Famous 20th Century American Composers

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 1 
John Williams
(One of the Greatest Film Composers of All Time)
John Williams
8
Birthdate: February 8, 1932
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Floral Park, New York, United States

John Williams is an American composer, pianist, trombonist, and conductor. Widely considered the greatest film composer ever, John Williams has played a significant role in the American film industry by composing music for films, such as the Jurassic Park films, Star Wars saga, the Indiana Jones films, and Schindler's List. He has also influenced several other composers like Marcus Paus.

 2 
Quincy Jones
(Musician and Second Most Oscar-Nominated African American)
Quincy Jones
7
Birthdate: March 14, 1933
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Chicago, Illinois, United States

Regarded as one of the most popular and influential jazz musicians of the previous century, Quincy Jones is known for his work with other legendary artists like Michael Jackson and Frank Sinatra. As the first African-American to find success at the Academy Awards ceremony, Quincy has influenced a host of black musicians and songwriters.

 3 
Leonard Bernstein
(Composer Whose Best-Known Work is the Broadway Musical 'West Side Story')
Leonard Bernstein
6
Birthdate: August 25, 1918
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Lawrence, Massachusetts, United States
Died: October 14, 1990

Leonard Bernstein was an American composer, music educator, conductor, pianist, author, and humanitarian. One of the most important cultural personalities of 20th century America, Bernstein influenced many generations of musicians. He is also credited with mentoring famous conductors like John Mauceri, Herbert Blomstedt, Alexander Frey, Marin Alsop, and Edo de Waart among many others.

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 4 
George Gershwin
(Pianist and Composer Best Known for His Orchestral Compositions ‘Rhapsody in Blue’ and ‘An American in Paris’)
George Gershwin
4
Birthdate: September 26, 1898
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Brooklyn, New York, United States
Died: July 11, 1937

George Gershwin was an American pianist, composer, and painter. His work Porgy and Bess is widely regarded as an American cultural classic and one of the 20th century's most important American operas. Many of his compositions have been used in films and television series. His life and work inspired the 1945 biographical movie, Rhapsody in Blue.

 5 
Stephen Sondheim
(American composer)
Stephen Sondheim
7
Birthdate: March 22, 1930
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: New York City
Died: November 26, 2021

Stephen Sondheim is an American lyricist and composer. Widely regarded as one of the 20th century's most prominent figures in musical theatre, Sondheim is credited with reinventing the American musical. In 1981, he founded Young Playwrights Inc. to encourage young people to write for the theatre. An openly gay composer, Sondheim also serves as an inspiration to the LGBT community.

 6 
Philip Glass
(Founder of the Philip Glass Ensemble)
Philip Glass
7
Birthdate: January 31, 1937
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Baltimore, Maryland, United States
 7 
John Cage
(Composer, Writer)
John Cage
7
Birthdate: September 5, 1912
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Los Angeles, California, United States
Died: August 12, 1992
John Cage was one of the most influential avant-garde composers of the post-World War II era. He pioneered many innovative techniques in music, such as the prepared piano and electroacoustic music. His composition 4′33″ involved musicians sitting silently, without playing any instrument, while the audience heard environmental sounds. 
 8 
Ray Charles
(Singer-songwriter)
Ray Charles
7
Birthdate: September 23, 1930
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Albany, Georgia, United States
Died: June 10, 2004

Ray Charles went on to become a great singer-songwriter, composer, and pianist, despite suffering blindness due to glaucoma early in his life. One of the most respected and decorated musicians of all time, Ray Charles has been named in lists, such as 100 Greatest Singers of All Time. He pioneered the soul music genre, which remains his greatest contribution.

 9 
Miles Davis
(Trumpeter and one of the Most Prominent Figures in the History of Jazz)
Miles Davis
5
Birthdate: May 26, 1926
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Alton, Illinois, United States
Died: September 28, 1991
Jazz trumpeter and composer Miles Davis was a pioneer in the bepop and jazz fusion genres. His work also had electronic, African, and Spanish influences. His album Kind of Blue sold 5 million copies in the U.S. and was termed a national treasure by the House of Representatives, years later. 
 10 
Billy Joel
(Singer, Composer)
Billy Joel
7
Birthdate: May 9, 1949
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: New York, New York, United States

Popularly known as the Piano Man, Billy Joel is a singer-songwriter and musician. Having sold more than 150 million records worldwide, Billy is one of the best-selling musicians of all time. He is also America's third best-selling solo artist and the sixth best-selling recording artist. He is also known for his multiple relationships with popular women.

