Songwriters are often the people behind the scenes in the music industry. Sure, some also sing and get in front of the spotlight. But many are never known to listeners, instead simply being credited in the small print and other places most don’t look.
So today, we’ve decided to showcase the best songwriters ever.
Taylor Swift is one of the most famous and talented songwriters of our time. Many singers/songwriters never reach the point where they have enough popular songs to fill an entire concert, but she has enough and more!
With dozens of impactful and heartfelt songs, she has at least one hit that can resonate with anyone. From breakup songs to songs about friendships and all the different feelings one experiences throughout life, Swift has a song about it. The best part is that she masterfully ties many of her songs together.
Stevie Nicks might be best known for her songwriting for the band Fleetwood Mac, but she also wrote plenty of songs for herself to perform. Some of the most notable songs she's written throughout her legendary career include “Landslide,” “Rhiannon,” and “Gold Dust Woman.”
All of the songs she writes have a strong meaning, and you can tell that she pours herself entirely into the songwriting process, regardless of the song's topic. Even though she started writing music when she got her first guitar at 16, she's grown exponentially and is still creating great music today.
Often known as pop music's greatest melodist, Paul McCartney is one of the best songwriters to grace the top twenty charts. You probably know him best as a member of the iconic Beatles.
His lyrics are witty, complex, and ooze passion. Even after leaving the Beatles, he continued to write amazing songs. He's been asked about his writing style many times, and he has to say that when you write something you love, others will love it because they know you do.
Another member of the Beatles that was an iconic songwriter is none other than John Lennon. We can say many things about Lennon, but if there's one thing we choose to say, it's how original he always was. He had his songwriting style, and even when he collaborated with artists like Paul McCartney, his style was still apparent.
Lennon was known to write songs with deep and dark meanings juxtaposed against lighthearted tunes. You can tell he loved the creative process- he had stated that he enjoyed writing things that meant something to people.
The Notorious B.I.G.
The Notorious B.I.G. is one of the most famous rappers and songwriters of the 1990s. Even though he was only largely recognized for his works for a few years before his unfortunate death, his music still lives on, and people know how much he loved writing his own raps and songs.
Many of the songs he wrote told stories about growing up in Brooklyn, being poor and how music was his gift, and it's the gift that keeps on giving in more than one way. Whether you were a fan of his or not, you can't deny that he was a passionate songwriter who just wanted to show people he was more than just a “gangsta.”
Eminem might just be one of the most iconic rappers and songwriters. Not only is this songwriter known for great beats and creating raps with plays on words and impactful statements, but he's known for his intricate rhymes.
This songwriter grew up in Detroit and honed his rapping skills by freestyling in the streets with others, and that's where he found the type of rap and writing he preferred. He has dozens of memorable songs and even some that are years old that people still blast now, like “The Monster.”
Miley Cyrus has been in the spotlight since she was a little girl, thanks to her father, Billy Ray Cyrus, but she's made a name for herself as Miley and Hannah Montana. When she was Hannah, she didn't write her own songs, but Miley's music is hers. She's been writing music since she was ten years old.
Throughout her career, you can see her music mature, but whenever she wrote, she always wrote about relevant things. Some of the best songs she's written include “See You Again,” “Malibu,” “Flowers,” and “Jaded.”
Meghan Trainor is one of the hottest pop artists right now, and before she saw fame as a singer, she was a songwriter. Don't get us wrong, though. She still writes songs for herself, but her career started by writing masterful hits for other artists like Rascal Flatts and Jennifer Lopez.
Her songs are fun pop hits, but almost all have significant meaning behind them. Some of her best ones are “Me Too” and “Mother.”
Dolly Parton has made quite the name for herself in the music industry throughout the years. With more than 3,000 songs with her name tagged, she's easily one of the best songwriters in the industry.
With her Tennessee upbringing, unique voice, and vibrant sense of style, Dolly has written some of the most fun songs in country music but also some of the most touching. Some of her most notable songs she's written include “Jolene,” “9 to 5,” and “Coat of Many Colors.”
