Songfactors Choice: Best Frontperson

Style and swagger, looks and hooks. What makes a great lead singer is open to interpretation, but we took our best shot. As selected by the Songfacts community, these are the Top 10 Frontpeople of all time.
10. Deborah "Debbie" Harry (July 1, 1945)

Debbie Harry and Chris Stein formed the band Blondie in the mid-1970s, and many assumed their photogenic phrontwoman was "Blondie." Before fronting the band, Harry was a beautician, a bartender and a Playboy bunny: the perfect skill set needed to create a striking look that got the band noticed, even in the sweaty CBGB days.

Harry has shown tremendous longevity - she entered the Guinness Book of World Records in 1999 as the "Oldest Female Singer to Reach No. 1 in the UK Chart" when Blondie went to #1 with "Maria" on February 13, 1999, at the age of 53 years and 227 days.
~ Lea

9. David Lee Roth (October 10, 1955)

David Lee Roth isn't the only artist to front one of the most successful Rock & Roll bands in history, but he is one of the major elements of that success. For two reasons, in my opinion. First, he has an amazing stage presence (although one that caused huge friction with bandleader Eddie Van Halen), and timing. The timing thing is probably most important. Van Halens' biggest successes can probably be tied directly to MTV, with Roth as the man out front. I think that the wide exposure and popularity of Van Halen via the music video is the biggest reason for the band's popularity. Eddie's guitar, and Roth's onstage persona & antics, both of which were highlighted on MTV, made them one of the '80s most popular & commercial acts. Although both the band and Roth remained active and fairly successful after Roth's initial 1985 departure, neither has garnered the success of the early 1974-1985 ride, to the extent that for the long awaited 2007 reunion, it was Roth back in gear, singing and fronting the band.
~ Lucky

8. John Lennon (October 9, 1940 – December 8, 1980)

John Lennon was the co-founder, co-leader and co-songwriter for The Beatles. He gave a sexy and rebel touch to the band and wrote some of the most beautiful songs in pop/rock history. His voice was distinctive and he was an avant-garde artist in all he did. He worked as a solo artist for ten years before he was shot by a sick fan in 1980, which turned him into a legend.
~ edna

7. Janis Lyn Joplin (January 19, 1943 – October 4, 1970)

Janis Joplin joined Big Brother and the Holding Company on June 4, 1966. Known as a very offbeat character, she put tremendous energy into her performances, which far too many American Idol contestants try - and fail - to emulate. Her singing voice was very distinctive and had a gravelly effect rumored to have been caused by her major consumption of Southern Comfort whiskey.

Janis Joplin to this day is still recognized as one of the great - though tragic - music icons from the 1960s.
~ Lea

6. Bruce Frederick Joseph Springsteen (September 23, 1949)

Bruce Springsteen is an American singer/songwriter/poet/musician from New Jersey. Bruce has been recording and performing with The E-Street Band since the early '70s, and he's still performing to this day. Bruce can really get a crowd dancing and up on their feet. When Bruce performs you can tell he puts all his heart and soul into every performance. He truly is one amazing "frontperson" and definitely deserves to be on this list, after all he is The Boss.
~ Laurie

5. Roger Daltrey (March 1, 1944)

If you're going to rock a stadium, you need a guy like Roger Daltrey out front. With a flair for the dramatic, he commands not only the stage, but also the screen, as he showed when he starred in The Who's Rock Opera Tommy.

