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Top 20 Greatest Rock Frontmen of All Time

Top 20 Greatest Rock Frontmen of All Time
VOICE OVER: Rebecca Brayton WRITTEN BY: Andy Hammersmith
These guys rock! For this list, we'll be looking at the very best lead vocalists in rock history. Our countdown includes Bono, Chris Cornell, Mick Jagger, Kurt Cobain, Dave Grohl, and more!

Top 20 Greatest Frontmen in Rock


Welcome to WatchMojo, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 20 Greatest Frontmen in Rock.

For this list, we’ll be looking at the very best lead vocalists in rock history. While artists like Prince and Bruce Springsteen are legendary, they’ll be excluded because they’re primarily solo artists. And we’ll save frontwomen for a list of their own.

Did we forget one of your favorite frontmen in rock? Let us know in the comments below

#20: Bon Scott

AC/DC

Scottish-born Australian singer Bon Scott was the secret ingredient that turned AC/DC into an international brand. His stellar shrieks were radical for 70s rock voices. Additionally, he helped put a harder edge to a decade known for softer music. Scott's vocal abilities and Angus Young’s power chords became a match made in rock heaven. Without the singer's effortless contributions, there would be no “Highway to Hell.” The vocalist tragically died before he could show the world more of the depths of his immense talents. While AC/DC continued without the performer, his lasting impact on the group was never forgotten.

#19: Bono

U2
By the end of the 1980s, U2 became one of the biggest bands and live acts in rock history. Their one and only lead singer Bono was an undeniably charismatic and singular presence. He constantly used the height of his celebrity to promote charitable causes and share his beliefs. While some love to hate on the vocalist, his lyrical content stood above his contemporaries. Many failed to credit the performer for his influence on pop rock in general. If you wrote him off as just a pretentious guy with sunglasses, listen to his contributions on albums like "The Joshua Tree." Bono succeeded in being both a great frontman and a pretty good role model.


#18: Eddie Vedder

Pearl Jam
Eddie Vedder brought a unique lyrical ability and strong stage personality to the stage. His role in Pearl Jam made him a cult figure for the grunge movement. Led by his deep voice, the group’s debut album "Ten'' became an unforgettable 90s rock experience. The singer's stage antics like climbing the light rigging and stage diving helped endear him to fans. Over the decades, the alternative rock group toured the world with a devoted following. Vedder penned lyrics about real world issues and wore his heart on his flannel sleeve. His continued appreciation of the Pearl Jam fan base contributed to his status as a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame frontman.

#17: Gerard Way

My Chemical Romance

Gerard Way co-created My Chemical Romance after being deeply affected by the attacks on September 11th. While the songs he performed helped him work through his personal demons, they became reliable to the legions of fans that supported the group. Way’s contributions to the sounds of emo and alternative rock changed the game for artists in the 2000s. Behind the eyeliner, the frontman was much more than a stereotypical goth performer. The singer's personal and emotional writing led to several modern classics such as "The Black Parade." There were few figures in the same decade that were as uniquely visionary as him.


#16: Rob Halford

Judas Priest

There's a reason that Rob Halford and his band Judas Priest are referred to as "Metal Gods." Although he got into heavy metal and hard rock, his superior vocal range could’ve helped him have a successful opera career. Fortunately for his fans, Halford helped bolster the British wing of the metal craze in the late 70s and 80s. He and the band provided a hardcore soundtrack to activities like motorcycle-riding. Along the way, the vocalist broke down barriers whe he came out as gay in a subgenre that didn't have much LGBT representation at the time. Halford's authenticity and dedication to his craft built up Judas Priest as a force of nature in the rock world.



#15: Chester Bennington

Linkin Park

Serving as Linkin Park’s lead vocalist and its heart, Chester Bennington definitely deserved all the praise he got over the years. He and Mike Shinoda crafted a mix of lyrics and rap verses that stood out from other rap rock acts. The group survived the 2000s with the drive to delve into painful themes in their music. Even as their songs took on a different flavor, he never undersold a vocal part. He’s one of the few singers that truly left everything on the table with each performance. Unfortunately, the artist died in 2017 after struggling with depression. His meaningful additions to Linkin Park’s catalog created a sincere connection with fans all over the world.


