25 Greatest American Bands and Singers of All Time

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When it comes to music, the mantra beauty is in eye (or ear) of the beholder holds truer than ever. Nevertheless, we’ve worked hard to pinpoint the best American bands and singers ever. So even if you don’t agree with the whole list, hopefully you’ll see someone this list that you were hoping for!

1. Creedence Clearwater Revival

Cover of Creedence Clearwater Revival record
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You can disagree with this answer. But even if you disagree, you can’t ever say that Creedence Clearwater Revival is the wrong answer to the question. It’s just one of the correct answers. Put any American band’s top five songs against Fortunate SonBorn on the Bayou, Proud Mary, Bad Moon Rising, and Green River with your life’s savings on the line. You won’t.

2. Jimi Hendrix (and His Band)

Jimi Hendrix album cover
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Over a four-year career cut short by a rockstar’s lifestyle, Jimi Hendrix put more than enough material on wax to solidify his legendary status. You’ll find Voodoo Child, All Along the Watchtower, Foxy Lady, and Purple Haze on the jukebox at any dive bar worth its salt.

3. Billie Eilish

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If you don’t love Billie Eilish, that’s ok because millions of others do. Eilish is one of the youngest and most successful singer-songwriters, so much so that she’s got two world records for her music. (And we didn’t even know there were world records for musical success!) Regardless, Eilish has got some serious talent and we hope it takes her far.

4. The Allman Brothers Band

The Allman Brothers Band
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Few bands that can claim The Allman Brothers Band’s commercial success are as near-universally beloved by fans. Usually, you’ll attract your fair share of haters when you have hits with the magnitude of Melissa, In Memory of Elizabeth Reed, Midnight Rider, Blue Sky, Soulshine, and Whipping Post.

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5. Mariah Carey

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The name Mariah Carey is pretty much synonymous with musical success, and also with Christmas. Carey’s first five singles were all chart-toppers, and her Christmas album from thirty years ago still sets the standard for Christmas music across several generations. I mean, how could we not include the writer of All I Want for Christmas is You?

6. Whitney Houston

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Speaking of the classics, we can’t leave out Whitney Houston. Did you know that Houston’s mother was part of a group who recorded backup vocals for singers like Aretha Franklin and Elvis Presley? With a heritage like that, it’s less surprising that Whitney and her voice became an American icon.

7. The Miles Davis Sextet

Miles Davis album
Photo Credit: Stefano Chiacchiarini ’74 / Shutterstock.

When you think “bands,” you don’t necessarily think “jazz.” Even so, The Miles Davis Sextet is a veritable All-Star Team of jazz heavyweights, including John Coltrane, Cannonball Adderley, Bill Evans, Paul Chambers, and Jimmy Cobb. So whether or not you appreciate jazz, The Miles Davis Sextet objectively deserves your respect.

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8. Aretha Franklin

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This singer has been called the queen of soul, and even referred to as the greatest singer of all time. Some of her top hits include A Rose Is Still a Rose and Freeway of Love. Even if gospel or R and B isn’t your style oof music, there’s no denying Franklin’s extraordinary talent and impact.

9. Billie Holiday

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Going back even farther into the history of jazz, Billie Holiday was a groundbreaking figure in the early twentieth century. The dances and music of the Roaring Twenties have seen some popularity lately in movies like La La Land, and we have Billie Holiday and her contributions to jazz to thank for a lot of the improvisation that makes music what it is.

10. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
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Petty heads will look at this selection and say, “Of course, Tom Petty made a list. He should rank higher.” In truth, Petty’s nasally voice isn’t for everyone. Even so, the karaoke-ability of “Free Fallin” alone warrants Tom Petty and his crew a spot on this list of greatest bands.

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11. The Grateful Dead

The Grateful Dead
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Lamented by some as the band that single-handedly destroyed more American brain cells than others, history dictates that The Grateful Dead has earned top-ten status. No band has been more culturally impactful than The Grateful Dead—some may be as impactful, but not more.

12. The Beach Boys

The Beach Boys album cover
Photo Credit: Ralf Liebhold / Shutterstock.