Pete Townshend wrote most of the songs, John Entwistle and Keith Moon carved out the sound, but Daltrey gave the performances an edge. Blending bombast with superior musicianship, The Who became legendary live performers, and Daltrey's presence is a big reason why. Also helping his cause: the ability to scream his lungs out and do it again the next night.
~ Phil

4. Robert Plant (August 20, 1948)

Robert Plant created the persona of hard rock front man and redefined the technique behind the modern “rock star.” Known for his on stage charisma and as a gifted lyricist, Plant emphasized the music during live shows by displaying flamboyant gestures that set the mood for the audience. Though his appeal and antics were not entirely original - he cited Elvis and others as an influence on his technique - Plant was widely known for his artistic integrity and will forever be immortalized as a pioneer of hard rock.
~ Mindrcrime

3. Jim Morrison (December 8, 1943 – July 3, 1971)

Jim Morrison was the frontman of the Doors. He was the original rock poet, and his blues-shaman personality hypnotized America when the Doors exploded onto the music scene in 1967. His onstage antics included arousing himself with the microphone stand, collapsing to the stage floor, and going into stage banter that included such nonsensical and controversial gems as "Hitler is alive, I slept with her last night." Yet he still maintained a charisma and sex appeal that defined what it is to be a rock star ever since. He passed away at the tragically young age of 27, but his legacy will never die.
~ TheLizard

2. Freddie Mercury (September 5, 1946 – November 24, 1991)

Freddie Mercury was a universally recognized frontman who was known for his concert performances, stage presence, and tender vocals. He was considered a creative genius that many artists to come would look up to, and were influenced by his persona. Freddie had a reputation for being a bad-boy with a soft-side and an appeal to the masses as a role model and idol for many. Mercury opened many doors in the music world and no other could live up to the unique legacy that he left behind. ~ MindCrime

1. Mick Jagger (July 26, 1943)

That sounds exactly right. Who else could have held the #1 spot? Mick wins it hands down simply because of who and what he is. He is the frontman, and 1 of 2 original founding members of The Rolling Stones, arguably the greatest rock & roll band in history. He is the ultimate Rock Star. Jagger doesn't hold this title because of his incredible musicianship, and his vocals didn't get him there either. To give him his due, there are certain songs that could never have been sung by anyone else to the same effect. But vocals are not Jagger's strong suit: he instills himself in the song. Could you imagine another voice in his place? But that's because he infused the song with his personality, not because he could hit the high notes.

Mick Jagger is a frontman. That is his talent, and has been for over 40 years. One and only frontman and lead vocalist for The Rolling Stones. I've seen him in action both as a young man, and in his 60s. He becomes the songs. He interprets the words with his voice, his body, his eyes and actions, the way no one else could. Mick Jagger is the glue that makes a group of musicians (albeit great musicians) The Rolling Stones, and that is why he'll always be #1. ~ Lucky
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Comments: 94

