The British Invasion of the 1960s introduced a new sound to North America, starting with Beatlemania. Many great bands followed across the pond in the early 70s, with the Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, and The Who soon topping the charts.
Some of the greatest British singers emerged from this era. Powerful voices combined with electric stage performances propelled these artists and their bands to sell millions of records worldwide.
Here is the quintessential list of 15 of the greatest and most famous British singers of the 1970s.
1. Freddie Mercury
A good place to start is with Farrokh Bulsara, better known as Freddie Mercury, who was born in the British protectorate of Zanzibar. He would go on to become widely regarded as the greatest rock singer to have ever lived.
In 1964, Mercury moved with his family to Feltham, Middlesex, just west of London. It is here where he met Roger Taylor and Brian May and joined their band Smile.
When bassist John Deacon was added in 1971, they reformed as Queen and would become one of the best-selling acts of all time.
Throughout the 1970s, Mercury wrote many of the band’s greatest hits, including “Killer Queen,” “Bohemian Rhapsody,” and “We Are the Champions.”
He would be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame posthumously in 2001.
2. David Bowie
Born in London in 1947, David Robert Jones changed his name to David Bowie early in his career to separate himself from another English singer, Davy Jones, who would go on to success as the frontman of the Monkees.
Bowie was one of the more influential figures throughout the 70s with his shifting personas and elaborate stage performances.
His album Young Americans (1975) featured the single “Fame,” giving Bowie his first taste of success in the US.
Bowie would reinvent himself yet again as the 70s gave way to the 80s with his biggest commercial success, “Let’s Dance” (1983). Over his career, Bowie would release 11 number-one albums.
3. John Lennon
John Lennon was born in Liverpool, England, and would skyrocket to worldwide fame as singer and co-songwriter for the Beatles.
When the band broke up in 1969, Lennon moved to New York City to pursue a solo career and a life of political activism.
With his wife, Yoko Ono, Lennon’s music began to mirror his far-left political ideology. This landed him in trouble with then-US President Richard Nixon’s administration which attempted to have him deported for years.
Lennon’s 1971 album “Imagine” would have moderate success, but the title track would become a rallying cry for the anti-war movement. The soulful song about peace would achieve chart-topping success following Lennon’s murder by a crazed fan in 1980.
4. Elton John
Elton John dominated the 1970s with several chart-topping albums and his signature glam-rock performances.
Born Reginald Kenneth Dwight in Pinner, Middlesex, England, John would team up with songwriting partner Bernie Taupin to form one of the most successful collaborations in music history.
“Don’t Shoot Meet I’m Only the Piano Player” and “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road,” both released in 1973, would reach number one in several countries.
John is one of the best-selling music artists of all time, with over 300 million records sold worldwide. Sir Elton John was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 1998 for his contributions to music and his philanthropic efforts for AIDS awareness.
5. Mick Jagger
Mick Jagger grew up in Dartford, Kent, where he went to primary school with future bandmate Keith Richards. Little did they know at the time that they would become one of the most successful rock bands in music history.
In a career that has lasted over sixty years, Jagger has had unprecedented success with 13 number-one singles on the US and UK charts and over 70 singles that cracked the Top 40. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1989.
6. Robert Plant
Perhaps no singer personifies the image of ‘rock god’ than Led Zeppelin’s frontman Robert Plant. His bare chest, flowing blond mane, and ridiculous vocal range made the band one of the most successful rock acts of all time.
Plant was born in West Bromwich, Staffordshire, England. He left home at the age of 16 and bounced around a few bands, honing his skills as a blues singer.
When Plant was introduced to guitarist Jimmy Page in the late 60s, Led Zeppelin was born. The band would influence a new genre of music that would become heavy metal. Rolling Stone ranked Plant the number one greatest lead singer of all time.
7. Paul McCartney
Sir Paul McCartney reached stardom as a member of the Beatles in the 1960s. However, he proved that he could achieve his own success in the 1970s when he formed his band, Wings.
Born in Liverpool, McCartney released his eponymous debut album, McCartney, in 1970 and had a hit single with “Maybe I’m Amazed.” The album hit number one in the US. A year later, he would form Wings, a tall task following the Beatles’ success.
Wings would have several smash hits throughout the 70s. They would hit number one with “Band on the Run” and “Live and Let Die,” the latter the theme song for a James Bond film that would earn McCartney and Wings an Academy Award nomination.
8. Olivia Newton-John
Born in Cambridge, United Kingdom, Olivia Newton-John’s family moved to Melbourne, Australia, when she was six. At age 14, she formed a girl group with three of her classmates and sang in a coffee shop.
Newton-John would have a string of hits throughout the 1970s. She began her career with a country style, earning a Grammy Award for Best Country Female in 1973 with “Let Me Be There.”