No, this is not a joke. As corny as The Beach Boys might seem to some, hits like “Surfin’ USA,” “Good Vibrations,” and “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” are the definition of timeless. Plus, the Beach Boys prove that a handful of average-looking dudes can (or at least could) make it to the music industry’s top. Talent wins.

13. Johnny Cash

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Has any woman ever listened to Ring of Fire without a little heart-palpitation? There’s something soothing about a good bass voice at any time, but Johnny Cash had a depth and richness in his singing that’s hard to replicate. Is it any wonder he’s still a standard of excellence in the world of country music?

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14. Stevie Wonder

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This man started early, signing his first record deal at eleven, and for decades his fame and prominence only continued to grow. Stevie Wonder’s writing and performing has not only kept up through all the rapid changes of the late 1900s and early 2000s; he’s helped to shape the sound and style of music as he goes. All in all, Wonder gets a lot of credit for influencing the music we love today.

15. Talking Heads

Talking Heads album cover
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New York City’s own Talking Heads shot to stardom in the 1980s and remains a favorite band for those who developed their identities in the New Wave era. Though lead singer David Byrne was born in Scotland, Talking Heads are considered an American group.

Director Jonathan Demme’s (The Silence of the Lambs) concert film Stop Making Sense remains one of the most beloved music-centric productions ever.

16. Parliament-Funkadelic

Parliament Funkadelic on stage
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Also known as P-Funk, Parliament-Funkadelic has thrived through several iterations, including The Parliaments and Funkadelic and Parliament. Known to some simply as Parliament, the George Clinton-helmed group is responsible for hits like “Give Up the Funk (you gotta have that funk),” “One Nation Under a Groove,” “Atomic Dog,” and “Flash Light.”

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17. Bon Jovi

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A lot of musical artists and bands are trying to bridge the gaps between genres of music, but Bon Jovi has done it better than the others. If you doubt us, just ask literal millions of fans. This band has been producing albums and touring together since the 80s, with hits from Slippery When Wet to Lost Highway. And who among us hasn’t sung along to “Livin’ on a Prayer”?

18. Madonna

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Ask any of the music industry leaders; Madonna is one of the greats. She’s most famous for her music, and her ability to keep reinventing herself and her persona, but Madonna is also an actress and owns her own record label. She’s a powerful business woman as well as a powerful singer. It’s always hard to say what Madonna will do next, but we all know it will be good.

19. Prince and The Revolution

Purple Rain album cover
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Also known as The Revolution, Prince’s band is behind his smash hits, including Kiss, Let’s Go Crazy, Purple Rain, and I Would Die 4 U. Though every spot on this list will garner controversy, the man who turned himself into a symbol is a worthy candidate.

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20. Taylor Swift

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Everyone on this list has indisputably earned their place, and after this year none more than Taylor Swift. To the millennials, she’s been a cultural touchstone for years. After the Eras tour though, Taylor has catapulted to even greater fame and success. At this point, most of us were raised on songs like “Love Story”, “Wildest Dreams”, and even “Look What You Made Me Do”.

21. Red Hot Chili Peppers

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This one’s a bit of a hot take (pun intended!) but with this many millions of fans, it’s hard to argue. Besides, there’s another side of music beyond the soulful depth of R & B, or the improvisation of jazz. There’s real, raw heart, which the Red Hot Chili Peppers don’t shy away from. The Peppers put intensity into everything they do. When you listen to one of their albums, you’re getting a visceral human experience.

22. Michael Jackson

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It would be a crime against music to leave the “King of Pop” off this list. It’s true that it’s become pretty controversial to enjoy Jackson’s music lately, and with good cause, but that doesn’t change the fact that he’s written and performed some of the best selling music of all time, from Bad and Dangerous to Thriller.

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23. Frank Sinatra

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A huge part of Frank Sinatra’s appeal is in the performance. Some people we’re happy to hear from recordings, for some we’re willing to spring for a concert ticket. But Sinatra sang every song with soul, and when you add that to his deep baritone singing voice, it’s a masterful combination. Even Sinatra’s albums have that heart-felt performance, and he’s a beloved singer still today.

24. Elvis Presley

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Is it possible to mention the greatest singers in America without naming Elvis Presley? He became a household name and a unifying force among America’s teens at a divisive time in history. His songs brought blues and country music into a new era, and even now he’s called the King of Rock & Roll.


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