greatest, it’s a journey, and sometimes it takes more than just knowing how to sing the right tune. You should keep on reading to find out more about which musicians are considered the greatest musicians of all time.
1. Freddie Mercury
Born on an East African island in Zanzibar little Freddie had no idea that he would become a musical prodigy and a lead singer for one of the greatest London-based rock bands, known as no other than Queen. This sensational vocalist and his flamboyant style gave the world one of the most celebrated songs in the world, Bohemian Rhapsody.
Mercury’s rise to fame was as unpredictable as his personality. When Prince was ready to focus on his solo career, Queen was a world known band that was filling up stadiums and topping charts on every billboard. In 1992, Barcelona became the anthem for the Olympics.
Freddie’s musical career defied stereotypes and soared above heights that nobody ever imagined. This is why he deserves to be part of the greatest musicians of all time.
2. Ludwig Van Beethoven
You can’t think of playing the piano without thinking of this phenomenal pianist. Beethoven is to piano as lightning is to thunder. If you’re looking for a classical musical repertoire, then he is it for you.
The thing about Beethoven is that his music has spanned different eras, yet it remains amazing. His famous Symphony 5 showcases his innovative composition style. He not only widened the scope of modern day symphony, but he changed the way that the concerto, quartet, and sonata are composed.
As a result, he’s lauded as a musical genius. Most importantly, he’s known as a very important figure who connected the classical and Romantic periods of Western music. You’d be surprised to find that he achieved such inspirational musical milestones while he was going deaf.
Moreover, he’s father used very extraordinary brutality to teach him music. However, he rose above all of these odds to be known as not only one of the greatest pianists, but as an overall great musician whose music has lived on from the 18th century until today.
3. The Beatles
When you think of the city of Liverpool, the Beatles should be the first thing that comes to mind. But did you know that this famous musical quartet was known by 3 other names before the members settled on being known as the Beatles? You see, before topping world-famous charts and touring popular cities, the Beatles went by these names – the Quarrymen, the Silver Beatles, as well as the Fab Four.
In the 60’s everyone was looking for something to inspire their hopes and dreams. In came a musical group that was filled with enthusiasm and talent. Discovered by a local store music manager, The Beatles soon began their rise to fame.
They wrote most of their popular songs. Their music became widely known and explored their other talents. As the pioneers of youth culture, this quartet enjoyed widespread success.
4. Michael Jackson
It’s a known fact that fans would faint at just the sight of the King of Pop. His electrifying moves on any stage were enough to make you stave in awe as he performed his latest chart toppers. The fact of the matter is that he was multi-talented.
Coming from a family of musical talent that was known as the Jackson 5, Micheal was always made for fame. His career began when he was very young. Being one of 10 children, he saw to it that he would become the most famous of them all.
In fact, Micheal joined his family singing group when he was only 5 years old. This was the beginning of an unimaginable career trajectory. He built a strong following that kept on growing until he became who you know him to be.
Thereafter, in the 80s, he decided to focus on his solo career by launching his acclaimed Thriller album. This marked the beginning of unparalleled achievements for this young musician.
The world knew him as a solo artist, and he never went back. He topped chart after chart and broke many musical records.
5. Louis Armstrong
Did you know that Louis was nicknamed Pops? If you want to know which artists are influential in Jazz history, look no further than Pops aka Satchmo. Born in New Orleans, Louisiana, Armstrong grew up in extreme poverty.
However, singing was what got him through some of the most terrible moments in his life. It was when he was sent to a juvenile facility at the age of 12 where he truly fell in love with music, and it changed him. Playing music soon became his passion.
He learned different techniques and studied the various elements that made Jazz unique to other sounds that he knew. When he was in his 20s, fame beckoned to him. He was part of the band that played for King Oliver’s Creole Jazz band.
This is where he had the opportunity to record his first solo. However, he quit the band and focused on his solo career.
This was a very important decision in his career because it changed everything about where his life would go. Soon after, he was known as one of the greatest trumpeters of all time.
6. Elvis Presley
This is another self-dubbed king. Elvis coined the term King of Rock and Roll, and it has never been the same if anyone else uses it. You’d be surprised to find that Elvis also grew up dirt poor.
It wasn’t until he was discovered by a blues label producer that his life changed for the better. You’ll know Elvis for his very flamboyant personality and style. His long greased hair and interesting choice of clothing is what flashes before your eyes when you think of him.
But it wasn’t until the 50s when he became very popular. This is when he completely dominated every chart for bestsellers and brought a whole new meaning to rock and roll.
This helped to open doors for artists from different racial backgrounds, particularly black artists in a time that was marked by volatile political warfare. Everything that Elvis touched would become famous, from his films to TV commercials.
7. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Beethoven isn’t the only Western composer who changed the face of composition. Mozart not only learned different music, but he wrote every musical genre and excelled in each of them. Although his music was made for a specific audience, it’s still universal enough to be enjoyed by audiences with varying ranges of expression.
His talent for music was remarkable from when he was a young boy. His advantage was that he came from a family of good standing. This meant that he had the opportunity to travel and learn music from different parts of the country from a young age.
As a result, he had become fluent in musical language at the mere age of 13. His life was marked by him playing music at different concerts and being the star at various courts. Until today, Mozart’s classical symphonies still capture various audiences.
8. Billie Holiday
When you think of Jazz vocalists, Billie Holiday should be at the top of that list. She’s still considered one of the best Jazz vocalists of all time. Even though she eventually lost her life to substance abuse, she was a world phenomenon of a singer.