 11 
Joan Jett
(Founder of the Rock Band 'The Runaways' & Frontwoman of 'Joan Jett & the Blackhearts')
Joan Jett
6
Birthdate: September 22, 1958
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Wynnewood, Pennsylvania, United States

Joan Jett, also known as The Queen of Rock 'n' Roll, is the frontwoman of Joan Jett & the Blackhearts, best known for their rendition of the Arrows song I Love Rock 'n Roll, which topped the Billboard Hot 100. Jett also released the hit Cherry Bomb with the Runaways

 12 
Arnold Schoenberg
(One of the Most Influential Composers of the 20th Century)
Arnold Schoenberg
7
Birthdate: September 13, 1874
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Leopoldstadt, Vienna, Austria
Died: July 13, 1951
Austrian-born composer Arnold Schoenberg was part of the German Expressionist Movement and led the Second Viennese School. Being Jewish, he was banned by the Nazis and later became an American citizen. Known for his twelve-tone technique, he coined the term developing variation and formed motifs without a centralized melodic idea.
 13 
Duke Ellington
(One of the Greatest Jazz Composers & Bandleader)
Duke Ellington
5
Birthdate: April 29, 1899
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Washington, D.C., United States
Died: May 24, 1974
Jazz legend Duke Ellington managed his orchestra till his death, and over a 6-decade-long career. He is known for his collaborations with legends such as pianist and composer Billy Strayhorn. He termed his music “American music” and refused to attach any category to it. He received a posthumous Pulitzer Prize.
 14 
Carroll O’Connor
5
Birthdate: August 2, 1924
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: The Bronx, New York, United States
Died: June 21, 2001

Carroll O'Connor was an American actor, director, and producer. In a TV career that spanned 40 years, O'Connor popularized several fictional characters, including Archie Bunker from the sitcom All in the Family, for which he received four Emmy Awards. In 1996, he was ranked 38th on the 50 Greatest TV Stars of All Time list published by TV Guide.

 15 
John Coltrane
(One of the Most Influential Saxophonists in Music History)
John Coltrane
5
Birthdate: September 23, 1926
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: HaHamlet, North Carolina, United States
Died: July 17, 1967
Jazz saxophonist John Coltrane is remembered for his significant influence on modern jazz. He was initially part of the Navy band and eventually collaborated with musicians such as Miles Davis. He won a Pulitzer Prize and a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, and was canonized by the African Orthodox Church.
 16 
Dimebag Darrell
(Guitarist, Composer, Musician)
Dimebag Darrell
6
Birthdate: August 20, 1966
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Dallas
Died: December 8, 2004
 17 
Alanis Morisette
(Singer-Songwriter)
Alanis Morisette
8
Birthdate: June 1, 1974
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Ottawa, Canada

Alanis Morisette is a Canadian-American singer-songwriter and actress. Renowned for her mezzo-soprano voice, Morisette has been named by Rolling Stone as the Queen of Alt-Rock Angst. A recipient of 13 Juno Awards and seven Grammy Awards, Morisette has released several successful albums, including Jagged Little Pill, which was named in Rolling Stone magazine's 500 Greatest Albums of All Time list.

 18 
David Lee Roth
(Singer, Musician)
David Lee Roth
6
Birthdate: October 10, 1954
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Bloomington, Indiana, United States

David Lee Roth is an American rock singer, songwriter, musician, and former radio personality. Renowned for his energetic stage persona, Roth was a long-time member of the popular hard rock band Van Halen where he served as the lead singer. In 2007, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

 19 
Ronnie Van Zant
(Singer, Singer-songwriter, Musician, Composer, Guitarist)
Ronnie Van Zant
5
Birthdate: January 15, 1948
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Jacksonville
Died: October 20, 1977
 20 
Trent Reznor
(Frontman and founder of the industrial rock band Nine Inch Nails)
Trent Reznor
7
Birthdate: May 17, 1965
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: New Castle, Pennsylvania, United States

Trent Reznor is an American singer, songwriter, musician, record producer, and composer. Reznor is credited with founding the popular band Nine Inch Nails, where he serves as the principal songwriter, lead vocalist, and multi-instrumentalist. Trent Reznor is also credited with mentoring Marilyn Manson and has contributed to the latter's albums. . 