  • DwalrusPaul Rodgers....How about that
  • Paul Marlo from Perth, Australia, -jim morrison num one . robert plant num 2 . michael hutchence num 3
  • JulianDavid Lee Roth and Freddie Mercury are the two most dynamic, charismatic frontmen on this list. Even with Eddie Van Halen (!!!) and Brian May (!) as their guitarists, (or Steve Vai, Jason Becker, or John 5 in Roth's case,) your eyes can't help but watch Diamond Dave and Freddie.
  • Pamela from CaliforniaMy personal opinion, Freddie should be behind Jim, Jim should be second!! Jagger has his rightful place at no.1 but WHERE THE F--K is Jimi Hendrix and David Bowie?
  • Peter from Newcastle, United KingdomFreddie Mercury should have made No1,he had the audience entranced & could sing,write & play better than most,at wembley he stole the show at the live aid concert that no other artiste did that day & captivated massive audiences the world over.Bono should be in top 10 as should ozzy osbourne.
  • Michele from Bountiful, UtJohn Lennon are u kidding? Frontman? Did he actually move on stage?
  • Michele from Bountiful, UtPeople these are just "opinions" and we all know what's said about opinions....but here"s mine....respectively, i'm thinking the songfacts community pulled weren't from this century but the beginning of the last one.
  • Beautifulstream from A Place In The WorldIt's disappointing that Bono's not here, but an absolute travesty that Michael Hutchence isn't either. Although I guess Jim Morrison makes up for him. ;) Maybe there are too many people in the world to pc, but I think you should have put them both on the list.
  • Maurice from HollandWell, john lennon is no doubt a great songwriter, but he's not a frontperson. Man, I think Prince is definitly missing!! he should be on nr 4 at least!
  • Jr from CaliforniaWhat about Jimi Hendrix? A great rock showman - guitar and vocals!
  • Nick from GreeceBruce Dickinson!
  • Teen from Corpus ChristiWhere is Bon Scott?
  • Joe from OhioI guess no one really follows the biggest band in the world currently. Love 'em or Hate 'em seeing U2 and Bono is an Experience. I've seen 5 of the 10 on this list. Really David Lee Roth. Doesn't he sell used cars now?
  • Shawn from MassachusettsChrissie Hynde
  • Mike from Phoenixwho was the (older) female singer who was rumored to have died bur really didn't?
  • AnonymousYeah, where is AXL?
  • Jordan from TorontoI'm sure someone said this further up the line, but I'm pretty sure that Mick Jagger isn't considered one of the two founding members of the Rolling Stones. One would definitely be Brian Jones and I believe Ian Stewart was a member before Jagger. But if you think the founders are Jagger and Keith Richards, you're way off.
  • Cheryl from HoustonWTF where is Steven Tyler? Prince? Grace Slick? Gwen Stefani? I would not have put Bruce Springsteen or John Lennon there?
  • J Harvey from LincolnshireRobert Plant is the godfather of hard rock.
  • Karl from Cubaif there is someone missing here it is Kurt Cobain, i mean, the guy shot himself while being overdosed with heroin, and died young at the top of his career being a world class superstar on the same level as many of the legends above, he revolutionized mtv and the 90's music and jumped on grohl's drums, what else do you need to be in there? i mean freaking mick jagger is not even dead, and that is a sin to rock legends!! XD
  • Kevin O'connor from Los AngelesIGGY!!!
  • ReeseNo Waters probably cause Pink Floyd had 3 frontmen in total within their career. All of them were brilliant I think
  • Robert from WisconsinHmmmm... no Roger Waters?
  • Amalthea from Nh"Honestly,Chris Cornell should be there,at like 10 or 9"
    ...who? I've at least HEARD of everyone on this list.
  • Gale from Anderson, InUH, hello where's Eddie Vedder? Where's Chris Cornell?
  • Marco Aguilar from Guatemala, GuatemalaWhat about Axl Rose???????????????????
  • Matt from OttawaHonestly,Chris Cornell should be there,at like 10 or 9
  • Fernando from LaredoJimi Hendrix should have made at least the top three. Hendrix had a dynamic sound, strong vocals, and an amazing stage persona. If thats not good enough, i don't know what is
  • Anonymouswhere is Bon Scott? an underated but unforgettable frontman!
  • GauravWhy to forget "Steve Perry" Solo and with Journey?
  • AnonymousWhere is Dave Mustaine? He's a genius.
  • Disappointedwhere's ian anderson?
    where's peter gabriel?
  • ChristyMick Jagger was and will always be the best frontman!
  • AnonymousThe Beatles were a real band. They worked together. If John is on here, Paul should be too. Either way, I think Paul is a way better frontman than John.
  • CamilleI cannot believe you would leave out Steven Tyler of Aerosmith. He has had much more longevity than many of those on your top 10 list.
  • AnonymousJimi Hendrix? Iggy pop? Kurt Cobain?!?!? Where is Kurt? Him and Jimi are also in the forvever 27 club!
  • KateOkay, that is so unfair. If you're gonna put John there for The Beatles, you HAVE to put Paul too. Nothing is right in this list if John and Paul aren't together. I mean, COME ON. It's the freaking BEATLES.
  • Laura from ArgentinaAnd I was forgetting AXL ROSE of the Guns'n'Roses!!! He does deserve to be in the list!
  • Laura from ArgentinaAs much as I *LOVE* John Lennon, he should not be in the list...
    I wouldn't have included Bruce Springsteen either.
    Rather MICHAEL HUTCHENCE of INXS, he was the master of the stage, you could not take your eyes off him during the whole concert, he just enchanted you. He was so sexy and exuded sex appeal in every note, tone and movement.
    What a big loss, I can't help but utter those words every time I hear a song by him.
  • Way2chunkythe list makers forgot John Fogerty...bad call.
    Sure, CCR feigned its Bayou origins, but still the average listener can spot their talent from a mile away.

