Here are the Top 10 Male Singer-Songwriters in order of talent and importance. Quality of song and perfection in performance are more important than record sales.

To make this list, you must not only write the majority of your own songs you have to also perform your songs in the most well-known recording of the original hit.
You’ll immediately notice there aren’t many — none, really — current mainstream Singer-Songwriters. Like I have to tell you why…

1. Bob Dylan

2. Neil Diamond

3. John Denver

4. Neil Young

5. Billy Joel

6. Paul McCartney

7. Todd Rundgren

8.  Hank Williams, Sr.

9. Tom Waits

10. Brian Wilson

I wanted to make room for John Phillips but I ultimately could not forgive the fact that he drank away his second liver and therefore refused to honor the covenant of that gift of life for a second living and so his inability to honor his rejuvenated talent pushes him off the list and into spot 11 if we had a spot 11. Tomorrow… we celebrate the women.


  1. I have no problems with that list… except for Neil Diamond. While I can appreciate his ability, his voice just gets on my nerves.

  2. I did find the choice of Hank Williams Sr. interesting, although I did a double take because I thought at first you put Jr. there. 😆
    I would have had to slap you silly for that one.
    Williams Sr.’s granddaughter, Holly, released her first album last year, and I have really enjoyed it. It’s more folk country – no twang or honky tonk, but it’s good stuff. She also pays homage to her grandfather in the single “Sometimes.” If you haven’t heard any of it, you should check it out. 🙂

  3. Being that I don’t know most of that work very well I obviously disagree with some of them. My favorite on that list is Billy Joel.
    Personally my favorite Male Singer Songwriter is:
    Tom Chaplin – Keane (I’m not sure he writes his stuff but you’d never know by the way he sings it)
    Dave Grohl – Foo Fighters (he’s a genius)

  4. I am going to mention two of my favorites.
    Stevie Wonder. In terms of pure talent as a songwriter and musician, he has stood the test of time. He has been able to put his mark on almost every song– when you hear it, you know that it is a Stevie Wonder song.
    Paul Simon. From his roots as Simon and Garfunkel and then evolving at least over two generations, I think he has shown both talent and flexibility.
    Elton John. You can criticize him for being overly “pop”. Both so is Neil Diamond. Again, Elton John has been an icon for at least two generations.

  5. Another musically themed post so soon, David? Well, it probably is a good idea. It may be that our commenters so far are forgetting the criteria of “quality of song” and “perfection of performance.”
    The song consists of lyrics and musical notes composed together to be pleasing together. Today, there are many songs that just honestly sound like they were thrown together. The lyrics are either 1)repetitive 2)self indulgent 3)foul or 4)non-sensical. The music often has no life. Speaking of performance: many artists are just doing a horrible job. They don’t care about their audience. They care about dollars.
    This is going to sound really crazy, but is it any wonder that these very artists are the ones whose music will be adapted (or not) to be played as “elevator music?”

  6. Erik (my boyfriend) has a problem with your list. He thinks John Lennon should be on your list. Maybe he’ll come back and voice his opinion but I thought I’d let you know.
    Although he laughed at me for Dave Grohl and the lead singer of Keane.

  7. I’d rank Brian Wilson higher, based on the strength of “Pet Sounds”. I’d also rank Tom Waits higher, but that’s just me. Where’s Jackson Browne on the overall list? And keep an eye out for more recent artists like Rufus Wainwright and Jack Johnson.

  8. Wheres Mr Lennon?
    I think his omission stinks, an undoubted talent that the world is sorely missing!!
    Also, I dont know about Todd Rundgren, but I guess its all down to personal preference. Theres no such thing as a comprehensive, definitive list!!

  9. David,
    What about Don McLean?
    Roberta Flack’s number one classic “killing me softly (with his song)”, written by Fox & Gimbel, was inspired by a Don McLean live performance. This song is as good a tribute to an artist’s ability as I’ve heard, and says it all, really, about quality of song and perfection in performance.
    I think McLean’s body of work is superior to all the artists on your list except for Bob Dylan, Hank Williams Snr and Billy Joel.
    I would be interested in your reasons for not including him.

  10. Fair enough, but name a song ever written about John Denver or Neil Diamond.

  11. David Bowie is one of my personal favourites…
    and IMO – Lennon > McCartney
    Nick Cave is great too

  12. I certainly agree with you on Todd Rundgren. Only he’s #1 on my list! Thanks!
    Great list,

  13. This is a great list, but WRONG! Where is Paul Simon? He eclipses several of those artists up there with both his collaboration with Art Garfunkel and his solo work. He is by far one of the greatest American male singer songwriters and I think he should be added!

  14. Where is: Michael Jackson, John Lennon, Elton John, The Boss, Jimmy Buffet, Prince, Stevie Wonder, Chuck Berry, Smokey Robinson, and my favorite Harry Chapin. Now that is a TOP 10

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