The 16 Top American/Canadian Singer/Songwriters of all time.

Well once again I was focussing on the quality of the lyrics. I like my lyrics poetic and with a social impact. I like them to say something, communicate something and be full of passion. That made it easier.

  1. Bob Dylan – That was easy – the greatest song-writer ever. The number of brilliant songs he has produced dwarfs everyone else. Nobody else has said as much so well. There has also been a fair bit of crap though. But with To Ramona, It’s Alright Ma (I’m Only Bleeding’, Subterranean Homesick Blues, Masters of War, Blowing in the Wing, Ballad of Hollis Brown, Only a Pawn in Their Game, Chimes of Freedom, All Along the Watchtower, Gates of Eden, Most Likely You go Your Way I’ll Go Mine, Tombstone Blues, Positively Fourth Street, Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowland, and thousands more, he raised the consciousness of my generation, high-lighted civil rights, anti-war and the social significance of poetry. No one else, apart from Roy Harper, comes near.
  2. Joni Mitchell – Simply the best female songwriter of all time. Her musicianship and song-writing skills shine. My favourites are Little Green, Blue, Woodstock, Sex Kills, and Big Yellow Taxi.
  3. Woody Guthrie – The father of the topical protest song. A man of integrity who said it as it was, eloquently, in everyday speech. He roamed America and stood up for what is right and wrote some of the best songs ever heard – Vigilante Man, Tom Joad, Rolling Colombia, This Land is Your Land (with the other verses), Dust Pneumonia Blues, Hard Travellin, Pastures of Plenty and Do Re Mi.
  4. Bruce Springsteen – When I heard Independence Day and the River I knew that Bruce had reached that level. Born in the USA confirmed it and 57 Channels, Murder Incorporated, Badlands, Adam Raised a Cain and Promised Land were great but his later work hasn’t always lived up to the same standard.
  5. Leonard Cohen – Leonard is a poet and wordsmith who has produced a huge body of quality work. Right from his first album where he put his poetry to music up until the present day the quality shines – Hallelujah, Bird on a Wire, Suzanne, Famous Blue Raincoat, The Future, First We Take Manhattan, Everybody Knows, I’m Your Man, The Teacher, Who by Fire?, So Long Marianne, Tower of Song and Hey That’s No Way To Say Goodbye. I love his humour and the fact that no subjects are off limits.
  6. Jimi Hendrix – The guitar phenomenon was also a brilliant song writer. You only have to look at Little Wing, The Wind Cries Mary, One Rainy Wish, Bold as Love, Voodoo Chile, Purple Haze and Spanish Castle Magic.
  7. Willie Dixon – The brains in song writing behind the Chess Label’s fifties Blues. He wrote the songs for Howlin’ Wolf, Bo Diddley, Sonny Boy Williamson and Muddy Waters to regale us with. Spoonful, Backdoor Man, You Can’t Judge a Book, Built for Comfort, Diddy Wah Diddy, Spoonful, Do the Do, Bring it on Home, I Just Wanna Make Love to You, I’m Ready, Little Red Rooster, Pretty Thing, Wang Dang Doodle, My Babe, Shake for Me, I’m a Natural Born Lover, I Got My Brand on You, and hundreds more. He was prolific, consistent and largely unnoticed – a genius. Without him the Stones, Pretty Things and British Blues Boom might not have happened. He wrote half the stuff they copied.
  8. Jim Morrison – The Doors were phenomenal. Jim’s poetry took them to another level. Unknown Soldier, Five to One, The End, Celebration of the Lizard, Soft Parade, Love me Two Times, Break on Through, When the Music’s Over and all the rest propelled them to the heights. Of Course the musicianship of Manzarek, Densmore and Krieger had something to do with it. But those songs were epic.
  9. Don Van Vliet – Captain Beefheart – there has never been a poet like him. He did pictures and sounds with words that nobody else has managed. That music has not been copied or rivalled. Those lyrics are unparalleled. Abba Zabba, Electricity, Big Eyed Beans From Venus, Moonlight on Vermont, Floppy Boot Stomp, Smithsonian Institute Blues, Spotlight Kid, Clear Spot, and loads more – sheer genius.
  10. Buffy St Marie – Buffy brought a different perspective to music – her Native American Indian Culture. She put the voice of the American Native Indians into mainstream with My Country It is of Thy People, Soldier Blue, Universal Soldier and Now That the Buffalo’s Gone. And she’s still doing it. Her new album is great.
  11. Robert Johnson – Only a young man when poisoned to death. Robert only had a few recording sessions in a hotel room to get down some of his music. It was brilliant. Sweet Home Chicago, Crossroads, Come on in My Kitchen, Terraplane Blues, Hellhound on my trail, Love in Vain and Ramblin’ On My Mind. One wonders what other gems died in that brain of his along with him on that day.
  12. Phil Ochs – Phil Ochs was the best protest singer apart from Bob Dylan. He produced a whole series of brilliant songs – Power & the Glory, Links on the Chain, Changes, Here’s To the State of Mississippi, Santo Domingo, There But for Fortune, I Ain’t Marching Anymore, Crucifixion, When I’m Gone and I’m Gonna Say it now.
  13. Arthur Lee – Love didn’t produce one of the best albums ever by chance. It was the quality of the songs that did it and Authur Lee was the major force behind that. Alone Again Or, Seven and Seven is, Everybody’s got to Live, You Set the Scene, and Stephanie Knows were brilliant.
  14. Hank Williams – Hank took Country to a new level. His song writing was brilliant – Move it on Over, Lost Highway, You Win Again, Lonesome Whistle Blow. Brilliance.
  15. Tom Waits – I love Tom with his gravelly voice, drunk persona and Beat sensibilities – Romeo is Bleeding, Tom Trauberts Blues, Rain Dogs, Cold Cold Ground, Downtown Train, Heart of Saturday Night, Gunstreet Girl, Clap Hands and Heart Attack and Vine – he was the link to the Beats.
  16. Frank Zappa – The Mothers of Invention were ground -breaking – Help I’m A Rock, What’s the Ugliest Part of Your Body, Cosmik Debris, Titties and Beer. It’s endless.
  17. Neil Young – a sing-songwriter who has written some masterpieces down through the decades. Whether acoustic or electric he continues to amaze. Ohio, Cinnamon Girl, Heart of Gold, Cortez the Killer, Like a Hurricane – the list is too long.

I’m sure you all agree with my choices. Maybe you’d like to add one or two?

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