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The Top Five Most Exciting Artists in Music History

Updated on September 3, 2013

Since the 1950s, we've had the pleasure of witnessing some of the greatest acts in rock and roll history. These musicians from various genres, have captured our attention in so many ways. Some were in bands while others were great solo artists. They provided great music and brought excitement like few others before them. In a who's who of rock & roll icons, this list compiles the five most exciting artists ever.

5. tie. The Rolling Stones/Jimi Hendrix

At times, the Rolling Stones have been regarded as second fiddle to the Beatles. This is a huge disservice to the Stones. They are in the discussion as the greatest band ever. These five lads from London generated mass excitement and timeless music in their own right. The Stones at their peak produced classic singles and albums. The Rolling Stones had a harder rock element to their music. Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, were the groups primary songwriters and they loved R&B music. That genre was infused into their sound also. Many of their singles were upbeat, funky, edgy, danceable, and fun. In some ways, the Rolling Stones were more interesting and captivating than the Fab Four. Led by the greatest front man in rock history, Mick Jagger, they had a swagger and a sexiness that the Beatles could not match. Also, they were bad boys and rebellious. They were "in your face" rock stars. Jagger's and Richards drug use and womanizing are almost as legendary as their catalog of music. They had an edge about them that has held up on recordings and on stage. They've had longevity and a career that all artists strive for. This band has been around for 50 years and still going strong. They are a group for the ages.

Jimi Hendrix was the greatest individual to ever pluck the strings of a guitar. He was as electrifying and exciting as an artist can be. This former Army paratrooper revolutionized rock & roll with his spectacular electric guitar mastery. He personified the 1960s. Hendrix was psychedelic and groovy. Seeing him live in concert was a unique experience. At times, he would play his guitar with his mouth! Or he'd set it on fire, literally. He was exciting in the sense that no one was like him. He was distinctive in his mannerisms and in the way he dressed. No other artist looked like that or played like that. Hendrix was one of the first major artists to have an integrated band. He took well known songs from other artists and totally redefined them. For someone whose life and career was tragically cut short, he left an imprint on rock & roll like very few before or after him. Some 40 years after his death, guitarists all over the world are still trying to master that instrument like he did. The key word is trying. There are many great legendary iconic guitarists but all of them will be always compared to the master of the strings, Jimi Hendrix.

4. James Brown

James Brown is one of the most important artists in music history. The "Godfather of Soul", broke down the doors that Michael Jackson, Prince, and many others were able to walk through. Twenty years before Prince and Jackson's rise, James Brown was the most dynamic and captivating Black performer ever. He was an original. Brown was one of the first artists that didn't predominantly play an instrument. James Brown was so exciting and energetic, that an instrument would've been in his way. His songs were funky, gritty, and instantly made you want to dance. Always backed by a superb band, Mr. Dynamite would explode all over the stage. He'd jump, do tricks with the microphone stand, and launch in to his signature splits. Towards the end of his shows, his emcee would come and drape a cape over a kneeling Brown, as the crowd went wild. Everyone knew what was coming next. James Brown would jump out of the cape and resume his extraordinary dancing. His live shows were nothing short of spectacular. He influenced every solo performer after him. Michael Jackson always said James Brown was his greatest influence. In his later years, though slowed by age and more dependent on his band, JB was more than capable of putting on a great show. The "Hardest Working Man In Show Business", passed away on December 25, 2006. Literally, only death could retire the one and only James Brown.

3. Elvis Presley

Elvis Aaron Presley was the king of rock & roll. He personified excitement. Elvis was an singer, guitarist, dancer, and movie star. Presley was a great singer in all genres of music. An avid fan of gospel music, Presley blended rock, pop, and blues into his songs. What set Elvis apart from his contemporaries was his charisma and sheer star power. Presley brought the sound of Black rock & rollers into the homes of White America. Capitalizing on his love for R&B music, Presley had a rhythm that others at that time didn't have. During his legendary performance on the Ed Sullivan Show, he was shown only from the waist up. His style of dancing and gyrating was viewed as sexual in nature. In those times, anything resembling sex was very taboo. Women screamed, fainted, and burst into tears whenever Presley performed. He set the tone for all entertainers and performers that would come after him. Presley also starred in several hit movies. Blessed with good looks and a charming personality, he was a natural for the big screen. In later years Elvis had a successful run in Las Vegas. In typical Elvis fashion, his leaving the building was an event! Even 30 years after his death, Elvis Presley, still is arguably the most popular artist of the 20th century.

2. The Beatles

The Beatles are widely recognized as not only the greatest rock and roll band ever, but as the greatest artists ever in the history of popular music. By far, they are the most commercial and critically acclaimed act ever. John Lennon and Paul McCartney are arguably the greatest songwriting duo in history. These four musicians from Liverpool, England set the world on fire, the instant their feet touched American soil. Already major stars in their native Great Britain, they led the "British Invasion" of groups form England coming to the United States. The Fab Four created mass hysteria and excitement wherever they performed. In the early stages they were branded as pop teen idols and teenage girls were their biggest group of fans. Proving they were more than four mop top haired pretty boys, they began to experiment with their music. Later albums had more edge and artistic content. They grew facial hair and young men became fans of the group as well. Classic singles and albums continued all the way through the 1960s. The ending of the group came too soon. That's part of the excitement and legend of the Beatles. Fans longed for a reunion, but sadly, it was not to be. John Lennon was shot and killed on December 8, 1980. The coolest fact about the Beatles, is that they never had a decline. They set the standard for superior music making. In the history of rock and roll, the Beatles will forever be number one.

