The following people are considered by Pantheon to be the top 10 most legendary American Singers of all time. This list of famous American Singers is sorted by HPI (Historical Popularity Index), a metric that aggregates information on a biography’s online popularity. Visit the rankings page to view the entire list of American Singers.
With an HPI of 88.09, Elvis Presley is the most famous American Singer. His biography has been translated into 160 different languages on wikipedia.
Elvis Aaron Presley (January 8, 1935 – August 16, 1977) was an American singer and actor. Dubbed the "King of Rock and Roll", he is regarded as one of the most significant cultural icons of the 20th century. His energized interpretations of songs and sexually provocative performance style, combined with a singularly potent mix of influences across color lines during a transformative era in race relations, led him to both great success and initial controversy. Presley was born in Tupelo, Mississippi, and relocated to Memphis, Tennessee, with his family when he was 13 years old. His music career began there in 1954, recording at Sun Records with producer Sam Phillips, who wanted to bring the sound of African-American music to a wider audience. Presley, on rhythm acoustic guitar, and accompanied by lead guitarist Scotty Moore and bassist Bill Black, was a pioneer of rockabilly, an uptempo, backbeat-driven fusion of country music and rhythm and blues. In 1955, drummer D. J. Fontana joined to complete the lineup of Presley's classic quartet and RCA Victor acquired his contract in a deal arranged by Colonel Tom Parker, who would manage him for more than two decades. Presley's first RCA Victor single, "Heartbreak Hotel", was released in January 1956 and became a number-one hit in the United States. Within a year, RCA would sell ten million Presley singles. With a series of successful network television appearances and chart-topping records, Presley became the leading figure of the newly popular sound of rock and roll. In November 1956, Presley made his film debut in Love Me Tender. Drafted into military service in 1958, Presley relaunched his recording career two years later with some of his most commercially successful work. He held few concerts, however, and guided by Parker, proceeded to devote much of the 1960s to making Hollywood films and soundtrack albums, most of them critically derided. In 1968, following a seven-year break from live performances, he returned to the stage in the acclaimed television comeback special Elvis, which led to an extended Las Vegas concert residency and a string of highly profitable tours. In 1973, Presley gave the first concert by a solo artist to be broadcast around the world, Aloha from Hawaii. Years of prescription drug abuse and unhealthy eating habits severely compromised his health, and he died suddenly in 1977 at his Graceland estate at the age of 42. Recognized as the best-selling solo music artist of all time by Guinness World Records, Presley was commercially successful in many genres, including pop, country, R&B, adult contemporary, and gospel. He won three Grammy Awards, received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award at age 36, and has been inducted into multiple music halls of fame. Presley holds several records, including the most RIAA certified gold and platinum albums, the most albums charted on the Billboard 200, the most number-one albums by a solo artist on the UK Albums Chart, and the most number-one singles by any act on the UK Singles Chart. In 2018, Presley was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by Donald Trump.
With an HPI of 85.50, Cher is the 2nd most famous American Singer. Her biography has been translated into 94 different languages.
