13 Of The Greatest And Most Famous Male Irish Singers

Written by Laura Macmillan
Last updated

From folk to pop, to punk, and everything in between, you can find some of the best singers and songwriters in Ireland. Many of our top picks draw from personal experience and working-class backgrounds to create amazing music that’s both inspiring and totally relatable.

Spanning decades and generations, these are the greatest and most famous male Irish singers of all time. While some of them are household names like Bono and Niall James Horan, others are relatively obscure. Still, if you consider yourself a music fan, they deserve a prominent spot on your playlist.

1. Bob Geldof

Bob Geldof was one of the leading members and singer of the Boomtown Rats, plus a well-known activist during the 1970s and 1980s. 

Many people think he was instrumental in pioneering the Irish punk rock scene with hits like Rat Trap and I Don’t Like Mondays.

Geldof even hit the big screen in Pink Floyd’s rock musical The Wall, where he played the character of Pink.

A longtime political mover and shaker, Geldof raised plenty of money with Live Aid and Band Aid, helping other musicians open their eyes to the reality of poverty and struggles in Africa. He’s often compared to our next Irish legend, Bono, for his ongoing charity work.

2. Bono

If you only know one famous Irish musician, it’s probably Bono. Bono is easily the most recognizable name in the music industry, famous for his work with the superband U2

Bono’s career is incredible. He’s racked up twenty Grammys and was even inducted into the American Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. A household name, Bono used his considerable influence to bring light to global issues like poverty and hunger.

As with many of the other Irish singers on this list, Bono is also recognized for his activism. All throughout his career, pioneering projects like the ONE Campaign and Project Red.

Although most of his work is concentrated in parts of Africa, Bono is also a huge philanthropist in his home country of Ireland. 

3. Damien Rice

Damien Rice’s unique sound and style make him one of the top Irish singer-songwriters of the century.

In the 1990s, he worked with Juniper, a progressive rock group that performed all over Ireland, but that was only the beginning of his story. 

After leaving Juniper, Rice went on to have a very successful solo career, far surpassing what he’d done as part of the group.

His first solo album, O, was a huge hit and topped the charts in Ireland. As with Bono, he is a huge philanthropist, focusing his efforts on raising awareness for Tibet’s plight. 

4. Hozier

Hozier is a relatively new voice on the Irish music scene, but he’s already made many waves. 

His soulful, melancholy ballad Take Me to Church was one of the most popular songs in the world and topped the charts in Canada and Belgium and his native Ireland.

One thing that really sets Hozier apart is his ability to tell dramatic stories with his songs.

He’s also able to weave in history, religion, and sensuality into his work. His songs are part-folk, part-rock, and all amazing.

5. Luke Kelly

Luke Kelly was born in Dublin and used his humble roots as a substantial influence for his music. His style is folky, whimsical, and talks about a lot of critical working-class topics. 

Although Luke Kelly isn’t as political as some of his other counterparts, some of his songs do hit on issues that affect the lower classes.

His band, The Dubliners, became a very big success in Ireland and also enjoyed recognition in the rest of the world, specifically in the United States with the American-Irish population. 

Although Luke Kelly wrote a lot of his own material, he also covered classic Irish songs, making his work hugely relatable.

6. Shane MacGowan

Shane MacGowan’s bawdy ballads and great sense of humor make him one of Ireland’s most beloved vocalists and songwriters and one of the most well known male Irish singers of all time. 

However, most people know him from his work with The Pogues, a band that fused folk music, traditional instruments, and rock together.

His song Fairytale of New York is one of the most popular Irish songs with American audiences ever, precisely because it references an American city and talks about working-class struggles.

MacGowan does a great job with storytelling, and his work is always relatable and exciting.

7. Niall Horan

Niall James Horan might be young, but he’s already made his mark on Irish pop. His band One Direction is one of the top Irish/English boy bands around, rivaling NSYNC and The Backstreet Boys

In addition to his catchy pop jams, Niall James Horan is an exceptional vocalist and a charismatic performer, both of which allow him to enjoy fantastic success.

This success was only amplified when Horan broke out on his own. His 2017 album Flicker topped the charts and made waves in England and Australia, eventually reaching across the pond to hit the Billboard charts in Mexico and the United States.

8. Phil Lynott


Thin Lizzy was one of the greatest Irish rock bands of the past century, and its lead singer Phil Lynott is primarily credited with carrying the band to their success.

Thin Lizzy gained worldwide popularity for their top hits like Jailbreak and their classic rendition of the Irish folk tune Whiskey in the Jar.

Although many bands have covered Whiskey in the Jar, Lynott’s particular spin and heartwrenching vocals really give this old standard new life.

Although Lynott is mostly known for his work with Thin Lizzy, he did have a solo career, too, and even authored a few books.

9. Nicky Byrne

Nicky Byrne is really a jack-of-all-trades. Although he worked in plenty of different fields, from professional sports to radio, his most contribution to Irish culture is undoubtedly his work with Westlife.

Byrne was one of the first members of Westlife, a poppy, folksy band that’s performed all over the world. 

Byrne’s ability to craft catchy, interesting songs caught the eye of Eurovision, where he made the semi-finals for Sunlight. Byrne also has another exciting distinction.

He was the runner-up for Ireland’s “Sexiest Man 2014”, coming in after Niall James Horan.

10. Stephen Gately

Thanks to his work with Boyzone, Stephen Gately was one of the people who really pioneered Irish boy bands in the 1990s.

Boyzone topped the charts everywhere and is widely recognized as one of Ireland’s most prominent contributors to the genre.

Although Gately’s work with Boyzone is predominately poppy and catchy, some of the songs still reflect his roots in working-class Dublin.

He also broke other barriers by coming out as gay. Tragically, Gately passed away at 33.

11. Shane Filian

Like Nicky Byrne, Shane Filian is another Westlife prodigy, helping bring the band tremendous success during its heyday.

Also, like Byrne, Filian is a bit of a renaissance man, dabbling in plenty of other arts and eventually becoming a very successful solo artist. 

However, although his work with Westlife was tremendous, his solo career was off the charts too.

Everything to Me has topped the charts with its catchy lyrics, making Filian a household name. However, he has another distinction, too, as one of the top Irish singers who’ve had number-one hits in the UK.

12. Danny O’Donoghue

Boy band legend Danny O’Donoghue initially worked with The Script, an Irish rock band with songs about working-class struggles.

He went on to front for Mytown, one of the top Irish boy bands in the country, and then starred in The Voice UK.

His albums like Science and Faith, Sunsets & Full Moons, and Freedom Child, topped the charts and launched him into colossal fame and fortune. 

But, although O’Donoghue might seem to have it all, he eventually revealed that he had a very rare blood disorder, although he was managing it.

Summing Up Our List Of Great Male Irish Singers

That wraps up our list of famous Irish male vocalists. We hope you enjoyed reading about them.

If you check out some of their songs you’ll see they’ve all helped shape music for the better and even define genres.

So no matter what your musical interest is, there’s a male Irish singer out there that fits the bill perfectly.

From worldwide names like Bono and Niall James Horan to Feargal Sharkey and Shane Filian, there is a rich variety of singing talent from Ireland.

Never stick to just what you hear all the time.

Try to branch out and try some of these other incredibly talented Irish male singers.

Photo of author

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.