Who are the best songwriters of all time? On this page you will find some of the feedback we have received from many of our visitors. You can share your views below as well. Feel free to agree or disagree.
Go here first:
I have compiled a list of some of the greatest songwriters ever, here plus a video.
Visitor Feedback On The Greatest Songwriters Ever
1. Great Songwriters
There are many great songwriters in various genres, and I will attempt to list as many of the best as I can.
- Lionel Richie
- David Foster
- Joni Mitchell
- Billy Joel
- Leonard Cohen
- Carole King
- Bernie Taupin
- Phil Collins
- Rob Thomas
- Chris Martin
- Kurt Kobain
- Chad Kroeger
- James Taylor
- Bob Dylan
- Joh Lennon
- Paul McCartney
- Randy Travis
- Marc Cohn
These are only a few.
There are many others who have written exceptional music, but to me, these people have written the most hits with incredible lyrics. These people are not one-hit wonders, they are legends (even though a couple are from the 2000s).
Comments for Great Songwriters
I thought Randy Travis had more songs written for him than him writing his own lyrics. I always considered him as a great singer…
Some other best songwriters suggestions.
I’m personally a fan of
- Ben Gibbard
- Rich Mullins
- Jason Mraz
- Derek Webb
These are 4 guys that I think stack up against everyone on that list.
2. Steven Patrick Morrissey and Johnny Marr – (Best Songwriters)
by someone (sydney, australia)
Steven Patrick Morrissey and Johnny Marr are the songwriting duo that formed the rock group, The Smiths, along with Andy Rourke and Mike Joyce. Anyone who is writing a factual and non-biased list of the greatest songwriters of all time needs to include this duo in it. No less than the top 20.
Credited as Morrissey/Marr, between the years of 1983 and 1987 the pair wrote eight top 40 hits, seven top twenty hits, and three top ten hits on the UK top 40 alone before the band disintegrated due to musical disagreements. Apart from their 18 top 40 hits, the band also spent more time at no.1 (53 weeks) on the UK Indie charts than any other band or solo artist.
During the bands life time, 16 percent of the no.1 hits on the indie charts belonged to The Smiths.
However, besides having three gold albums in the US, a string of gold and platinum albums in the UK and a bunch of top ten singles in Ireland, The Smiths have had far more influence than commercial success. A number of bands influenced by The Smiths are Blur, Oasis, Radiohead, The Stone Roses, The Verve, Belle and Sebastien and countless others. Despite their lack of commercial success in the United States while they were alive, the Smiths have still racked up quite a following there. Morrisseys smart, witty and clever lyrics and Johnny Marrs knack for crafting great melodies ensured that they also influenced bands such as Blink 182 (pop-punk), No Doubt (ska), System of A Down (extreme metal), Andre 3000 from Outkast (hip-hop/rap), Phil Anselmo of Pantera (thrash metal) and a long list of other well known groups and an even longer list of unknown garage bands. It is a known fact, that with out The Smiths, Brit-pop probably never would have happened or it would have been an entirely different scene.
In terms of critical success, not many bands have outdone The Smiths. For a start, most critics regard them as one of the most important bands to have come out of the 1980’s UK. Morrissey is regarded by A LOT to be one of the best lyricists of all time and Johnny Marr and Morrissey were voted as the 5th greatest songwriting duo of all time by Rolling Stone magazine, beating out David/Bacharach and Lieber/Stoller and many others. NME ranked them the most influential band of all time and Smiths albums constantly top their greatest albums lists. The Smiths have 4 albums on the RS 500 Greatest Albums list as well.
Comments for Steven Patrick Morrissey and Johnny Marr – (Best Songwriters)
Comment 1. (Inappropriate language deleted by moderator)
Johnny Marr was very talented, yes. But Morrissey writes gutwrenchingly bad lyrics. Any adult should cringe in embarrassment at them. A grown man taking on the personna of a spoiled rich kid feeling sorry for himself is not art.