Cher (; born Cherilyn Sarkisian; May 20, 1946) is an American singer, actress and television personality. Often referred to by the media as the "Goddess of Pop", she has been described as embodying female autonomy in a male-dominated industry. Cher is known for her distinctive contralto singing voice and for having worked in numerous areas of entertainment, as well as adopting a variety of styles and appearances throughout her six-decade-long career. Cher gained popularity in 1965 as one-half of the folk rock husband-wife duo Sonny & Cher after their song "I Got You Babe" peaked at number one on the US and UK charts. By the end of 1967, they had sold 40 million records worldwide. Her solo career was established during the same time, with the top-ten singles "Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)" and "You Better Sit Down Kids". She became a television personality in the 1970s with her CBS shows; first The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour, watched by over 30 million viewers weekly during its three-year run, and then the eponymous Cher. She emerged as a fashion trendsetter by wearing elaborate outfits on her television shows. While working on television, Cher released the US Billboard Hot 100 number-one singles "Gypsys, Tramps & Thieves", "Half-Breed", and "Dark Lady", becoming the female artist with the most number-one singles in United States history at the time. After her divorce from Sonny Bono in 1975, she released the disco album Take Me Home (1979) and earned $300,000 a week for her 1979–1982 concert residency in Las Vegas. In 1982, Cher made her Broadway debut in the play Come Back to the 5 & Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean and starred in its film adaptation. She subsequently garnered critical acclaim for her performances in films such as Silkwood (1983), Mask (1985), The Witches of Eastwick (1987), and Moonstruck (1987), the last of which won her the Academy Award for Best Actress. She then revived her music career by recording the rock-inflected albums Cher (1987), Heart of Stone (1989), and Love Hurts (1991), all of which yielded successful singles such as "I Found Someone", "If I Could Turn Back Time", and "Love and Understanding". Cher contributed to the soundtrack for her next film, Mermaids (1990), which spawned the UK number-one single "The Shoop Shoop Song (It's in His Kiss)". She made her directorial debut with a segment in the abortion-themed anthology If These Walls Could Talk (1996). Cher reached a new commercial peak in 1998 with the dance-pop album Believe, whose title track topped the Billboard Year-End Hot 100 singles of 1999 and became the biggest-selling single of all time by a female artist in the UK. It features pioneering use of Auto-Tune to distort her vocals, known as the "Cher effect". Her 2002–2005 Living Proof: The Farewell Tour became one of the highest-grossing concert tours of all time, earning $250 million. In 2008, she signed a $60 million deal to headline the Colosseum at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas for three years. During the 2010s, she landed starring roles in the films Burlesque (2010) and Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again (2018) and released studio albums Closer to the Truth (2013) and Dancing Queen (2018), both of which debuted at number three on the Billboard 200. Having sold 100 million records, Cher is one of the world's best-selling music artists. Her achievements include a Grammy Award, an Emmy Award, an Academy Award, three Golden Globe Awards, the Billboard Icon Award, and awards from the Kennedy Center Honors and the Council of Fashion Designers of America. She is the only artist to date to have a number-one single on a Billboard chart in six consecutive decades, from the 1960s to the 2010s. Aside from music and acting, she is noted for her political views, social media presence, philanthropic endeavors, and social activism, including LGBT rights and HIV/AIDS prevention.
With an HPI of 84.52, Janis Joplin is the 3rd most famous American Singer. Her biography has been translated into 76 different languages.
Janis Joplin (January 19, 1943 – October 4, 1970) was an American singer-songwriter who sang rock, soul, and blues music. One of the most successful and widely known rock stars of her era, she was noted for her powerful mezzo-soprano vocals and "electric" stage presence.In 1967, Joplin rose to fame following an appearance at Monterey Pop Festival, where she was the lead singer of the then little-known San Francisco psychedelic rock band Big Brother and the Holding Company. After releasing two albums with the band, she left Big Brother to continue as a solo artist with her own backing groups, first the Kozmic Blues Band and then the Full Tilt Boogie Band. She appeared at the Woodstock festival and on the Festival Express train tour. Five singles by Joplin reached the Billboard Hot 100, including a cover of the Kris Kristofferson song "Me and Bobby McGee", which reached number one in March 1971. Her most popular songs include her cover versions of "Piece of My Heart", "Cry Baby", "Down on Me", "Ball and Chain", and "Summertime"; and her original song "Mercedes Benz", her final recording.Joplin died of a heroin overdose in 1970, at the age of 27, after releasing three albums (two with Big Brother and the Holding Company and one solo album). A second solo album, Pearl, was released in January 1971, just over three months after her death. It reached number one on the Billboard charts. She was posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1995. Rolling Stone ranked Joplin number 46 on its 2004 list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time and number 28 on its 2008 list of 100 Greatest Singers of All Time. She remains one of the top-selling musicians in the United States, with Recording Industry Association of America certifications of 18.5 million albums sold.
With an HPI of 84.45, Maria Callas is the 4th most famous American Singer. Her biography has been translated into 72 different languages.