#14: Bruce Dickinson

Iron Maiden
As Iron Maiden prepared to send heavy metal for a loop in the 80s, Bruce Dickinson was brought on as the lead singer. It soon became clear that he’d joined the band for their most influential period. Dickinson’s mesmerizing vocals first appeared on "The Number of the Beast" album. There were few voices that could deliver singles like "Run to the Hills" with such gusto. Although Dickisnson stepped away from the band for a time, he returned to continue making hits and delivering strong performances.. His pristine voice built him up as a major figure for more progressive hard rock. Dickinson’s work with Iron Maiden ensured their magical melodies were a part of a stellar decade of metal.


#13: Chris Cornell

Soundgarden, Audioslave

Chris Cornell had a special talent that gave 90s rock a huge boost. While the Grunge genre was full of amazingly talented singers, few could compete with this singer's serene vocal stylings. The artist guided Soundgarden through alternative and hard rock influences. He hit amazing notes and played the guitar in the same breath. When the performer went on to provide his talents to the underrated Audioslave, he gained even more fans. In any group, Cornell shook stadiums with his deep and complex songs. All of his musical ventures felt authentic because he brought his own perspective and outlook on life to every note. His introspective personality blossomed onstage as he roared like few frontmen could.


#12: David Lee Roth

Van Halen
David Lee Roth energized Van Halen in the 70s and 80s with his showmanship. Among the hardest working entertainers in rock music, Roth was an acrobatic stage presence. The singer and guitarist Eddie Van Halen teamed up to produce one of the most celebrated live acts of their era. Every moment he spent on stage was in full dedication to the audience. While he wasn't considered a traditional singer, he made up for it with his status as a brilliant ringleader. His unique take on songs from "Panama" to "Jump" brought millions of fans to their feet.

#11: Dave Grohl

Foo Fighters

Dave Grohl emerged from the end of Nirvana with his own music project. While he might have been a shy drummer in his old band, Foo Fighters allowed him to break out of his shell. This time he decided to try his hand at being the singer. What started as an experiment became one of the most successful rock acts of the 21st Century. During a period dominated by pop and hip-hop artists, Grohl showed everyone how powerful and relevant the genre could be. The singer's signature scream and good-hearted nature made him one of the most likable frontmen in recent memory.


#10: Jim Morrison

The Doors

Jim Morrison was one of the most enigmatic figures in rock and roll. After graduating from UCLA with a film degree, he gravitated towards artists like Ray Mazarek and co-founded The Doors. Morrison’s poetic words helped give their music huge play in the countercultural scene. There weren’t many artists that could have delivered a song like “The End” with such conviction. Sadly, the performer was taken from the world at the age of 27. He left behind a short but undeniable career of lyrical excellence. Morrison's deep voice cut across the late 60s in hits that captured a changing social landscape.

#9: Kurt Cobain

Nirvana
Kurt Cobain held court as the unlikely king of grunge music. While he wasn’t a huge fan of the amount of fame his talent brought, he still led his biggest fans through the 1990s with his vocals. Cobain's deeply personal and transgressive songwriting blew a hole through the status quo. By combining a variety of rock subgenres, he became one of the most successful acts of the decade. The singer's honesty and no-frills attitude only increased his reputation as a frontman for Nirvana. Unfortunately, his career was cut short at the age of 27. But Cobain is still part of an elite group of artists that achieved so much in such a short time.



#8: Iggy Pop

The Stooges

Iggy Pop and The Stooges laid the template for American punk rock music. His onstage persona tore to shreds any notion of decorum. He also made it cool to take your shirt off during a performance. Fortunately, the singer would go much further than removing his top over the course of his career. Pop and his bandmates recorded three highly influential albums before a multi-decade hiatus. He embarked on a diverse solo career before reuniting with his old group in the 2000s. Thanks to his unpredictable stage presence, any act he was a part of could get pretty wild. Sometimes underrated and overlooked, Pop and his band were finally recognized by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2010.