    -->Fogerty may fit well in the spot after Lennon
  • AnonymousWhat about Axl Rose? Or steven tyler or bon scott?

    Oh and one of the chicks I would replace with Joan Jett.

    P.S. Jimi Hendrix doesnt belong on this list because although he is a great musician, he is not a frontman.
    He would have been just as great with any bass player, drummer
  • BrittanymccartneyI am a HUGE Beatles fan, and I for one love John and Paul, But why would you put John up without Paul? I think they shared the 'frontman' role. They both shared singing and playing instruments, and personally, I think Paul McCartney has a more angelic voice, but it can also be used in more hard rock songs such as Helter Skelter and Long Tall Sally. I think Paul should definitely be on the top.
    And Bruce Springsteen BEFORE ROBERT PLANT? Are you people numb? Robert Plant is a rock and role legend. And poor Mick Jagger. Dead last. The only one in a good spot is Janis Joplin. An amazing voice on her. And Blondie does not deserve first in my view, and I'm sure a lot of others.
  • AnonymousJohnny Rotten should have been on this list. Without him, The Sex Pistols would have been nothing. Other than that, there are some respectable people on the list.
  • MjdIt's a great list! I would have included Ian Anderson and omitted John Lennon since he wasn't a front man in the same sense as the rest of the members of the list. I agree with others who suggested Stephen Tyler, too.
  • Cook(#4) Actually, Jimmy Page was the frontman of Led Zeppelin. He almost all of their music, and directed all of their films and live albums.
  • MikeDid anyone think about Paul Stanley from KISS?? Great frontman and vocalist.

