Famous Musicians

Katrina

Katrina

Published: 29 Mar 2022

Silhouette of rap singer with microphone on stage in music hall

Throughout the years, famous musicians from all over the world helped develop the music scene that we know today. Genres like reggae, blues, and even pop music would not be what they are if it weren’t for the likes of Bob Marley and B.B. King.

Music is a diverse art form that helps people express themselves. This goes for both composers and listeners. Songs also do much more than just influence your mood. It can also change how you see the world. Songs can also help you connect with your faith.

Understanding the power of music is what likely sets apart these famous musicians from other artists. If you’re interested to learn more about their genres, famous works, and other trivia, then read on for a list of famous musicians!

Table of Contents

Aerosmith

Years active: 1970–Present
Genre: Hard rock, blues rock, glam metal, and heavy metal
Famous works: I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing, Toys in the Attic, and Rock

Aerosmith
Image from Adobe Stock

One of the most famous musicians is Aerosmith. People refer to them as “the Bad Boys from Boston” as well as “America’s Greatest Rock and Roll Band.” Aerosmith is a band that plays hard rock and heavy metal. The group comprises Steven Tyler (lead singer), Joe Perry (lead guitarist), Brad Whitford (guitarist), Tom Hamilton (bassist), and Joey Kramer (drummer).

Aerosmith was extremely popular in the late 1970s. While they almost disbanded in the early 1980s, they came back stronger than ever before as one of the best bands of all time. Today, they are still the best-selling American hard rock band of all time. They have won several Top 40 hits, Grammy Awards, American Music Awards, and many more. They are also a part of Rolling Stone’s 100 Greatest Artists of All Time list.

Amy Winehouse

Years active: 2002–2011
Genre: Soul, R&B, and jazz
Famous works: Stronger Than Me, Rehab, Valerie, Back to Black

Famous Musicians: Amy Winehouse
Image from Vulture

When it comes to famous musicians, Amy Winehouse is a name that you can’t leave out. This English singer is famous for her soul, R&B, and jazz tunes. Unfortunately, Winehouse was often the target of paparazzi because of her love life and substance abuse issues. The tabloids can’t take away from her genius, however. Winehouse is one of the most successful female artists ever. In 2007, she received the British Female Solo Artist reward. She also won five Grammys in a single night in 2008.

Unfortunately, Winehouse passed away at the age of 27, making her a member of what people call the “27 Club.” The 27 Club is a list of popular celebrities and musicians who passed away when they were 27 years old.

Aretha Franklin

Years active: 1954–2018
Genre: Soul, R&B, gospel, jazz, and pop
Famous works: Respect, (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman, I Say a Little Prayer

Aretha Franklin
Image from GQ

As the “Queen of Soul,” Aretha Franklin rightfully earns her spot as one of the most famous musicians ever. Franklin is an American singer from Memphis, Tennessee. She was a child prodigy. At a very young age, she was already a powerful gospel singer and pianist.

Her career was a slow climb, but she eventually rose to fame in the 1960s. Since then, she continued to release big hits well into the 1990s. Her influence on American music is undeniable. She is one of the best-selling artists of all time.

Throughout her career, she won 18 Grammy Awards. One of these is the Grammy Awards Living Legend honor. In 2019, a year after her passing, Franklin received the Pulitzer Prize. She is also a part of the National Women’s Hall of Fame, where they inducted her in 2020.

Beyoncé Knowles

Years active: 1997–Present
Genre: R&B, Pop, Hip hop, soul
Famous works: Crazy in Live, Irreplaceable, If I Were a Boy, Single Ladies, and Halo 

Beyoncé Knowles
Image from Elle

Beyoncé is no doubt one of the most famous musicians in today’s music scene. In fact, she is more than just a famous artist. Many see her as a cultural and music icon. She started off as a member of Destiny’s Child. Before disbanding, this group was extremely popular and won a number of music awards.

As a solo artist, Beyoncé continued to be a force in the industry. She also starred in different TV shows and musicals. She also starred in many films. Some of her most popular appearances are in Dreamgirls (2006) and The Lion King (2019).

B.B. King

Years active: 1942–2014
Genre: Blues, R&B, soul, and gospel
Famous works: Woke Up This Morning, Every Day I Have the Blues, and The Thrill is Gone

B.B. King
Image from Wikipedia

Riley B. King, known to most as B.B. King, is one of the most famous blues musicians ever. He is one of the most important electric guitarists in music history. His music influenced the development of blues as a genre. In fact, people call him “The King of the Blues.”