 21 
Rick Rubin
(Record Producer)
Rick Rubin
6
Birthdate: March 10, 1963
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Lido Beach

A record producer, Rick Rubin is the former co-president of Columbia Records and a co-founder of Def Jam Recordings. By promoting the musical groups  Beastie Boys, LL Cool J, and Public Enemy, he helped popularize hip hop music. He has been named on Time's 100 Most Influential People in the World.

 22 
Burt Bacharach
(One of the Most Influential Composers of Pop Music in the 20th Century)
Burt Bacharach
5
Birthdate: May 12, 1928
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Kansas City, Missouri, United States
Legendary musician and songwriter Burt Bacharach teamed up with lyricist Hal David and created many popular songs from the 1950s to the 1980s, including countless Billboard charters. He has won six Grammys and three Academy Awards for his tracks, and most of his songs were sung by Dionne Warwick. 
 23 
Tom Waits
(Musician, Composer, & Songwriter)
Tom Waits
7
Birthdate: December 7, 1949
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Pomona, California, United States

Tom Waits is a musician and songwriter. His lyrics, which are delivered in his trademark gravelly voice, often focus on the underbelly of society. His story of being born in a middle-class family to becoming one of the greatest songwriters of all time serves as an inspiration to many. He has also influenced several musicians and attained a cult following.

 24 
Ronnie James Dio
(Former heavy metal singer, songwriter and composer)
Ronnie James Dio
8
Birthdate: July 10, 1942
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Portsmouth, New Hampshire, United States
Died: May 16, 2010
 25 
Luther Vandross
7
Birthdate: April 20, 1951
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: New York City
Died: July 1, 2005

Luther Vandross was an American record producer and singer-songwriter. As a background vocalist, Vandross contributed to the success of several songs recorded by artists like David Bowie, Diana Ross, and Judy Collins. Regarded as a singer with one of the greatest voices in recorded history, Luther Vandross' works have influenced many artists like D'Angelo, Jaheim, Ne-Yo, John Legend, and Usher.

 26 
Sammy Hagar
(Singer-Songwriter,)
Sammy Hagar
7
Birthdate: October 13, 1947
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Salinas, California, United States
 27 
Virgil Abloh
(Fashion designer)
Virgil Abloh
7
Birthdate: September 30, 1980
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Rockford, Illinois, U.S.

Virgil Abloh is not just a designer but also a qualified architect. He has been a DJ, too. Apart from heading Louis Vuitton's menswear collection as its artistic director, he also became the first Black designer to lead a major fashion brand. He has also launched the luxury streetwear label Off-White.

 28 
Charlie Parker
(Jazz Saxophonist & Developer of the 'Bebop' Style of Jazz)
Charlie Parker
5
Birthdate: August 29, 1920
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Kansas City, Kansas, United States
Died: March 12, 1955

Charlie Parker was an American composer and jazz saxophonist. A highly influential soloist, Parker played a significant role in the development of a form of jazz called bebop. He is also credited with introducing harmonic ideas into jazz, such as chord substitutions and rapid passing chords. His contribution to jazz and bebop made him an icon of the hipster subculture.

 29 
Chaka Khan
(Singer)
Chaka Khan
7
Birthdate: March 23, 1953
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Naval Station Great Lakes, Illinois
Ten-time Grammy-winning funk/R&B/disco artist Chaka Khan, or the Queen of Funk, soared to fame as the frontwoman of the band Rufus. Known for her hit track I Feel for You, Khan has sold 70 million records and has ranked 17th on VH1’s 100 Greatest Women of Rock & Roll list.
 30 
James Horner
(Composer, conductor, and orchestrator of film scores)
James Horner
7
Birthdate: August 14, 1953
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Los Angeles, California, United States
Died: June 22, 2015
 31 
Maynard James Keenan
(Singer, Songwriter)
Maynard James Keenan
5
Birthdate: April 17, 1964
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Ravenna, Ohio, United States
 32 
Jerry Reed
(Singer-songwriter, Musician)
Jerry Reed
5
Birthdate: March 20, 1937
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Atlanta, Georgia, United States
Died: September 1, 2008

Jerry Reed was an American guitarist, country music singer, songwriter, composer, and actor. He won three Grammy Awards and two Country Music Association awards during his illustrious career. In 2017, he was posthumously inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. Jerry Reed was also inducted into the Musicians Hall of Fame and Museum.

