15 Of The Greatest And Most Famous British Singers Of The 1990s 

Written by Laura Macmillan
Last updated

The 1990s were a great time for British music. Britpop was in full swing, and a number of British singers were making their mark on the music scene.

From Legends like Elton John and David Bowie to Thom Yorke and The Spice Girls, these singers brought their unique sounds to the world, ruled the charts, and defined pop culture in the 1990s.

So sit back and enjoy some of the biggest hits as we take a look at the careers of 15 of the greatest and most famous British singers of the ’90s. Let’s get started.

1. Elton John

By the time the ’90s rolled around, Elton John, from Middlesex, England, was already a household name, but he continued his path to superstardom throughout the decade.

In fact, he started 1990 with a hit single, “Sacrifice,” and during the middle of the decade, John created the songs for Disney’s The Lion King, which won him several Grammys.

Perhaps the most prominent work of John’s from the ’90s is his single highest-selling song of that decade, which was his tribute to Diana, Princess of Wales. Titled “Candle In The Wind 1997,” it sold three million more copies than the runner-up.

Despite the song’s success, John has only performed it one time live, which was at the funeral of Princess Diana. He has vowed never to perform it again unless asked by the princess’s sons.

Related: Read about more famous British singers here.

2. David Bowie

Next, we have David Bowie, who came to fame in the ’60s, but the ’90s saw a unique side of his music career.

During this decade, the London native released five albums in six years and had 13 singles in the top 40 UK hits.

Considered his electronic period, in the ’90s he primarily used electronic instruments to create his work at the time.

Bowie was also inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996, and he continued performing until he passed away in 2016.

3. Sting

Born Gordon Summer, this Wallsend native was first the frontman of the rock band the Police in the ’70s and ’80s under the name Sting.

During the nineties, he found great success in his solo career. His 1993 album Ten Summoner’s Tales went triple Platinum and was nominated for the Mercury Prize and Grammy’s Album of the Year.

In the ’90s alone, Sting was nominated for four Brit Awards and won one. He was also nominated for 12 Grammys, winning four. He had a total of 15 hits on the UK’s top forty charts.

Today, Sting continues to make music and tour, showing no sign of slowing down anytime soon.

4. Thom Yorke

Next, we have English-born Thomas Edward “Thom” Yorke, who was born in Wellingborough and formed Radiohead with schoolmates in the 1980s, though the band was called On A Friday.

As the frontman, he led the group to its 1991 record deal with Parlophone, though the band’s first album— an EP called “Drill”— didn’t make much of a mark anywhere.

The band left for EMI, recorded the hit single “Creep,” and went on to make several seminal albums, the bulk of which Yorke wrote.

He spent the 1990s with the band, writing and recording “The Bends” and “OK Computer” during that decade, with the latter landing at number 42 on Rolling Stone’s list of best albums of all time. A BBC listener poll ranked “OK Computer” the best album of the 1990s.

Related: Up next, check out our list of other popular vegetarian singers here.

5. Van Morrison

While he was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland – which technically isn’t part of Britain, it is part of the UK, so we’re including him – singer Van Morrison grew up listening to ragtime, blues, and R&B.

He got his first guitar at 11 years old, and then he joined his first band at 17. But it was his solo career that led to his international success with big hits like “Brown Eyed Girl” and “Moondance” in the 60s and 70s.

But after a long career, Morrison saw a lot more commercial success in the ’90s. He released eight albums in total throughout the decade. The last of these, Back On Top, was his highest-charting album since 1978.

He also released his compilation album earlier in the decade, which was the best-selling of his entire career.

Today, Morrison continues to make music, releasing his 42nd album in 2021.

6. Sade Adu

Born in Nigeria but brought up in Essex by her British mom, Sade Adu (born Helen Adu) began her career as a backup singer. Early in the ’80s, she started her band, Sade.

They found great success in the late ’80s, and then in the early ’90s, they released their first compilation album, The Best of Sade. This went certified Platinum in the UK and cemented Sade Adu as one of the most successful British artists in history.

Today, Adu is regularly commended for her lasting legacy on modern artists and continues to make music for select movie albums and occasionally with her band.

7. George Michael

Next up we have George Michael. Born in East Finchley, England, he spent most of his childhood in London before moving to Radlett as a teenager.

He and a schoolmate, Andrew Ridgeley, formed the duo Wham! in the early ’80s and found success together as one of the most commercially popular acts in Britain at the time.

By the time the ’90s came, Michael had become focused on his songwriting and released Listen Without Prejudice Vol. 1.

The album reached #1 in the UK, spending 88 weeks on the albums chart, and had four singles in the top 40, all without Michael doing any promotion.

He released several other popular singles and albums throughout the 90s, including the compilation album Ladies & Gentleman, which is the 45th best-selling album of all time in the UK. Michaels continued to make music and write songs until he died in 2016.