He was also very active. In his 70s, he played over 200 concerts per year. This dedication is an admirable trait that many famous musicians aspire to. In 1990, King received the National Medal of Arts.

Billy Joel

Years active: 1964–Present
Genre: Rock, soft rock, pop, and pop rock
Famous works: Piano Man, Just the Way You Are, Only the Good Die Young, and Uptown Girl

Billy Joel
Image from NME

Among famous musicians, there is only one “Piano Man.” That is Billy Joel, an American musician from New York. Billy Joel is an established singer and composer. He has written and released over 10 studio albums.

Furthermore, he has also worked with Disney as a voiceover actor for the film Oliver & Company. Aside from this, he has also made soundtracks for other films. Some examples are Honeymoon in Vegas and Easy Money.

Many award-giving bodies have recognized Joel’s career. He has won 5 Grammy Awards. Joel is also part of the Songwriters Hall of Fame. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Long Island Music Hall of Fame also inducted him in 1999 and 2006, respectively.

Bob Dylan

Years active: 1961–Present
Genre: Folk, country, blues, and rock
Famous works: Blowin’ in the Wind, The Times They Are A-Changin’, and Like a Rolling Stone

Famous Musicians: Bob Dylan
Image from People

Like many famous musicians, Bob Dylan’s music impacted people’s lives. His songs from the 1960s became anthems for political issues such as the civil rights and anti-war movements. His protest songs earned him the title “a rebel with a cause.” Despite mixed critiques, Dylan won fans for his folk and rock music.

In the 1960s, he rose on the Billboard charts. His fame continued to grow from there, and so did his music. He helped develop the genre of country rock. Throughout his career, he has won several Grammy Awards.

Bob Marley

Years active: 1962–1981
Genre: Reggae, ska, and rock steady
Famous works: Redemption Song, Get Up, Stand Up, and No Woman, No Cry

Bob Marley
Image from Rolling Stone

Bob Marley is a famous singer from Jamaica. As a pioneer of reggae music, he is undeniably one of the most famous musicians ever. He is a pop culture icon for both Jamaican music and Rastafari.

Many believe Marley to be one of the best artists of all time. This is because he was able to merge reggae, ska, and rocksteady so well in his music. His vocals and lyricism are also unique and political. Furthermore, his 1984 album Legend is the best-selling reggae album of all time.

When he passed away, Jamaica held a state funeral for him. They also awarded him with an Order of Merit.

Britney Spears

Years active: 1992–Present
Genre: Pop, dance-pop, electropop, and teen pop
Famous works: Baby One More Time, Oops!… I Did It Again, and Toxic

Britney Spears
Image from People

There are many famous musicians who make pop music, but there is only one “Princess of Pop.” Britney Spears is an American singer from Mississippi. She started off her career at the age of 15 when she revived the genre of teen pop.

Her success continued in the 2000s. However, she was placed under conservatorship after promotions for her 2007 album Blackout. Spears’ legal battle to terminate her conservatorship began in 2019. People continue to express their support for her freedom through the #FreeBritney movement.

Spears has received several awards. This includes fifteen Guinness World Records and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. According to Rolling Stone, her debut song is the “greatest debut single of all time.”

Bruce Springsteen

Years active: 1964–Present
Genre: Rock, Americana, and heartland rock
Famous works: Hungry Heart, Streets of Philadelphia, and The Ghost of Tom Joad

Bruce Springsteen
Image from Rolling Stone

Bruce Springsteen is an American singer from New Jersey. This famous musician is not only known for his rough baritone voice but also for his guitar playing. While Springsteen is a soloist, he has a primary backing band called E Street Band.

His music takes inspiration from other famous musicians, most notably Bob Dylan. His studio albums met great commercial success. In fact, he has sold more than 150 million records. As for his accolades, he has several Grammy Awards and a Special Tony Award. In 2016, he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama.

BTS

Years active: 2013–Present
Genre: K-pop, pop, hip hop, R&B, and EDM
Famous works: Mic Drop, Dynamite, Butter, and Permission to Dance

BTS
Image from Wikipedia

BTS, or Bangtan Boys, is a boy band from South Korea. The group comprises seven members. They are Jin, Suga, J-Hope, RM, V, and Jungkook. Despite being a relatively new band, they are no doubt one of the most famous musicians of the 2010s. In fact, Time magazine called them the “Next Generation Leaders” and the “Princes of Pop.”