Newton-John’s pop success soared when she starred opposite John Travolta in the movie Grease. It would be the biggest box-office success of 1978, with the soundtrack producing three top-five singles for Newton-John: “You’re the One That I Want,” “Hopelessly Devoted to You,” and “Summer Nights.”
9. Rod Stewart
“Rod the Mod” Stewart was born in Highgate, London, England, and is known for his raspy singing voice. He grew up wanting to become a professional footballer before turning to his second love, music.
Stewart’s third solo release, Every Picture Tells a Story (1971), would make Stewart a household name with the hit, “Maggie May.” The song would reach number one on charts in the US, UK, and Australia.
Stewart would shift his style with the times, glamming it up for the 1978 album Blondes Have More Fun featuring the disco hit, ‘Do Ya Think I’m Sexy?’ With a career spanning six decades, Stewart is considered one of the most successful artists of all time.
10. Roger Daltrey
As co-founder and lead singer of the rock band The Who, Roger Daltrey is another British singer who is the epitome of a rock god: long hair, glam look, and a powerful vocal range.
Born in London, England, Daltrey went to primary school with future bandmates Pete Townshend and John Entwhistle. Throughout the 70s, they would dominate the rock charts with hits like “Pinball Wizard,” “Won’t Get Fooled Again,” and “Baba O’Riley.”
Daltrey would also show off his acting chops, playing the title role in the 1975 rock opera Tommy. Daltrey has had a solo career alongside his time with The Who, releasing eight studio albums.
11. Joe Cocker
Known for his wild hair, gritty vocals, and contorting body movements on stage, Joe Cocker would turn cover songs uniquely into his own.
Cocker first scored recognition with his rendition of the Beatles’ “With a Little Help From My Friends.” This success would spawn several US tours that turned Cocker into a household name. Covers of “Feelin’ Alright” and his signature hit “You Are So Beautiful” would secure his place as one of Britain’s great vocalists.
Despite an ongoing struggle with alcoholism, Cocker enjoyed a 43-year career and released 22 studio albums. In 2008 he received an OBE for his contributions to music.
12. Peter Gabriel
Peter Gabriel has had two very successful music careers, one as the lead singer of the prog-rock band Genesis in the first half of the 70s and as a solo artist ever since.
Growing up in Chobham, England, Gabriel formed a band with schoolmates that would later become Genesis. Gabriel left Genesis in 1975 following a 102-date concert tour in support of their sixth album, “The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway.”
Gabriel would gain solo success with the release of his first single, “Solsbury Hill.” His first four studio albums were all titled Peter Gabriel.
He would go on to win six Grammy Awards and be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2010 with Genesis, then again in 2014 as a solo artist.
13. Peter Frampton
Born in Beckenham, Kent, England, Peter Frampton became a teen idol at 16 as lead singer and guitarist for The Herd. He began his rise to musical stardom in one of the first-ever supergroups, Humble Pie.
Best known for one of the best-selling live albums ever recorded, Frampton Comes Alive! (1976), Frampton had monster hits in the US with “Show Me the Way,” “Baby, I Love Your Way,” and “Do You Feel Like We Do.” The album is certified 8x platinum.
14. Cat Stevens
Born in London, England, Steven Demetre Georgiou, better known as Cat Stevens, converted to Islam in 1977 and changed his name to Yusuf Islam.
Soon after, he would auction all of his guitars to charity and leave the entertainment industry for philanthropic pursuits.
The 1970s were very lucrative for Stevens. His albums “Tea for the Tillerman” (1970) and “Teaser and the Firecat” (1971) were both certified triple platinum. Stevens’ 1972 album “Catch Bull at Four” spent weeks atop several major charts.
Stevens was nominated for his first Grammy Award in 2017 for Best Folk Album and was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2019.
15. Jeff Lynne
Flying under the radar as one of the UK’s great singers is Jeff Lynne. However, throughout the 70s, Lynne was the lead singer, songwriter, composer, and producer for one of the most successful rock bands of the era, Electric Light Orchestra.
Lynne’s ELO strung together several successful records culminating in the double album “Out of the Blue” in 1977, which contained the hit singles “Turn To Stone,” “Sweet Talkin’ Woman,” and “Mr. Blue Sky.”
Lynne was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with ELO in 2017 and was awarded an OBE in 2020.
Summing Up Our List Of Famous British 70s Singers
The 1970s certainly produced some of the greatest singers of all time, and the UK was at the center of it all.
Whether in the style of blues, folk, rock, or heavy metal, British singers have proven to be some of the best performers in the world.
Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Albums rank 157 records (31%) coming out of the 1970s, the most of any decade. With the powerful singers featured on this list, it is easy to see why.