Maria Callas (December 2, 1923 – September 16, 1977) was an American-born Greek soprano who was one of the most renowned and influential opera singers of the 20th century. Many critics praised her bel canto technique, wide-ranging voice and dramatic interpretations. Her repertoire ranged from classical opera seria to the bel canto operas of Donizetti, Bellini and Rossini and, further, to the works of Verdi and Puccini; and, in her early career, to the music dramas of Wagner. Her musical and dramatic talents led to her being hailed as La Divina ("the Divine one"). Born in Manhattan, New York City, to Greek immigrant parents, she was raised by an overbearing mother who had wanted a son. Maria received her musical education in Greece at age 13 and later established her career in Italy. Forced to deal with the exigencies of 1940s wartime poverty and with near-sightedness that left her nearly blind onstage, she endured struggles and scandal over the course of her career. She notably underwent a mid-career weight loss, which might have contributed to her vocal decline and the premature end of her career. The press exulted in publicizing Callas's temperamental behavior, her supposed rivalry with Renata Tebaldi and her love affair with Greek shipping tycoon Aristotle Onassis. Although her dramatic life and personal tragedy have often overshadowed Callas the artist in the popular press, her artistic achievements were such that Leonard Bernstein called her "the Bible of opera" and her influence so enduring that, in 2006, Opera News wrote of her: "Nearly thirty years after her death, she's still the definition of the diva as artist—and still one of classical music's best-selling vocalists."
With an HPI of 82.15, Frank Sinatra is the 5th most famous American Singer. His biography has been translated into 98 different languages.
Francis Albert Sinatra (; December 12, 1915 – May 14, 1998) was an American singer and actor who is generally viewed as one of the greatest musical artists of the 20th century. He is one of the best-selling music artists of all time, having sold an estimated 150 million records worldwide.Born to Italian immigrants in Hoboken, New Jersey, Sinatra was greatly influenced by the intimate, easy-listening vocal style of Bing Crosby and began his musical career in the swing era with bandleaders Harry James and Tommy Dorsey. Sinatra found success as a solo artist after he signed with Columbia Records in 1943, becoming the idol of the "bobby soxers". Sinatra released his debut album, The Voice of Frank Sinatra, in 1946. However, by the early 1950s, his professional career had stalled and he turned to Las Vegas, where he became one of its best known residency performers as part of the Rat Pack. His career was reborn in 1953 with the success of the film From Here to Eternity, his performance subsequently earning him an Academy Award, and a Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor. Sinatra then released several critically lauded albums, some of which are retrospectively noted as being among the first "concept albums", including In the Wee Small Hours (1955), Songs for Swingin' Lovers! (1956), Come Fly with Me (1958), Only the Lonely (1958), No One Cares (1959), and Nice 'n' Easy (1960). Sinatra left Capitol in 1960 to start his own record label, Reprise Records, and released a string of successful albums. In 1965, he recorded the retrospective album September of My Years and starred in the Emmy-winning television special Frank Sinatra: A Man and His Music. After releasing Sinatra at the Sands, recorded at the Sands Hotel and Casino in Vegas with frequent collaborator Count Basie in early 1966, the following year he recorded one of his most famous collaborations with Tom Jobim, the album Francis Albert Sinatra & Antonio Carlos Jobim. It was followed by 1968's Francis A. & Edward K. with Duke Ellington. Sinatra retired for the first time in 1971, but came out of retirement two years later. He recorded several albums and resumed performing at Caesars Palace, and released "New York, New York" in 1980. Using his Las Vegas shows as a home base, he toured both within the United States and internationally until shortly before his death in 1998. Sinatra forged a highly successful career as a film actor. After winning an Academy Award for From Here to Eternity, he starred in The Man with the Golden Arm (1955), and in The Manchurian Candidate (1962). He appeared in various musicals such as On the Town (1949), Guys and Dolls (1955), High Society (1956), and Pal Joey (1957), winning another Golden Globe for the latter. Toward the end of his career, he frequently played detectives, including the title character in Tony Rome (1967). Sinatra would later receive the Golden Globe Cecil B. DeMille Award in 1971. On television, The Frank Sinatra Show began on ABC in 1950, and he continued to make appearances on television throughout the 1950s and 1960s. Sinatra was also heavily involved with politics from the mid-1940s, and actively campaigned for presidents such as Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry S. Truman, John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan. He was investigated by the FBI for his alleged relationship with the Mafia. While Sinatra never learned how to read music, he worked very hard from a young age to improve his abilities in all aspects of music. A perfectionist, renowned for his dress sense and performing presence, he always insisted on recording live with his band. His bright blue eyes earned him the popular nickname "Ol' Blue Eyes". He led a colorful personal life, and was often involved in turbulent affairs with women, such as with his second wife Ava Gardner. He later married Mia Farrow in 1966 and Barbara Marx in 1976. Sinatra had several violent confrontations, usually with journalists he felt had crossed him, or work bosses with whom he had disagreements. He was honored at the Kennedy Center Honors in 1983, was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by Ronald Reagan in 1985, and the Congressional Gold Medal in 1997. Sinatra was also the recipient of eleven Grammy Awards, including the Grammy Trustees Award, Grammy Legend Award and the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. He was included in Time magazine's compilation of the 20th century's 100 most influential people. After Sinatra's death, American music critic Robert Christgau called him "the greatest singer of the 20th century", and he continues to be seen as an iconic figure.
