The 30 Most Influential People In Rock Music - We Are Rock Nation

The 30 Most Influential People In Rock Music

By rocknation / March 14, 2016

In no particular order, here are thirty of the most influential figures in rock music.

30) Chuck Berry

A pioneer of early rock, Chuck Berry developed rhythm and blues into an accessible rock and roll. His style has influenced countless musicians.

He had several hits in the 60’s and was one of the first musicians to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986.

29)Syd Barrett

Syd Barrett is credited with naming the band Pink Floyd and was the lead singer, guitarist and principal songwriter for that band.

He experimented with techniques with the guitar that like distortion and feedback that influenced David Bowie and Brian Eno.


28) Trent Reznor

Trent Reznor is best known for his work in the industrial rock band Nine Inch Nails.

He’s transcended mediums writing scores for counterculture classic films, and was described by Spin magazine as “the most vital artist in music.”

27) Grace Slick

Grace Slick was the lead singer of the 1960’s rock band Jefferson Airplane. She’s best known for the song “White Rabbit” which incited reflections upon hallucinations and was a hit in the psychedelic rock scene of the SF Bay Area and beyond.

26) George Martin

While it’s true that George Martin was not the only person ever called “The Fifth Beatle,” his influence on the Beatles is undeniable.

He produced every Beatles record except for *Let it Be*, and added the famous string arrangement in “Eleanor Rigby.”

25) Brian Wilson

Brian Wilson was the lead singer and co-founder of the Beach Boys. He co-wrote more than twenty-five Top 40 hits for the group, and composed *Pet Sounds*, which is considered one of the greatest rock albums ever made. His unorthodox approach to recording and arrangement has garnered him acclaim from critics and musicians.

24) Lou Reed

Lou Reed was the frontman for the Velvet Underground prior to his solo career. Although first cited a commercial failure, that group went on to gain a cult following and become one of the most widely influential bands of the 1960’s. His biggest solo hit was “Walk on the Wild Side.”

23) Patti Smith

Patti Smith paved the way for punk rock with her highly influential debut album *Horses.*

Her song “Because the Night,” reached number 13 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in 1978.

She’s been listed as an influence by artists such as Michael Stipe, Shirley Manson, and The Smiths.

22) Muddy Waters

Muddy Waters was an American blues musician often called “the father of the blues.”

Rock musicians such as the Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix, and Led Zeppelin not only covered his songs but called him one of their biggest influences.

21) Slash

Saul Hudson, or Slash, was the lead guitarist of Guns N’ Roses. He achieved worldwide success with that group then went on to form Snake’s Snakepit, then co-founded Velvet Revolver. As a guitarist he has achieved worldwide recognition.

20) Bono

Bono was born Paul David Hewson. He’s won many awards with U2 including 22 Grammy Awards and has employed several rock alter-egos, including “The Fly.”

In November 2008, Rolling Stone Magazine named Bono the “32nd greatest singer of all time.”

19) Morrissey

Morrissey rose to fame with the lead singer and writer of the Smiths.

The Smiths have been called “the most important alternative rock band to emerge from Britain in the 1980’s.” In his solo career, Morrissey has made the top 10 of the UK Singles Chart on ten occasions.

18) Debbie Harry

Debbie Harry is better known the lead singer of the punk rock/new wave band Blondie. During the 1970’s and 1980’s she recorded several worldwide number hits and quickly became a punk icon.

17) Jimmy Page

Jimmy Page became a household name for his work as the guitarist and founder of Led Zeppelin. Guitarists Johnny Ramone, Brian May, Tim Scholz, and Eddie Van Halen have all called Page to be a significant influence to their music.

16) Robert Smith

Robert Smith is the lead singer and principal songwriter of the The Cure. As a rock icon, he’s made a career based upon his stage look as well as his new wave guitar techniques.

He is cited as being a major inspiration to filmmaker Tim Burton.


15) Pat Benatar

Pat Benatar achieved massive commercial success within America and Canada with 15 Top 40 singles and five certified Platinum albums.

She was one most heavily played artists on MTV and the first female artist to have a video run on that station.

14) Joan Jett

Joan Jett is best known for her work with the Blackhearts.

Their single “I Love Rock and Roll” was number 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for nearly 3 months, and was called the Queen of Rock and Roll and the Godmother of Punk.

13) Janis Joplin

Janis Joplin was the lead singer of a several psychedelic rock bands in the 1960’s. As a solo artist Joplin rose to fame after her performance at the Monterey Pop Festival.

She remains one of the top-selling musicians in the U.S. to present day.

12) Stevie Nicks

Best known as the lead singer from Fleetwood Mac, Stevie Nicks has sold more than 140 million albums. She’s been coined “The Reigning Queen of Rock and Roll,” and influenced artists from Sheryl Crow to Courtney Love.

11) Michael Stipe

Michael Stipe was the lead singer of the rock band R.E.M. He formulated not only their lyrics but also their visual image. Though all members of R.E.M. had equal recognition for songwriting, Stipe apparently devised the majority of their hits.

10) Iggy Pop

Iggy Pop is the vocalist of The Stooges. He’s been able to transcend multiple genres within rock from new wave to blues, with multiple hits including “Lust for Life,” and “I Wanna Be Your Dog.”

9) Martin Gore

Martin Gore is the founder and chief songwriter for Depeche Mode. Within his 40 year career, he’s composed hits like “Personal Jesus,” and received the Igor Novello award for International Achievement.

8) Kurt Cobain

The front-man of Nirvana, Kurt Cobain was the face of the grunge rock movement in popular culture.

He grew up feeling haunted by his parent’s divorce and was “the spokesman of a generation” of youth that felt alienated in the loss of a traditional family unit. Cobain found international success with Nirvana, who have to date sold over 75 million albums worldwide.

7) Jimi Hendrix

Jimi Hendrix was a rock guitarist who had a short commercial career but created a lasting legacy.

He is known as one of the most influential electric guitarists in rock music history; coined “arguably the greatest instrumentalist in the history of rock music.”

6) Jim Morrison

Jim Morrison is iconic for his style and lyricism as the frontman of The Doors. He bridged poetry and rock and became a counter-culture icon.

He is said to have influenced Iggy Pop, Layne Stanley, and Scott Weiland to name a few.

5) Eddie Van Halen

Eddie Van Halen is known for his work as the lead guitarist and co-founder of the hard rock band Van Halen. His work as a guitarist incorporates several percussive techniques such as two-handed tapping and tremolo picking.He has been reported to have greatly influenced Brian May from Queen.

4) Frank Black

Frank Black is the frontman of the Pixies and also has had a successful solo career. His distinctive vocal style and cryptic lyrics frequently reference the bible and surrealism and have influenced artists such as Thom Yorke and Kurt Cobain.

3) David Bowie

David Bowie was an active and innovative contributor to rock for more than five decades.

His record sales are estimated at more than 140 million worldwide, but even more staggering was his ability to drift between different alter-egos and genres of rock, from glam-rock, to experimental-rock, to pop-rock.


2) Neil Young

Neil Young co-founded the bands Buffalo Springfield and Crosby, Stills, & Nash before beginning an acclaimed solo career that has spanned over 45 years. His characteristic style has influenced styles from alternative rock to folk.

1) John Lennon

John Lennon was one of the co-founders of the Beatles.

After three years of playing clubs throughout Liverpool and Hamburg they were introduced to the world as the “fab four,” thus beginning the phenomenon known as “Beatlemania.” His solo career was met with critical acclaim and tempered with his devotion to social change.

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