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what the world needs now is a music poll
greatest rock and roll songwriters of all time

Busy, busy day today. Besides the whole mood like black grunge thing I have going on. Hey, let's take our minds elsewhere for a bit, ok? Let's get into a controversial ranking of musical icons in which some of us will end up wanting to strangle others because, dude, the Stones just weren't that great.


I came across Paul's post on the best rock songwriter's of all time (ok, so I read it last week) and I meant to write something about it, but I just haven't gotten around to it.

Well, that's what you're here for. If you guys come up with a list of the greatest rock song writers of all time, I will write about the top, oh, ten or so. Depending on my mood this week. I'll even offer up some song downloads. And maybe a final poll. Unless the winners are going to end up being McCartney/Lennon, because I just won't abide by that.

I'm just saying, though, that Difford and Tilbrook better make the cut.

So, greatest rock and roll songwriters of ALL TIME. Go.


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greatest rock and roll songwriters of all time

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(Jerry) Leiber and (Mike) Stoller (#4 on the original list). The depth will astound you, and the linked page is only a smidgeon of their output.

Elvis Costello needs to be in top five IMHO.

.....and Jakob (sp?) Dylan needs to be in top 100 (in my version of the world).

I know I'm all "old-school" (or maybe just old) but how about Bernie Taupin? Or would he fall under best "Pop" songwriter? Ok then, how's about Jim Steinman?

Sheesh! How old AM I??

In no order but needing to make cut:

Paul Westerberg

Jeff Hyman, John Cummings, Douglas Colvin, T. Erdelyi, Marc Bell

Pete Townshend

Ray Davies

Andy Partridge

Robert Pollard

Robyn Hitchcock

Brian Wilson

Chuck Berry

Warren Zevon

Nick Lowe

Bob Mould

Pete Shelley

i think the greatest in rock and roll are the Beatles and Oasis. There just pure class... no if's and's or but's about it

Lou Reed.
David Bowie
David Byrne

Well, it's hard to call it a "greatest" list and complain at getting a lot of conventional choices. But I gotta stand up here for Springsteen near the top of any list:

Blinded by the Light
Because the Night
The Fever
From Small Things (Big Things One Day Come)
Hearts Of Stone
Light Of Day
Pink Cadillac
Streets of Philadelphia

And those are just some of the throwaways, songs for movie scores, songs other people had bigger hits with, etc. (See this frighteningly comprehensive list of covers). How many artists could put out a four-CD compilation of songs that didn't make their albums, and have most of it be high-quality stuff?

Chuck Berry should get honorable mentoon too, although Chuck only wrote one or two tunes and then just re-worked them endlessly, and while he wrote some memorable phrases his lyrics mostly weren't special.

Pete Townshend
Andy Partridge
Joe Strummer/Mick Jones
Iggy Pop
Chrissy Hynde

and if Dave Davies isn't on it, it ain't worth a misspelled carp.

Would definitely second Costello, Townshend, Brian Wilson, and Difford and Tillbrook. Will pretend did not see overblown praises of Springsteen being sung in blog of woman who hates same.

As for Oasis, I'm with Lyle: Don't write any songs.

Without thinking about it too much, here's my top dozen, not in order:

Bruce Springsteen
Paul Westerberg
Chuck Berry/Johnnie Johnson (uncredited)
Buddy Holly
John Fogerty
Bob Dylan
Caffey/Schock/Valentine/Wiedlin (Go-Go's)
Brian Wilson
Sam Cooke

Honorable Mention - John Mellencamp

Future Possibilities - Kim Shattuck (The Muffs), Billie Joe Armstrong (Green Day)

No friggin mention of Todd that I can see,DQ's the wjhole shebang for me

Paul Stanley . I mean, how can you argue with these lyrics:

No place for hidin' baby
No place to run
You pulled the trigger of my
Love gun.

Roger Waters

McCartney (screw Lennon)
Paul Simon (ditto Artie G.)
Ian Brown/John Squire

I'm surprised nobody has mentioned Ben Folds. "Battle of Who Could Care Less" is one of the most cynical songs ever written. Billy Joel probably belongs on the list. More pop than rock but evocative as hell and the old Piano Man stuff holds up well.

Peter Gabriel wrote some damn good songs as did Zappa, once you get past the pretension and orchestral meanderings.

I gotta give Eminem a nod too. I'm not real big on the misogyny and the quasi-gangsta styling, but damn, that boy can turn a phrase.