BTS has won several awards and broken records worldwide. They won four US number-one albums within two years, and they are the fastest group to do so since the Beatles. In 2020, the IFPI awarded them the Global Recording Artist of the Year award.

David Bowie

Years active: 1962–2016
Genre: Glam rock, pop electronic, and experimental
Famous works: Starman, Fame, Under Pressure, and Heroes

Famous Musicians: David Bowie
Image from NME

Among English famous musicians, David Bowie is one of the top. Bowie is a famous singer from London. Bowie constantly reinvented himself throughout his career. In 1972, he had an alter ego named Ziggy Stardust, who embodied his glam rock era perfectly.

Bowie is also an actor. He has starred in several films during the 1980s. Some of these films include Labyrinth and The Last Temptation of Christ. He is a household name among rock artists. In fact, he has collaborated with many other famous musicians. Some examples include John Lennon and Queen.

Diana Ross

Years active: 1956–Present
Genre: R&B, pop, soul,  and disco
Famous works: Come See About Me, Upside Down, and Endless Love

Diana Ross
Image from The Guardian

Diana Ross is the lead singer of the Supremes. The Supremes are a successful girl group from the 1960s. In fact, they are the most successful female group in the US to this day. On her own, however, Ross is still one of the most famous musicians ever.

In the 1970s, Ross began her solo career. She was extremely successful as a singer and as an actress. She won Golden Globes and Academy Awards for her acting performances. Ross was also inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

The Guinness Book of World Records also declared her as the female artist with the most hits on the charts. In 2016, she received the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Dolly Parton

Years active: 1956–Present
Genre: Country, country pop, bluegrass, and gospel
Famous works: Jolene, Coat of Many Colors, and I Will Always Love You

Dolly Parton
Image from US Weekly

When it comes to country music, Dolly Parton is a household name. This country music singer is from Tennessee. Even as a child, Parton showed a passion for music. She often sang on local radio shows in her hometown. When she started her career, she tried to blend country with pop music. This resonated with the public, and many loved her songs.

Many other famous musicians are big fans of Parton. One example is Whitney Houston, who covered Parton’s song I Will Always Love You. This song is arguably one of the most famous songs ever.

Furthermore, Parton has also acted and written for TV and film. In 2020, she also appeared on Dolly Parton’s Christmas on the Square. This film streams on Netflix.

Eddie Van Halen

Years active: 1964–2020
Genre: Hard rock, heavy metal, and glam metal
Famous works: Jump

Eddie Van Halen
Image from The Guardian

If you’re into classic rock bands, then you have probably heard of Eddie Van Halen. Eddie Van Halen is the songwriter and guitarist of Van Halen, one of the most popular bands of the 1980s. The group comprises Eddie’s brother Alex Van Halen (drums), Mark Stone (bass), and David Lee Roth (vocals).

Eddie’s guitar skills won over many fans. In fact, many believe he is one of the greatest guitar players ever. He is one of the most famous musicians for his guitar techniques. In fact, it is one of the reasons why his band took off. Gene Simmons from the band KISS was intrigued by Eddie’s guitar skills. Thus, he funded their first recording session.

Elton John

Years active: 1969–Present
Genre: Rock, soft rock, glam rock, and pop rock
Famous works: Candle in the Wind 1997, Your Song, and songs from The Lion King

Elton John
Image from The New York Times

For Disney’s The Lion King fans, Elton John is a familiar name. This is because John composed many of The Lion King’s songs. This includes the stage adaptation as well. John has also produced over 30 albums with 33 million sold worldwide. He has also written for other musicals. Some examples are Aida and Billy Elliot the Musical. 

Not a lot of famous musicians can say the Queen knighted them. John, on the other hand, can. In 1998, Queen Elizabeth II knighted John for his “music and charitable services.” He has performed at several royal events as well. An example is at Princess Diana’s funeral in 1997.

One trivia about John is that his real name is actually Reginald Kenneth Dwight. Elton John is his stage name. He came up with this by combining the names of two members of his first group, Bluesology. 