With an HPI of 82.07, Johnny Cash is the 6th most famous American Singer. His biography has been translated into 106 different languages.
John R. Cash (born J. R. Cash; February 26, 1932 – September 12, 2003) was an American singer, songwriter, musician, and actor. Much of Cash's music contained themes of sorrow, moral tribulation, and redemption, especially in the later stages of his career. He was known for his deep, calm bass-baritone voice, the distinctive sound of his Tennessee Three backing band characterized by train-like chugging guitar rhythms, a rebelliousness coupled with an increasingly somber and humble demeanor, free prison concerts, and a trademark all-black stage wardrobe which earned him the nickname "The Man in Black".Born to poor cotton farmers in Kingsland, Arkansas, Cash rose to fame in the burgeoning rockabilly scene in Memphis, Tennessee, after four years in the Air Force. He traditionally began his concerts by simply introducing himself, "Hello, I'm Johnny Cash", followed by "Folsom Prison Blues", one of his signature songs. Alongside "Folsom Prison Blues", his other signature songs include "I Walk the Line", "Ring of Fire", "Get Rhythm", and "Man in Black". He also recorded humorous numbers like "One Piece at a Time" and "A Boy Named Sue", a duet with his future wife June called "Jackson" (followed by many further duets after their wedding), and railroad songs such as "Hey, Porter", "Orange Blossom Special", and "Rock Island Line". During the last stage of his career, he covered songs by contemporary rock artists of the time; his most notable covers were "Hurt" by Nine Inch Nails, "Rusty Cage" by Soundgarden and, "Personal Jesus" by Depeche Mode. Cash is one of the best-selling music artists of all time, having sold more than 90 million records worldwide. His genre-spanning music embraced country, rock and roll, rockabilly, blues, folk, and gospel sounds. This crossover appeal earned him the rare honor of being inducted into the Country Music, Rock and Roll, and Gospel Music Halls of Fame. His music career was dramatised in the 2005 biopic Walk the Line.
With an HPI of 81.82, Tina Turner is the 7th most famous American Singer. Her biography has been translated into 81 different languages.
