Though it is home to only about three million people, music is a very important part of Welsh life. Folk songs were a way to pass stories from one generation to another, and the practice continues.
However, storytelling is not the only type of singing enjoyed by the Welsh. It is common for an entire stadium to sing hymns at rugby matches. Whenever a group of people gathers, they are likely to break into song. For the Welsh, singing is as natural as anything.
In this post, we’re going to take a look at 15 of the greatest and most famous Welsh singers of all time. Let’s get started.
1. Tom Jones
Sir Tom Jones is probably the most well-known Welsh singer of recent decades. Born in Pontypridd, Jones quit school at 15 and released his first song in 1963.
His second single, “It’s Not Unusual,” released in 1965, jumped to #10 on the Billboard Hot 100. This song is widely associated with Carlton Banks, who frequently dances to it in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.
Since the 1960s, Jones has continued to reinvent his music, and he has released numerous successful albums and singles. His most recent album, Surrounded by Time, was well received.
Singer-songwriter Aimee Anne Duffy, who uses the stage name Duffy, was born in Bangor. As a teenager, she sang in local bands.
While working part-time jobs, Duffy released “Aimée Duffy,” a Welsh-language set in 2004, which brought her widespread attention.
However, it wasn’t until 2007 that her breakthrough came with her single “Rockferry,” which earned Duffy extensive plaudits. She followed that up in 2008 with her debut album, also titled Rockferry. That became the fourth best-selling album in the UK.
Duffy was off the radar for a few years after 2011, but she later revealed that she had been kidnapped and suffered trauma. Since her disclosure, Duffy has tentatively returned to the public eye.
3. Bryn Terfel
Born in Caernarfonshire, Sir Bryn Terfel Jones is a concert and opera singer who began performing very young. He studied music at London’s Guildhall School of Music and Drama and graduated in 1989. During his studies, he won several awards for singing.
He started singing opera professionally in 1990, mostly Mozart, Strauss, and Wagner. In 1994, after he played the role of Figaro in the The Marriage of Figaro, the New York Times wrote a front-page piece about him.
Terfel lends his strong baritone voice to a wide variety of music, from covers of songs from musicals to hymns. His latest album release was in 2014 titled “Homeward Bound,” in collaboration with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.
4. Charlotte Church
Cardiff-born Charlotte Church is a classical and pop singer who got her big break when she sang “Pie Jesu” and appeared on the Big, Big Talent Show. Given this, Church left school at age 16 to focus on her music career.
At the time, Church was hugely popular, and she was often said to have the voice of an angel.
In 1998, she released the appropriately-titled album Voice of an Angel. It was well-received and reached #1 on the British classical crossover charts.
Church shifted to pop music in the early 2000s, releasing two albums in the genre. These did not perform as well, and Church increasingly focused on her family, acting, and social activism.
5. Geraint Llewellyn Evans
Sir Geraint Llewellyn Evans, born in Cilfynydd, was famed for his operatic roles. He left school at 14 years old and went to work as a window dresser for a ladies’ clothing store. In his spare time, Evans took singing lessons.
He joined the Royal Air Force during World War II and sang with the British Forces Radio Network chorus. He also continued taking singing lessons, later attending the Guildhall School of Music.
Evans’ career began and ended in the same location: Covent Garden. In his lifetime, he sang over 70 different characters in operas and performed Mozart’s “Figaro” over 500 times.
6. Aled Jones
Classical crossover singer Aled Jones was born in Gwynedd. He grew up speaking and learning in Welsh, though English was a second language.
Jones loved music as a child and competed from a very young age, winning numerous prizes. At nine, he joined the Bangor Cathedral Choir, becoming the lead soloist in a short time.
Before he reached puberty, a congregant at the cathedral wrote to a nearby record company. She recommended they make a recording before his voice changed. The company asked Jones and he agreed, recording and releasing an album the same year.
His voice changed from soprano to baritone at 16. His transition was a success, though he has since branched out as a radio presenter.
7. Shirley Bassey
Our next Welsh singer is Dame Shirley Bassey, who is a singer-songwriter born in Cardiff. She debuted professionally at 16 and sang “The Banana Boat Song,” which turned out to be a hit.
Known for her glitzy wardrobe and beautiful jewelry, Bassey has a bold voice that earned her the opportunity to perform the theme song for three James Bond movies (Goldfinger, Diamonds Are Forever, and Moonraker).
Her album in 2007, Get the Party Started, reached the top 10. In 2020, she released her final album, “I Owe It All To You.” It entered the top 40, making Bassey the first female artist to have a top 40 album in several consecutive decades.
8. Katherine Jenkins
Operatic and pop singer Katherine Jenkins was born in Glamorgan. She was a chorister at St. David’s Church in Neath and sang at festivals and musical events.
