Top Ten Unique Voices In Rock (Modern Era, Male)

By Brent Chittenden

There are a lot of good singers in the history of rock. There are also a lot of bad singers. But there aren’t a lot of unique ones especially in our era of rock. What I mean by unique is that they are the voice other people are compared to or that no one else quite sounds like. For the purposes of this particular list, I slimmed down the time span from 70’s onward and kept it to rock oriented music and male vocalists only. Even with the narrowing, it was still a hard list to put together.

10) Brian Johnson (AC/DC)


While a lot of people may prefer Bon Scott, there is no doubt that Johnson became the sound of AC/DC when he took over. His trademark wail has yet to by copied successfully by anyone.


9) Lemmy Killmister (Motorhead)

In terms of hard rock and metal, there are many vocalists that sound like Lemmy but Lemmy is Lemmy. A voice bathed in smokes and booze and surprisingly has not changed one bit since the band’s 1977 debut.


8) Layne Staley (Alice in Chains)

Staley’s voice was incredibly distinct and different despite the fact that hundreds of rock bands during and post grunge tried desperately to sound like him.


7) David Bowie

Bowie is Bowie. Even when he’s in a band like Tin Machine, we just all assume it’s a Bowie record because his voice is so strong and stands alone that it’s instantly identifiable.


6) Axl Rose

Myself, not a fan but even I can’t argue with the fact that only Axl sounds like Axl. Ever since the world was introduced to his howl in Welcome to the Jungle, no one has come close to touching his sound.


5) Nick Cave (The Birthday Party, The Bad Seeds)

Many people would point to a number of different singers as the voice of Satan but to me, if the devil need an authoritative voice that screamed listen to me, for I am the boss of evil, it would be Nick Cave’s. It’s a voice that can command and terrify.


4) Mike Patton (Faith No More, Mr. Bungle, etc)

Mike Patton is weird in the fact that he can pretty much do it all. He can croon, he can scream, he can rap, he can make the noises from zombies (Left 4 Dead videogame series) and vampires (I Am Legend) but yet you can always pick him out somehow.


3) Perry Farrell (Jane’s Addiction)

The minute you hear Farrell’s voice, you know it’s a Jane’s Addiction track before the end of his first note. Truly a unique sound, he’s probably the main reason you don’t hear about a lot of Jane’s Addiction cover bands.


2) Tom Waits

Tom Waits sounds like the floor of a hole in the wall beer joint after closing time. And by that I mean awesome.


1) Freddie Mercury

If I have to explain this to you, you probably clicked on this website by mistake. Freddie was an original and incredibly gifted. He’s the voice that every pop singer seems to aspire to and 99% of fall incredibly short. Queen has re-grouped a number of times with a range of very talented singers but it always sounds wrong due to the tallant and sound that Freddie brought to the band.

Now, I know this list is going to cause arguments. “Why isn’t Bon Scott there?” “How could you leave off Robert Plant?”. I’ll be honest, it was hard to put together this list and I went back and forth a number of times on a few people who didn’t make the cut. But now is you chance to plead to the judge. Put in your vote in the comments section below and explain why he should be on the list. As well, I plan on doing a similar list for the women of rock as well so if you want your voice heard on that one, please list your thoughts below!

Brent Chittenden

Brent Chittenden is a freelance writer with a gift for the geek. Currently a writer with A Journal Of Musical Things and a podcaster with True North Nerds, he's also written for Comic Book Daily, Explore Music and a dozen other places. Currently, he is the co-host of the True North Nerds podcast. You can find out more at

17 thoughts on “Top Ten Unique Voices In Rock (Modern Era, Male)

  • July 19, 2013 at 1:10 pm

    I'd include Ian Astbury and Michael Stipe.

  • July 19, 2013 at 1:37 pm

    Woah, woah. woah.
    Unique (no one else sounds like) = Brad Roberts – lead from Crash Test Dummies. Sings in Bass-Baritone – incomparable.

  • July 19, 2013 at 1:42 pm

    I always thought Chris Cornell had a unique set of pipes.

  • July 19, 2013 at 1:48 pm

    Gord Downie, Eddie Vedder, Chris Cornell, Cobain, Lanegan, Jon Davis, could all be on the list too, though its hard to argue with your choices.

  • July 19, 2013 at 2:05 pm

    I'd certainly include Liam Gallagher. A technically terrible singer but one who gave Oasis' songs the attitude that made them classics. Noel's songs with Liam's voice is/was Oasis.

  • July 19, 2013 at 2:47 pm

    I was thinking of Mark Lanegan too. I also love the Gord Downie, Chris Cornell and Michael Stipe suggestions. Thanks to being a Big Shiny Tunes era kid, I think of Porno for Pyros when I hear Perry Farrell too (but not too much).

  • July 19, 2013 at 3:31 pm

    Bryan Ferry – The early solo albums without Roxy Music. That exaggerated singing style always stood out.

  • July 19, 2013 at 5:34 pm

    Great list. I'd throw in James Hetfield for an honourable mention.

  • July 19, 2013 at 5:38 pm

    Kelly Jones

    And agree about Morrissey and Liam.

  • July 20, 2013 at 1:04 am

    How has nobody mentioned Ian Curtis yet????

    – Antony from Antony & The Johnsons
    – Stuart Staples from Tindersticks
    – Gruff Rhys from Super Furry Animals
    – Jaz Coleman from Killing Joke
    – Al Jourgensen from Ministry
    – Douglas McCarthy from Nitzer Ebb
    – Black Francis/Frank Black
    – Matt Berninger from The National
    – Robert Schneider from The Apples In Stereo
    – Billy Corgan
    – Maynard Keenan
    – Robyn Hitchcock
    – Stephen Malkmus from Pavement/The Jicks
    – Jonsi from Sigur Ros
    – Einar from The Sugarcubes

  • July 20, 2013 at 1:59 am

    Not saying he should have been on the list, but Tim McIlrath from Rise Against has one of the most unique voices I've ever heard. Especially on the first couple records before they became over-produced bland radio rock.

  • July 20, 2013 at 2:02 am

    Perry Ferrell was Porno for Pyros.

    To the list (excellent), I'd add Ian Thornley though some would say he sounds like Chris Cornell.

    Also, no one sounds like early Steven Tyler, not even Steven Tyler!

  • July 20, 2013 at 3:46 am

    I feel like Billy Corgan should be on the list.

  • July 20, 2013 at 4:53 am

    Thanks for this list.
    I tell my young children that Freddie Mercury was the greatest singer in rock and roll history, and that if anyone disagrees to tell them they're wrong.

  • July 20, 2013 at 4:20 pm

    Can't believe no one's mentioned Tricky yet…

  • July 24, 2013 at 12:35 pm

    Dexter Holland from The Offspring should absolutely be on the list. I can't imagine a single one of their songs being sung by anyone else – they just wouldn't sound the same.


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