There have been hundreds of incredibly talented male singers throughout modern American history. But some artists have stood out above the rest, either because they’ve pioneered a new subset of a genre, have uniquely outstanding vocals, or both.
Read on as we delve into the 19 most famous male American singers and why they’ve earned their claim to fame.
1. Michael Jackson
Known as the King of Pop, Michael Jackson was born in Gary, Indiana. He was an extraordinary singer and dancer, primarily through the ’70s, ’80s, and ’90s. He is an icon who has played a significant role in music, music videos, pop dance, and American culture.
Jackson first became famous as a part of a family band called the Jackson 5, which had four number-one hits in the ’70s. However, it was his solo career that made the most lasting mark, with hit records like “Thriller,” “Don’t Stop ’til You Get Enough,” and “Rock With You.” He also created and promoted revolutionary dance moves, including the famous moonwalk.
Among a laundry list of Jackson’s accomplishments, he received 13 Grammys and 40 Billboard music awards. Dying at age 50, he left a lasting legacy that continues to live in people’s hearts (and playlists) worldwide.
2. Stevie Wonder
Stevie Wonder, born Steveland Hardaway Judkins in Saginaw, Michigan, is a legend in R&B, soul, funk, jazz, and pop music. Although he is blind, his lack of sight did not stop him from making some of the greatest music of all time.
He would write and sing about various issues, from love to heartbreak, to race, to spirituality, and beyond. Wonder started singing through his church choir in Detroit and played multiple instruments (piano, drums, and harmonica) by age 9.
By 11, he signed with Motown, a significant label at the time, and made it on the Billboard charts by age 13. Wonder still holds the title of the youngest artist to hit number one on Billboard.
He is also in the Songwriters Hall of Fame and is only one of three artists to win Album of the Year three times.
3. James Brown
The Godfather of Soul, James Brown, was born in Barnwell, South Carolina. He has played a pivotal role in the music industry for several decades, especially in the funk and gospel genres.
He began by singing gospel music and R&B and first rose to fame after joining a band called Famous Flames in the ’50s.
But what really got him mainstream attention was his album Live At The Apollo in 1962. This soulful, exciting, and passionate album shaped his reputation for decades, and he is now a part of the Rhythm & Blues Music Hall of Fame for both signing and songwriting.
Born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Prince Rogers Nelson, famously known as Prince, was an incredible singer, songwriter, musician, and stage performer.
His 1984 album Purple Rain includes his biggest hits such as “When Doves Cry,” “Let’s Go Crazy,” and of course, “Purple Rain.” However, he started making music in the ’70s and had hits as early as 1979’s “I Wanna Be Your Lover” from his self-titled debut album.
Prince is known for his eclectic, shocking vocal range, multi-genre style, and gender-bending style that was especially bold for the time. The falsetto voice in “Kiss” greatly depicts his unique voice and daring, iconic musical choices.
5. Frank Sinatra
Next up is Ol’ Blue Eyes himself, who was born in Hoboken, New Jersey. Frank Sinatra was and still is the epitome of class, style, hard work, and much more. He was a singer that focused on big band, swing, and jazz and had an iconic fashion style to match, typically seen in suits and top hats.
Sinatra was not only an exceptional singer but an exceptional actor as well, starring in movies like From Here to Eternity in 1953 and Some Came Running in 1958. But he’s best known for his smooth, inviting vocals that seem to glide over equally smooth jazzy instrumentals. “Fly Me To The Moon” is undoubtedly one of his most popular hits.
On top of 11 Grammys and a slew of musical and film achievements, Sinatra received the Congressional Medal of Honor for his positive impact on the country.
6. Billy Joel
Born in the Bronx, New York City, Billy Joel is a famous American singer who left a deep mark in the soft-rock and pop-rock genres.
Joel is a high-school dropout who made a big name for himself with his second album, Piano Man, which includes one of his most popular songs of the same name. “Piano Man” is a song that everyone can get behind and is still played in late-night piano bars and college common rooms alike.
Other hits from Joel include “Vienna,” “Uptown Girl,” and “We Didn’t Start The Fire.” He’s won five Grammy awards, including Album of the Year in 1980.
