The greatest singing voices of all time (2023)

Whether it's a soaring soprano or distinctive baritone, a great voice is the cornerstone of great music. When paired with stunning compositions and expert instrumentation, an iconic voice helps create iconic songs. Flip through the slideshow below for a look at the all-time great voices in music, ranging from R&B icons to opera stars, pop chanteuses and everyone in between.

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Celine Dion

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This French-Canadian vocal powerhouse made her U.S. debut in 1990 after topping the charts in Canada. From there, it was only up for Dion, whose incredible soprano is the backbone of #1 hits like "My Heart Will Go On" and "Because You Loved Me." Dion has sold more than 250 million albums globally, won 5 Grammy Awards, and holds multiple BIllboard chart records.

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Barbra Streisand

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A truly prolific talent who's earned the coveted EGOT — an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony — Barbra Streisand's distinctive voice has been a fixture of American music since the 1960s. Throughout the years, she's recorded 50 full-length albums, and notched hits with songs like "Woman in Love" and "Why Did I Choose You."

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Etta James

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Best known for her iconic love song “At Last,” Etta James’ powerful voice was soaked in her own real-life pain. After originally finding success in the early 1960s with songs like “All I Could Do Is Cry” and “I’d Rather Go Blind,” James staged a musical comeback in the late 1980s, releasing multiple albums and finding a new audience for her most memorable songs.

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Nina Simone

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If she had only recorded "Feelin' Good," which appears on her legendary 1965 album "I Put A Spell On You," it would have been enough to merit Nina Simone's inclusion among the music world's greatest singers.

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Aretha Franklin

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Rightfully bestowed with the title of Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin’s inimitable voice propelled songs like “Respect” and “I Say A Little Prayer For You” into worldwide hits. She also stars in the most memorable scene from the 1980 film "The Blues Brothers," with a truly iconic performance of her song “Think.”

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Whitney Houston

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Arguably the best-known singer of her generation, there will never be another voice like Whitney Houston’s. From stunning ballads like her cover of Dolly Parton’s “ I Will Always Love You” and “I Have Nothing” to infectious pop hits like “I Wanna Dance With Somebody,” Houston’s influence on R&B was both singular and lasting.

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Smokey Robinson

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From his time in the Miracles to a long career as a solo Motown legend, Smokey Robinson's career has been powered by his silky smooth voice. Listen to "Tears of a Clown" or "Cruisin'" for proof.

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Mariah Carey

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With a vocal range that spans five full octaves, Mariah Carey’s whistle notes are her signature, but that’s not all that Carey brings to the table. Both an accomplished songwriter and enduring vocalist, Carey has charted 18 No. 1 hits, sold more than 200 albums, and continues to release albums, including 2018’s "Caution."

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Andrea Bocelli

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Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli helped introduce many a music listener to opera standards, thanks to his lush, colorful timbre. He's a prolific artist, having recorded more than 15 full-length pop and classical albums, and has collaborated with everyone from Celine Dion to country star Alison Krauss.

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Elton John

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Equally famed for his piano playing and singing, Elton John has had a remarkable influence over pop music since the early 1970s when he released songs such as "Your Song", Tiny Dancer" and "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road." Throughout the decades, John has continued to blaze his own trail, also writing and recording songs for Disney’s "The Lion King" and Broadway musical "Aida." In 2019, John became the subject of his own biopic, "Rocketman."

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Freddie Mercury

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There is perhaps no voice more singular than the soaring baritone of Queen frontman Freddie Mercury. In addition to iconic hits with Queen such as “Bohemian Rhapsody” and “Don’t Stop Me Now,” Mercury also recorded a 1987 album alongside opera legend Montserrat Caballe, a record that shows the stunning diversity of Mercury’s vocal ability.

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Adele

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From the first notes of her 2008 debut album, "19," it was clear that British singer Adele was born to be a star. With a powerful, soulful timbre and uncanny ability to infuse emotion into the songs that she’s written for herself, Adele has become modern music’s finest purveyor of breakup tunes like “Someone Like You” and “Rumor Has It.”

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Prince

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Born Prince Rogers Nelson in 1958, no artist has had quite the influence on music that Prince has. Both a striking vocalist and legendary guitarist, songs like “Purple Rain” and “Nothing Compares 2U,” Prince brought incredible artistry to his singing that’s impossible to replicate.

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Frank Sinatra

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An actor, singer, and godfather of blue-eyed soul, Sinatra’s distinctive crooning turned songs like “Fly Me To The Moon” and “My Way” into hallmarks of American music. Despite a tumultuous life and inspiring plenty of controversy, Sinatra’s influence can still be seen today in artists like Michael Buble.

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Janis Joplin

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Although her life was tragically cut short at the age of 27 after a heroin overdose, Janis Joplin’s raw and emotive vocals are a hallmark of ‘70s rock. And for those lucky enough to have seen her perform, Joplin’s voice on songs like “Piece of My Heart” and “Me and Bobby McGee” was reportedly much more powerful and electric in person.

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Billie Holiday

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Known by her contemporaries as the legendary Lady Day, Billie Holiday’s voice is arguably the most recognizable — and influential — in jazz music. She is perhaps best remembered by her iconic song “Lady Sings The Blues,” a devastatingly sad track that exemplifies her vocal intensity.

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Linda Ronstadt

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One of the biggest-selling artists in music history, Linda Ronstadt has sold more than 100 million records spanning rock, country, and pop music. From her hit “You’re No Good” to "Trio," a collaboration with fellow singers Dolly Parton and Emmylou Harris, Ronstadt’s clear and resonant voice makes her an American icon.

