Paul McCartney performs onstage at NYCB Live on September 27, 2017

Paul McCartney performs onstage at NYCB Live on September 27, 2017 (Photo by Debby Wong on Shutterstock)

Have you ever thought about the effort and artistry that goes into your favorite song? Crafting catchy lyrics, hearing harmonies before they’ve been sung, plucking string after string to perfect a guitar solo, fluttering your hands over keys until you hear the magic that will relate to the rest of the world. Songwriters are the backbone of the music industry, they are the magic-makers. Creating a masterpiece starts with an idea in a songwriter’s head. Our favorite classic verses all started as ideas in the heads of some of the best songwriters of all time.

No one can deny that music makes us feel good. It can change your whole mood. Especially when “that moment” in every song hits and sends chills down your spine. So what causes this hair-raising jolt to the system? French researchers say studies on the brain reveal many people go into pleasure overload when their favorite tunes start playing. Imagine having the power to make someone’s brain go into overload simply by something you wrote? It’s something to think about next time you’re happily singing along to Taylor Swift, or headbanging to Nirvana. 

On top of making us feel good, Researchers also found that music-listening intervention appears to make medicines more effective. Previous studies demonstrated how musical therapy can help treat pain and anxiety. This time around, scientists experimented with a different approach by studying the effects of music-listening interventions on chemotherapy-induced nausea. It just goes on to prove the profound effect art has on the world, specifically the artform of songwriting.

Starting off with feel good vibes, and healing qualities, it’s clear the profound effect some musicians have had on the world. As always, we at StudyFinds set out to bring you the top five of the best songwriters of all time. Don’t agree with our list? Don’t worry, we would love to hear from you and your favorite musicians in the comments below. Now let us start, “the final countdown.”

Microphone
Microphone (Photo by Matt Botsford on Unsplash)

The List: Best Songwriters, According to Music Experts

1. Bob Dylan

With a songwriting career spanning over six decades seeing Dylan’s name at the top of the list should be no shock. “The singer’s music is mostly counted as folk music, though he experimented frequently. He has won many awards like the Presidential Medal of Freedom, ten Grammy awards, a Golden Globe, an Academy Award, and a Nobel Prize in Literature. Dylan has released 39 studio albums, 18 EPs, 15 live albums, and 96 singles during his career. He is one of the most awarded, respected, and celebrated artists having sold more than 145 million records worldwide,” says World Wide Tune.

"The Essential Bob Dylan" album
“The Essential Bob Dylan” album (Photo by Stefano Chiacchiarini ’74 on Shutterstock)

“Known for his poetic lyrics, storytelling ability, and social commentary, Bob Dylan’s songwriting has influenced countless artists across various genres. His unique blend of folkrock, and blues has earned him a reputation as one of the greatest songwriters in history,” raves BandMix.

“Bob Dylan’s best work came in the 60s when his tracks were picked up as anthems for the civil rights and anti-war movements in the US. He became a counterculture icon during this time, though his songwriting career would span more than 60 years. A Pulitzer Prize and Nobel Prize winner, his lyrical aptitude is credited for having a profound social and cultural impact. He’s a Presidential Medal of Honor, Golden Globe, Academy Award, and 10-time Grammy Award winner who’s been inducted into the Rock and Roll, Nashville Songwriters, and Songwriters Halls of Fame,” adds Music Grotto.

2. Paul McCartney

As one half of the iconic McCartney-Lennon writing duo that helped craft one of the most famous bands of all time, Sir Paul McCartney is next on the list. “Initially rising to fame as the bass player, songwriter, and vocalist for The Beatles. He and John Lennon formed the most successful songwriting partnership in history. He has written/co-written 32 tracks that rose to become number-one singles on the Billboard Hot 100, 20 of which were with the popular band. In his solo career, he has sold over 15 million albums in the US alone. As a songwriter, he penned 188 records that made it onto the UK charts and has twice been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, both as a member of The Beatles and as a solo artist,” writes Music Grotto.

Paul McCartney playing bass in Washington, D.C. in 1990
Paul McCartney playing bass in Washington, D.C. in 1990 (Photo by mark reinstein on Shutterstock)

‘’’I’m in awe of McCartney,’” Bob Dylan told Rolling Stone in 2007. “‘He’s about the only one that I’m in awe of.’ Sir Paul is pop’s greatest melodist, with a bulging songbook that includes many of the most-performed and best-loved tunes of the past half-century. McCartney has always had a much broader range than silly love songs. He’s the weirdo behind ‘Temporary Secretary’ and the feral basher behind ‘Helter Skelter.’ But part of what he brought to the Beatles was his passion for the wit and complexity of pre-rock songwriting, from Fats Waller to Peggy Lee. ‘Even in the early days we used to write things separately, because Paul was always more advanced than I was,’ John Lennon once said. Songs like ‘Yesterday’ and ‘Let It Be’ became modern standards, and post-Beatles, McCartney led Wings to six Number One hits.”

“Sir James Paul McCartney first became famous as the bass guitarist for the Beatles, sharing songwriting credits with bandmate John Lennon. Their songwriting collaboration has gone on to be one of the most successful of all time. In 2014 McCartney was awarded the Songwriter’s Songwriter Award at the NME Awards, following on from his Q Magazine Songwriter Award in 1997. He is an eighteen-time Grammy Award winner and has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame twice” raves Midder Music.

