Top 10 Artists of All Time: Honorable Mentions


photo illustration by Caleb Orr

This series will count down the top ten artists of all time according to Eagle Eye writer Caleb Orr. But first, check out the artists who almost made the list.

Are The Beatles or The Beach Boys better, or should their music even be compared? Is it better for one person to write and perform music or for multiple people to achieve the same feat?

Like any art form, people have been debating which popular artists are the best since the invention of rock and roll in the 1950s.

After some consideration and looking at multiple lists online, I decided to make my own top ten list of the greatest artists of all time. The criteria on which the list is based is…

  • Songwriting ability
  • Individual musical talent
  • General sound

After each artist is reviewed, I will have a section devoted to other interesting facts or reasons that they should be where they are in the list.

Before we get to the top ten, take a look at a few honorable mentions:

Rush Album Cover
Anthem Records

Rush.Β Talk about the best power trio of all time. Neil Peart, Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson formed possibly the most technically skilled rock band ever, and had some of the most well-written lyrics as well. Neil Peart is arguably one of the greatest drummers of all time, with some of the most intricate drum solos that last an eternity and has one of the most complex drum kits in the world to beat. If Geddy Lee only played bass, he’d still be one of the best musicians ever, but he did much more than that. In fact, Geddy Lee was able to play bass guitar, keyboard, and singΒ at the same time. Few artists would have ever been able to achieve this feat let alone make it sound good. For Rush, it doesn’t stop there. Alex Lifeson also was one of the greatest of all time in his own instrument as well; take a look at some of the riffing in “Xanadu” or “2112” and you’ll be blown away by the speed and precision he had while playing his double necked guitar.

On top of all this, Rush had some of the most complex and deep lyrics of all artists. From songs about the decision from what to believe in religiously and free will, to philosophy inspired from well respected books, to even what society perceives people to be versus what the individual thinks of them self, Rush was able to encompass some mind bending lyrics, unbeatable musical talent and an inventive style in their songs, all the while being popular to almost all rock fans.

EMI Records
EMI Records

Queen.Β British rock band Queen was arguably the best operatic rock band ever. No one seemed to be even close to topping the band in their respective genre, and to top it off they had a remarkable line up. Everyone regards lead singer Freddy Mercury as one of, if not the best singer of all time. His vocal range was just over three octaves (rumored to be four) and was able to switch to new singing styles effortlessly. Additionally, guitarist Brian May was regarded as one of the most creative guitarists ever. He was the first to make legitimate three-part harmonies like his solo in “Killer Queen.” He also made “a palatial wall of sound” with his guitar layering according to Rolling Stone magazine. Aside from their talent, Queen was able to influence many artists because of their diverse music. From operatic pieces like “Bohemian Rhapsody” and “Don’t Stop Me Now,” to thrash metal like “Stone Cold Crazy,”all the way to gospel-esque tracks like “Somebody to Love,” Queen did it all.

Queen seemed to be one of the bands ahead of the game. Some of their songs were part of a genre that didn’t even exist yet. Freddy was on top of the world as a mechanical singer and it may be one of the reasons why no one took operatic rock to a further level. No one had a voice like Freddy and a brainiac guitarist like Brian in one band. Queen used their sheer talent and inventive style to create one of rock’s most diverse bands ever.

Sub Pop
Sup Pop

Nirvana.Β The Seattle Trio changed music much like The Beatles despite their difference in sound. Nirvana was tired of the same manufactured corporate music that dominated the late 80’s and early 90’s, so they decided to make a new approach. And people loved it. They sounded raw, messy, and textured, which put them in a huge contrast to other popular bands at the time. Kurt Cobain’s heavily distorted guitar, Dave Grohl’s pillow-like drums and Krist Novoselic’s echoing bass led to a new breed of rock; grunge. Cobain was able to pour so much passion and energy into his vocals all while maintaining the loud-quiet-loud arrangement the band had always held so close, and Grohl was able to give his sound support by his simple yet effective fills.

Nirvana was the most influential band of the 90’s even though they only produced three studio albums. Despite Kurt Cobain’s untimely death in 1994, their legacy lives on in many forms. The band started a wave of heavy alternative music that ended up completely dominating the rest of the 90’s. Greats like Weezer, Green Day, The Smashing Pumpkins and more came about thanks to Nirvana’s inventive music that would change rock forever.