8. Liam Gallagher

Our next singer William “Liam” Gallagher, was born in Manchester, England, to Irish immigrants. He had a difficult childhood, was prone to fighting, and didn’t have much interest in music until he was injured in a fight.

He joined the legendary band Oasis in 1991, but it was hard going for them at first. They eventually got signed, and their first album, Definitely Maybe was released in 1994, becoming the fastest-selling debut album in Britain at the time.

Gallagher was praised for his vocals, and the band, Oasis, quickly became a household name and emblematic of British music in the ’90s.

Today, Gallagher continues to make music for his solo projects. 

9. Robbie Williams

Robbie Williams spent the first half of the 1990s as part of the most successful (at that point) boy band in UK history, a little group called Take That

He left the group in 1995, embarking on a solo career that took off in Europe but took some time to gain traction in the US. That said, his 1997 single “Angels” spent 25 weeks on Billboard’s Adult Contemporary chart starting in the last days of 1999.

He would later rejoin Take That for a reunion project and continue his solo work, releasing pop and swing albums through the present day.

10. Seal

Born Henry Samuel in Paddington, London, Seal was originally going to be an architect. However, in the ’80s, he began singing in local clubs and bars and eventually went on tour with a British punk band.

While often unsure of his talents, he released his first album in 1991 to positive reviews. It was his second album in 1994, though, that catapulted Seal to true fame.

His third single from the album was “Kiss From A Rose.” While it did not make a wave initially, the song was released on the soundtrack Batman Forever, and Seal quickly became synonymous with ’90s R&B music.

Today, Seal continues to make music and tour.

11. The Spice Girls

Next up, we have the legendary girl group known as the Spice Girls, made up of singers Victoria Beckham (Posh Spice), Mel B (Scary Spice), Melanie C (Sporty Spice), Emma Bunton (Baby Spice), and Geri Halliwell (Ginger Spice).

They formed in 1994 after seeing an ad by a music industry manager. They didn’t like his plan, so they struck out independently, and by 1995, they had a manager and a record deal, and their smash hit single “Wannabe” was on its way.

The summer of 1996 saw the single storm the world, and the trademark Spice cheekiness and girl power resonated with the globe. 

The group spent the rest of the decade recording and releasing more hit albums— “Spiceworld” and “Forever” before splitting, albeit temporarily, in 2000.

12. Annie Lennox

Born in Aberdeen, Scotland, Annie Lennox studied at the Royal Academy of Music before she found popularity in the 1970s with The Tourists and again in the 1980s as part of the duo Eurythmics.

It was not until the ’90s that she began her solo career with the album Diva. It was a critical and commercial success, entering the UK chart at #1 and going quadruple platinum.

Diva has been noted as one of the best albums of the ’90s and cemented Lennox as one of the greatest singers of all time.

Related: Check out our list of famous Scottish singers here.

13. Mick Hucknall

Mick Hucknall was born in Manchester but brought up in Denton. His interest in music began after seeing the Sex Pistols play in the ’70s. He joined his first band soon after.

In 1985, he helped form the band Simply Red. The group—and by extension, Hucknall as the lead singer—because a super sensation in the ’90s, topping the UK album chart for 19 weeks.

Their album Stars was the second-best-selling album of the decade. Hucknall has since all but retired from music, as his last album came out in 2012.

14. Joan Armatrading

Second to the last on our list is Joan Armatrading. She was born in Basseterre, which was in the British colony of Saint Christopher and Nevis in the West Indies.

As a young child, she moved to Antigua to live with her grandmother before rejoining her parents in England at the age of seven.

Armatrading taught herself piano and guitar as a teen and dropped out of school to help support her family at 15. Soon after, she performed her first concert, after which she was able to make music her full-time gig.

While she is most known for her earlier work, in the early ’90s, she released a compilation album of her best work. This album brought her back into the public eye and hit the top 10 on the UK charts.

She released two other studio albums in the ’90s, but they didn’t do as well commercially.

15. Jarvis Cocker

Lastly, we have Jarvis Cocker, who was born in Sheffield. He founded his first band, Pulp when he was 15.

The band found success in the 1990s with their albums His ‘n’ Hers and Different Class, #9 and #1 respectively in UK charts.

The band, and Cocker especially, became representatives of Britpop music, a brighter form of alternative pop that emphasized Britishness in the music.

Though Pulp still occasionally plays together, Cocker has dedicated much of his efforts to his solo projects and another band, JARV IS.

Summing Up Our List Of Famous British 1990s Singers

As you can see, the 1990s were a great time for music, and the British singers on this list are some of the best that decade had to offer.

Whether you’re a fan of boy bands or pop stars, there’s no doubt that these singers have left their mark on the music industry.

Who is your favorite British singer from the 1990s? And let us know who else you think we should add to this list!

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Laura has over 12 years experience teaching both classical and jazz saxophone and clarinet. She now resides in California where she works as a session and live performer.