Say what you want about Johnny Cash, but his voice can bring you to tears when you hear his music. He had an air of authority about him, which showed through the songs he sang and wrote. His songs were stories that only he could tell in the moving ways he did.
Johnny Cash was known for being the perfect mix between country, gospel, and blues music and even verged into rock and roll at some points. Songs Johnny Cash wrote throughout his career that people still enjoy today include “Ring of Fire” and “I Walk the Line.”
If you know anything about songwriting in the 1960s, it's that many songwriters were able to bust out hit song after hit song for some reason. Tom Petty was one of those people.
His first hit song, “American Girl,” is still widely popular today for its fun beat and catchy lyrics. As he grew up, his lyrics took on more mature roles like exploring relationships, the dark side of the American dream, and more.
If there were a singer/songwriter that embodied what sunshine would sound like, many people would agree it's Stevie Wonder. His deep and powerful voice comes from his upbringing as a Motown prodigy in the 1960s. This was where he first started writing his own songs.
Most of Stevie Wonder's vibrant songs make you want to sing and dance, but his more powerful ballads can bring your eyes to tears. All love his songs, and are often covered by other artists, the Backstreet Boys and Frank Sinatra, to name a few.
Prince was one of the most talented musicians and performers. He was a producer, bandleader, arranger, singer, multi-instrumentalist, and songwriter. There wasn’t much Prince couldn’t do in the music industry.
His songs sound uniquely his own, whether he's channeling pop, rock, soul, or funk music during the writing process. He's had 30 Top 40 singles, like “Little Red Corvette.”
Willie Nelson was pivotal in linking Nashville with rock music. While the country music capital is mainly known for that, rock artists and even artists of other genres have played and called Nashville home, thanks to Willie.
His songwriting comes easy to him and has helped strip down the Outlaw Country movement. When you listen to his music, it combines country, blues, and even mariachi. That Tex-Mex style is what makes his songwriting different from other artists.
When you think of songwriters like John Lennon and Paul McCartney, it's hard to imagine such inspirational people needing inspiration from somewhere, but everyone does. Smokey Robinson was that songwriter for them. McCartney has even been quoted saying, “Smokey Robinson was like God in our eyes.”
Smokey Robinson is a lyrical genius and has written some of Motown's biggest hit songs. He was a delicate singer with an elegant voice that wrote songs that had nuances that others of the time didn't.
Before Madonna blew up in the music industry as the pop star that she was, she was a songwriter known for her sharp hooks and lyrical catchphrases. She still writes songs for herself and others, but most people don't realize that due to her stardom as a performer.
As an influential songwriter, Madonna has collaborated with other brilliant musical minds to create some of the songs you know and love. Patrick Leonard is her longtime writing partner, but she's written across genres, making her one of the best.
Billy Joel is known as the real-life piano man, but before he saw success in this area, he tried to make it as a rock and roll star. While his talent is obvious, rock and roll wasn't for him. He returned to playing the piano, and that's where his career really took off.
He has some of the best songs like “Piano Man,” “Vienna,” and “Scenes from an Italian Restaurant.” He can attribute the success of his career to returning to writing songs at the piano and performing them like no other.
Elton John is one of the industry's most influential and best songwriters. This British singer and songwriter is famous worldwide for his beautiful compositions and lyrics. While he's still widely famous today, his success peaked in the 1970s.
His lyrics vary from fun and lighthearted to meaningful pieces that will tug at your heartstrings. He's one of those artists and songwriters that has stood the test of time and has stayed relevant and an essential part of the music industry.
Ashley Nicolette Frangipane, better known as Halsey, is one of the newest songwriters on our list. She quickly rose to fame in 2014 by posting her songs on social media and eventually releasing her first studio album in 2015.
While she collaborates on many of her songs, for the most part, all of Halsey's songs are entirely her own. Her beautiful voice mimics her lyrics, no matter what they're about. Even her more intense lyrics sound elegant with her voice. Some of her best songs are “Without Me” and “Colors.”
Elvis Costello is another great songwriter that shot to fame in the 1970s. If you listen to any of his songs, you can tell he has a knack for writing lyrics. Many of Elvis' songs spew fast lyrics, and he knows it. He loves writing for himself but continues to write for other artists.
