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Top 20 Songwriters of All Time in Rock and Pop Music

The best songwriters in the history of music from the last 75 years. There is more to a song that the art of singing it or playing the instruments. It takes a good songwriter. If the song is not well written, the best voice in the world won't make it right. There are a handful of  talented songwriters out there who have shaped the history of music, far too many to be listed. However, some rise to the top. Here are the best songwriters. The first five are a tie for 1st place. It's really hard to rank these five top 

1 - Bob Dylan certainly has had an influence on music. His songs have been recorded by dozens of top-20 artists, and his prolific writing style propelled the 60s into the 70s. He is doubtless in the Top 5.

2 - Elton John and Bernie Taupin, possibly the best writing team of all time. The #1 hits are too many to count, from Philadelphia Freedom to Your Song and more.

3 - Diane Warren. She wrote for everyone from Alice Cooper to NSYNC, Celine Dion and Aerosmith, Gloria Estafan, Cher, Heart, Michael Bolton, the list goes on. Over 50 top-40 songs for other artists, and stayed in the shadows or on the sidelines, propelling others to fame. Diane Warren has been a force in music, a talented songwriter.

4 - Prince was a legend with the pen. He wrote and arranged songs not only for himself, but also for many other artists from Cindi Lauper to Stevie Nicks, Sheena Easton, Madonna, the Bangles... the list goes on. Prince was a genius song writer. Few could hold a candle to him.

5 - Paul McCartney, both in the Beatles and Wings, his songs were unmatched.

5/tie - John Lennon also fared well with songwriting. Imagine a world without Lennon. It would be bleak. Thanks for the tunes.

6 - Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull has written over 300 songs spread over 23 studio albums for Tull and 3 solo albums. Prolific and talented in the prog-rock, folk rock and hard rock arenas, occasionally heavy metal, often mixing genres. His songs have been recorded by dozens of other artists, and we bet you never knew he wrote them. He is also the only writer on our list who wrote a 44 minute song - Thick as a Brick. Check out the Longest Rock Songs Ever Recorded.

7 - Carole King, a prolific songwriter who got her start writing for others and finally recorded her on her own. Tapestry was an important album in pop music. 

8 -  David Bowie, a monster song writer who wrote such incredible hits as Fame, Ziggy Stardust, Space Oddity (Major Tom), Heroes, Cat People.... the list goes on. He even collaborated with Queen on Under Pressure, which brings us to:

9 - Freddie Mercury and Brian May of Queen. Tied at this spot. Both helped define the 70s and 80s and brought music to a whole new level. Listen to their second album Queen II and tell us this isn't brilliant songwriting. We Will Rock You... they rocked us, but they also moved us.

10 - Chuck Berry, a prolific songwriter that laid the groundwork for many others to come. From Jonny B. Goode to Reelin & a Rockin, and on and on... his songs are too many to count.

11 - Harry Chapin. He wrote many "story" songs that are unforgettable. Best known for Cats in the Cradle, A Better Place to Be and Taxi, he was a talented storyteller and songs were his medium.

12 - Robin Gibb wrote most of the Bee Gees songs, along with his brothers, Barry and Maurice, but we bet you didn't know he wrote many songs for other artists too. A dozen hit #1, including Islands in the Stream (Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton). A dozen more hit the Top 20, including for Destiny's Child and Barbara Streisand. Not to mention nine #1 hits for the Bee Gees. Remember Saturday Night Fever?

13 - Roger Waters and David Gilmour of Pink Floyd wrote some of the most memorable songs in prog rock history. The Wall double album stands as a masterpiece of writing and arrangements, as do the Final Cut and Wish You Were Here.

14 - George Harrison certainly did well with songs like Here Comes The Sun, mostly propelled by his Beatles fame.

15 - John Fogerty wrote for Creedance Clearwater Revival as well as a solo career that spanned 30 years combined.

16 - Paul Simon is still remembered for his work with Simon & Garfunkel, The Cyrkle, Chad & Jeremy, The Seekers and others.

17 - Joni  Mitchell, her songs are like poetry

18 - Michael Jackson had a string of top hits, cleverly penned and choreographed. Billie Jean to The Way You Make Me Feel, many were written by Michael. Some, including Thriller (Rod Temperton), were written by others.

19 - Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys certainly wrote a lot to be proud of. He wrote for Glen Campbell, Jan and Dean, as well as - of course - The Beach Boys. 

20 - James Taylor was a craftsman on the writing stage. There's more to James than Fire and Rain.

Honorable Mention on Top2040.com songwriters:

Max Martin. You may not recognize the name Max Martin, but this Swedish songwriter has written songs for Brittney Spears, Celine Dion, Backstreet Boys, Taylor Swift and dozens more. Unfortunately, he is known for writing the most songs that regularly make it on the "most annoying songs" lists on the net. A lot of his songs are poppy and without meaning. But.... he wrote a lot. It may be unlikeable but it was successful.

Neil Diamond wrote a great many hits for himself but also for others.

Laura Nyro wrote for herself as well as Barbara Streisand and the Fifth Dimension.

Bob Seger certainly deserves his shot at the spotlight for songs like Turn The Page and Night Moves, and many others, and the most overplayed TV commercial of all time: Like a Rock. Wait... was that a song first?

Lindsay Buckingham together with Stevie Nicks penned some great songs both solo and together.

Jimmy Page and Robert Planet wrote Stairway to Heaven and most of the Led Zeppelin catalog.

These were the greatest songwriters, some the most prolific songwriters in pop and rock music.

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