@anonymous Are you for real? Morrisseys lyrics are beautifully crafted, a lot of the time tongue-in-cheek, poetical genious. Never did he take on the persona of a spoilt rich kid, not one of his lyrics suggest it either. All of the things he is singing about are either his own feelings or his own opinions of the outside world which to be honest, I and millions of others find highly entertaining and comical. Johnny Marr’s guitar playing and morrisseys lyrical style walk perfectly hand in hand like no other songwriting partnership in history. How could you like the smiths and not like morrisseys lyrics…..
3. Some great songwriters that should be on this list:
- Neil Young
- Joan Baez
- Gordon Lightfoot
- Mark Knopfler
- Kerry Livgren
- Neil Peart
All are legendary and deserve their spot as well.
4. Tom Petty
by Jimmy (kuwait for a few more months)
There isn’t a more prolific hit writer who writes about the human condition and people we know and places we’ve been with great hooks and killer riffs and melodies. It doesn’t get any better for me. I also have to give a nod to William Topley–a British/New Orleans guy, whom if you haven’t heard, you need to. You will want every album–unless you’re some hip-hop chimp and then you wouldn’t be on this site anyway. I think I’ve got the hook to my next song “Hip Hop Chimp.” love
5. Jeff Buckley
by Sara (London)
His lyrics are deep and have a strong connection with the listener, he also has many messages in his lyrics and it’s personal for the listenter to find an emotion that they could respond to his music.
6. Billie Joe Armstrong – Best Songwriter
by Kate (California)
Billie Joe Armstrong from Green Day is the best song writer. He writes songs in different styles and all are great! He is the best in my mind.
7. Taylor Swift – Amazing Songwriter
by Meabh (Ireland)
I know she’s just starting out, and pretty young, But i really think she is an amazing songwriter! She has inspired my music so much, you really should consider adding her to your list!
8. Mariah Carey, One of the Best Songwriters
by Chelsea C. (US)
Mariah Carey is very talented. Not only vocally, but with her ability to write songs. She has written and produced 18 number one singles.
9. Bernie Taupin – best songwriter ever – how could you leave out the BEST
by Markthrice (tupelo ms)
Bernie Taupin is hands down the best songwriter ever with more hits than you can count and even better songs that weren’t hits. Who is he? The MAN behind all of Elton John’s best songs. I see Elton is on the list and he is the genius behind the arrangement but this only gives Bernie credit by proxy for the lyrics.
10. Bob Marley, Prince – best songwriters
Nothing is more timeless than Bob Marley, simply brilliant! Prince not as timeless, but he deserves being on the list too considering the amount of hits he wrote, notably also for others without a lot of people even realizing it was written by His Royal Purpleness.
11. Neil Finn of Crowded House – Great Songwriter
by Rauf Che Jalil (Kuala Lumpur Malaysia and Melbourne Australia)
To me Neil Finn is a great songwriter with his catchy melodic lyrics. With hit songs like don’t dream it’s over, fall at your feet and better be home soon. He has a dreamlike image that put me in an uplifting mood everytime I listen to Crowded House.
Comments for Neil Finn of Crowded House – Great Songwriter:
Comment 1. Agreed!
Yes, Neil Finn is one of the best songwriters since Lennon and McCartney. I just don’t know why he isn’t more known around the world.
Comment 2. Awesome
Yes, Neil finn truly is a gifted songwriter and a very underrated songwriter. people should really him and his band crowded house out.
12. Barry Gibb
by The Beast (UK)
It has to be Barry Gibb, who else has written and produced complete albums, that have been a huge success. Look at the tender age he actually started writing songs too. No contest, Barry Gibb is the most gifted songwriter of all time.
Comments for Barry Gibb
Comment 1. Barry Gibb best songwriter
This man is a genius when it comes to songwriting. Anything he writes just turns to gold. He has done every possible style there is (apart from rap maybe)… A very underappreciated singer/songwriter.
Comment 2. Truly A Genius
Barry Gibb was without question is one of the greatest songwriters of all time. He is the greatest British writer i’ve ever heard and was writing number hits as early as the age of 20 years old.
Comment 3. Genius!