Besides his beautiful lyrics, one thing that makes Elvis Costello one of the best songwriters is that he experiments with various genres of music. His songs and lyrics cross genres, and you'll hear songs that feel more rock while others are more pop, and he even has some times that sound more jazz and even hip hop.
It's no secret that the singer/songwriter scene in the 1970s brought us some of the best artists, and James Taylor was one of those.
He was known for documenting every aspect of his life, from his struggle with drug addiction to romantic experiences and situations with his family. By tapping into these emotional times, he was able to write some of the best songs like “Copperline” and “Don't Let Me Be Lonely Tonight.”
If you love rock and roll, then you probably know the band Nirvana. The skull-crushing sounds were fun to bang your head to, but the band would've been nothing without the lyrics written by their lead singer, Kurt Cobain.
Kurt Cobain drew much of his songwriting inspiration from the Beatles since that's what he grew up on. He's written pop-punk and rock music and very impactful songs like “God is Gay” and “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” While he was taken from the world too soon, his lyrics have continued to leave an impression on everyone.
Many people assume pop singers don't write all their own songs, and while that is true sometimes, it's not true for everyone. Lady Gaga is an influential artist in the industry, and while she's an iconic performer and powerful singer, she's also a great songwriter.
Lady Gaga attended the Collaborative Arts Project 21 to hone her songwriting and musical abilities when she was younger. She's written many of her hit songs, but she loves songwriting so much that she's even written songs for artists like Britney Spears and Jennifer Lopez.
David Bowie quickly rose to fame for his funky yet catchy hits. Even before his music hit mainstream radio, Bowie was known in the industry for being a creative force on the silver screen.
He became known as one of the most unpredictable songwriters, and many people loved not knowing what he would do next. His writing process is just as unpredictable as the final product. He's said that he writes lines, cuts, pastes them into various areas, and rearranges them until they just click.
Paul Simon is considered one of the most celebrated artists of the 20th century. His career has spanned over six decades, allowing him to accumulate a lot of songs along the way. He has always been interested in rock music, which shows through his songs.
He's known for his solo work and his longtime work with Garfunkel. Paul Simon has won over 16 Grammy's and earned a spot in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for his songwriting and performing abilities.
John Mayer is another artist that takes pride in writing their own songs. He briefly attended Berklee College of Music before venturing to Atlanta to pursue his music career. And what a career he's had so far.
His beautiful lyrics and guitar playing have made him one of the best songwriters of current times. His voice mesmerizes you with his voice, and his lyrics have found their way into people's hearts worldwide.
Everyone knows Justin Bieber at this point, but did you know he writes and co-writes almost all his songs? While he sings songs that are written for him, the ones that he has a hand in the songwriting process are some of his best ones.
When you hear his more intense songs, like “Ghost,” which comes from Bieber's heart and personal experience with heartbreak, as he's continued to succeed in the music industry, he's honed his songwriting skills and has started writing more and more.
Artists have covered Neil Diamond's songs throughout the ages. Artists like Frank Sinatra and Smash Mouth have loved singing his songs and paying credit to his lyrical genius. While Neil has several great songs, “Sweet Caroline” remains one of the most popular today.
You'll hear people shouting this song at bars, weddings, and in the car while driving. But he's more than this hit song. His songwriting process is what he called “silly.” He likes to write down what he thinks are silly little lyrics and then sing them until they work.
We can't make a list of the best songwriters without talking about the late Michael Jackson. He started performing with his family in Jackson 5, but he started writing his disco pop hits that put him on the map as a solo artist.
Michael Jackson wrote most of his songs on his own with the help of other lyricists. He's been documented saying he can hear songs in his head before anyone else and can have a whole song in his head before it's even on paper. He would even sing an entire song and arrangement without breaking, and it would be an entire song.
Even though young Billie Eilish is newer in the music industry, she's no stranger to it, thanks to her songwriter brother. She began writing her songs and often collaborating with her brother as she pursued her singing career.
Billie Eilish's beautifully delicate voice is the opposite of her powerful and intense lyrics. She writes deep lyrics that seem insane for someone as young as her to relate to, but she writes them. “Happy Than Ever” showcases just the tip of the iceberg of her songwriting abilities.