7. John Legend
Born John Roger Stephens in Springfield, Ohio, John Legend started playing piano at age four and performing with the church choir at age seven.
Unlike many of the musicians on this list, Legend went to college (UPenn) and was the musical director and president of an acapella group called the Counterparts.
He continued on a more traditional path working as a management consultant at BCG but kept on making music, releasing independent albums and, eventually, his hit debut album, Get Lifted, in 2004, including stars Kanye West and will.i.am.
With incredible hits like “Ordinary People,” “You & I,” and “All Of Me,” the latter of which was dedicated to his wife, Chrissy Teigan, he has made a legendary mark on the music industry.
Legend is also the first black man to win all four major American music awards—Grammy, Emmy, Tony, and Oscar.
8. Ray Charles
Born in Greenville, Florida, Ray Charles was a fantastic American singer, songwriter, and composer in the ’50s and ’60s who influenced thousands of other artists, including many on this very list like Stevie Wonder.
Wonder wasn’t just inspired by Ray’s beautiful vocals and innovative instrumentalism but also by the fact that he was a successful blind musician.
Ray started playing piano for various Florida nightclubs when he was 15 years old. Later, after being signed by Atlantic Records, he released “I’ve Got A Woman,” which pioneered soul music—a combination of gospel, jazz, and blues—and made it more mainstream. Many decades later, Kanye West would use this song in his hit “Gold Digger.”
9. Marvin Gaye
Another legendary artist who made a name for himself in the ’60s was Marvin Gaye. Born in Washington, DC, the songs of this smooth, soulful singer with an impressive vocal range was passionate, sexy, or inspiring, or all three.
Some of his top hits include “I Heard It Through The Grapevine,” “Sexual Healing,” and “What’s Going On.” A year later, Gaye and Tammi Terrell’s song “Aint No Mountain High Enough” would be recorded by The Temptations, Diana Ross & The Supremes. It didn’t take long for Marvin Gaye to inspire his peers.
To this day, Marvin Gaye’s songs are known to get people in the mood. And for his passionate art, he’s won American Music Awards and Grammys, including the Lifetime Achievement Award.
10. Elvis Presley
The King of Rock and Roll Elvis Presley was born in Tupelo, Mississippi, in 1935. He first caught the public’s ear when he let loose during a recording session and delivered a unique cover of Arthur Crudup’s “That’s All Right.” He garnered public attention that would set him on a path to stardom.
Though he died young at the age of 42, Elvis had an illustrious career with many top singles such as “Love Me Tender,” “Suspicious Minds,” and “Blue Suede Shoes.”
With over 500 million records sold worldwide, he sits on the throne of the music industry as the best-selling solo music artist of all time.
11. Justin Timberlake
Born in Memphis, Tennessee, Justin Timberlake has and continues to have a long, strong, and highly influential career.
He was a part of the Mickey Mouse Club as early as 11, but he got his big mainstream start as a part of a ’90s boy band called NSYNC and was unequivocally the group’s star.
Given the international success of NSYNC, it’s no surprise that his solo career boomed from the start; he won two Grammys for his debut solo album, Justified. Top tracks on that album include “Cry Me a River,” “Rock Your Body,” and “Senorita.”
“Sexy Back” and “Mirrors” are other massive hits from Timberlake that came later, and he’s won ten Grammys in total, as well as awards for his successful acting career.
12. Kurt Cobain
Next up is Kurt Cobain, who was born in Aberdeen, Washington. He was a singer and songwriter best known as the frontman of the rock band Nirvana, which he formed right after high school.
Songs such as “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and “Come As You Are” from Nirvana’s 1991 album are still played worldwide today, especially in grunge bars.
When people think about singers, they might think more along the lines of John Legend and other smooth sounds. Kurt Cobain is the opposite of this, with a beautiful but sometimes scratchy, sometimes abrasive voice that conveys all the emotion he strives to express through his music.
13. Bruno Mars
Born in Honolulu, Hawaii, Bruno Mars is a groundbreaking singer, songwriter, musician, record producer, dancer, and director from Hawaii.
Mars’ diverse background—Puerto Rican, Jewish, and Filipino—parallels his varied range of music, which covers pop, soul, funk, R&B, reggae, and disco.