It’s true, Barry has written so many songs that have gone on to become standards. One thought can produce great memories of songs like ‘How Can You Mend A Broken Heart’, To Love Somebody’, ‘Islands In The Stream’, How Deep Is Your Love’, Words, Heartbreaker, Grease, Woman In Love, the list is endless.
(List of Best Songwriters of All Time).
13. Best Songwriters Ever – Just my opinion…
by Case Kennedy (Seattle, WA. U.S.A.)
Obviously I think you need to include…..
- John Lennon
- Paul McCartney
- Bob Dylan
- Elton John
- Bernie Taupin
- Carole King
- James Taylor
- Bono/The Edge
- The Brothers’ Gibb
- Stevie Wonder
- Ray Charles
- Paul Simon
- Van Morrison
- Mick Jagger
- Keith Richards
- Robert Plant
- Jimmy Page
- Curt Cobain
- Bruce Springsteen
- Billy Joel
- Willy Nelson
- John Denver
Coming in a close Second greatest of all time…
And the best songwriter of all time…. (in my opinion…) The late great….Townes Van Zandt
14. Kurt Cobain – (Best Songwriters)
by Caleb (Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, U.S.A.)
Kurt Cobain deserves to be on this list no doubt. He is one of the greatest songwriters of all-time ranking only behind Bob Dylan and John Lennon in my opinion. His songwriting was absolutely brilliant. There were people who didn’t like Cobain because they though his lyrics didn’t make any sense or were completely senseless, like “Rape Me” which many found offensive because they didn’t get the true meaning of the song. He used a lot of metaphors and sarcasm in all of his songs which many musicians did but not to the extent Cobain did or even close to as well as he did. He often showed anger in his songwriting but also could show mellowness in it.
Comments for Kurt Cobain – (Best Songwriters)
Comment 1. yeah
You know your songwriters, for sure.
Comment 2. Well Said
Kurt was one of those…..”read between the lines” kind of songwriters. It was more often not necessarily what he said, but how he said it. He was brilliant at being able to convey a mood purely through his cadence and vocalization. Truly gifted, and obviously troubled. Aren’t we all.
CK , Seattle, WA.
Comment 3. Kurt is my Idol
Kurt was not the greatest guitar player but his riffs rocked! He didn’t finish high school, but he is still considered one of the greatest lyricists ever! He never went to college for music, but he made millions from it and his band went off to be known as one of the greatest rock bands and to completely change the musical landscape. Those changes still show in some of the more modern bands such as Breaking Benjamin and Seether.
Music is not about the knowledge or the brains its about the emotions, passion, and motivation. Knowing how to utilize what you know, is better than knowing everything and forgetting where you came from.
Austin from Florida
Kurt we miss you!
Comment 4. Best Songwriter Ever
I think that Kurt is the greatest writer of all time, OF ALL TIME!!!
Comment 5. He would’ve wanted it this way.
He should’ve been on the list D: his songs inspire me more than a lot of people on the rolling stones’s list. What did bruce springsteen do other than produce a catchy pop song with no deeper meaning? Kurt’s lyrics were misunderstood. All true musicians recognize his talent, so why does it matter that corporate america can’t see it? I think kurt would have liked it this way, to be quietly remembered instead of having to be in the spotlight once again. Kurt Cobain lives on.<3
Comment 6. Forever In Our Hearts…
by: Lexie Massacre
Kurt Cobain to me was no doubt one of the greatest songwriters. He had a great way of setting a certain mood or feeling by using metaphors and sarcasm. People judged way too fast when it came to his lyrics, or didn’t even bother to read between the lines. I wouldn’t say Kurt invented grunge, but he was defnitely one of its lead pioneers, and when he died he brought the genre to the grave with him. I mean sure there’s still Alice In Chains and Pearl Jam but their success doesn’t even come close to Nirvana’s. Like I said, he didn’t invent the genre, but he’s one of a few artists that was so great at their genre and what they do that their death alone ends the whole genre.
RIP Kurt. We miss you. Forever in our hearts.
Comment 7. Pain through pain
I really think most of his lyrics were in depth and can’t be understood without feeling it>>the pain of every word through his songs absolute amazing>>
End of comments.
