1950-2000: The Top 25 Singer/Songwriters

1.Bob Dylan: I don’t expect any arguments here

2.Curtis Mayfield: Perhaps he should be #1

3. Paul Weller: Hideously underrated in the US, this whiteboy knows soul

4. Tom Waits: He makes two kinds of records: good ones & great ones

5. Van Morrison: If he ever put out a bad record, I haven’t heard it yet

6. Hank Williams: Some of his songs can even make Christianity sound cool

7. Marc Bolan: The pop genius of the 70’s

8. Toots Hibbert: The man who should have been Jamaica’s International Superstar

9. George Jones: A jug of wine, a George Jones album, another jug of wine, and then another…

10. Lou Reed: I’d put him on this list just for “Pale Blue Eyes”

11. Carole King: More for her songwriting than her singing

12. Elvis Costello: Not half as good as everybody says he is, but what a half!

13. Townes van Zandt: Have you heard him? Good, then you know what I’m talking about

14. Eldon “El Duce” Hoke: Hey, this is MY list. I can put anybody I want on

15. Beck: He’s the new Dylan. Honest

16. James Osterberg: It is frightening: The man has supernatural powers!

17. Leonard Cohen: Of course I’m going to include him

18. Bruce Springsteen: “Nebraska” is enough to earn him a place

19. Nick Drake: Volkswagen, The Estate of Nick Drake wishes to thank you

20. Neil Diamond: What if Elvis was a Jew who wrote his own songs, and never did half-assed karate kicks onstage?

21. Lucinda Williams: Great singer/songwriters cover HER songs!

22. Kurt Cobain: An ear for a great tune, and an eye for a pretty lady! Oh muse, sing!

23. Richard Thompson: Continues to delight

24. David Bowie: Demoted from #11 to #24 for failing to die immediately after "Scary Monsters"

25. Gram Parsons: Dude, love that Nudie suit!
uhhh.....Lennon & McCartney......enough said
Kris Kristopherson, more for his songwriting than singing.
I'll come back to this in a week, if it's still around, but some unmentioned names spring to mind, Merle Travis (yeah, his best work was pre-1950, but he was still doing stuff afterward), Lefty Frizzell, Buddy Holly, Bo Diddley, Chuck Berry along with Hank Williams in the 50's. Merle Haggard. Barbara Keith in the early 70's and lately. David Hidalgo for the last 25 years. John Hiatt even longer. Kate and Anna McGarrigle for 30 years. Recently, in addition to Lucinda Williams, Gillian Welch (with David Rawlings) and Iris Dement. Not counting anyone who writes good songs but can't sing.

Johnny Mercer
Garfish, point well taken
Greg Brown
Chris Deburgh
Chris Rea
John Stewart
Rod MacDonald
Jack Hardy
Hugh Blumenfeld
Dougie Maclean
Dan Hill
Dan Fogelberg
John Gorka
Richard Shindel
Marc Cohn
Iain Matthews
Tom Russell
Luka Bloom
Eric Andersen
Janis Ian
Loreena Mckennitt
Leonard Cohen
Bob Dylan
Van Morrison
Rosanne Cash
Jackson Browne
Current best maybe David Gray I know that is 26
Tweak...Jagger and RIchards...68-72...cmon bro...dont make me come over and slap ya!(ha!) Great list...with some unheralded choices...such as Weller...who was on fire with the JAM...and since I am on the duo trip...jones & strummer,davies and davies, and young and young(ad/dc)...but more in your purist indivdual songwriter vain...Neil Young and Prince (Purple pride baby)

add Martin Sexton to the list....imho
i meant to say Simon & Garfunkel, sorry no coffee yet this morning..
C'mon! Not even a single mention of Elton John or Billy Joel? What, do you guys hate piano players or something?

I wouldn't put them at #1 necessarily, but they belong on the list.

Also, you have to put Burt Bacharach on there, because while he mostly wrote songs, he did make a couple albums of his own.

Carole Bayer Sager mostly for songwriting.

I'd also nominate Steve Earle for his most awesomely "Confederate sounding" songs.

Didn't want to duplicate any of the previously mentioned ones to save space.
No James Brown? or etta james,smokey robinson,aretha franklin, otis redding...wheres the soul bro? You gotta have some brothers n sisters on the list...