    What about Jon Bon Jovi too?
  • E.b.Years ago I read an article that suggested Robert Plant, Stevie Nicks and David Lee Roth as the best front people/lead singers of all time. I would heartily agree and add Bono. It's difficult to pick, I mean there are so many awesome lead singers in all the various genres: I agree that Bruce Dickenson, Bruce Springsteen, Exene Cervenka, Debbie Harry, Rodger Daultry, Steven Tyler, and SO MANY others are incredible! It's just that Plant, Nicks, Bono and Roth have that extra kind of charisma, talent and inner and outer beauty that kind of fascinates and entertains. IMO.
  • AnonymousBruce Dickinson instead of Springsteen. John Lennon- great musician, not exactly a front man. Maybe put Hendrix there instead. Steven Tyler may be a Mick Jagger clone, But sometimes the copy is way better than the original. Some other greats are missing too. James Hetfield, Ann Wilson, Meat Loaf (incredibly theatrical and his voice just pulls you in), Ozzy Osbourne, Bon Scott/Angus Young (Angus isn't a frontman, but he and Bon were pure magic together on stage), I could go on. This list didn't impress me much.
  • PaulThanx for reminding me of Mr Ian Anderson who definately has more energy than most those half his age - good call. I had the pleasure of seeing Tull live this past (40th (!) anniversary) year for the first time - what a musical treat and truly, a musical education. If you ever get the chance, don't miss Jethro Tull.
  • AnonymousGood list, but I would also have said Bono and Kurt Cobain instead of Janis and Debbie.
  • Tom Sakellpeter wolf of jGeils. nuff said.
  • Anonymouswhat about Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull? Anybody that ever seen JT live will agree that Ian gives a very high energy performance.He is all over the stage. Finally, his music was in a class of it's own.
  • Anonymousumm why isnt hendrix on here? did someone forget that he burned a guitar? or that he played with his teeth? or behind his back? or switched left and right handed guitar playing? or played inbetween his legs? hendrix deserves #1
  • AnonymousWhat About Bon Scott Of AC/DC?????
    Or Dee Snider Of Twisted Sister
  • It's very lacking in the Bruce Dickinson department...
  • RajaI'm surprised nobody mentioned Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull. Anybody that ever seen J.T. live can confirm the high energy that Ian displays live. Definitely a great frontman!
  • AnonymousI really hate U2, but Bono should be there.
  • PaulYeah, Steven Tyler belongs in there somewhere. He's not only a great frontman but NOBODY can hit some of the notes in the WAY he does - let's be real here.
  • AnonymousThis is a good list. It is worth noting that David Lee Roth is the worst lead singer of all time (strictly in terms of singing capability), and aside from Bon Scott one of the only singers who cannot actually sing. I don't think anyone has a smaller vocal range. Notice how he has to squeak, squeal, and scream to hit high "notes." With that said it fits well with what VH was doing and I like the music, but there's no doubt that his utter lack of musicality held Eddie back from achieving his full potential.
  • Mohamedthat seems like just a piece from the real LIST. what about our generation of greats like hetfield, kobain, axl rose, etc. but a great list though. :)
  • Tomerbono, richard ashcroft (the verve - just watch a youtube video of them live and you'll understand!) but great list nonetheless!
  • AnonymousWhat about Mike Love or Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys? These guys have been rocking millons of fans for decades.
  • AnonymousI would have had to add James Hetfield, Alice Cooper, Kurt Cobain, and Ronnie Van Zant. These guys give me goosebumps. I would also have to exclude Mick, Bruce, Lennon. Mick is to full of himself, Bruce is extremely overrated, and Lennon just technically wasn't a frontman.
  • AnonymousHeres my thoughts: Freddie Mercury at #1, Robert Plant at #2. Those are my top 2. Honourable mentions: James Hetfield, Angus Young (Yes I know he's just the guitarist but he interacts with the audience well.), Bono, Zack De La Rocha, Lance "Dimebag Darell" Abbott. I can't think of any great frontperson in the female business really...Pink's good though.
  • AnonymousI can't believe you left off Alice Cooper! The greatest showman in the business! Bruce Springsteen is a wussy!
  • AnonymousGood list...Bono would've been a good addition, i agree. Jimi Hendrix would NOT fit on this list...I view Jimi as a soloist, not a band leader, or "frontman." Mick Jagger as #1 is perfect. Everyone on this list deserves to be there, and are all (mostly) in their proper spot as well.
  • Christened GraffitiWhere's Bono? There are many singers who can lift up, enthrall, mesmerize and excite, but not many can do all at the same time like Bono can.

    Lennon is an amazing musician and songwriter, but he shouldn't be here. 1. The Beatles never really played great live sets anyway. 2. Even when they did, Lennon was not the frontman in the sense of the word, sharing stage banter and lead vocal duties with McCartney.
  • AnonymousJOhn Lydon, er, I mean Johnny Rotten.
  • ShawnaAnonymous said...
    Well the list is great except numer one...
    The greatst rock singer is Steven Tyler!
    He can make you feel songs!!!!
    Yeah Mick Jagger is good but he doesn't come near Steven Tyler