15. Townes Van Zandt (Best Songwriters)
by Jason Garrett Gammon (Lafayette , TN US)
Actually it’s probably a three-way tie between Dylan, Leo Cohen and Townes, but just for the omission I’m gonna talk him up…
Surely you’ve heard of him. If not you should find him now. Try “Rake & Young Man” , “Highway Kind”, or “Marie” (to name but a scant few). His phrase turns and melodies are really addictive, not to mention he just wrote extraordinary tunes. Seriously, stop what you’re doing and find out who this man was. I guarantee it’ll pay dividends.
Comment for Townes Van Zandt (Best Songwriters)
I just posted a list of some of my favorites with Townes being at the very top of the list. Any Townes fan is a friend of mine, good to see someone that knows what they are talking about!
16. Kurt Cobian!
Kurt Cobain wrote great lyrics, he put some thought into most of them, and sometimes you don’t know what he’s saying. And nobody really knows what the words mean. So i think that leaves room for you to make them into your own meanings.
***Please don’t leave comments about the “truth” on how Courtney killed him. We’ve all heard them before***
Comments for Kurt Cobian!
Comment 1. Proof that you can be great without lots of talent
First, Kurt Cobain killed himself and Love is a very underrated artist. I’m sure that goes against at least half of nirvana fans but does it matter? The dude is dead.
Second, Kurt Cobain is overrated in many ways but when it comes to songwriting, he had a gift. I hate songs that just come out and tell you in easy little rhymes what the person is trying to say, not always, sometimes it can make for a good song, but I love lyrics that leave you aloof and cover many different things in one song. Kurt had that. I know Never mind is the “Big One” but the Unplugged album is the one of the greatest albums I’ve ever heard; the covers on it are mind blowing. Still, I hold strong to “Dumb” and “All Apologies.” Nirvana is the band that got me into music but I admit they are second in my book. The greatest band of all time is The Violent Femmes – the most unrated band of all time (For you out there who don’t know who they are, they are the Marcy Playground of the 80s, blister in the sun is kinda their sex and candy. Look into it!”
Anyway, all credit to Cobain, he did good and too bad the dude is dead.
Comment 2. Ok
by: Floyd the barber
Cobain is & always will b the best songwriter ever. I spend hours playing his songs.
Example: Today 3 hours of Lithium & Somethin in the way
Comment 3. Great Musician
by: Susan Ishisaka
“I saw Andy Warhol Media Works at Seattle Art Museum on Kurt and Nirviana.” What a great loss on a great musician and so young. When I go to Seattle and visit my daughter, and I always think of him and Jimi Hendrix. Passing Aberdean I also thought of him and his daughter.
End of comments
17. John Lennon
by Corey Stewart (Australia) www.songwritingzen.wordpress.com
IMHO, “Imagine” is the greatest song ever written.
It says to the world that peace is possible and at the same time it’s written in a language that anyone can understand.
John Lennon was a master of taking something complex and simplifying it.
Comments for John Lennon
Comment 1. Re: Thoughts on John Lennon’s Image
Glad to see you air your thoughts.
You know, John Lennon’s Imagine is a great work of musical art and one to look at for inspiration. John Lennon is, without a doubt, one of the 20th Century’s greatest lyricists.
But you make no revelation. The revelation is unto yourself. 😉
I join you in your revolution… rather, in the appreciation of your revelation. 😉
Comment 2. John Lennon
John Lennon hands down is the greatest songwriter ever!
End of comments
18. J. Loren Wince
In my opinion, J. Loren Wince is one of the greatest song writers ever. I don’t know if you know who that is, but he is the Singer for the band HURT. They are pretty new, but every song on their albums Vol. 1 and Vol. II are great, good acoustic song and some heavy songs but the vocals and the lyrics to me are the best.
The lyrics in the songs I think are meanful and tell something. My favorite song by them right now is THANK YOU FOR LISTENING. Although it was a hard decision to make. I think if they are not touring they are planning another album for 08′ Vol. III and I am realy looking forward to that.
