The wit, wisdom, zen, and philosophy of Paul Diamond Blow.

The Top Ten Rock Singers of All Time
The All-time Best Singers/frontmen in Rock Music, Baby, and What Makes Them so Awesome!

by Paul Diamond Blow

Who are the all time greatest singers in rock music? While there are scores of talented vocalists in the rock genre, what really makes a singer stand out from the pack is not only being able to actually sing in key and compliment the music, but more importantly having a unique voice and style that makes their voice instantly recognizable… and it must be pleasing to the ear. Let’s face it… in today’s music there are tons of cookie-cutter singers who jump on current trends and pretty much sound alike. A great rock singer not only can rock the microphone but has a cool voice that stands out from the rest. Being able to write awesome lyrics is a nice touch, too, but for me it’s all about the voice… so without further ado, here are my picks—the all time, top ten, best singers in rock music, with descriptions of what makes each vocalist so friggin’ awesome…

10) Rob Halford
When it comes to the heavy metal genre there are many stand-out vocalists who deserve to be on this list (Bruce Dickinson, Ozzy Osbourne, Geoff Tate), but I must make Rob Halford of Judas Priest my token heavy metal singer here simply for the fact that not only could he sing with the best of them, but he was the coolest looking heavy metal vocalist of the bunch. I mean, comon—Halford was super freaking cool with his leather outfits and his Harley Davidson entrances, and his short, platinum blonde hair style was the Sex! Plus, the fact that Rob Halford is a gay man in the otherwise super-macho heavy metal genre adds points to his coolness rating. Seriously though, can anyone deny that the vocal talents of Rob Halford were nothing short of awesome? I didn’t think so. Lastly, of all the heavy metal bands, Judas Priest simply rocked the most, and Rob Halford’s amazing vocals and super-cool image helped boost them to the top of the metal heap.

9) Stephen Pearcy (RATT)
I’ve always loved the 1980s L.A. sleaze rock bands and the vocal style used by many of those bands—not the cheesy “my-jeans-are-too-tight” falsetto style, but the sleazy, slightly raspy, whiskey-soaked and sex-stained vocal style used by such buttrock singers as Vince Neil, Phil Lewis (L.A. Guns), and many other L.A. sleaze rock singers. My favorite singer of that genre has always been Stephen Pearcy, so I’m making Stephen Pearcy my token buttrock singer on this list. His band RATT had tons of hits in the 1980s, and it was his voice that made the catchy riffs on such tunes as “Round and Round,” “Wanted Man,” “You Think You’re Tough,” and all the other hits even better. Sad to say, sometime in the 1990s Stephen Pearcy’s voice went bad… you can watch 1990s era RATT videos on Youtube and hear it for yourself. I saw Stephen Pearcy in concert in 2009 and his voice was raspier than ever, out of tune, and he sounded more like a toad than a singer. That being said, it’s his vocal work with RATT in the 1980s that still shines and puts him on this here top ten list.

8) David Lee Roth
What would a top ten singers of rock list be without “Diamond” David Lee Roth? David Lee Roth has one of the most recognizable voices in rock music history, what with his trademarked shrieks and howls. His voice just plain rocks, even when he’s just talking! And let’s face it, Van Halen was the rocket bomb with “Diamond” Dave at the helm, and in my opinion they went downhill with Sammy Hagar and Hagar’s boring, bland voice. My own personal favorite work by David Lee Roth was on his classic solo album Eat ’em and Smile, one of the best solo albums of all time. Not only is David Lee Roth one of the best singers in rock music history, he is also one of the greatest and most charismatic showmen of all time, and you better believe he will be on my “top ten front men in rock history” list when I get around to writing it.

7) Paul Stanley (KISS)
KISS is one of my all time favorite rock bands, ’nuff said. They had tons of hits in the 1970s and 1980s and are perhaps the greatest party rock band of all time. Most of my own personal favorite KISS songs feature Paul Stanley on lead vocals. I’m sorry, Gene, but Paul was and is the better singer. Paul Stanley’s voice has been imitated by many a singer, including the late Andrew Wood of Mother Love Bone, and for good reason—Paul Stanley’s rock voice exudes sexuality and says “party time!” Not only is Paul Stanley an excellent rock vocalist, but he too is one of the most energetic and charismatic frontmen in rock history. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: whenever I need some inspiration to continue playing in rock bands, I simply watch a live KISS DVD and get my inspiration from Paul Stanley’s crazy stage antics and energy. I saw Paul Stanley’s live solo concert in 2008 and am happy to report that his voice is still top notch. I just love the sound of his rock voice, and that along with his exuberance on stage, pouty lips, and hairy chest puts him on my top ten singers in rock music list at number seven.

6) Joey Ramone
While some critics might say Joey Ramone is not a great singer and doesn’t deserve to be on a top ten singers of all time list, Joey Ramone is by far the best singer from the punk rock genre (which the Ramones invented), and the amazing thing is that Joey Ramone actually sang the songs instead of yelling, which was a real rarity among punk bands. Joey was very influenced by 1960s rock’n’roll, and you can hear that influence in his vocal style; a style that mixes good old rock’n’roll sung with melody with a crooning style that sounds hot on all the Ramones’ love songs. Joey’s voice didn’t have a whole lot of range to it, but that doesn’t matter… the range he did sing in sounded absolutely freaking cool and I just plain love the sound of his voice. That’s what puts Joey in my top ten rock singers list; it’s as simple as that. Screw the critics!

