Some singers are born with the subconscious knowledge that they were destined to sing.
“I always sang as a child,” Mick Jagger recounted in According to the Rolling Stones. “I was one of those kids who just liked to sing. Some kids sing in choirs; others like to show off in front of the mirror. I was in the church choir and I also loved listening to singers on the radio – the BBC or Radio Luxembourg – or watching them on TV and in the movies.”
Others took additional time to recognize the strength, versatility and effectiveness of their voices, frequently learning not through formal training, but through trial and error.
“I used to be a breathy little soprano,” Joni Mitchell told Rolling Stone in 1969. “Then one day I found that I could sing low. At first, I thought I had lost my voice forever. I could sing either a breathy high part or a raspy low part. Then the two came together by themselves. It was uncomfortable for a while, but I worked on it, and now I’ve got this voice.”
It’s often considered the singer’s job to articulate the story of a song as well as to emotionally convey whatever feelings the song requires — love and joy, sorrow and heartbreak, grief and hardship, hope and resilience. These themes have coursed through rock music — and all other genres — for decades, but the role of the singer, in particular, took on an even more illustrious role as rock ‘n’ roll transitioned over the decades.
Taking into consideration talent and merit, and also overall style, stage presence and lasting influence, we’ve outlined below the Top 40 Rock Singers from the years 1965 through 1999.
It’s not just about voice, but style and stage presence.