While many artists started as songwriters before becoming famous singers, Van Morrison had the opposite path. He was a successful singer first and then began writing hit songs. Even while he was “just a singer,” he never lost sight that lyrics need to be felt, not just sung.
He's sung and written songs across genres, proving that he has the skill and passion to write great songs, regardless of the style. Songwriting comes easy to him, and thankfully, it does because we got some of the best songs from his process.
Rock and roll music was known as this wild genre and more fun than anything, but those like Bruce Springsteen know it's more than just fun. Bruce Springsteen is one of the best songwriters because he understood that writing requires passion, struggle, and a love for music.
He has taken an intimate approach to writing music. As you listen to songs he's written, you'll hear that they're all about the American identity but also his.
Bob Dylan has been inspired by several of the songwriters on our list, so it's only natural that he deserves a spot on this list. His songs are considered transformative, and he continued to set the bar higher and higher lyrically.
He views songs like dreams, and as a songwriter, he believes it's his responsibility to see these dreams come true in the form of music. A few of his iconic songs we were graced with include “Forever Young” and “Rainy Day Woman #12 and 35.”
Sam Smith is one of the newest songwriters on our list, but he deserves excellent mention. He uses his platform to share his beautiful lyrics and advocate for marginalized communities. He's heavily involved in songwriting and either completely writes his music or partners with other legends to make the song as great as possible.
Many of his songs will pierce right through your heart. Some of the best songs he's written so far in his career are “Love Me More” and “I” m Not the Only One.”
English singer/songwriter Ed Sheeran has made a name for himself worldwide thanks to his delicate voice and intelligently beautiful song lyrics. He's known for writing and sharing his music with the world.
He's written songs for far longer than he's been famous, so to say he has experience is an understatement. Some of his greatest songs are “Castle on the Hill,” “A-Team,” and “Photograph.”
Bob Marley is known as the man who introduced reggae music to most Americans. His lighthearted voice helped transform the genre into a musical force in the United States.
His lyrics struck a chord with everyone who listened to it. “Don't Worry, Be Happy” is one of his most iconic songs with simple lyrics and powerful meanings. That's what he did best. He wrote songs with seemingly simple lyrics but always with an impactful meaning underneath.
Adele rose to fame quickly in 2011 for her powerhouse voice and intense lyrics. She had hit after hit, like” Rolling in the Deep” and “Someone Like You.” She's known for writing songs about her personal experiences with love and loss.
After what seemed like forever, Adele began sharing songs she'd written again in 2021 and proved that she's one of the best songwriters in the industry.
Joni Mitchell is a talented writer with dozens of hits in her repertoire. She has a restless brilliance about her that shows through all the songs she writes and sings.
In the 1970s, she was a strong female songwriter who took her independence seriously. She tapped into her industry and life experience to write some of the best songs in the 1970s and into the 1980s.
You're probably wondering why Kesha is on our list, considering she wrote more party anthems, but that was when she was known as Ke$ha. Since breaking away from her label, Kesha has rebranded herself to be more authentic and genuine.
With that comes the freedom to write her own songs and release them to the world. “Praying” might be the most impactful and beautiful song she's written.
Loretta Lynn is one of the best songwriters and a leader in Nashville's feminist revolution. She's a self-taught guitarist and songwriter, and we'd say she's done a dang good job.
She writes about things that have personally happened to her or, if they haven't, how they affected her as a second-hand person. She's one of the biggest names in country music for a reason, and her songwriting is one of them.
Noah Kahan is one of the most unique songwriters. He's still rising to fame and hasn't reached his career's peak.
He's a folk singer and songwriter with an angelic voice showcasing struggles with love, alcohol, and mental health issues that other artists sometimes avoid writing about.
Top Songwriters Of All Time, Final Thoughts
From longtime songwriters like Paul McCartney to newcomers to the music scene like Noah Kahan, there are some fantastic songwriters in the music industry.
These songwriters span across almost every genre of music and showcase their unique talents when it comes to writing captivating songs.