Mars co-founded a production called the Smeezingtons in 2009 and rose to fame a year later by featuring on tracks like “Nothin’ On You” by B.o.B. and “Billionaire” by Travie McCoy.
From there, Mars has released a slew of chart-topping hits, including “Uptown Funk,” “That’s What I Like,” “When I Was Your Man,” and much more.
Thanks to Mars’ soulful, passionate voice and creative instrumentals, he has become one of the best-selling male singers of all time, with over 130 million records sold globally and 15 Grammy awards.
14. Bruce Springsteen
Our next singer is Bruce Springsteen, an iconic, influential American singer, songwriter, and musician from New Jersey.
Backed by the E Street Band, Springsteen pioneered heartland rock music, a style of rock that focuses on the average, blue-collar American worker. “Born In The U.S.A.” is one of his top-charting songs that represents this genre to a tee.
Springsteen has sold more than 150 million records and has won 20 Grammy awards. He is also in the Songwriters Hall of Fame, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and Rolling Stone‘s Greatest Artists of all Time.
15. Jimi Hendrix
Beyond being an incredibly riveting singer, Jimi Hendrix was one of the greatest guitar players. Born in Seattle, Washington, he was known for his passionate vocals and equally fervent stage performance.
His creativity knew no bounds, and his left-handed guitar playing did not prevent him from playing upside-down, playing with his mouth, or setting his guitar on fire on stage—three of the many stunts he pulled throughout his career.
Hendrix was born in Seattle and learned to play the guitar at age 15. He’s been named Artist of the Year by Billboard and Performer of the Year by Rolling Stone.
Some of his top songs include “All Along The Watchtower,” “Voodoo Child,” and “Purple Haze.”
16. Nat King Cole
From Montgomery, Alabama, Nat King Cole is undeniably one of the greats, especially in the jazz world. He had over 100 songs on the charts throughout his career.
He was known for his polished, crisp vocal notes over smooth piano, violin, and drum instrumentals. His songs, especially his most popular ones, are quite romantic. You can play “L-O-V-E,” “Unforgettable,” and “When I Fall In Love” on your next date night, and they’ll be the perfect tunes.
He inspired many other artists who came after him, including many of the black male artists on this list. Not only that, Cole was the first black man to host an American TV show.
Usher Raymond IV is an influential and top-charting r&b singer from Texas. He dominated the ’90s with tracks like “My Way,” “Nice And Slow,” and “U Remind Me,” among many others.
He also has a long list of number 1 Billboard singles from both the ’90s and 2000s, including “Burn,” “Confessions Part II,” “My Boo” with Alicia Keys, and “Yeah!” with Lil Jon and Ludacris.
Usher has sold over 80 million records, so he’s undoubtedly one of the best-selling artists, and he has been awarded many times, including eight Grammys.
18. Jason Derulo
Born Jason Desrouleaux in Miramar, Florida, Jason Derulo is a singer and songwriter of multiple genres, including but not limited to pop, R&B, hip-hop, and pop-electronic.
Derulo only started his career about a decade ago and has already sold over 30 million singles, with several chart-topping records like “Talk Dirty,” “Wiggle,” “Whatcha Say,” and “Ridin’ Solo,” among others.
His excellent voice is sometimes overshadowed by the high production quality of his pop music. Nonetheless, his recent music has led to many viral TikToks, such as “Savage Love” and “Coño.”
19. Charlie Puth
And finally, Charlie Puth is a famous young singer, songwriter, and producer from Rumson, New Jersey, who started by uploading his singing to YouTube.
He soon signed with Atlantic Records and has released, produced, wrote, and co-produced several top-selling tracks such as “Attention,” “Light Switch,” and “See You Again” with Wiz Khalifa.
His career is still growing yearly, and he already has four Grammy nominations. For sure, we will continue to see more from Charlie Puth.
Summing Up Our List Of Famous American Male Vocalists
These are some of the greatest male singers in American history based on awards, influence, and popularity to this day.
The list, though, is still somewhat subjective, so if you feel like there is a great American singer who was left out, let us know and we’ll add them in!