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Mick Jagger

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As the frontman of the Rolling Stones, Mick Jagger has earned as much of a reputation for his energetic performance style as he has for his distinctive voice. Since the Stones stormed onto the scene in the early 1960s, Jagger’s vocals have turned songs like “ (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” and “Start Me Up” into massive global hits.

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Amy Winehouse

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Even though her impact on modern music was brief, Brit Amy Winehouse revitalized the world’s interest in slow, bluesy standards with her 2006 album "Back to Black." The album’s title track, along with songs like “You Know I’m No Good” and “Stronger Than Me,” exemplify the sadness that dominated Winehouse’s artistic approach.

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Luciano Pavarotti

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Opera music hasn’t managed to break into the modern pop music scene much, but when it has, tenor Luciano Pavarotti has often been involved. The Italian tenor is widely regarded as one of the most successful opera singers of all time, introducing pop audiences to classical singing while turning out stunning performances in iconic operas like "La Boheme." His version of the opera classic “Nessun Dorma” is particularly noteworthy.

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David Bowie

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Dubbed the “Starman,” David Bowie is as well-known for his distinctive style and artistic ethos as he is an iconic vocalist, but that shouldn’t discount just how strong Bowie was as a singer. Listen to “Under Pressure,” Bowie’s collaboration with Freddie Mercury, to hear two of pop music’s most iconic vocalists rock out.

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Sam Cooke

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An activist and unparalleled soul singer, Sam Cooke has often been called the King of Soul, and for good reason. His politically charged songs like “A Change Is Gonna Come” influenced a generation, and love songs like “Bring It On Home to Me” endure as sterling examples of the form, long after Cooke’s untimely death in 1964.

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Patsy Cline

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Even though Patsy Cline's life and career were cut short when she died in a plane crash, her outsized influence on country music vocals cannot be understated. After topping the charts with songs like “Walkin’ After Midnight” and “Crazy,” the latter of which was penned by Willie Nelson, Cline continues to influence major modern country singers like Trisha Yearwood, Miranda Lambert, and Wynonna Judd.

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Johnny Cash

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The iconic “Man In Black,” Johnny Cash is still recognized as one of country music’s most noteworthy voices. His gravelly baritone heard on songs like “Folsom Prison Blues” and “I Walk The Line,” endured throughout Cash’s life, evidenced by his stunning final album, "American IV: The Man Comes Around," released in 2002.

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Elvis Presley

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There’s a reason why Elvis Presley was dubbed the King of Rock 'n' Roll, and his booming bass voice had no small part in earning that title. On songs like “Heartbreak Hotel” and “Don’t Be Cruel,” Presley’s crooning exemplifies the midcentury American sound.

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Maria Callas

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Widely recognized as one of the world’s greatest voices, Greek soprano Maria Callas broke the mold of a true operatic diva. Dubbed “La Divina,” Callas’ performances of operas like "Madame Butterfly" earned her a reputation as one of the finest sopranos in history and, paired with her off-stage antics and personal tragedy, built a cult following.

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Beyonce

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Some may dispute Beyonce’s place among the world’s greatest singers, but those people are deeply misinformed. An unparalleled performer, songwriter, and creative force, Beyonce is also an incredible vocalist — just listen to “Halo” and “Drunk In Love” for proof.

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Al Green

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There is perhaps no male voice in soul that’s richer or more recognizable than Al Green’s. Even if he had only released “Let’s Stay Together,” his seminal 1972 album and song of the same name, Green would have been a superstar on those merits alone.

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Robert Plant

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Led Zeppelin frontman Robert Plant’s vocals turned songs like “Stairway to Heaven” and “Kashmir” into decades-enduring hits. But Plant isn’t just a rock star. In 2007, Plant teamed up with fellow bluegrass singer Alison Krauss for "Raising Sand," a gorgeous Americana album that won the duo a Grammy Award.

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Ann Wilson

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One half of ‘80s rock duo Heart, Ann Wilson best exemplifies her soaring vocals on songs like “Barracuda” and “Crazy on You.”

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Hank Williams

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One of the most influential figures in country music, Hank Williams’ vocals are both distinctive and responsible for inspiring more than one generation of country artists. His biggest hits, including “Hey Good Lookin’” and “Your Cheatin’ Heart,” continue to endure as some of the finest examples of country songs in music history.

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Selena Quintanilla Perez

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Responsible for bringing the longstanding Tejano genre into the mainstream, Selena Quintanilla’s lush vocals turned songs like “Dreaming of You” into crossover hits and helped introduce white Americans to the rich and vibrant world of Latino music in her home state of Texas and beyond.

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Paul McCartney

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There’s really no way to overstate the influence that Paul McCartney has had on rock and pop music. Since the beginnings of the Beatles, McCartney has been a major fixture in music, writing iconic tracks like “Hey Jude,” and he continues to delight audiences with music from his solo career, including songs like “Live and Let Die” and “Maybe I’m Amazed.”

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Kelly Clarkson

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After winning the first season of "American Idol," Kelly Clarkson has gone on to become one of the most powerful voices in popular music. She’s sold millions of records, inspired countless singalongs to tracks like “Since U Been Gone” and “My Life Would Suck Without You,” and she served as an inspiration to up-and-coming female singers everywhere.

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Stevie Wonder

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“Lovely” is arguably the best adjective to describe Stevie Wonder’s voice, which rings out over his impeccable piano playing on songs like “Superstition” and “Isn’t She Lovely,” the latter of which was written about Wonder’s daughter, Aisha.

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