Best? That's an impossible question but if I could take the sum of any songwriters work with me to the island, I'd have to go with Dylan. I'm hard pressed to think of anyone with a catalogue as varied and extensive as Dylan's.

I want to second (third? tenth?) Bowie. Especially considering the stuff he wrote for other performers.

And just for laughs, I'm throwing in Syd Vicious.

Bernie Taupin
Paul Simon
Jackson Browne
Todd Rundgren
Roger Waters
Robert Smith

Two sets of people that have not been mentioned: Robert Plant/Jimmy Page; and Eddie Vedder.

Eddie Vedder isn't a set of people.

Making these lists is like eating a bunch of grapes. You start by picking the best, and you end by picking them all.

madonna! hahaha.

Tom Waits

Otherwise...what's the point?

Well, Tom Waits did write that song for Rod Stewart.

I'm going to hell for that.

And I know it's cool to hate them these days, but I have to make a stand for Bono from U2.

One reason...just One.

Nike Drake
Jim Croche
Gillian Welch
Billy Bragg
Stuart Murdoch (Belle and Sebastian)

Uh, j.d., Robert Plant and Jimmy Page didn't write half the songs they claimed to. But this guy did:

The person who wrote many of the best late-60's blues based hard rock songs was . . .


And he recorded them in 1936 and 1937. Zep stole several of his songs, with nary a credit. Fortunately, the Stones, Cream/Eric Clapton, and even Foghat gave him his due credit.

OK, if ya wanna get more contemporary, you can't ignore Prince, Bowie, Dylan, the Glimmer Twins (Yes, damnit!!!), Cake, Smashing Pumpkins, The Spice Girls (ok, it's time for bed)

Jimmy Buffett

/Hey he DID write "Why don't we get drunk and screw."

Justin Hayward
John Lodge
Ray Thomas


Justin Hayward/John Lodge
Justin Hayward/Ray Thomas
Justin Hayward/Graeme Edge
John Lodge/Graeme Edge
Ray Thomas/Graeme Edge

Jim Steinman
Tommy Shaw
Bruce Dickinson/Steve Harris
Roger Waters
Dream Theatre
Robert Johnson

Old School:
Carl Perkins
Buddy Holly
Chuck Berry

Oh HELL yeah, Buddy Holly.

Lennon/Macca (Doesn't matter how Beatlephobic you are... There is no counter argument to "In My Life." It is the kung fu vibrating palm secret death blow.)
Andy Partridge
Warren Zevon
John Woloschuk
John Fogerty
Ginger of the Wildhearts
The original Alice Cooper lineup/collective
Mark Mothersbaugh/Gerald Casale
Brian Wilson

Taupin/John (but nothing they did seperately)
Collins/Van Zandt (Lynyrd Skynyrd)
Ian Anderson

Just to add my two cents:
I second Zappa
Smokey Robinson (yeah, rock and roll, in the early days)
Neil Young

...and Tom Waits didn't write that song for Rod Stewart. He wrote it for himself (for "Rain Dogs") and Stewart went and f*$!ed it all up.

Harry Neilson

I'm going to have to throw in Elvis Costello, Paul Westerberg, andJagger/Richards (once upon a time), though they've been mentioned before.

I'll add Strummer/Jones, and Graham Parker.

Tandem writers only:

Elvis Costello
Warren Zevon

1. Yes, I know Michele hates Bruce. He still deserves the honor.
2. Robert Johnson certainly deserves a nod.
3. Best songwriter who has a real blog: John Perry Barlow, who teamed with Bob Weir to write some fine songs for the Dead.

Right on, Michele.

Difford & Tilbrook
Neil Finn
Fagen & Becker
Aimee Mann
Nick Lowe
Warren Zevon
Paul Westerberg
Andy Partridge
Elvis Costello

Pete Townsend
Greg Allman and co.
Van Halen/Roth
Elvis Costello
Sly Stone

And some honorable mentions Ramones (not sure who wrote all their songs though, but they are some all time best rockers, Andy Partridge, but not sure how "rock" that is, Todd Rundgren and I am sure I will think of more when it's too late.

Alice Cooper

Two from the past 10-15 years who I think craft a small world in each song, even though they probably don't fall into your intent of rock:
Liz Phair
Lucinda Williams

And from my favorite group, even though they wrote separate songs, they amplified each other:
Bob Mould/Grant Hart

Neil Fallon

Two words: Paul Weller

Listening to the Jam makes me glad I grew up in the USA.

