The Most Talented Rock Bands of All Time, Ranked
Rock music has had a dramatic impact on our culture since it started as old-fashioned rock ‘n’ roll in the 1950s. Transcending well beyond the music scene, it has helped shaped fashion, culture, language and art.
Rock music is one of the most influential cultural phenomena of our time, and many classic rockers are etched as permanent icons in world history. Let’s take a look at the rankings for the most talented rock bands of all time.
Bluesy hard rock band Rush comes in at #25. The Canadian band formed in 1968 and concluded their final large-scale tour in 2015. The cult favorite changed their style plenty of times over the years, and the end result was an always unique sound and a dedicated fan base all over the world.
Next up on the list is Journey, the rock band behind the iconic smash hit "Don't Stop Believin’" from 1981. How incredible is the song? In 2009, it became the top-selling track on iTunes for a single not released in the 21st century. It's a go-to favorite for karaoke aficionados and rock fans everywhere.
#23 Van Halen
Back in the early 1980s, heavy metal bands did not use keyboards and synthesizers. Such instruments were associated with new wave and pop music and not suitable for rock. Always up for a challenge, Van Halen paved the way for this sound in the hard rock scene.
#22 Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
The late Tom Petty is considered by many to be one of the greatest musicians in the history of rock. After forming in Florida, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers went on to achieve superstardom, earning a spot on this list for their longevity and ability to appeal to fans from multiple generations.
#21 Creedence Clearwater Revival
This Vietnam War era band is still widely known for their enduring folk-rock anthems. Four musicians hailing from California, Creedence Clearwater Revival's sound was light enough to appeal to a wide range of fans across multiple generations.
Kicking off the top 20 is Kiss. From Gene Simmons' ridiculously long tongue to elaborate special effects that included levitating drum sets, rockets and some fire-breathing, Kiss was about far more than just the music they played. They were more than a simple rock band — they were primal entertainers.
#19 The Eagles
Considered to be one of the best musical acts to come out of the 1970s, The Eagles have been awarded five American Music Awards and six Grammy Awards. Six of their albums made it to #1 and produced five #1 singles.
#18 The Ramones
Don't let the use of the last name confuse you — the Ramones were not biologically related. They simply all adopted the last name "Ramone" when the band formed in 1974. Future additions to the band in the years that followed did the same.
#17 The Velvet Underground
The first album by the Velvet Underground only sold 10,000 copies, but it has been said that everyone who bought a copy was inspired to start their own band. This speaks volumes about the influence the band had on a generation of musicians.
#16 Fleetwood Mac
The history of Fleetwood Mac actually dates all the way back to London in 1967, but Americans Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham didn’t join the group until 1974. Their addition to Fleetwood Mac created a unique blend of men and women/Americans and Brits that helped skyrocket the band to commercial success.
#15 The Kinks
A quartet of working-class musicians from northern London came together to form The Kinks in the 1960s. Mick Avory, Pete Quaife and Dave and Ray Davies produced a British rhythm and blues style that reflected the English culture at the time.
#14 The Doors
In only six years, The Doors created a lasting legacy and a powerful influence on American music. Jim Morrison was the iconic frontman for the group, and his poetic lyrics and stage presence are perhaps still unmatched in music history.
#13 The Beach Boys
Brothers Dennis, Carl and Brian Wilson joined up with friend Al Jardine and cousin Mike Love to create The Beach Boys in the early 1960s. The catchy and unique stylings of the band produced songs such as "Surfin’ USA," "I Get Around" and "Wouldn't It Be Nice?" Their sound brought California vibes to listeners, no matter where they happened to be.
#12 Black Sabbath
This Ozzy Osbourne heavy metal band's influence is arguably unmatched in its genre. After forming in Birmingham, England, in 1968, the band created a sound that was influenced by a factory accident that cost guitarist Tony Iommi the tips of two of his fingers. As a result, he tuned down his guitar for easier strumming, leading to a lower, heavier sound.
Scottish brothers Malcolm and Angus Young formed AC/DC in 1973. The Australian rockers lost their lead singer, Bon Scott, to a suspicious death in 1980, but the band survived and became one of the most influential metal bands of all time.
Nirvana’s four-chord approach altered the course of music history. Kurt Cobain performed with bassist Krist Novoselic and drummer Dave Grohl to create a rebellion against ‘80s hair metal that is known as the Seattle grunge movement.
