Discussion: Rolling Stone’s 100 Greatest Singers

In the most recent edition of Rolling Stone, an esteemed panel of journalists, executives and artists were assembled to name the 100 Greatest Singers of All Time. The list is based on a singer’s vocal abilities, along with his or her historic importance. The following country artists were included:

#21: Johnny Cash
#27: Hank Williams
#43: George Jones
#45: Patsy Cline
#77: Dolly Parton
#79: Merle Haggard
#88: Willie Nelson

Who else deserved to make the roll call? And are six entries enough to represent country music? Comment away!


  1. Like I was saying yesterday, I think it was kind of dumb to make the criteria include historical significance, especially since Rolling Stone has already done a list of the top 100 artists of all-time (which was a great list aside from some of the country choices/placements, as usual) where that criterion was much more relevant. A list that was just about technical/interpretive talent and maybe just took into account specfically whether a given singer was a stylistic pioneer would have felt less redundant.

    Anyway, Aretha was a decent choice for #1, though I might have gone with Elvis. Glancing over the list, Jeff Buckley, Joni Mitchell, Michael Jackson, Steven Tyler, Willie and Patsy all deserve higher rankings. I’d like to see Trisha, Alison Krauss or Connie Smith on the list in terms of pure talent as well. And of course there’s never any love for John Denver, though from a technical standpoint he was one of the finest popular singers of his era. Morrissey is overrated, as are a lot of Rolling Stone‘s standby favorites. I love The Who, but Roger Daltrey wasn’t as much a great singer as a great frontman. Lennon and Dylan are absurdly important artists, but to put them in the top-ten of popular singing is kind of ridiculous. And there’s no Linda Rondstadt or Wanda Jackson. Come on now.

  2. I realize that lists like these are wholly subjective and all, but that still doesn’t take the sting away from some of the truly great singers whose names are omitted, some on purpose. This may be one of the few lists where anyone accuses Bob Dylan of being a great singer, though I’ve heard far worse than him.

    The omission that bugs me the most, of course, is Linda Ronstadt, but I suspect that this is because of the musical diversity she has shown since her 1983 standards album What’s New, which the people at Rolling Stone have frowned on when it comes to her. It’s a dumb excuse by any stretch of the imagination, because there have been dozens of singers on either side of the pop/country fence since the early 1970s that have openly stated their admiration for her uncanny ability to balance vocal power and control, and for her sheer choice of song material.

  3. Lennon was a great singer who doesn’t get near enough credit. George Martin said he’s never come across anyone who could double-track with himself as well as John could

  4. No Waylon? Wonderful deep voice, outlaw (after all it’s Rolling Stone), great music. Where is he? Then again, Patsy ranks no better than middle of the pack. Grain of salt, I guess.

    ps…where did they rank Sinatra?

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