Elvis Presley

Years active: 1953–1977
Genre: Rock and roll, pop, rockabilly, R&B, blues, country, and gospel
Famous works: Can’t Help Falling in Love, Love Me Tender, and Viva Las Vegas

Famous Musicians: Elvis Presley
Image from Outsider

Elvis Presley is the King of Rock and Roll. He is what some call a legend. His music style and stage presence captivated many. While some thought he was too sexual and controversial, Presley was still successful. According to the Guinness World Records, he is the best-selling solo artist of all time.

Famous musicians like Springsteen see Presley as an inspiration. When he passed away from a heart attack, many mourned his death. He was a cultural icon that many looked up to. On his death anniversary, people visit Graceland to remember him.

In 2018, Trump awarded him with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Eminem

Years active: 1988–Present
Genre: Hip hop, rap
Famous works: Lose Yourself, Love the Way You Life, and Not Afraid

Eminem
Image from Complex

Enimem is a big name in the hip hop scene. Before he was considered one of the greatest rappers of all time, Eminem was just Marshall Bruce Mathers III, a kid from Missouri.

Like many famous musicians, the start of his career was not easy. He did not immediately meet commercial success. However, people slowly came to accept his music. He has released several albums that topped charts. He has also received multiple awards. In fact, he has won 15 Grammy Awards throughout his career.

Furthermore, Eminem has a radio channel called Shade 45 on Sirius XM Radio. He also goes by another moniker, Slim Shady.

Frank Sinatra

Years active: 1935–1995
Genre: Jazz, swing, vocal jazz, traditional pop
Famous works: Strangers in the Night, That’s Life, and My Way

Frank Sinatra
Image from The Today Show

Frank Sinatra is one of the most famous jazz musicians ever. While his parents were Italian, he was born in New Jersey. There, he grew up and listened to swing music. By the 1940s, he had started his career as a solo artist. In the 1950s, he also dabbled in acting. He even won awards for his Best Supporting Actor role in From Here to Eternity.

Sinatra was also a political man. He actively campaigned for his presidential candidates in the 1940s. Some examples include Roosevelt, Kennedy, and Reagan.

Like most famous musicians, Sinatra was under a lot of public scrutiny. However, he was also under the radar of the FBI. Many speculated about his underground connections with the mafia.

Guns N’ Roses

Years active: 1985–Present
Genre: Hard rock and heavy metal
Famous works: Welcome to the Jungle, Sweet Child O’ Mine, and Paradise City

Guns N’ Roses
Image from Rolling Stone

If you ask people to name the best rock bands ever, they’ll likely name Guns N’ Roses. This band comprises Axl Rose (vocals), Slash (lead guitar), Izzy Stradlin (rhythm guitar), Duff McKagan (bass), and Steven Adler (drums).

The band is controversial to many. The public once called them “the most dangerous band in the world.” Despite this, they are one of the best-selling acts in history. They have sold over 100 million records worldwide.

In addition, many consider Slash to be one of the greatest guitarists ever. In fact, his guitar riff on Sweet Child o’ Mine ranks first on Total Guitar’s “The 100 Greatest Riffs.”

Hank Williams

Years active: 1937–1952
Genre: Country, rockabilly, folk, honky-tonk, blues, and gospel
Famous works: Your Cheatin’ Heart, Hey, Good Lookin’, and Cold, Cold Heart

Hank Williams
Image from Biography

Hank Williams was from Alabama. He was one of the most influential country music singers of the 1900s. In fact, he inspired many other famous musicians. Some examples include Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash, and Elvis Presley.

Early on, Williams’ career was hard. He founded the band Drifting Cowboys, but they were disbanded after his bandmates served in the war. However, he finally had a breakthrough in the late 1940s. As a solo artist, he had mainstream success.

Unfortunately, Williams passed away at the age of 29. Prescription drug abuse and alcoholism caused his health to decline. He eventually died of a heart attack in 1953.

Jay-Z

Years active: 1986–Present
Genre: Hip hop
Famous works: Empire State of Mind, Niggas in Paris, and Numb/Encore

Jay-Z
Image from The CEO Magazine

Jay-Z is one of the most famous Black musicians today. He was the first living solo rapper in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Furthermore, he is the first rapper inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame. He has won 23 Grammy Awards, which is the most won by any rapper.

However, he isn’t just a rapper either. He also owns a record label named Roc-A-Fella Records. Jay-Z helped build the careers of other famous musicians. This includes Kanye West, Rihanna, and J. Cole.

