10. Janet Jackson – Janet Jackson has sold over 100 million records worldwide. She had 5 consecutive albums hit number one on the Billboard 200 albums chart and is one of the highest selling recording artists of all time. Janet’s career has spanned almost a quarter century and she has turned her talents into a great acting career too.
9. Aretha Franklin – Aretha made this list on pure vocal talent. She didn’t write most of the songs for which she’s famous. But, her voice is the most recognizable in the United States. She does have the most million selling singles of any artist and more #1 R&B albums than any other female artist. She is one of three artists to have held every position on the top ten of the Billboard awards and was the first woman to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hal of Fame. Aretha Franklin has received the National Medal of Arts from Pres. Bill Clinton and the Presidential Medal of Freedom from Pres. George W. Bush. Her career has now spanned 50 years and she shows little sign of stopping.
8. Johnny Cash - Johnny Cash took country mainstream. He paved the way for artists well-loved artists like Willie Nelson, Kenny Rogers, and the highest selling solo artist of any genre, Garth Brooks.
7. Stevie Wonder – Stevie Wonder was one of the most prolific songwriters ever to be recorded. He has a beautiful voice, wrote all his music, played the piano, and produced most of his own music too. He wrote thought-provoking songs during the seventies when America was fighting against itself in segregation and absolutely dominated the eighties with inspiring ballads.
6. Elton John – Sir Elton John has sold more than 250 records worldwide. He has 40 years writing and performing music across the globe. He has won 5 Grammy’s, has 9 #1 hits, and “Candle in the Wind 1997″ is the best selling single in history with 37 million copies purchased. Elton John was a musical genius who started playing the piano by ear at 3 years old. He began classical training at 11 and could play some historic pieces perfectly after hearing them just once. The most astonishing trait of John’s music is that it does not fit into any one genre. There pieces of all the musical influences in his life from the classical music, to blues, and R&B. His diverse musical acuity is the mark of a true artist.
5. Ray Charles – Ray Charles changed music. He mixed gospel and blues. Then, mixed blues and country and basically formed rhythm and blues. He was a musical visionary despite being physically blind. Ray Charles changed the way music is made today.
4. Madonna – Madonna has not only been relevant in 3 decades, she has thrived and inspired generations of music lovers. Madonna has sold more than 300 million records worldwide and is recognized as the highest selling female in music history. She constantly reinvents herself and her music. She went from 80′s rebellious, sexual wild child, to 90′s satirist on religion, to a new millennium icon. Madonna has ventured into fashion and acting and has been well received. She has influenced musical stars from Britney Spears to Christina Aguilera to Lady Gaga. Madonna started it all for female pop stars.
3. Bob Marley – political corruption in his country, Jamaica. After being shot two days before a concert(many believed that the government was behind the shooting), he performed to packed house. When asked why he sang, he answered that the evil in the world would not take a day off, neither should the good people.
2. Bob Dylan – Bob Dylan may be the greatest song writer in American history. He has been a figure for the oppressed for more than 60 years. He wrote compelling songs in the 60′s for civil rights and anti-war campaigning. Like Bob Marley, Dylan used his music as a forum to fight social unrest. Bob Dylan is a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Songwriter’s Hall of Fame. He also won a Pulitzer Prize in 2008.
1. Michael Jackson – Michael Jackson is one of the most celebrated artists of all time. His solo musical career spanned over 30 years and it reaches over 40 years when you add his time in the Jackson 5. Michael Jackson was the most recognizable figure on the planet. His music concerts were sold out within hours of being announced. His presence caused traffic jams and riots. Michael Jackson is recognized as the most successful entertainer of all time by the Guinness Book of World Records. He has four records that rank among the top selling records of all time, including the best selling record, Thriller. Michael Jackson revolutionized music video production. His videos for Thriller, Smooth Criminal, and Remember the Time were light years ahead of the production at that time. Michael Jackson is one of a few artists to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame twice, and is also a member of the Dance Hall of Fame. He has sold over 800 million records with 13 number one singles. He has won the most music awards in history, including 13 Grammy’s and 26 AMA’s. Michael Jackson is the most prolific, bewildering singer and song-writer in the history of music.