Few have influenced the music world the way Aerosmith has. Since emerging on the music scene in 1970, the band has produced an endless number of classic rock anthems. Aerosmith's sound is rooted in blues and hard rock with elements of heavy metal and pop rock as well.
#8 Guns N' Roses
Axl Rose and Slash are arguably the greatest vocalist-guitarist combo of all time. This band produced some of the most memorable rock anthems ever but are probably just as well known for their hard-partying lifestyle and bad-boy reputation.
Metallica formed in 1981 and helped create the thrash metal genre. James Hetfield's fierce performances on vocals, Lars Ulrich's drumming and Kirk Hammett’s guitar playing came together to create one of the most influential metal bands in history. The road to Metallica's success was never that smooth, however, as the band faced their share of demons.
#6 Pink Floyd
Legend says if you sync up Pink Floyd's "Dark Side of the Moon" with "The Wizard of Oz," the music and the imagery line up a little too well. That’s just one example of Pink Floyd's artistry, which is also evident in their music, stage shows, videos and concept albums. Each Pink Floyd album has its own unique theme, and they have been credited with reinventing progressive space rock.
Kicking off the top five is Queen, which boasted some of the most talented musicians ever to take the stage. Singer Freddie Mercury's four-octave range has led many to consider him the best vocalist in history. Brian May on guitar, Roger Taylor on drums and John Deacon on bass rounded out the group.
#4 The Who
Formed in London in 1964, The Who created a lasting legacy in rock music. The most famous lineup consisted of Pete Townshend on guitar, Roger Daltrey on vocals, Keith Moon banging on the drums and John Entwistle on bass. Townshend and Entwistle's styles couldn't have been more different, with Townshend prone to jumping in the air and smashing his guitar while Entwistle calmly played bass in the corner.
#3 Led Zeppelin
One of the most famous rock bands of all time, Led Zeppelin signed to Atlantic Records in 1968, reportedly locking in the most lucrative deal of the era without executives even seeing them perform live. With Robert Plant's vocals, Jimmy Page on guitar, John Paul Jones on keyboards and John Bonham on drums, the combination was astounding.
#2 The Rolling Stones
The Rolling Stones formed in 1962 and are amazingly still going today. In terms of longevity, no other band can match what the Stones have done in the last six decades of music. Having released more than 30 studio albums, they have undeniably had one of the greatest impacts on modern music.
#1 The Beatles
Taking first prize on this list is The Beatles for the lasting and undeniable influence they had on music. From 1960 to 1970, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr and George Harrison produced 12 albums, a pace unheard of by modern standards. It’s impossible to run out of accolades to list for the Beatles, who are possibly the greatest selling band in music history.
Honorable Mention: Cream
Cream didn't crack the top 25, but the band deserves an honorable mention, if only for the recognizable guitar riff from "Sunshine of Your Love." They aren't called a band, however. They are technically a "supergroup" with band members who were all particularly gifted in their roles.
Honorable Mention: Def Leppard
Def Leppard is one of the top ‘80s heavy metal acts, and their catchy choruses kept fans shouting along as the band's popularity skyrocketed. The band broke out with their third album, Pyromania, in 1983, and collection that was more polished than their previous work and launched the band to superstardom.
Honorable Mention: U2
A perfect balance of drums, bass and infused guitar tracks came together to create the famous sound of U2. Hit single's like "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" and "Where the Streets Have No Name" hold broad appeal and still appear in regular rotations on the radio. With more than 40 years of experience in the music industry, this Irish band has an enduring legacy in music.
Honorable Mention: Deep Purple
Known as the "Globe's Loudest Band," these pioneers of heavy metal paved the way for many bands that came after them. From Queen to Metallica, numerous bands have credited Deep Purple as a group that inspired them. Songs such as "Highway Star" and "Smoke on the Water" launched the band to stardom. The famous and catchy guitar riff from the latter is one of the most iconic in history.
Honorable Mention: Blondie
Perhaps enough credit isn't given to the women of rock, so Deborah Harry and Blondie more than deserve an honorable mention. Rising from the punk rock scene in 1970’s New York, Blondie hit mainstream success with singles like "Heart of Glass," "Call Me" and "One Way or Another."