Aside from this, Jay-Z is also a successful businessman. He owns a clothing brand, bars, and other companies. He is currently married to Beyoncé, who is equally successful.

Johnny Cash

Years active: 1954–2003
Genre: Country, rockabilly, rock and roll, blues, and gospel
Famous works: I Walk the Line, Ring of Fire, and Folsom Prison Blues

Johnny Cash
Image from Billboard

Johnny Cash is a famous singer known for his mixture of different genres. His music style is characterized by his deep voice and country tunes. Fans called him “The Man in Black” because of his all-black wardrobe.

Before he became one of the most famous musicians, he was just John R. Cash. He was born in Arkansas to a family of poor cotton farmers. Despite their low income, his mother was very supportive. He took singing lessons as a kid. His family was also religious. This influenced a lot of his songs.

After his death, many of Cash’s unreleased songs were made available. It became a way for fans to connect with one of the most famous musicians of the 1900s.

John Lennon

Years active: 1956–1980
Genre: Rock, pop, and experimental
Famous works: Imagine, Happy Xmas (War Is Over), and Instant Karma! (We All Shine On)

John Lennon
Image from People

John Lennon is another one of the most famous musicians ever. Lennon was a member of one of the greatest bands of all time: the Beatles. He was one of the lead vocalists of the group. He is also their rhythm guitarist. Alongside Paul McCartney, Lennon wrote most of the band’s music.

As a solo artist, Lennon was also very successful. Most of his songs became political anthems. He was also very vocal against the Vietnam War. Because of this, Nixon tried to get him deported.

In 1988, Lennon was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of the Beatles. In 1994, he was again inducted but as a solo artist.

KISS

Years active: 1973–Present
Genre: Hard rock, heavy metal, and glam metal
Famous works: Strutter, Deuce, and Hotter Than Hell

KISS
Image from USA Today

When you think of KISS, you probably think of black and white face paint and flashy costumes. However, there is much more to these famous musicians than their stage outfits. KISS is a rock band from New York City. The group has had several members over the years. Only Stanley and Simmons remain from the original lineup.

In 1983, KISS left the makeup and costumes behind. They continued to release songs in their “unmasked era.” Their success soared, and they soon became one of the most famous musicians ever. They broke records that no other rock bands have. This includes earning 30 gold and 14 platinum albums.

Today, they rank ninth on MTV’s “Greatest Metal Band of All Time” list.

Lady Gaga

Years active: 2001–Present
Genre: Pop, dance, electronic, and jazz
Famous works: Bad Romance, Poker Face, and Just Dance

Lady Gaga
Image from NBC Boston

Among other famous musicians, Lady Gaga is likely to be more familiar to younger audiences. Lady Gaga is an American singer and actress. Her music and performances are very diverse. Ever since the start of her career, she has been popular with the LGBTQ+ community.

The religious symbols in her songs made many conservatives slam her music. However, she continues to use music to express herself. This resonates with a lot of younger audiences.

She is also an actress. In 2015, she starred in American Horror Story: Hotel. In 2018, she starred in the remake of A Star Is Born. Because of this film, she won an Academy Award, BAFTA, and Golden Globe Award all in the same year. This makes her the first woman to do so.

Led Zeppelin

Years active: 1968–1980
Genre: Hard rock, blues rock, folk-rock, and heavy metal
Famous works: Good Times Bad Times, Stairway to Heaven, and Whole Lotta Love

Led Zeppelin
Image from SPIN

In 1968, Led Zeppelin was formed. This English rock band comprises Robert Plant (vocals), Jimmy Page (guitar), John Paul Jones (bass and keyboard), and John Bonham (drums). Their music has greatly influenced the genre of hard rock and heavy metal.

Critics gave them negative reviews. However, the public liked their music. They were commercially successful throughout their career. Their total sales amount to 200 to 300 million records worldwide. To many, they are “the Beatles” of the 1970s.

Little Richard

Years active: 1947–2020
Genre: R&B, gospel, soul, and rock and roll
Famous works: Tutti Frutti, Long Tall Sally, and Send Me Some Lovin’

Little Richard
Image from Rolling Stone

The next artist on this famous musicians list has many nicknames. To some, he is just Little Richard. To many, he is “The Innovator, The Originator, and The Architect of Rock and Roll.” He had a successful career in rock and roll music. However, he changed genres in 1962. Instead, he sang church songs.