    August 30, 2009 9:37 AM

    Which is ironic, since Tyler pretty well molded himself to Jagger's persona in the beginning.
  • AnonymousRobert Plant should be #1!!!!
  • AnonymousWell, I'm not sure I would consider Mick Jaggar the best frontman, but again I was filled with delectation that Freddie Mercury was second!
  • AnonymousRoger Daltrey (though... personally I'm not sure if I would consider him a front person, though many others would), Freddie Mercury and Jim Morisson are (in my opinion) the best front men in history. And I was just chuffed to bits to see that they were on the list, for they often go so unrecognized. I was very pleased in dead with this list.
  • AnonymousThe Boss is too high and Lennon is too low. I know Bruce gets a lot of love. That's cool. I always felt he was a little overrated though. The rest of the list is respectable. I like it!
  • Rebelx1Steven Tyler definitely should have been included on this list. John Lennon? Please. That would have been like voting Roger Waters but not Dave Gilmour of Pink Floyd. Bruce Springsteen shouldn't have been included on this list since technically he is a solo artist. And Asshole Rose? Come on- he wouldn't have made it on the top 100 in my opinion. James Hetfield, Bon Scott, Ronnie Van Zandt, amongst others would have been a better choice than Axl.
  • AnonymousI would of thought Bono would of at least made it somewhere between 10 & 7.
  • AnonymousJoe Strummer!!!!
  • AnonymousWell the list is great except numer one...
    The greatst rock singer is Steven Tyler!
    He can make you feel songs!!!!
    Yeah Mick Jagger is good but he doesn't come near Steven Tyler
  • Rajain response to anonymous , JOHN LENNON don't belong on this list? Without John Lennon The Beatles wouldn't of existed. Did you forget that he was the founding member of The Beatles. Where's your head? You nominate Frank Zappa and want to exclude John Lennon? PA-LEASE!
  • WilliamSteven Tyler and Axl Rose?
  • C0m3t0g3th3rNo Steven Tyler? Axl Rose? And Paul McCartney's showmanship has always been undeniable. Even at his age he's still rockin' harder than most people.

    And Janis Joplin a better front person than Lennon? Which part? the screeching vocals or overuse of drugs?

    Please, you want a story of a legendary front person, how about the one of a guy who single-handedly gave inspiration with his songwriting and quotes to legions of 10s of millions of people around the world and influenced our views on world peace. Nobody will ever be as big of a celebrity icon as Lennon was.
  • Kenne MindcrimeI agree with Dale about replacing DLR with Hendrix, that was my initial reaction to this list.

    And Janis Joplin a better front person than Lennon? Which part? the screeching vocals or overuse of drugs?

    Please, you want a story of a legendary front person, how about the one of a guy who single-handedly gave inspiration with his songwriting and quotes to legions of 10s of millions of people around the world and influenced our views on world peace. Nobody will ever be as big of a celebrity icon as Lennon was.
  • Miss KittyWhere is my main man, Bruce Dickinson from Iron Maiden?!
  • AnonymousI like the top 4, no doubt. I dont think Lennon should be in there. Brilliant musician, but the Beatles were a foursome, with everyone putting in their two cents. I gotta go with Roth. In VH's heyday, no one could top him or them.
  • AnonymousMichael Hutchins (INXS)
  • RajaWhat about Steven Tyler,His is in the same style as Mick Jagger.
  • DaleExcellent list! International, historical & very impressive.

    I would include Jimi Hendrix in Jamie Lee Roth's place - he wasn't a great vocalist, but the greatest guitarist and a charismatic figure on stage.
  • LawrenceOne of the most overlooked bands in all of rock history was Mott the Hoople, and Ian Hunter was the only person who could have fronted that band.
    Funny how three songs written by Ian Hunter made big splashes later on; Barry Manilow had a big hit with "Ships", The Presidents of the U.S.A remade "Cleveland Rocks" which became a Drew Carey Show theme, and Great White had a hit with "Once Bitten, Twice Shy"
  • Free RadicalsHe didn't jump around, his veins didn't pop out, and he didn't act like a crazy person, but Paul McCartney with The Beatles was MAGICAL!
  • LeroyIggy Pop?!?
  • AnonymousHow about Frank Zappa? He might not have been as gorgeous and sexy as Harry, Daltry, or Plant, as mobile and expressive as Jagger, but anyone who has seen Zappa preform despite the on stage antics of his musicians, indelibly your eye was always focused on the maestro.
  • Sw6No Jimi Hendrix?????
  • PeterDon't forget Rod Stewart!
  • El ToroAnd what about Bruce Dickinson...?
  • Kenne from Phx, AzGood list, my hat goes off to the people who made it.
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