1. Michael Jackson

Michael Jackson is the most exciting artist of all time for several reasons. First, he benefited from perfect timing. Being a Black artist in the 1980s wasn't nearly as hard as it was in the '50s and '60s. He was able to cross boundaries and reach masses of people that Little Richard, Chuck Berry, and even his mentor James Brown couldn't. He didn't have to perform in segregated America. The era of segregation applies to Elvis Presley as well. He ranks over the Beatles because he was one man. The Beatles popularity was split four ways. Most fans had a favorite Beatle. Second, he was the first artist to revolutionize music videos. We could turn our televisions to MTV and watch his videos or short films. It simply gave him an access into homes and cultures that acts before him didn't have. During his "Thriller" era, not only was he the most exciting and successful artist, he was arguably the biggest star on the planet in any form of entertainment. His mere presence cause uproars. At his concerts men and women would cry, faint, and have to be carried out on stretchers during his shows. He became a marketing gold mine. Stores all over the world sold Michael Jackson jackets, gloves, dolls, books, and various other items. There had been nothing like it before or after, for that matter. Just as his idols Elvis Presley and James Brown did before him, he influenced almost every singer/entertainer after him. The last 15 years of his life were marked by scandal and ridicule. Constant changes to his appearance, bizarre behavior, and child molestation allegations tainted his once almost perfect image. Sadly, his tragic death in June 2009, reminded us of what he once was. It reminded us that he was an once in a lifetime talent. No matter how you may choose to remember him, it's clear that there will never be another Michael Jackson.


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    • profile image


      3 years ago

      Perhaps the best artistic renrideng of Linda Ronstadt I've ever seen. You have perfectly captured her physically and spiritually. Just fabulous, Greg.Most portraits I've seen miss the special curves of her mouth and the expressiveness of her eyes. Not you!BTW, I posted a link to your site and the painting on the Linda Ronstadt fan forum, so expect to hear more accolades.

    • profile image


      4 years ago

      Elvis wasn't michael Jackson's "idol". tf?

    • epigramman profile image


      5 years ago

      Well my friend it's a two way street because your comments to me are very much appreciated too.

      I hope you have a nice day and a pleasant evening.

      Just came out of the lake from a refreshing dip.

      lake erie time ontario canada 1:00pm

    • Man of Strength profile imageAUTHOR

      Man of Strength 

      5 years ago from Orlando, Fl

      Hi Epi,

      Thank you so much for your very kind words. I appreciate you sharing my work. These compliments from you are very humbling and much appreciated.

    • epigramman profile image


      5 years ago

      No arguments here my friend although I may have put Bob Dylan in the top five. I love your passion and intelligence in the way you write and yes you do write like a man of strength and conviction. You have such an awesome collection of hubs too so I will promote you with much enthusiasm on my FB page for all to see and read.

      MHATTER 99 is quite a limerick writer himself but before I go away I will comment and review on one of yours.

      So nice to meet you my friend and thank you for gracing my humble hubspace with your presence.

      Sending a high five and warm wishes to you from Colin and his cat crew Tiffy and Gabriel at lake erie time ontario canada 11:54am

    • Man of Strength profile imageAUTHOR

      Man of Strength 

      5 years ago from Orlando, Fl

      Thanks Cat,

      I'm glad you enjoyed the hub. These are artists that everyone should know. Whenever I write about Michael Jackson, I try to find a picture of him before his life started veering off course. To a generation younger than ours, he was a freak show before his death.

    • Cantuhearmescream profile image


      5 years ago from New York

      Man of Strength,

      Sweetness!!! I could come visit this page every day just to hear some of the best! Wow... you took me all over the place! I grew up on 'Start Me Up' and still hear it at every field days... it's iconic, and it's always 'just been what it was to me' watching the video now... ha ha ha.. I wondered if Mick didn't do a line before he recorded that... wow! I could say the same thing for James Brown... which by the way, his music is known to even my kids; how often do you still hear 'I Feel Good'? Ah... Elvis... he was dead before I was even a thought, yet I own his greatest hits on tape and CD and I can say the same for the Beatles, now that I think about it, we had records of them both and Michael Jackson... who I was fortunate to grow up knowing, while he was still alive and he followed me throughout my childhood, through teenage years and into adulthood. It's a shame he's gone. Awesome hub!!!


    • Man of Strength profile imageAUTHOR

      Man of Strength 

      5 years ago from Orlando, Fl

      You make a good point. I meant the rock and roll era. Elvis and James Brown debuted in the mid 1950s. Sinatra is arguably the greatest vocalist of all time. Thanks again for reading.

    • Man of Strength profile imageAUTHOR

      Man of Strength 

      5 years ago from Orlando, Fl

      What's good, Alphadogg?

      It was a tough list and took a little time complete. Thanks for stopping by and reading. Its greatly appreciated.

    • Alphadogg16 profile image

      Kevin W 

      5 years ago from Texas

      Great hub MOS, tough to rank them, all of them have an argument of being top billing. I personally would have had James Brown or Elvis first, the paved the way for Michael Jackson. Probably give an Honorable Mention to Chuck Berry, Ray Charles, and Tina & Ike. Voted up.

    • Mhatter99 profile image

      Martin Kloess 

      5 years ago from San Francisco

      Since you picked some of my favorites... But history? Mozart... Sinatra...


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