Tina Turner (born Anna Mae Bullock; November 26, 1939) is an American-born Swiss singer and actress. Widely referred to as the "Queen of Rock 'n' Roll", she rose to prominence as the lead singer of the Ike & Tina Turner Revue before launching a successful career as a solo performer. Turner began her career with Ike Turner's Kings of Rhythm in 1957. Under the name Little Ann, she appeared on her first record, "Boxtop", in 1958. In 1960, she was introduced as Tina Turner with the hit duet single "A Fool in Love". The duo Ike & Tina Turner became "one of the most formidable live acts in history". They released hits such as "It's Gonna Work Out Fine", "River Deep – Mountain High", "Proud Mary", and "Nutbush City Limits" before disbanding in 1976. In the 1980s, Turner launched "one of the greatest comebacks in music history". Her 1984 multi-platinum album Private Dancer contained the hit song "What's Love Got to Do with It", which won the Grammy Award for Record of the Year and became her first and only No.1 on the Billboard Hot 100. At age 44, she was the oldest female solo artist to top the Hot 100. Her chart success continued with "Better Be Good to Me", "Private Dancer", "We Don't Need Another Hero (Thunderdome)", "Typical Male", "The Best", "I Don't Wanna Fight", and "GoldenEye". During her Break Every Rule World Tour in 1988, she set a then-Guinness World Record for the largest paying audience (180,000) for a solo performer. Turner also acted in the films Tommy (1975), Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome (1985), and Last Action Hero (1993). In 1993, What's Love Got to Do with It, a biopic adapted from her autobiography I, Tina: My Life Story, was released. In 2009, Turner retired after completing her Tina!: 50th Anniversary Tour, which is the 15th highest-grossing tour of the 2000s. In 2018, she became the subject of the jukebox musical Tina. Having sold over 100 million records worldwide, Turner is one of the best-selling recording artists of all time. She has received 12 Grammy Awards, which include eight competitive awards, three Grammy Hall of Fame awards, and a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. She is the first black artist and first female to be on the cover of Rolling Stone. Rolling Stone ranked her among the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time and the 100 Greatest Singers of All Time.She has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and the St. Louis Walk of Fame. She is a two-time inductee into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, with Ike Turner in 1991 and as a solo artist in 2021. Turner is also a 2005 recipient of the Kennedy Center Honors and Women of the Year award.
With an HPI of 81.25, Joan Baez is the 8th most famous American Singer. Her biography has been translated into 75 different languages.
Joan Chandos Baez (; born January 9, 1941) is an American singer, songwriter, musician, and activist. Her contemporary folk music often includes songs of protest and social justice. Baez has performed publicly for over 60 years, releasing over 30 albums. Fluent in Spanish and English, she has also recorded songs in at least six other languages. Baez is generally regarded as a folk singer, but her music has diversified since the counterculture era of the 1960s and encompasses genres such as folk rock, pop, country, and gospel music. She began her recording career in 1960 and achieved immediate success. Her first three albums, Joan Baez, Joan Baez, Vol. 2 and Joan Baez in Concert, all achieved gold record status. Although a songwriter herself, Baez generally interprets other composers' work, having recorded songs by the Allman Brothers Band, the Beatles, Jackson Browne, Leonard Cohen, Woody Guthrie, Violeta Parra, the Rolling Stones, Pete Seeger, Paul Simon, Stevie Wonder, Bob Marley, and many others. She was one of the first major artists to record the songs of Bob Dylan in the early 1960s; Baez was already an internationally celebrated artist and did much to popularize his early songwriting efforts. On her later albums she has found success interpreting the work of more recent songwriters, including Ryan Adams, Josh Ritter, Steve Earle, Natalie Merchant, and Joe Henry. Baez's acclaimed songs include "Diamonds & Rust" and covers of Phil Ochs's "There but for Fortune" and The Band's "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down". She is also known for "Farewell, Angelina", "Love Is Just a Four-Letter Word", "Forever Young", "Here's to You", "Joe Hill", "Sweet Sir Galahad" and "We Shall Overcome". Baez performed fourteen songs at the 1969 Woodstock Festival and has displayed a lifelong commitment to political and social activism in the fields of nonviolence, civil rights, human rights, and the environment. Baez was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on April 7, 2017.
With an HPI of 80.96, Jim Morrison is the 9th most famous American Singer. His biography has been translated into 105 different languages.