She was only discovered by a producer at the tender age of 18 where she was performing at a Harlem Jazz club. She got the opportunity to be paired up with Benny Goodman who recorded a number of songs with her. Her first commercial release in the 1930s shot up to the top 10.
Her melancholic voice infused with distinctive phrasing of her songs is what set her apart from all the singers of her generation. Later on in the 30s, she toured with the Count Basie Orchestra where she worked with Artie Shaw. This was the beginning of her groundbreaking career.
But due to racial reasons, promoters weren’t objective about having her perform with the orchestra. As a result, she ended up leaving the orchestra. Yet, this didn’t stop her from becoming one of the world’s greatest singers of all time.
9. Bob Dylan
The thing about Bob Dylan is that he was more than just a singer. He’s also known for his talents as a visual artist and songwriter. In fact, he’s known as one of the greatest songwriters of his time.
His career spanned for more than 60 years, and he had a major influence in the music industry and pop culture alike. He also showed his activism during the peak of political and racial turmoil. His songs became anthems for many civil rights movements.
He defied the stereotypes of his industry during his time and appealed mainly to those who were oppressed. He always drew controversy to his life choices and his music. For example, there was a lot that was said when he adopted amplified rock instrumentals to his music.
Unfortunately, a motorcycle accident affected his career and forced him to withdraw from doing any tours. But this didn’t stop him from recording a large body of songs.
In addition, he has published 8 books that include his drawings and paintings. With most of his work being exhibited in famous ART galleries.
If you’re looking for a great musical artist with controversy, then you should consider doing some more research on Prince. Purple Rain is still one of those songs that will stand the test of time. Prince’s music always drew attention for being too much of something.
Be it religion or infusing too many sexual themes. This didn’t stop him from reaching prodigy status and having a seven-time Grammy award winner title under his name.
Prince cemented his superstar status from the beginning of his career until the end. He wasn’t only a singer, but was a songwriter, and he also dabbled in acting and music production from time to time.
A fun fact about Prince is that he was so interested in music so much that he taught himself how to play the piano at only the age of 10. It’s no surprise that that was later signed to Warner Bros.
11. Miles Davis
The 20th century has a few musicians who’ve made it to this list. There is none other than this influential bandleader, composer, and trumpeter who should be celebrated as one of the greatest to ever do the music thing. Miles is known as an American Jazz musician who changed the face of trumpeting.
Before he went on to study at the Institute of Musical Art, Miles was performing with different bands all over New York City. Even though it’s said that his playing wasn’t always fully in tune, his imaginative and unique musical tone is what outweighed any of his limitations. He was able to improvise his tune to become one of the greatest musicians.
For instance, he moved away from traditional jazz, to add pacing and lyricism to his music. This helped to explore the various Jazz styles that you find today. However, in the 50s, a drug addiction affected how he would play the trumpet.
But this didn’t stop him from recording albums that are still considered the best of all time. Miles Davis gave the world what is known as free Jazz and infusion. He was an innovative and unique talent who deserves to be part of the greatest musicians of all time.
12. Ray Charles
Whether you choose to call him Brother Ray or the Genius, Ray Charles was simply a pioneer of music. He was one of the few musicians who seamlessly integrated different genres to create one song. However, his life wasn’t as easy as his ability to infuse different components to master a unique beat.
For example, he witnessed his brother’s death at a young age. What soon followed this tragedy was him losing his eyesight gradually. By the age of 7, he was completely blind.
This is when he went to a school for the Deaf and Blind where he was taught to write and compose music in braille. Moreover, he learned to play the piano which he would later become famous for along with his soothing and elegant voice.
His musical evolution began when he turned 15. And this is when he met the now renowned musical producer Quincy Jones. Thereafter, he started to develop a distinctive sound.
This is how he gave birth to the genre that is known as Soul. Even though he did pick up a drug addiction, he ended up kicking it in his late career with the assistance of a rehab facility in Los Angeles.
13. Notorious B.I.G
Biggie Smalls lived a short, but meaningful life. He was murdered at the age of 24, but that didn’t stop him from becoming one of the greatest hip hop artists that this century has ever seen. The fact is Biggie reinvented the hi hop in the East Coast.
He didn’t just portray the glitz and glam of this industry. Instead, he focused on sending a powerful message to address many social issues that are still affecting the youth today. Due to a life of poverty, he was forced to sell drugs from the age of 12 to survive life on the streets.
When he was arrested for selling drugs, he had to make a few changes. This is when Bad Boy Records came to give him another chance at life. Even though he never had serious plans to pursue music, fame just followed him.
While there are different views on his relationship with Tupac, it can’t be denied that it had an impact on the artist that he eventually became. In fact, there are speculations that his feud with his rival hip hop star is what could’ve led to his untimely death. But the one thing that can’t be denied is that Biggie Smalls is one of the greatest artists who has managed to top musical charts.
14. Bob Marley
You cannot think of the greatest musicians of all time without mentioning this Reggae King. He wasn’t only considered a pioneer of this different genre, but he was known for his music that forces you to think deeper about life. He fused different elements such as rock, ska and reggae with his creative writing and vocal style.
Bob Marley has sold over 20 million records and still continues to do so even though he’s no longer alive. He’s the most famous Reggae artist of all time as well as one of the greatest musicians to ever grace the music charts.