She lost her father to cancer when she was only 15 and dedicates every award and album to him. Her first two albums both reached #1 and received multiple accolades.
Aside from music, Jenkins has participated in Dancing with the Stars, appeared in a Doctor Who Christmas Special, and is a presenter on Songs of Praise.
9. Cerys Matthews
Singer-songwriter Cerys Matthews is from Cardiff. At a young age, she played guitar and sang Welsh folk songs. Many years later, she became a founding member of the alternative rock band Catatonia, and enjoyed substantial success with them in the late 1990s.
After the band split in 2001, Matthews focused on her solo career. One of her most well-known songs is “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” a popular duet with Tom Jones. She later released a Christmas-themed album of the same name in 2012 to critical acclaim.
Matthews received the Culture Award from the Welsh government in 2014. In addition to music, she is a radio presenter, an author of children’s books, and an active supporter of the arts.
10. Dave Edmunds
Next on the list is Dave Edmunds, who was also born in Cardiff. He is a singer and guitarist who scored his first hit in 1970 with the single “I Hear You Knocking.” His style of music tends to gravitate towards rockabilly.
In the late 1970s, he was part of a rock band called Rockpile. He played lead guitar along with Billy Bremner, who later became a guitarist for the Pretenders.
In 2008, Edmunds reprised his first hit at the Jools Annual Hootenanny. He has released more than a dozen albums, featuring original songs and covers.
11. Elin Fflur
Anglesey-born Elin Fflur Llewelyn Jones, who goes by Elin Fflur professionally, is a folk singer and songwriter who routinely performs in Welsh. She was born into a musical family and began singing in Eisteddfodau, a language festival, at just three years old.
In 2002, Fflur won the Welsh song contest known as “Cân i Gymru” (“A Song for Wales”), of which her mother also won in 1978. Afterward, Fflur found success with two bands: Carlotta (with her brother) and Moniars.
Her debut solo album was released while she was taking a break from college at Bangor University. The album, Dim gair (Speechless), released in 2003, was a success and was followed by four others.
Her last release was in 2014 with Lleuad Llawn (Full moon), and she has since forged a career as a television presenter.
Jemma “Jem” Gwynne Griffiths is a musician from Penarth. As Jem, she sings a wide range of genres, including ballads, rock, electronica, and trip-hop.
She began writing songs at 13 years old. After graduating from university in 1996, Jem co-founded a record label (Marine Parade) and worked as a DJ.
Her first album, Finally Woken, went platinum. That was followed by Down to Earth, which was released in 2008, though it did not enjoy similar commercial success. She took a lengthy break after its release. Jem’s third album, Beachwood Canyon, came out in 2016.
13. Bonnie Tyler
Born Gaynor Hopkins in Neath, Bonnie Tyler is a singer widely known for her distinctive husky voice. She owes her unique sound to an operation on a vocal cord node.
Her breakthrough came with “Lost in France,” which reached the UK top 10 in 1976. In 1978, she recorded “It’s a Heartache,” which became her first Transatlantic top 5 hit.
Her most successful and recognizable song was “Total Eclipse of the Heart.” That was #1 in 1983 and earned her a Grammy nomination. Tyler re-recorded the song in French in 2004, scoring a #1 hit with it in France.
Tyler has toured all over the world and continues to be active in music and business.
14. Wynne Evans
Carmarthen-born Wynne Evans is a professional tenor who gained fame for his appearances in television adverts.
Evans trained at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama and the National Opera Studio. Since then, he has sung lead with numerous orchestras and opera houses in the UK.
His first album, “A Song in My Heart,” reached #1 on the UK Classical Charts in 2011. However, it was as Gio Compario, the face of GoCompare.com, that he achieved widespread recognition.
With his fame, Evans established a trust in honor of his mother. It sponsors young Welsh people wanting to study the performing arts.
Related: For more like Wynne, check out our list of the greatest tenors of all time here.
15. Al Lewis
Last but not the least in our list is singer-songwriter Al Lewis, who is from Pwllheli. He started out in a band with school friends and got his big break when he placed second in the singing competition Cân i Gymru in 2007.
Lewis is bilingual and has released seven albums. His 2010 English-language debut album, In the Wake, garnered a nomination for the Welsh Music Prize.
His Welsh albums have been consistently popular in BBC Welsh language charts, and he has enjoyed successful collaborations with fellow songwriter Sarah Howells.
Summing Up Our List Of Famous Singers From Wales
Wales has long been renowned as a nation of song thanks to its many musically inclined citizens. In modern times, that reputation has been maintained by icons like Tom Jones, Duffy, and Shirley Bassey.
These artists, along with many others, have added to the richness of Welsh music and culture. Which one is your favorite?