#7: Roger Daltrey

The Who
Roger Daltrey sang for one of the heaviest acts of the British Invasion. Before terms like "metal" were mainstream, The Who were considered among the loudest rock bands. Daltrey was one of the first frontmen who wasn't limited by just a microphone. He usually appeared onstage whilst swinging the device around like a champion. Not only was he a great performer, his singing abilities were seriously tested with complicated rock operas like "Tommy." The vocalist belted out anthemic numbers like the best of them. He and the group represented the fury and artistry lurking in harder-edged music. Much of the singer and the act's creativity was ahead of its time in performance, ambition, and stage destruction.


#6: Axl Rose

Guns N’ Roses

As the fearless leader of Guns N' Roses, Axl Rose moved the goal posts for frontmen in hard rock. Rose and his partying bandmates provided an antidote to the typical hair metal of the late 80s. Without his lyrics, classics like the edgy anthem "Welcome to the Jungle" would have never come together. "Appetite for Destruction" and both "Use Your Illusion" records showcased his musical scope and ambition. The group's original lineup dissolved after egos and uncompromising visions changed the band's trajectory. Despite his sometimes testy reputation, the singer's perseverance and leadership helped make GNR a household name.

#5: Steven Tyler

Aerosmith

Steven Tyler commanded a microphone stand like nobody since. His scarves and costumes were as famous as his raspy vocals. Over the course of three decades, Tyler delivered ballads and heavy rock hits with ease. Despite his personal struggles, the singer persevered with an iconic slew of singles. The vocalist poured his heart out in "Dream On". And over twenty years later, he blew the roof off with "I Don't Want to Miss a Thing." He even helped bridge the gap between rock and hip-hop with Run-DMC. Along with guitarist Joe Perry, the singer masterminded one of the longest running success stories in music history.



#4: Ozzy Osbourne

Black Sabbath
Ozzy Osbourne came on the scene as the lead singer of Black Sabbath. Together with his esteemed bandmates like Tony Iommi, he practically created heavy metal music. He created the template for a singer in that particular rock subgenre. "Iron Man" and "Paranoid" put him on the map as a frenetic artist with a gift for huge vocals. After Sabbath, he excelled with his own solo records and touring that made him even more legendary. His creation of "Ozzfest" and run-ins with bats put him in the pantheon of music icons. However, it was Black Sabbath where Osbourne first connected rock to the dark side.


#3: Mick Jagger

The Rolling Stones

The Rolling Stones couldn’t have become one of the most prolific acts in history without an amazing performer center stage. Not only was Mick Jagger one of the original bad boys of rock, but his performance style was legendary. His various dance moves inspired countless imitators and even a popular Maroon 5 song. With his writing partner and guitarist Keith Richards, Jagger created many rock and roll standards. Their appreciation of old blues and R&B records saluted the past and set a high bar for recording artists. The singer's many decades on tour prove that age is just a number for this legend.



#2: Robert Plant

Led Zeppelin

Hard rock owed a massive debt to Robert Plant's achievements. His powerful voice put Led Zeppelin into an elite tier of influential musicians. In the early years of Plant’s career, he helped create one of the best music outfits in history with vocal chords that could shatter glass. He was among the first frontmen to bring rock and roll to arenas and stadiums around the world. Few others could scream like he did on "Immigrant Song" and deliver a folk song like "Going to California." Plant pushed his voice to the extreme through the 70s. Fortunately, his efforts helped set the bar high for future generations.



#1: Freddie Mercury

Queen

There’s no question that Queen was the product of a collaborative effort. At the same time, it can’t be denied that singular Freddie Mercury took the band to a whole new level with his dynamic vocal range. And videos from iconic sets like Queen’s legendary Live Aid performance proved he had an unparalleled relationship with the crowd. He was everything a lead singer should and could be, and then some. Mercury’s shining star burned bright as his operatic style progressed music further than anyone expected. While he was gone much too soon, the artist lived on through his own indelible stamp on rock music. The best frontman in history was also the most entertaining, dynamic, and effortlessly talented. There will never be another Freddie Mercury.
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