Love your threads, mister. Thanks for including our man, George J (even if he qualifies only as a singer), not to mention Beck, Cobain, Richard Thompson, and Lucinda Williams.

El Duce and Neil Diamond? You scamp, you. Too bad they never collaborated.

Among the giants not yet mentioned, I nominate Joni Mitchell, Randy Newman, and Chuck Berry.

Among the unheralded, how about Walter Salas-Humara of the Silos? I love this guy's work so much I "borrowed" his name as my moniker. Really, a great songwriter.

Two other unheraldeds knocking on the door: Brian Henneman of the Bottlerockets and Freedy Johnston.

I second your Toots Hibbert nomination again. Check out Nicole C. Mullen's "Talk About It" for cool Christian writing/performance.
Why they didn’t make the cut:
Jagger/Richards, Lennon /McCartney, and Elton John /Bernie Taupin are songwriting teams. They do not properly belong on a list of individual singer/songwriters. Moreover, the solo careers of these guys are not up to the standards of my top 25. Or is there some punter out there that is willing to argue that the auteur of “Silly Love Songs” is more deserving than Gram Parsons?

Otis Redding wrote some of his best material, including the remarkable “My Lover’s Prayer”, but he was probably more famous for his outstanding interpretations of the songs of others. It is a tough call, but I have to conclude that Otis Redding wasn’t a pure singer/songwriter in the same sense as say, Townes Van Zandt.

Aretha Franklin wrote some good songs, but most of her best songs were written by other very talented people.

As for the one glaring omission for which I will plead guilty, all I’ve got to say is, I’m sorry Mr. Brown. Tell ya what James; next time we meet in the joint, you can borrow my prag for the night.

What I will not apologize for is the fact that Prince is not on the list. Prince made his career selling dumbed-down funk and ersatz soul to gullible white people. I know. I went to a big 10 University in the 80’s, and got to see white people thinking they were so hip whilst “dancing” to Prince records. Another black man fronting a party band for the rhythmically challenged ofay: Prince and the Revolution were the Hootie and the Blowfish of the 80’s.

So, Ben Campbell; I await your angry, totally wrongheaded, yet typically brilliant and well argued retort.
I gotta include John Prine.
Pick up any Guy Clark album.
No Joni Mitchell, c'mon.
John Prine, yes: Joni Mitchell, no
Tweak...I was testing your boundaries with "Prince"...and I seem to have induced a reaction...maybe even "allergic"...at any rate...Price has a handful of good songs in my view...we will leave it at that...and yes...the omission of the GOdfather of soul was an oversight...but you have made amends...in honour of this... you will kinged "brother for a day"...
Lucinda Willams yes, Joni no? So the scope of the body of work is not taken into account, merely the quality of whatever was produced. Explains the Nick Drake pick also. Fruit that never had the opportunity to ripen on the vine.
IMHO, Antonio Carlos Jobim was the most important singer/songwriter of the period in question. After Jobim, there are several notables: Burt Bacharach, Lennon-McCartney, Elton John, Willie Nelson, Stevie Wonder, and so on.
It is my understanding that Lennon & McCartney primarily wrote songs individualy, and put both names on the song. Silly comments notwithstanding, I reiterate.....Lennon & McCartney.
Considering that our man George gets the songwriting credit for such classics as "The Window Up Above," "Don't Stop the Music," and "Just One More", I think that he qualifies as a pretty good songwriter.

By the way, I really should have given Al Green his due.

I guess you ment pop or country/folk when you asked for the top 25 singer/songwriters...since no one seems to be thinking of Jazz or more standard writer/singers like Nat Cole, the above mentioned Mercer..etc.

That said...in the country/pop vein..I agree with almost all of the posts above.
peter gabriel and peter hamil
And yes...The author of Hey Jude, Yesterday, Ticket To Ride, Michelle, Paperback Writer, Eleanor Rigby, Penny Lane, All You Need Is Love, The Fool On The Hill, Lady Madonna, Let It Be, The Long And Winding Road, Band On The Run, My Love, and....Silly Love Songs deserves to be ahead of Parsons....don't you think? Perhaps Im just a "punter" though.
Richard Thompson
Nick Cave
John Prine
Iris DeMent
I'm with you Moag. I think 2/3 of this list is lame too.

