Classic rock singers aren't just great rockers of their era; many of them are among the best singers of all time. They often transcended the rock genre and changed how fans thought about music. Check out AXS's short list of the 13 best classic rock singers and click their names to learn more about each artist.
Elvis will forever be "The King" to an entire generation of music fans. He was a pioneer in the genre, and while some of his music feels a little too classic now with how far rock music has come, others like "Can't Help Falling In Love" still hold up today. Without him, rock music as fans know it may not exist.
As both a singer and songwriter, Peter Gabriel has carved out an impressive career. He gave the rock world one of the best love songs ever written with "In Your Eyes." He also has shown tremendous creativity in his work and coupled that with great vocal performances. Just watch the video for "Sledgehammer" to see both.
Bob Dylan isn't just a classic rock singer. He's a classic rock storyteller. With songs like "Hurricane" and "Subterranean Homesick Blues" he sang about what was actually happening in the world around him. His timely music, unpretentious and beautifully crafted, clearly sung from the heart, makes us care about the world more, too.
Janis Joplin was literally a unique voice in the classic rock genre. She was one of the artists who paved the way for female rockers, and remains one of the best well-known ever, thanks to songs like "Cry Baby." Joplin was a tremendous artist, pouring her emotions into her music. One wonders how much more she could've given the rock world if she hadn't died so young.
Much like Bob Dylan, Tom Petty had a gift for telling a story. He also did it in a charmingly straight-forward manner, without gimmicks or trying to be radio-friendly. But even so, he came up with songs that were radio-friendly and impossibly catchy, like "Free' Fallin." Petty could sing about heartbreak and hope in equal measure, and make them both sound amazing.
While Elton John gets a tremendous amount of attention for his dazzling style, it's important not to forget that he's a heck of a singer. No one seems to have more fun at an Elton John concert than Elton John himself, bringing us timeless rock tunes like "Tiny Dancer." So many Elton John songs have become part of rock history because there's so much to love about his work.
It's hard to imagine a better female vocalist in classic rock than Stevie Nicks. To this day, her voice is not only distinctive but she hasn't lost any of her vocal ability over a career that now spans decades. She's not only a brilliant singer with songs like "Edge of Seventeen" but she's the gold standard for women in rock music.
Paul McCartney has accomplished a rare feat - finding tremendous success with a band and then even more success as a solo artist. What's interesting about McCartney as a singer is that he just sounds timeless. McCartney sounds as good and as charming now as he did when he first became a star. Even in his "Carpool Karaoke" when it's just him, James Corden and a car, fans can't help but fall in love with him.
One cannot mention McCartney without also recognizing the genius of John Lennon. Like Janis Joplin, it's hard not to wonder how much more great music Lennon could have given if his life hadn't been cut short. Still, he'll forever be a legend for songs like "Imagine" that demonstrated not only his ability to sing but how his voice could cut right to the heart of anyone hearing him.
The man they call "The Boss" is another classic rocker whose singing and staying power hasn't decreased as his career has continued. Springsteen just keeps turning out blue-collar rock albums and they keep being amazing. His music speaks to everyone, and with songs like "Dancing in the Dark" the audience is naturally drawn to him. He's a rock star who doesn't need to be a rock star.
Prince was a legend whose music transcended the rock genre. He was able to not only rock out but also blend pop, R&B and other sounds into his music and make it all sound beautiful. "Purple Rain" will go down as one of the great songs of all time because of his vocal performance. Prince was able to change his sound and image multiple times over his career, and always be wonderful.
When it comes to David Bowie, one can't call him just a classic rock singer. He was a singer, a songwriter, an artist and many other things, and he poured a tremendous amount of creativity into his music. Songs like "Let's Dance", which you can listen to by playing the video at the top of this article, combined his great singing with a story and often, impressive visuals. He was an innovator throughout his career.
There will never be a greater rocker than Freddie Mercury. His voice remains one of the most distinctive and impressive in rock and roll history. Music fans can recognize it even if they don't know his work. And there will never be a greater rock song than "Bohemian Rhapsody." Mercury is and always will be a legend, not only in classic rock but in all of music.
To get tickets to see any of the artists on this list or to find out more information about these artists, click their names above to visit their artist pages on AXS.