Still, his rock and roll music had a great influence on later musicians, including the Beatles. They opened for him during his tour in Europe.

Before that, however, he was Richard Wayne Penniman. He was born in Georgia. He had a strained relationship with his father, who thought he was gay. During his career, Richard was involved in several scandals. Most of them concerned men. However, he continuously went back and forth between admitting that he was gay and denying it.

Madonna

Years active: 1979–Present
Genre: Pop, dance, and electronica
Famous works: Like a Virgin, Like a Prayer, and Vogue

Madonna
Image from the Today Show

Among famous musicians, the one who holds the title of “Queen of Pop” is Madonna. Madonna Louise Ciccone is a pop singer from Michigan. She is a pop culture icon who sang about social and political themes. Her songs also tackle religious themes.

Despite the controversy, her songs are often number-one singles. She is the best-selling female recording artist of all time. In 2012, VH1 recognized her as “the greatest woman in music.”

Additionally, she is also an actress. She has starred in films like Evita and Shanghai Surprise. She also owns fashion brands and charity foundations.

Marvin Gaye

Years active: 1957–1984
Genre: Soul, R&B, funk, and jazz
Famous works: How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You), Let’s Get It On, and Sexual Healing

Marvin Gaye
Image from Rolling Stone

Marvin Gaye is the “Prince of Soul.” He is one of the famous musicians who helped develop Motown music. He did not rise to fame right away. However, he has been involved with music even before that. He used to be a drummer for Stevie Wonder and The Supremes.

In the 1960s, he became a successful solo artist. His style also influenced other R&B types, including neo-soul. Gaye has also collaborated with other singers. This includes Diana Ross and Mary Wells.

Unfortunately, Gaye died at the age of 44. He was shot dead by his own father in Los Angeles. After his death, people continued to recognize the singer’s contributions to music. For example, he was inducted into the Rhythm and Blues Music Hall of Fame.

Michael Jackson

Years active: 1964–2009
Genre: Pop, R&B, disco, funk, soul, and rock
Famous works: Heal the World, Thriller, and Beat It

Michael Jackson
Image from Smooth

If Madonna is the Queen of Pop, then Michael Jackson is the King of Pop. To some, he is at the top of famous musicians. His 40-year career was a fruitful one. He started as a member of the Jackson 5, comprising him and his elder brothers.

In 1971, he began his solo career. His one-of-a-kind voice earned him many fans. Many also fell in love with his creative music videos. Jackson is also known for his dance moves. His famous “moonwalk” is one that people continue to use today.

Jackson is one of the most awarded artists in history. Aside from 15 Grammy Awards, Jackson holds 39 Guinness World Records. He is a part of several Hall of Fames.

Missy Elliott

Years active: 1991–Present
Genre: Hip hop, rap, and R&B
Famous works: Get Ur Freak On, Work It, and Lose Control

Missy Elliott
Image from The Economist

Missy Elliott is a top name in hip hop and R&B. She first started off as a member of the group Sista in the 1990s. It wasn’t until 1997 that she debuted as a solo artist. At the time, Sock It 2 Me, was the highest-charting debut for a female rapper.

She continued to produce hit singles and albums. By the 2000s, she became popular worldwide. A lot of people also praised her conceptual music videos.

While Elliott did not release an album for 15 years, she featured in other famous musicians’ songs. By 2019, she followed up her 2005 album and released Iconology. 

Nirvana

Years active: 1987–1994
Genre: Alternative rock, hard rock, and grunge
Famous works: Smells Like Teen Spirit, All Apologies, and Heart-Shaped Box

Nirvana
Image from Rolling Stone

Formed in Washington, Nirvana is a rock band from the 1980s. The group comprises Kurt Cobain (vocals and lead guitar), Krist Novoselic (bass), and Dave Grohl (drums).

Nirvana had a distinct sound. Their songs had quiet verses and loud choruses. This contrast appealed to audiences, and they soon became popular worldwide. They held successful tours and produced more albums.

Unfortunately, the band disbanded in 1994 after Cobain committed suicide. The singer struggled with depression and chronic pain, and he used heroin and other painkillers to deal with this. Fans and other famous musicians mourned Cobain’s death. This marked the end of the grunge movement in the 1990s.