 33 
Glenn Miller
(Trombonist)
Glenn Miller
5
Birthdate: March 1, 1904
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Clarinda, Iowa, United States
Died: December 15, 1944
 34 
Don Shirley
(Classical and Jazz Pianist and Composer)
Don Shirley
7
Birthdate: January 29, 1927
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Pensacola, Florida, United States
Died: April 6, 2013

Don Shirley was an American jazz and classical pianist and composer. He is best remembered for his association with Cadence Records where he recorded many albums during the 1950s and 1960s. Apart from performing in numerous concert tours, Shirley also wrote organ symphonies and piano concerti. Shirley's friendship with his bodyguard Tony Lip was dramatized in the film Green Book.

 35 
Tom Morello
(Musician)
Tom Morello
7
Birthdate: May 30, 1964
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: New York City, United States

Tom Morello is an American musician, rapper, singer, actor, songwriter, and political activist. Morello is best known for his association with Rage Against the Machine, which he co-founded with Zack de la Rocha. Renowned for his creative and unique guitar playing style, Tom Morello was ranked among the 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time by Rolling Stone magazine.

 36 
Mos Def
(Rapper, Actor)
Mos Def
7
Birthdate: December 11, 1973
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Brooklyn, New York, United States
 37 
Harry Nilsson
(Former Singer-songwriter known for Everybody's Talkin' and Without You, both of which won Grammy Awards)
Harry Nilsson
4
Birthdate: June 15, 1941
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Brooklyn, New York, United States
Died: January 15, 1994
 38 
Randy Newman
(Singer-songwriter & Pianist)
Randy Newman
6
Birthdate: November 28, 1943
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Los Angeles, California, United States
 39 
Bret Michaels
7
Birthdate: March 15, 1963
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Butler, Pennsylvania

Singer-songwriter and musician Bret Michaels first gained fame as the frontman of the rock band Poison. He also performs as a solo artist and has released many albums. He is an occasional actor as well and has appeared in numerous films and TV shows.  

 40 
John Fogerty
(Singer, Musician)
John Fogerty
5
Birthdate: May 28, 1945
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Berkeley, California, United States
 41 
Carl Wilson
(American musician)
Carl Wilson
4
Birthdate: December 21, 1946
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Hawthorne, California
Died: February 6, 1998
 42 
Nile Rodgers
(Guitarist, Composer, Songwriter, Record producer, Film score composer)
Nile Rodgers
7
Birthdate: September 19, 1952
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: New York City
 43 
Levon Helm
(Singer, Musician, Autobiographer, Composer, Actor, Mandolinist, Drummer, Songwriter)
Levon Helm
5
Birthdate: May 26, 1940
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Elaine
Died: April 19, 2012
 44 
Tori Amos
(Musician and Singer)
Tori Amos
5
Birthdate: August 22, 1963
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Newton
Alternative rock singer Tori Amos is known for her songs that highlight issues such as feminism. Amos was the youngest to win a music scholarship to the Peabody Institute. She performed with the group Y Kant Tori Read before going solo. She is associated with RAINN, a sexual abuse helpline. 
 45 
Sufjan Stevens
(Singer-songwriter most famous for his Illinois album, which includes the hit Chicago)
Sufjan Stevens
7
Birthdate: July 1, 1975
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Detroit, Michigan, United States
 46 
Pat Boone
(Actor, Singer, Singer-songwriter, Composer)
Pat Boone
6
Birthdate: June 1, 1934
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Jacksonville
 47 
Kenny G
(Smooth Jazz Saxophonist and One of the Best-Selling Musicians of All Time )
Kenny G
6
Birthdate: June 5, 1956
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Seattle, Washington, United States

Kenneth Bruce Gorelick, better known as Kenny G, is a best-selling jazz saxophonist who has sold over 75 million records and even owns a line of saxophones. He is also a certified pilot and a skilled golfer who has participated in the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am seven times.

 48 
Krist Novoselic
(Musician)
Krist Novoselic
4
Birthdate: May 16, 1965
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Compton, California, United States
 49 
Josh Kelley
(Famous for His Pop-Rock Hit Singles “Amazing” and “Only You”)
Josh Kelley
4
Birthdate: January 30, 1980
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Augusta, Georgia, United States
 50 
Teddy Pendergrass
6
Birthdate: March 26, 1950
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Kingstree, South Carolina, USA
Died: January 13, 2010