17 Of The Greatest And Most Famous Male British Singers Of All Time

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Written by Laura Macmillan
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What do David Bowie, Freddie Mercury, and Elton John have in common? Apart from being some of the most famous singers on the planet, they all share the same birthplace: Britain!

But it’s not just them, as the UK has been producing some of the biggest male music stars on the planet, so there’s no denying the huge impact British male vocalists have had on the music world.

In this post, we’re going to be taking a look at the lives and careers of 17 of the greatest and most famous male British singers of all time. Let’s get started.

1. David Bowie

Up first, we have David Robert Jones from London, UK. Many know him as David Bowie, English singer-songwriter and actor extraordinaire. He got his musical start in the 1960s as a rock singer and later became known for his innovative and eclectic style. 

Bowie sang lots of different genres of music but is most notable for his rock, glam rock, soul, and funk sounds, becoming one of the most famous and successful musicians of his era. He has been cited as a significant influence by many subsequent artists.

He sold over 140 million records worldwide and received numerous accolades, including 11 NME Awards, 6 Grammys, and 4 Brit Awards. Bowie was added to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996.

Related: Read about the most famous British singers here.

2. Elton John

Next, we have the Rocket Man himself, Elton John, who was born in Pinner, UK. The “Tiny Dancer” singer has worked with lyricist Bernie Taupin since 1967, composing more than 30 albums. Worldwide, Elton has over 300 million records sold and is one of the world’s best-selling music artists.

With 140 singles under his belt—9 number-ones in the US and 10 in the UK—he has won six Grammy Awards, five Brit Awards, two Golden Globe Awards, and two Academy Award, among others too many to list here.

In 1994, John was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. He is also a Commander of the Order of the British Empire and a Knight Bachelor.

3. Freddie Mercury

As the driving force of legendary rock band Queen, we cannot not have Freddie Mercury on this list. His four-octave vocals of is evident in their greatest hit, “Bohemian Rhapsody,” as well as the victory anthem “We Are the Champions.”

As a solo artist, Mercury released five studio albums and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of Queen. He was also one of the most commercially successful singers globally, with over 300 million records sold worldwide.

Mercury’s character and stage presence made him one of the most beloved singers of all time. His flamboyant style and outrageous performances was well-known, resulting in sold-out concerts. Sadly, Mercury died from complications due to AIDS in 1991.

4. Cliff Richard

Before the Beatles dominated the radio, we had Cliff Richard, considered to be the Elvis Presley of the UK. He was well-known for his 1958 hit “Move It.” Two of his Christmas singles, “Mistletoe and Wine” and “Saviour’s Day,” were also chart-topping in the UK.

To date, Richard has worldwide sales of more than 250 million records, making him one of the most successful musicians of all time, and the only artist to have a #1 single in every decade between the 1950s to the 1990s.

In 1995, he was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II, and in 1998, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inducted him. It didn’t stop there, for in 2004, Richard was added to the UK Music Hall of Fame.

5. Sting

Gordon Matthew Thomas Sumner, better known simply as Sting, is well-known English singer, songwriter, and musician. He was a significant force and primary songwriter, lead singer, and bassist for the rock band the Police from 1977 to 1986.

After the Police disbanded, Sting launched a successful solo career, releasing 15 studio albums, with the first seven ranking in top five of the UK chart.

Sting has won 25 American Music Awards and 17 Grammy Awards (including Song of the Year and Record of the Year), to name some of the many he’s received, and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

6. Paul McCartney

He is the co-founder of the Beatles and the primary songwriter for the band, we have Paul McCartney. With the group, this British singer soared to fame, especially with his songs “And I Love Her,” “Yesterday,” and “Blackbird.” 

After the Beatles disbanded, McCartney launched a solo career, which was as successful as his time with the band, having released 26 albums and 111 singles—a number of which topped UK charts.

As a songwriter, he has more than 200 songs to his credit. For his extensive contribution to the music industry, he has been inducted into Rock and Roll Hall of Fame twice, as a solo artist and with the Beatles.

7. Rod Stewart

Hailing from London, we have the raspy-voiced Rod Stewart. You may have known him from any of these bands: Dimensions, Steampacket, Shotgun Express, the Jeff Beck Group, and Faces—all of which he was a part of at some point in his career.

After the Jeff Beck Group, Stewart started a solo career and released his debut album, An Old Raincoat Won’t Ever Let You Down, in 1969. After this, he dropped 31 more albums, 7 of which topped the UK chart.

Stewart has several accolades, one of which was a Diamond Award from the 2001 World Music Awards, the first ever to be given, for selling over 100 million records worldwide.

8. Robbie Williams

If you know the hit song “Angels,” then odds are you know the singer behind it. Robbie Williams is an English singer-songwriter and actor, previously a member of the pop group Take That before launching a solo career in 1995.

All but one of Williams’s studio albums are UK chart-toppers (though the odd one out is actually #2 on the charts). Songs the singer is notable for are “Millennium,” “She’s the One,” and “Something Stupid,” featuring Nicole Kidman.

As with other singers on this list, Williams has received so many awards we can’t list them all, but his most numerous are Brit Awards—so far, 18 if them!

9. Harry Styles

Fans of boy band One Direction are sure to know Harry Styles. After the band later went on hiatus in 2016, Styles released his debut solo album, which ranked #1 in both the UK and the US.

Though all three of his albums were smash hits, Styles is best known for “Sign of the Times,” from his eponymous album, and “As It Was,” from his third album, Harry’s House.