Prince

Years active: 1975–2016
Genre: Pop, funk, rock, soul, and R&B
Famous works: When Doves Cry, I Wanna Be Your Lover, and If I Was Your Girlfriend

Prince
Image from History

One edge that Prince had over most famous musicians is his ability to play many instruments. He often played most, if not all, of the instruments during recordings. The guitar, drums, bass, and keyboard were some of his instruments. He was also well-versed in different genres, such as funk, jazz, pop, rock, and hip hop.

Early on, his market only focused on Black audiences. Later on, he achieved mainstream popularity. He appealed to fans with his diverse music. Also, his androgynous persona made his performances one of a kind.

Prince passed away in 2016 from a drug overdose. His unreleased projects, which people believe to be complete albums, remain in the vault of his home.

Ray Charles

Years active: 1947–2004
Genre: R&B, blues, jazz, soul, and gospel
Famous works: Georgia On My Mind, What’d I Say, and Hit the Road, Jack

Ray Charles
Image from Jazziz Magazine

Ray Charles Robinson, Sr. is “The Genius.” He earned this nickname because he helped develop soul music during the 1950s. To his friends, however, he was just “Brother Ray.”

Charles was an inspiration to many. As a child, he lost his eyesight. However, he did not let this impede his dreams. He became an established pianist and composer, and produced songs of all kinds.

His impact, even after his death, is undeniable. Famous musicians, such as Frank Sinatra and Billy Joel, both recognize Charles as a musical icon. To add, Rolling Stone ranked him second on their 100 Greatest Singers of All Time list.

Sam Cooke

Years active: 1951–1964
Genre: Soul, R&B, and gospel
Famous works: You Send Me, Chain Gang, and Good Times

Sam Cooke
Image from Variety

People call Sam Cooke the “King of Soul.” Like most famous musicians, he grew up around music. As a child, he was a part of the Soul Stirrers, a music group that sang gospel songs. In 1957, however, he debuted as a solo artist.

He released hit song after hit song. Aside from consistently charting on Billboard, his songs served as anthems for the Civil Rights Movement. Cooke was very vocal about his support. He is also good friends with other known activists. One example is Malcolm X.

Stevie Wonder

Years active: 1961–Present
Genre: R&B, funk, jazz, soul, gospel, and pop
Famous works: Superstition, You Are the Sunshine of My Life, and Fingertips, Pt. 2

Stevie Wonder
Image from SheKnows

Like Prince, Stevie Wonder is one of the very few famous musicians who are masters of many instruments. He is a one-man band and a musical genius. Thus, it is really no surprise that he is one of the best-selling musicians in the world.

Wonder wasn’t born blind, but he lost his eyesight shortly after his birth. Despite this, he was a child prodigy. When he was only 13 years old, he ranked number one on the Billboard Hot 100 with “Fingertips.” People called him “Little Stevie Wonder” then.

Aside from his music, many loved Wonder for his activism. He is very vocal about social issues. He also campaigned for a Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday.

Taylor Swift

Years active: 2004–Present
Genre: Country, pop, rock, alternative, and folk
Famous works: Love Story, Teardrops on My Guitar, and Mine

Taylor Swift
Image from Billboard

Among famous musicians, Taylor Swift is known for her narrative songwriting. Her songs often tell stories based on her own experiences. This makes her music relatable for many.

Taylor Swift started off as a country-pop singer. Later on, she experimented with other genres. With her 2012 album, Red, she incorporated pop and electronic styles into her music. With Folklore (2020), she focused on folk and alternative rock music.

Throughout her career, Swift has won many awards. She has the most wins by a woman in the BMAs and the AMAs. She also continues to advocate for women’s rights.

Tina Turner

Years active: 1957–2009, 2020–Present
Genre: Rock, soul, R&B, and pop
Famous works: River Deep – Mountain High, Nutbush City Limits, and What’s Love Got to Do With It

Tina Turner
Image from Entertainment Weekly

This famous musicians list wouldn’t be complete without the Queen of Rock ‘n’ Roll. Tina Turner is an American-Swiss singer from Tennessee. Early on, Turner formed the musical duo, Ike & Tina Turner, with her husband. The duo was very successful. However, they disbanded in 1976.

Turner returned as a solo artist in the 1980s. She quickly proved that she could be just as successful on her own. She topped charts with her songs. In 1988, she set the record for the largest paying audience for a solo performer.

Aside from her music, Turner also had a successful acting career. Some of her films include Last Action Hero and Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome. 