As a kid J. Loren Wince grew up in a very religous home and rock and roll was not allowed. He studied classical music at an early age. and i think to be exposed to all that as a child, not saying that is did anything to the music but if anything made it better, but to produce 2 of my all time favorite albums with the greatest songs ever thats why i think he is the greatest.
Comments for J. Loren Wince
Comment 1. HURT rocks
Heck yeah! J. is amazing and I agree with you in saying that he is by far one of the greatest writers ever. Every lyric has a special meaning and every one if his songs has a special meaning for me.
Comment 2. J. Loren
Volume I & Volume II are both very deep. I agree that J.Loren is one of the best song writers of all time. I have seen Hurt in concert twice and I can’t wait for them to come back to my area again. Very entertaining and truely amazing to see live.
Comment 3. I love J
J. Loren is amazing i have seen him several times live and i have enjoyed every performance he has done. it gets better each time i see them. J. is a very talented artist. his lyrics are written so beautiful. every time i hear a song of his i feel it in my heart. whether or not if i have went through some of the situations his songs refers to or not; i stil feel the pain or joy that has been expressed in the song. HURT’s cd is my “go to” cd. when everything else just isnt doing it for me i can put HURT in and i wil listen to whole cd. J. loren is amazing. and i would like to thank him for pursuing his talents and letting the world enjoy his talents.
Comment 4. Ummm…..OK
Yeah, right up there with Dylan….and Lennon. J…who??
Comment 5. Obscure doesn’t mean untalented
You are probably too set in your ways to recognize any new artists. He doesn’t just spew lyrics about politics.
Comment 6. Hurt And J. are the best
I couldn’t agree more. J.’s songwriting does rank up there with Dylan and Lennon. I bet if you could talk with Bob Dylan, after he has been exposed to Hurt, and he’d agree. Songwriter, lyricist, J. Loren Wince ranks up there next to Page, Plant, Jones, and Bonham. His work is already being noted as some of the most influential of his time. Maybe you don’t know who he is, but when you find out, you’ll hear exactly what we all mean.
Comment 7. Hurt
I’m a new fan of the band, Hurt. I first heard them on Satellite radio several months ago. I finally went out and purchased both there albums, Vol I and II. I was blown away by both. It has been a very, very long time since I enjoyed a CD let alone two in it’s entirety. Hurt has breathed life in my opinion to Rock and Roll. The lyrics to every single song are meanigful and the music that accompanies the lyrics is a perfect blend for a unique sound. All I can say is thank you to the band and J. Loren for making music that show what Rock and Roll is all about. I have never seen them live but as soon as they come to NY I will be there.
Comment 8. Can’t get enough!
I love this band and the intense lyrics and complex music. I first heard them at a concert last August(2008). From the first phrase I was hooked! I literally turned my head and said “Wow!” I went out and bought (yes, bought) Vol.I and Vol. II. the next day. Don’t download their music for free. Musicians need money too! I am going to their concert tonight and can’t wait to see them again live! I wish them much and great success.
Comment 9. Without a doubt!
I completely agree! However, I didn’t know he was raised in a religious home with classical music mostly. That’s interesting, so I’d have to agree that his background definitely enabled him to be well-rounded with the style to form diverse albums. If you haven’t noticed the hidden track on Say Goodbye to the Machine I suggest checkin it out! It’s one of my favorites; even my ringtone. LOL! I love Hurt especially because my husband and I by some chance heard one of their songs and bought that album during a transitional, rough time and both connected to the entire cd. I love that he plays violin too, that’s hot!!!
End of comments
19. Where is George Harrison?
by Caroline Killelea (Liverpool, England)
Surely George Harrison needs to be credited here. On the grounds of “Something in the way she moves”, “Here comes the sun” and “Taxman” alone he warrants a place.
It does not help that many believe some of his efforts were the work of John and Paul. Sinatra famously said that “Something” was the greatest Lennon/McCartney song ever. Someone please give George the credit he deserves!
Comments for Where is George Harrison?
Comment 1. George Harrison – great songwriter.
by: Mantius Cazaubon
Caroline, Thanks. But George Harrison is credited here. Did you read the other list. 🙂 He is also in the video.