James Douglas Morrison (December 8, 1943 – July 3, 1971) was an American singer, poet and songwriter who was the lead vocalist of the rock band the Doors. Due to his wild personality, poetic lyrics, distinctive voice, unpredictable and erratic performances, and the dramatic circumstances surrounding his life and early death, Morrison is regarded by music critics and fans as one of the most iconic and influential frontmen in rock history. Since his death, his fame has endured as one of popular culture's most rebellious and oft-displayed icons, representing the generation gap and youth counterculture.Together with pianist Ray Manzarek, Morrison co-founded the Doors in 1965 in Venice, California. The group spent two years in obscurity until shooting to prominence with their number-one single in the United States, "Light My Fire", taken from their self-titled debut album. Morrison recorded a total of six studio albums with the Doors, all of which sold well and received critical acclaim. Morrison was well known for improvising spoken word poetry passages while the band played live. Manzarek said Morrison "embodied hippie counterculture rebellion".Morrison developed an alcohol dependency throughout the band's career, which at times affected his performances on stage. In 1971, Morrison died unexpectedly in Paris at the age of 27, amid conflicting witness reports. His premature death made him a member of the infamous 27 club. Since no autopsy was performed, the cause of Morrison's death remains disputed. Although the Doors recorded two more albums after Morrison died, his death severely affected the band's fortunes, and they split up two years later. In 2011, a Rolling Stone readers' pick placed Jim Morrison in fifth place of the magazine's "Best Lead Singers of All Time". In another Rolling Stone list, entitled "The 100 Greatest Singers of All Time", he was ranked 47th. He was also ranked number 22 on Classic Rock magazine's "50 Greatest Singers in Rock". In 1993, Morrison was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of the Doors.
With an HPI of 79.80, Tupac Shakur is the 10th most famous American Singer. His biography has been translated into 97 different languages.
Tupac Amaru Shakur ( TOO-pahk shə-KOOR; born Lesane Parish Crooks, June 16, 1971 – September 13, 1996), better known by his stage name 2Pac and later by his alias Makaveli, was an American rapper. Considered one of the most influential rappers of all time, Shakur is among the best-selling music artists, having sold more than 75 million records worldwide. Much of Shakur's music has been noted for addressing contemporary social issues that plagued inner cities, and he is considered a symbol of activism against inequality. Shakur was born in Manhattan, New York City, but relocated to Baltimore, Maryland in 1984 and then the San Francisco Bay Area in 1988. He moved to Los Angeles in 1993 to further pursue his music career. By the time he released his debut album 2Pacalypse Now in 1991, he had become a central figure in West Coast hip hop, introducing social issues to the genre at a time when gangsta rap was dominant in the mainstream. Shakur achieved further critical and commercial success with his follow-up albums Strictly 4 My N.I.G.G.A.Z... (1993) and Me Against the World (1995).In 1995, Shakur served eight months in prison on sexual assault charges, but was released after agreeing to sign with Marion "Suge" Knight's label Death Row Records in exchange for Knight posting his bail. Following his release, Shakur became heavily involved in the growing East Coast–West Coast hip hop rivalry. His double-disc album All Eyez on Me (1996), abandoning introspective lyrics for volatile gangsta rap, was certified Diamond by the RIAA. On September 7, 1996, Shakur was shot four times by an unknown assailant in a drive-by shooting in Las Vegas, Nevada; he died six days later and the gunman was never captured. Shakur's friend-turned-rival, the Notorious B.I.G., was at first considered a suspect due to the pair's public feud, but was also murdered in another drive-by shooting six months later in March 1997 while visiting Los Angeles, California. Five more albums have been released since Shakur's death, all of which have been certified Platinum in the United States. In 2002, he was inducted into the Hip-Hop Hall of Fame. In 2017, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility. Rolling Stone named Shakur in its list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time. Outside music, Shakur also found considerable success as an actor, with his starring roles as Bishop in Juice (1992), Lucky in Poetic Justice (1993) where he starred alongside Janet Jackson, Ezekiel in Gridlock'd (1997), and Jake in Gang Related (1997), all of which garnered praise from critics.
Pantheon has 1,004 people classified as singers born between 1850 and 2003. Of these 1,004, 730 (72.71%) of them are still alive today. The most famous living singers include Cher, Tina Turner, and Joan Baez. The most famous deceased singers include Elvis Presley, Janis Joplin, and Maria Callas. As of October 2020, 160 new singers have been added to Pantheon including Billy Vaughn, Ted Neeley, and Bill Medley.
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Which Singers were alive at the same time? This visualization shows the lifespans of the 25 most globally memorable Singers since 1700.