The Beatles

Years active: 1960–1970
Genre: Rock and roll, and pop
Famous works: Hey Jude, Let It Be, and Here Comes the Sun

The Beatles
Image from Rolling Stone

The Beatles are more than just famous musicians. They are icons of the 1960s. This English rock band comprised John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr.

Lenon and McCartney often wrote the band’s songs. The Beatles’ discography is very diverse. They sang ballads, Indian music, and hard rock. They set the precedent for future rock bands.

The Beatles disbanded in 1970. However, the members continued to produce songs individually. In 1980, Lennon died after a demented fan shot him. In 2001, Harrison passed away because of lung cancer.

The Rolling Stones

Years active: 1962–Present
Genre: Rock, hard rock, rock and roll, pop, and blues
Famous works: (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction, Get off My Cloud, and Paint It Black

The Rolling Stones
Image from Rolling Stone

During the 1960s, pop rock dominated mainstream music. The Rolling Stones came around to change that. They played the blues and hard rock. This band comprises Mick Jagger (vocals), Brian Jones (multi-instruments), Keith Richards (guitar), Bill Wyman (bass), and Charlie Watts (drums).

Unfortunately, the members often clashed with one another. This was especially true for Jones, who later on left the band in the late 1960s. Jones suffered from drug use, and this hindered his contributions to the group. Shortly after he left, he died under mysterious circumstances.

Mick Taylor replaced Jones. With him, the Rolling Stones continued with their success.

The Sex Pistols

Years active: 1975–1978, 1996, 2002–2003, 2007–2008
Genre: Punk rock
Famous works: Anarchy in the UK, No Fun, and No Feelings

The Sex Pistols

The Sex Pistols have a relatively shorter career than most famous musicians. However, this punk rock band changed the 1970s music scene. They began the punk movement in the UK. They did this through their music and their fashion.

The Sex Pistols’ original lineup was John Lydon, Steve Jones, Paul Cook, and Glen Matlock. In 1977, Sid Vicious replaced Matlock on bass. Unfortunately, Vicious overdosed on heroin and died in 1979.

This band was very vocal about their political beliefs. In their songs, they denounced the status quo and the Crown. When they were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, none of the members attended the ceremony.

Queen

Years active: 1970–Present
Genre: Rock
Famous works: Bohemian Rhapsody, We Are the Champions, and Another One Bites the Dust

Famous Musicians: Queen
Image from Rolling Stone

Queen is a rock band from London. The group originally comprised Freddie Mercury (vocals and piano), Brian May (vocals and guitar), Roger Taylor (vocals and drums), and John Deacon (bass). Their song, Bohemian Rhapsody, topped Britain’s charts for nine weeks.

Their success only continued with We Are the Champions. This song continues to be an anthem for all kinds of sports. While the band’s success soared, Mercury’s health unfortunately declined. In 1991, he died of pneumonia because of AIDS.

From the 1970s to today, Queen continues to be one of the most famous musicians ever. Their story is showcased in the 2018 film Bohemian Rhapsody. 

Whitney Houston

Years active: 1977–2012
Genre: Soul, R&B, gospel, dance, and pop
Famous works: Where Do Broken Hearts Go, Saving All My Love For You, and I Will Always Love You

Whitney Houston
Image from Biography

Among famous musicians, Whitney Houston is known for her vocal prowess. She started singing at a really young age in church. In high school, she continued to sing while modeling. By 1985, she released her first studio album, Whitney Houston. The self-titled album continues to be one of the best-selling albums of all time.

She set a lot of records during her career. From 1985 to 1988, Houston had seven consecutive number-ones on the Billboard Hot 100. Houston was also an actor and producer. She produced the films Cinderella (1997) and The Princess Diaries. 

Yo-Yo Ma

Years active: 1961–Present
Genre: Classical
Famous works: Silk Road Journeys: When Strangers Meet and Sing Me Home

Famous Musicians: Yo-yo Ma
Image from Vanity Fair

When people talk about famous musicians, they often forget those in the orchestra. The renowned cellist, Yo-Yo Ma, is here to remind people otherwise. Ma has Chinese parents, but he was born in Paris.

However, he studied music at Julliard and Harvard University. Before this, Ma was already a child prodigy. At the age of five, he already knew how to play the cello. He performed in public recitals.

From 2010 to 2019, Ma served as Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s first creative consultant. Finally, he also has 15 Grammy Awards.