5) Ian Astbury (the Cult)
Ian Astbury has been one of my favorite singers in rock music ever since the late 1980s when the Cult was huge after their Sonic Temple album came out. Ian Astbury is a true rock vocalist in the purest sense; his voice is golden, sexy, full of rock’n’roll attitude and a sexual spirituality reminiscent of the late Jim Morrison. Ian Astbury, without a doubt, channels the spirit of Jim Morrison, or at least is highly influenced by him, and Ian even took on lead vocal duties for the Doors in 2002. Who else could have done that? Ian Astbury not only possesses a unique rock voice, but he can actually sing with the best of them. I love the way he growls “WOOOOW!!” in many of the Cult’s songs for extra rock emphasis, and his vocal style has been a big influence on many a rock singer, including myself. Ian’s lyrical work is also amazing—it is sheer poetry full of spiritual and mystical references that is simply mind-blowing. But at the end of the day, it is his voice and singing style that does it for me and puts Ian Astbury on my top rock singers list.

4) Kory Clarke (Warrior Soul)
Kory Clarke is probably the least known rock singer on my list, and you are probably saying “Who the heck is Kory Clarke?” I never heard of Kory either, until 1998, when his band the Space Age Playboys was the number one rock band on the charts for months. That band blew me away but sadly didn’t last too long. Turns out Kory Clarke has been singing for years in a band called Warrior Soul, and while that band’s first few albums did not impress me, what did impress me was Kory’s vocal style: a higher ranged, raspy, sleazy rock voice that actually contains some melody and rhythmic nuances I’ve never heard done before. Yes, Kory Clarke’s voice and singing just plain blow me away, and his voice to me is the Ultimate Rock Voice. Not only does Kory Clarke possess the Ultimate Rock Voice, but his lyrics—while often times highly political and bitter—are some of the best lyrics in rock music I’ve ever heard. Kory also does some amazing spoken word stuff on the side, in fact he started out his career as a performance artist in New York, where he billed himself as “Kory Clarke, The Warrior Soul.” In the last few years Kory has been supplementing his career by singing for some less-than-stellar rock bands (Trouble, Dirty Rig), but I must say his rock voice makes even a subpar rock band sound good, and I always enjoy listening to his work.

3) Axl Rose
Axl Rose is probably the most talented rock vocalist on my list. Heck, I’ll go even further—Axl Rose is probably the most talented vocalist in today’s music, period! His voice is amazing; he can sing high, he can sing low, he can sing every range in between. Axl Rose also puts some Motown “soul” into his vocal style; I’ve always loved that, and I wouldn’t doubt if he grew up listening to old Motown and Soul music. When Axl layers his voice on GNR recordings, doing multiple parts singing in different ranges, the results are amazing. Axl also has one of the most recognizable voices in rock music and it’s nice to hear that he still sounds great on the latest GNR album, Chinese Democracy, even in his “old age.” In fact, after listening to that album countless times I think he’s never sounded better. Axl Rose may be one of the hardest-to-work-with prima donnas in rock history, but he actually has the talent to get away with it, and that, along with his impressive and unique voice, (plus the fact that “November Rain” is my favorite song for kareoke), puts him on my list at number three.

2) Mick Jagger
If you’ve never heard of Mick Jagger from the Rolling Stones then you must have been living under a rock your whole life. While all the so-called rock bands from the 1960s were singing about holding hands, peace, and love, Mick Jagger was getting down and dirty with his sleazy vocals and lyrics. While Mick Jagger isn’t what would be considered a great singer, it’s his voice alone and how he uses it that makes him great. Mick has one of the most recognizable voices in rock music history, and I would go so far to say the sexiest rock voice in history. Yes, that’s what makes Mick Jagger’s voice so cool—it is the sound of sex, done slightly nasally. I would go even farther as to say that Mick Jagger is the originator of sleaze-rock vocals, as many a 1980s buttrock singer was influenced by him. Not only could Mick Jagger sing the rock songs and the sexified love songs, he also put a bit of country twang in his voice on many of the Rolling Stones recordings, and pulled it off quite well. Not bad for an English bloke! Mick Jagger continues to rock the microphone and sound good even in his geriatric age, and that helps put him on my top ten rock singers list at number two.

1) David Bowie
I don’t mind repeating myself when it comes to a man of such awesome talents as David Bowie, so I will say it again: David Bowie is, in my own humble opinion, the most talented artist of our time. Amazing singer, awesome songwriter, and talented musician, Bowie is a rock’n’roll triple threat—the complete musical package, the real rock’n’roll McDeal. But, as I said at the beginning of this article, it is the voice that matters most to me, and David Bowie’s voice just plain blows me away, whether he’s singing a ’70s glam era Ziggy Stardust song, one of his ’80s soul music inspired songs, or even one of his modern techno-style numbers. David Bowie’s voice is smooth as silk and cool as holy hell. Heck, David Bowie’s voice alone can make any song sound good no matter how lack luster the music. David can sing in all ranges, but I must confess it’s when he croons in that low voice of his that blows me away the most. Yes, Bowie’s crooning melts me like butter over a hot stove, sending my mind, body and soul into a sexual paradise of heavenly bliss—and I’m saying this as a full-grown, non-gay man. As far as having a super-cool, super-sexy, yet classy voice that rocks, nobody can touch David Bowie, and that makes him my number one singer in rock music history, and what the heck—the number one singer in music, period.

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