I agree that he is certainly one of the greatest ever!
Comment 2. Yes
I agree…saw him once in concert in San Francisco…he was horse that night but I still really enjoyed his music…great guy
End of comments
by Cari (Tennessee)
Buckethead has a wide variety of music that has changed the way a lot of people see music. There is a Buckethead song for every emotion. I prefer his slower songs. He can say a 1,000 words without ever having to speak a single one. I hope one day I’ll be lucky enough to be able to thank him for all the beautiful music he has created.
21. James Hetfield! – Great Songwriter
He’s so progressive with his 80’s work. so melodic, rich with harmony, technical…listen to any metallica album and it is very clear he should be on that list^
22. Ozzy Osbourne (Greatest Songwriters)
by amy esperow (bulgaria)
I think Ozzy Osbourne is a really good song writer though he does not write all the songs himself i think theyre ten times better when he does because its coming form him. like rock and roll rebel, great song but anyone will probably agree that ozzy’s version is better than any other because he originally wrote it. just as any singer, if the words to the song are their own, its ten times better. unless that person is awful with words then….just leave it to those who know what theyre doing. 🙂
23. Bob Marley – one of the best songwriters ever.
by Robert John (Jamaica)
Being from the Caribbean, I would have to add Bob Marley to your list, as one of the best songwriters ever. His songs are as fresh today as they were when he wrote them. His music is what I like to call evergreen music and has stood the test of time.
The Rastafarian, who incidentally is among Forbes top ten list of top earning deceased celebrities continues to dominate Reggae album charts 26 years after his death in 1981.
Bob Marley is the one who really set the pace for Jamaican music and today reggae is popular internationally, largely because of his work. He put this small island on the map.
With songs like Stir It Up, One Love, I Shot The Sheriff, Jamming, and Three Little Birds, I have no choice but to add Robert Nestor Marley as one of the greatest songwriters ever.
24. Mike Shinoda – greatest lyric talent alive
by mike (QLD. australia)
Mike Shinoda… of Linkin Park fame. Not your typical song writer although the lyrical styles that this man posses are incredible. He sits on a tour bus for months on end and still finds a way of drawing inspiration from his minimal surroundings and putting these amazing thoughts to paper. With a vocabulary that almost excedes the english dictionary, the rhymes and flow that he can generate seem almost limitless in terms of boundaries. for me, Mike Shinoda really does equal musical genius.
25. Two unsung heros – (songwriters)
Eddie vedder from pearl jam and aaron lewis from staind would have to be my two favorite song writers. They both write songs that can touch on deep emotions and also social issues. If I didn’t know better, I’d say that some of there songs were written about me. That’s what good song writing is about, writing lyrics that other people can relate to. Kurt Cobain? please. I was a nirvana fan and even I’m convinced Cobain had no idea what he was singing about.
26. Tom Waits
by Alexander (Toronto)
It is a disgusting shame commensurate with the Watergate scandal that this man’s name is yet on the list. He is one of the only, if not the only songwriter who never made a bad album. From the folksy Early Years and Heart of Saturday Night to the jazzy Small Change and Night Hawks at the Diner, from the blues of Blue Valentine and Heart Attack and Vine to the experimental Bone Machine, Mule Variations, from the gothic fairytale cabaret of The Black Rider to the uncategorizable, bluesgospelfunkpunkgarageclinkrockjazzfolk of his most recent records. The man is incomparable. He is arguably the most unique songwriter, and he does so without pretence, with pose.
Lyrically, his songs are works of art. Pure poetry – and not bullshit Bob Dylan free-form stuff that only makes sense when you’re stoned, but real-life, no strings attached HONEST and beautiful.
By far the best songwriter ever, in my opinion.
27. Jeff Buckley
by Chriez (Philippines)
Even though he died early, his lyrics and songs are endless. Lover, Should’ve come over, Last Goodbye, Grace, Satisfied mind. A real great artist, great writing with intense voice.
Share your comments/opinions below on who you think are the best songwriters ever.