Poll: Who Is the Greatest Rock Lyricist of All-Time?

As the second decade of the 3rd millennium nears its end and I start thinking about what inevitable listicles to pitch, my mind took a sharp detour as to how the best rock songs manage to endure over time better than any other genre. Or that least that’s what I’d like to try to argue.

Not to name names, but yes there have obviously been offenders who you can accuse in hypothetical music court of stretching the boundaries an instrument like the guitar can be pushed beyond its four basic chords. The sounds have evolved in rock’s 70 give-or-take year history, but what makes a song truly timeless are the WORDS put to it, the ones that are able to transport listeners back and/or make them feel an artist is speaking directly to THEM.

With this all said A Journal of Musical Things would like to ask a simple yet potential can of worms question – Who is the greatest rock lyricist of all-time?

I am ideally looking for individuals, but will accept band names in the cases where multiple songwriters contributed to a single rock entity. Vote by commenting below, tweeting @alancross, me @ROCKthuiast (email works too), or hitting up Mr.Cross’ Facebook page. Not too much spam, please. Hoping to generate almost as enthusiastic a response as the Greatest Frontperson in Rock poll got last year. Will the winner be as clear cut as Freddie Mercury was? Only one way to find out…

Gilles LeBlanc

Gilles LeBlanc literally fell into “alternative rock” wayyy back at Lollapalooza 1992, where he got caught in his first mosh pit watching some band named Pearl Jam. Since then, he’s spent the better part of his life looking for music to match the liberating rush he felt that day, with a particular chest-beating emphasis on stuff coming out of his native Canada. It took him awhile, but Gilles now writes feverishly about all things that rock (and or roll) through his ROCKthusiast alter ego.

35 thoughts on “Poll: Who Is the Greatest Rock Lyricist of All-Time?

  • October 7, 2019 at 4:03 pm
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    Jim Stienman has to be considered to be on this list. Too many epic hits to ignore!

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  • October 7, 2019 at 5:24 pm
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    Gord Downie-greatest lyricist ever

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    • October 8, 2019 at 3:57 pm
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      No contest. The poll is over.

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  • October 7, 2019 at 5:31 pm
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    The first name that comes to mind is Dylan…but I’d put Bryan Ferry and David Bowie up there as well. Yeah lets go with Bowie!

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  • October 7, 2019 at 6:49 pm
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    Best rock lyricist I think would have to be Steven Tyler of Aerosmith

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  • October 7, 2019 at 7:20 pm
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    It has to be Lennon/McCartney.

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  • October 7, 2019 at 7:27 pm
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    You should change this to the greatest rock lyricist who is NOT Bob Dylan or a Beatle. It’s hard to beat Bob at this game or Lennon/McCartney (solo or together) but I’ll nominate a different Bob – Mr. Marley. He brought reggae to the world and made musical statements that are still relevant today.

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  • October 7, 2019 at 10:01 pm
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    I think it has to be either James Mercer or Andy Partridge

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    • October 9, 2019 at 7:14 pm
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      Yes to both of those!! Two huge influences for me.

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  • October 7, 2019 at 11:49 pm
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    David Bowie…no contest in my opinion. His musical style evolved and changed over his 50+ year career and it may not always have appealed to even his most ardent fans but his lyrics were always intelligent and thought provoking. He also perhaps saved some of his best work to the last album. Blackstar is brilliant and compelling given what he was dealing with when he wrote it.

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  • October 8, 2019 at 5:25 am
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    It will be the immortal Bob Dylan. But if he’s not included, I’ll be voting for below.

    1. Pink Floyd
    2. Carole King
    3. Nick Drake

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  • October 8, 2019 at 11:06 am
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    Throw in a vote for Neil Young.

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  • October 8, 2019 at 12:27 pm
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    Absolutely hands down Bon Scott!!!

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  • October 8, 2019 at 12:34 pm
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    Too many to choose from, but haven’t yet seen Bruce Springsteen mentioned…

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  • October 8, 2019 at 2:01 pm
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    Eddie Spaghetti from the Supersuckers

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  • October 8, 2019 at 3:59 pm
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    Gord Downie, hands downie.

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  • October 8, 2019 at 8:11 pm
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    Gordon Lightfoot

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  • October 8, 2019 at 8:19 pm
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    If you’re strictly talking “rock” lyricist, one can’t overlook Bon Scott. “She ain’t exactly pretty / Ain’t exactly small / 42, 39, 56 / You could say she’s got it all!”….Yup, the man could spin a bangin’ yarn alright!

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  • October 8, 2019 at 10:07 pm
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    Springsteen……Shane MacGowan number 2

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  • October 9, 2019 at 11:33 am
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    I don’t know why it’s so hard to name just one… watch me.

    Jim Morrison
    Robert Plant
    Gord Downey

    Dang

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  • October 9, 2019 at 3:22 pm
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    Pete Townshend. QUADROPHENIA. ‘Nuff said.

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  • October 9, 2019 at 8:44 pm
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    Some great names of course already, but I have to throw in a vote for Elliott Smith.

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  • October 14, 2019 at 11:06 am
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    Plant and Page. Rush. Hall and Oats.

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