Styles has gained 65 awards throughout his career, including nine Teen Choice Awards and five BMI Awards. Aside from music, the singer is also notable for his fashion sense, becoming the first man to be on the cover of Vogue magazine.

10. John Lennon

We have talked about Paul McCartney already, so now it’s time for John Lennon, the other co-founder of the Beatles. He was also the chief songwriter for the band and known for his rebellious attitude and lyrics.

Like McCartney, after the Beatles disbanded, Lennon embarked on a solo career. He released 11 studio albums, with 1971 Imagine and 1980 Double Fantasy being his best-sellers, before he was murdered by a fan on December 8, 1980.

Double Fantasy was posthumously given a Grammy for Album of the Year, and in 1997, Lennon was added to the Songwriters Hall of Fame. He was also inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame twice, as a solo artist and as a Beatles member.

11. Liam Payne

Like Harry Styles, Liam Payne got his musical start and gained popularity as a member of the One Direction, and when the band went on hiatus, he started his solo career.

As a solo artist, he had quite the success with the single “Strip That Down,” from his debut album. It ranked #3 on UK charts and #10 on Billboard Hot 100.

Payne is known as a supporter of Comic Relief, a charity by British comedians in response to Ethiopia’s famine, and has helped raise over £1 million for the charity. The singer has also been involved in various other charitable endeavors, including UNICEF and CLIC Sargent.

12. George Michael

You all know him as one half of the pop duo Wham!—George Michael. With the group, the English singer-songwriter rose to fame, especially with their hits “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go” and “Last Christmas.”

While still with Wham!, Michael released a few solo recordings, including the tender ballad “Careless Whisper.” When the duo parted in 1986, Michael released his debut solo album, Faith, which climbed to #1 on both UK and US charts. He continued performing until his untimely death on Christmas Day of 2016.

Michael has a number of accolades to his name—11 ASCAP, 11 Billboard Music, and 5 Brit Awards are only a few. Following his death, he was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame.

13. Eric Clapton

Notable for his rock and bluesy sound, we have English singer-songwriter Eric Clapton. He’s most known for his single “Tears in Heaven” and his guitar skills.

Clapton has released twenty-one solo studio albums and has sold over 250 million records worldwide. He has also performed alongside some of the most excellent musicians in history, including Blind Faith, Steve Winwood, J. J. Cale, and B. B. King.

One interesting thing about Eric is that he has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame three times. He received induction as a member of the Yardbirds, as a member of Cream, and as a solo artist.

14. Thom Yorke

Though he may not be as universally recognized as some of the other singers on this list, there is no denying Thom Yorke’s impact on the British music scene.

Born in 1968 in Wellingborough, Northamptonshire, Yorke is best known as the frontman of the alternative rock band Radiohead.

As the lead singer of Radiohead, Yorke has helped to define the sound of alternative rock for a generation. His deeply personal lyrics, distinctive vocal style, and innovative approach to songwriting have won him widespread acclaim.

His lyrics often deal with dark and personal themes, and his music has been described as “angular and unsettling.”

With Radiohead, he has won multiple Grammy Awards, sold over 30 million albums, and in 2008, he was ranked by Rolling Stone magazine as the 66th greatest singer of all time.

15. Keith Richards

From Kent, England, singer-songwriter Keith Richards is best known as the co-founder, co-songwriter, and guitarist of famed rock band Rolling Stones. He partnered with Mick Jagger to create many of the band’s prominent songs, like “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” and “Paint It Black.”

With their music, the Rolling Stones influenced generations of musical artists, and Billboard even listed the group as the second greatest artists of all time.

As a solo artist, Richards released three studio albums, all ranking in the top 100 Billboard 200. He is also a famed guitarist, with skills that is best heard in his solo in the song “Sympathy for the Devil.”

16. Robert Plant

If you’re a fan of the rock band Led Zeppelin, then you’re probably a fan of Robert Plant, their frontman. This English singer-songwriter and musician gained popularity with the group, who were active from 1968 to 1980.

After their disbandment, Plant continued his career as a solo artist, having success in his 11 studio albums and 42 singles. He has also collaborated with other artists like Jimmy Page and Alison Krauss.

Plant is known for his robust vocal style and eclectic influences, including blues, folk, and world music. Because of this, he’s been voted as one of the best vocalist in rock and metal of all time by readers of Rolling Stone magazine and listeners of Planet Rock radio station.

17. Phil Collins

“You’ll Be in My Heart” singer Phil Collins is last on our list, but he is by no means the least. Born in London, England, the singer-songwriter gained popularity in the rock band Genesis.

After the group went on hiatus back in 1978, Collins started his solo career. His debut album as a solo artist, Face Value, was a hit, ranking first in the UK chart and #7 in the US.

Since then, he has released a number of hit albums and singles, including soundtracks for Disney animated films Tarzan and Brother Bear.

His work has gained him 8 Grammys, 6 Brit Awards, 4 Billboard Music Awards, 2 Golden Globes, and an Academy Award, to name just a few. Songwriters Hall of Fame and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame also inducted Collins in 2003 and 2010, respectively.

Summing Up Our List Of Famous Male British Vocalists

That’s it for our article on male British vocalists. These men have achieved great success in the music industry and have influenced so many people, fans and music artists alike, who followed them.

We hope you enjoyed learning about all these singers. However, this list is far from complete, and it barely scratches the surface of amazing British singers.

Who did we miss off? Let us know and we’ll add them in!

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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.