Kurt Cobain? Beck? Curtis Mayfield?
But no Paul McCartney allowed?
What kind of drugs are you on?
Only thing I can think to add (brilliant damn list!) is Willie Nelson. and maybe Jeff Tweedy.
Perhaps a bit "sappy" for the tastes of some, but I'd add Jim Croce to the already stellar list. Glad to see a couple mentioned John Prine. His, "Hello in There", among others is an absolute classic - one of the finest set of lyrics I've ever heard.
Paul McCartney’s solo career, taken as a whole, has served mostly to severely diminish, not enhance, his overall reputation as a songwriter. Both John Lennon’s and, for that matter, George Harrison’s, solo efforts were, in most cases, much better than Paul’s. In short, Paul McCartney’s solo career has been a terrific waste and misdirection of an unbelievable talent.

The lack of appreciation for Curtis Mayfield in his native country is appalling. Though it is silly to speak of any individual having “invented” any particular genre of music, many credit The Impressions with “inventing“ soul. Yeah, I know, Jellyroll Morton claimed to have invented jazz. Though the claim is patently false, no one is going to argue that Jellyroll wasn’t a critical figure in the early development of the music. To cite an analogous example, though there was plenty of rock and roll in the 1940’s, Ike Turner’s 1951 “Rocket 88” (Ike wrote it, but was denied credit) is, to my ears, the first song that doesn’t sound like a “missing link.” Rather, it is the earliest bang on, fully and 100 % recognizable as such, hard rock song. What Rocket 88 is to rock and roll, The Impressions “For Your Precious Love” (I know, Curtis didn’t get songwriting credit) is to soul.

Not only was Curtis Mayfield one of the originators of soul, he is also acclaimed, in Jamaica and England at least, as The Godfather of Reggae. Listen to a classic “roots” track like Junior Murvin’s “Police and Thieves.” The sweet falsetto vocals over the urgent staccato guitar chords are straight-up Curtis Mayfield. No lesser man than that great reggae synecdoche Bob Marley frequently cited Curtis as his most important influence. Indeed, you will not find a single Jamaican vocal group from the 1960’s that did not include at least one Curtis Mayfield composition in their repertoire.

So I ask you, what other individual in the last century was a seminal figure in the development of two (somewhat) different important musical genres? Not Bob Dylan: the both the folk and rock idioms were well established before he began to reshape both of them. That Curtis Mayfield would have such a critical influence on the development of both reggae and soul is both astonishing and unprecedented. It is analogous to having one individual who simultaneously embodies the talent and creative energy of both Jimmie Rodgers and James Brown.

Are the defenders of Paul McCartney’s solo career willing to argue that the man who gave us such gems as “Coming Up,” “With a Little Luck,” “Silly Love Songs,” “No More Lonely Nights,” “Ebony and Ivory,” and “Temporary Secretary” is more deserving of a place on a list of great singer/songwriters than the author of “Minstrel and Queen,” “It’s All Right,” “People Get Ready,” Check Out Your Mind,” “Move on Up,” “Superfly,” and “Pusherman”?

Further whinging on behalf of McCartney’s place in the songwriter’s pantheon should take a hiatus pending the forthcoming posting of my list of the greatest songwriting teams.
Mea culpa,
Paul Simon, Serge Gainsbourg, and especially Ray Davies
McCartney wrote Ticket To Ride, Yesterday, Michelle, Paperback Writer, Eleanor Rigby, Penny Lane, All You Need Is Love, The Fool On The Hill, Lady Madonna, Hey Jude, Get Back, Let It Be, The Long And Winding Road, Band On The Run, My Love.....These were written by McCartney alone. Lennon wrote Norwegian Wood, In My Life, Strawberry Fields Forever, I Am The Walrus, Revolution, The Ballad Of John And Yoko, Imagine, Whatever Gets You Through The Night, #9 Dream, Mind Games, Give Peace A Chance.....Your attempt to ignore these facts suggest an agenda, or more likely an ego. Best of luck with that.
you all forgot Ian Curtis
How in the world can you consider Ian Curtis a singer songwriter and not Paul McCartney? To assume that Bernard Sumner(albrecht, whatever he was going by at the time), Peter Hook, and Stephen Morris did not have as much to do with Joy Divisions music is just plain wrong.