(1) Springsteen

(2) Cobain (don't like their music, and he can't sing or play his damn instrument, but he sure as hell could write songs)

(3) Osbourne

(4) Axl Rose (I know we just had a discussion about this, but come on there were some gems there)

(5) Neil Diamond (remember he wasn't always easy listening)

(6) I don't like the Stones either Michele, but I don't see how you leave them off this list...

(7) metallica definitely deserves mention.

NOT Lennon/McCartney, together or seperately...

Crosby, Stills, Nash, Young
Taupin, John
Ray Charles

all the standards:
the Glimmer Twins
Difford & Tilbrook

and my dark horse picks:
Iggy Pop
the dudes in The Presidents Of The USA
Bryan Ferry /Roxy
Andy Shernoff / The Dictators
Davies Brothers / Kinks

Mark Knopfler

Other than the obvious (Lennon/McCartney, Jagger/Richard, Townshend, Page/Plant, Chuck Berry) I'd vote for the following:

Brian Wilson
Jeff Barry / Ellie Greenwich
Barry Mann / Cynthia Weill

Ooh, second Knopfler. And, raiding Wass' dark-horse picks, the Ramones and the Davies brothers.

Also Bob Seger.

I third Knopfler

I haven't read every one of the nominations, so these are just my thoughts. But I agree with you about Difford/Tillbrook. Also Joe Strummer.


Whoever wrote the Rolling Stones classics
Bob Dylan
Bob Mould
Paul Westerberg
Ani DiFranco
Steve Earle
Frank Black
They Might Be Giants
Simon and/or Garfunkel
Van Morrison

Lennon and McCartney
Bob Dylan
John Fogerty
Raymond Douglas Davies
Pete Townshend
Mick Jagger/Keith Richards
Bruce Springsteen

Let us not forget THE BAND. Some of the greatest songs written, like The Weight, Stagefright, The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down ...

I think Doc Pomus should be included. And yes I know I am showing my age.

Jarvis Cocker

Sorry I'm late... here are ones I don't think have been mentioned:

Patti Smith
Lou Reed
David Bowie
David Byrne
John Fogerty
Collins/Rossington/Van Zant

Well, I don't know that I won't be adding anyone that hasn't already, but my top whatever.....

  • Lennon/McCartney
  • Lieber/Stoller
  • Elvis Costello
  • Brian Wilson
  • Pete Townshend
  • Ray and Dave Davies
  • Strummer/Jones
  • The Gibb Brothers
  • John Cash
  • Burt Baccarach
  • Yeah, the Gibbs did a lot of disco, but they also wrote a lot for other artists before they started recording their own stuff. I was torn between Cash and some of the other country greats (Willie Nelson, Hank Williams, etc.), but went with the Man in Black because he's also covered NIN and Joy Division (his version of Personal Jesus has to be heard to be believed. It's fantastic.....).

    And Burt because he, much like the brothers Gibb (sounds like a demented fairytale thing, no?) wrote the songs that everyone else sang.

    Add Holland/Dozier/Holland, please.

    The songwriters in Judas Priest as well.

    Don Henley
    Tom Petty
    Bob Dylan
    George Harrison
    Sheryl Crow (yes, Sheryl Crow.)

    Trent Reznor - without a doubt


    Ryan F___n Adams. 'Nough said.

    *Lou Reed
    *Patti Smith
    *Pete Townshend
    *Johnny Cash
    *Bob Dylan
    *Syd Barret


    Steve Winwood/Tim Lord Algae
    Hall 'n Oats
    Fats Domino
    Elanis Morisette
    Gwen Stephani

    i see a lot of john & paul but george harrison was no slouch

    First of all, you all have fine picks (with the exception of Cobain, my opinion), however if you use the ratio of songs written to hit songs(writers version or not), then the winner hands down and by a landslide margin is...William (Smokey) Robinson, over 3000 songs written and nearly half have been covered more than once and been in the top 20 countdowns. The runner up is ...well, well, we have a tie of sorts...Between John/Taupin and a Mr William Joel, who'd a thunk it? Now this list is not to say that they write the best songs, no , it only means that they write songs that catch the public's ear at that time period..ie remember that big hit "Candle in the Wind", when it first came out? How about after Princess Di's death? See my point?
    My personal favorite song writers compose songs that have melodies that stick in your head for days and lyrics that can be interpreted many ways....