3. John Lennon

Of course we couldn’t put McCartney on the list without putting the other half of the songwriting partnership, John Lennon. “His writing is known to be witty and rebellious, leading him to his many inductions into the Grammy Hall of Fame. He was also posthumously inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame following his death in 1980. His legacy certainly lives on, and he has for sure earned his spot on this list,” says Midder Music.

Magnetic Magazine goes on to observe that “he might be famous for his tragic murder in 1980, but he’s even more famous for his prolific work in the music writing industry. Even though he had a drop in his performance in the 1970s, he returned even more significantly with the fantastic ‘Double Fantasy’. Lennon has masterpieces such as ‘Instant Karma’ and ‘Imagine’ in his track record, along with plenty of other breathtaking works.”

“John Lennon was an iconic figure in the music world, with his incredible songwriting ability and unique sound. His influence can still be heard and felt today among those who listen to modern music. Through his songwriting, he touched on timeless themes that have been ultimately shaped by his raw creativity and emotionality,” notes One37pm.

4. Carole King

“Carole King is a songwriter who needs no introduction, having penned some of the most iconic songs of the 20th century. Her song ‘You’ve Got a Friend,’ made famous by James Taylor, is a testament to the power of friendship and the comfort it can provide during difficult times. ‘Winter, spring, summer or fall, all you have to do is call, and I’ll be there,’ sings King, offering a reassuring hand to anyone in need,” describes LyricStudio.

Carole King with her Hollywood Walk of Fame star in 2012
Carole King with her Hollywood Walk of Fame star in 2012 (Photo by DFree on Shutterstock)

“Even if Tapestry had never happened, Carole King would deserve immortality for her 60s catalog, and everybody’s going to name a different favorite song. On one hand, she and collaborator Gerry Goffin did romantic elation as well as anybody on The Chiffons’ ‘One Fine Day’ (on which she played the piano hook); on the other, she wrote one of the great suburban protest songs, ‘Pleasant Valley Sunday.’ And speaking of The Monkees, count yourself lucky if you’ve ever heard her never-released, but widely circulated demo of ‘Porpoise Song.’ But Tapestry, of course, did happen, and the term ‘singer-songwriter’ would never be the same,” states uDiscoverMusic.

BandMix goes on to describe King as a “prolific songwriter and performer, whose work in the 1960s and 1970s helped define the singer-songwriter genre. Her heartfelt, introspective lyrics and memorable melodies have made her one of the most successful and respected songwriters of her time.” With iconic songs such as “Where You Lead” serving as the theme song for the hit show “Gilmore Girls”, and an entire Broadway musical (“Beautiful”) based on her life, using her songs may we add, Carole King is nothing short of an icon for not just women but all music lovers. 

5. Chuck Berry

The top five wouldn’t be complete with the “Father of Rock and Roll” himself, “Charles Edward Anderson Berry, was an American singer, songwriter, and guitarist who refined and developed rhythm and blues into the major elements, elements that made rock and roll distinctive with songs such as ‘Maybellene’, ‘Roll Over Beethoven’, ‘Rock and Roll Music’ and ‘Johnny B. Goode’. Moreover, he was fond of writing lyrics that focused on teen life and consumerism,” remarks Siachen Studios.

“Chuck Berry is credited as one of the artists who pioneered the rock and roll genre. He was one of the first to develop a style of music that included guitar solos, and his sound was the foundation of rock and roll as we know it. When the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame opened in 1986, he was among the first induction class and is listed on multiple “greatest of all time lists,” states Music Grotto.

“He was rock & roll’s first singer-songwriter, and the music’s first guitar hero, as well,” says Rolling Stone. “Berry was a Muddy Waters fan who quickly learned the power of his own boundary-crossing ‘songs of novelties and feelings of fun and frolic’ when he transformed a country song, ‘Ida Red,’ into his first single, ‘Maybellene,’ a Top Five pop hit. His songs were concise and mythic, celebrating uniquely American freedoms – fast cars in ‘Maybellene,’ class mobility in ‘No Money Down,’ the country itself in ‘Back in the U.S.A.’ – or protesting their denial in coded race parables like ‘Brown Eyed Handsome Man’ and ‘Promised Land,’ which he wrote while in jail inspired by the freedom marches, consulting an almanac for the route. Bob Dylan based the meter of ‘Subterranean Homesick Blues’ on ‘Too Much Monkey Business,’ Mick Jagger and Keith Richards soaked up the idea of no satisfaction from ‘30 Days,’ and John Lennon once summed up his immeasurable impact by saying, ‘If you gave rock & roll another name, you might call it Chuck Berry.’”

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About Jilly Hite

Janelle is a freelance writer from New York. Her writing focuses on parenting, tech, business, interior design, education, and telling people’s inspiring stories. Janelle has written for Mustela and Newton Baby and has bylines in Pregnant Chicken, Syracuse Woman Magazine, the Baldwinsville Messenger, and Family Times Magazine. She holds a master’s degree in literacy from the State University of New York at Oswego.

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44 Comments

  1. Deanna says:

    John Denver