Peter Hook's bass and Stephen Morris' drums were just as much a signature of the Joy Division sound as Ian's haunting voice and words. Bernard's guitars and keyboards set just as bleak a picture as any other part of the songwriting. These four men, and later 3 men and a woman were the epitome of a songwriting collective. All songs written by Joy Division. Not Curtis/Albrecht or Curtis/Hook.

All of their later side projects just went to prove that the whole was greater than the sum of their parts.

Justin P
1.) If, 100 years from now, any 20th Century pop lyricist is to be recognized as a great poet, it will be Ian Curtis.

2.) The jarring contrast between the sterile, unimaginative recordings of New Order, and the profundity of the extant Joy Division recordings, only serves to heighten my esteem for Ian Curtis. Maybe Ian doesn't deserve all the credit for all the the songs attributed to Joy Divison, but the other three sure the hell couldn't write a decent song without him.

3.) No matter how crappy New Order were, they never ever released a song that was half as lame as "Silly Love Songs" or "Coming Up." The fact that these two songs came from someone as undeniably talented as McCartney makes them all the more inexcusable.
I find it difficult to ever call New Order unimaginative. I can understand why some people would not necessarily like New Order, however I have never heard anybody say they weren't good.
Besides, your thread is entitled The Top 25 Singer/Songwriters. Not top 25 pop lyricists.
Tweekgeek, since you can see 100 years into the future I was hoping for some cool stock picks. My portfolio is really bleeding and, at this point, I suppose I have the time to wait.
Steve Earl and Joe Ely
1.Robert Johnson
2.Muddy waters
3.Chuck Berry
4.Bobby D.
5.John Lennon
6.The Boss
7.Paul Mcartney
8.Buddy Holly
9.Kieth & Mick
10.Townes Van Zandt
11.Randy Newman
12.Hank Williams
13.Lefty Frazell
14.Peter Case
15.Steve Forbert
16.Cole Porter
17.Carol King
18.Merle Haggard
19.Tom Waits
20 Al green
21.Sam Cooke
22.John Fogerty
23.Fat's Waller
24.Willie Dixon
25. I will probably have a different list tomarrow
I believe that McCartney should be given a mulligan for "Silly Love Songs". It would be unfair to judge Joe Montana based upon 1 or 2 interceptions. But you seem to be doing that with McCartney. BTW.....Tom Waits writes many songs with his wife....I guess he is disqualified.
Robert Earl Keen
I rate Paul McCartney, not solely on the basis of his best work, and not solely on the basis of his worst. Paul McCartney: when he was good, he was really good, when he was bad, we was really, really bad. McCartney is going to need far more than one mulligan for his mostly lamentable solo career.

To further torture your quarterback analogy, with The Beatles, Paul McCartney may well have been the Joe Montana of pop songwriters, but since The Beatles disintegrated, he has become Ryan Leaf.
Tweakgeek-I wouldn't argue too much with your list actually however I think you really need Lennon and McCartney in there basically because they really did write most of their best stuff as individuals-it's well documented from '65 onwards they seldom wrote together .
I'd much prefer a Todd Rundgren to a Marc Bolan,or a Kate Bush to a Lucinda Williams but it's really down to individual taste.
Mark Eitzel,Peter Gabriel,Paul Simon would also be on my list......oh and just to make you happy I find it laughable you rate Weller above Bowie.
Just a few final points to what has become a silly discussion. In keeping with the quarterback analogy....I don't agree with the Montana-Leaf comparison. More like Montana-Peyton Manning. Either way, it doesn't take away from his achievements as "Montana". A point you seem to be blithely dancing around. A feat even Baryshnikov could not do. I am left wondering if he refused you an autograph, or cut you off in traffic....or perhaps shot your dog. As art is subjective, you are entitled to your opinion, but by all objective standards....McCartney belongs on ANY list of great singer-songwriters. One final point....McCartney's "Silly Love Songs" , based on sales and radio play, has touched far more lives , and brought more smiles to people, than Geeks Tweaking could ever hope to. Put that into your tube amp & smoke it.
The last sentence of my previous post was a poor attempt at levity. It does not read that way, and I apologize. Cheers
And I thought it was your comment about "Silly Love Songs" bringing smiles to people that was an attempt at levity! Sorry, but that song has the opposite effect on me.