Famous Composers Of The 20th Century

Discover the most famous 20th century composers including Alfred Newman, Pat Metheny, Marcel Khalife, Yanni, Paul McCartney and many more. This list of composers born in 20th century includes people from India, USA, France, UK, Australia, Russia, Italy, Austria and many more countries.

This ranking is based on an algorithm that combines various factors, including the votes of our users and search trends on the internet.

Vote for Your Favourite Composers Of The 20th Century

 1 John Williams

John Williams
5
Famous As: Composer
Birthdate: February 8, 1932
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Queens, New York City

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 Hans Zimmer

Hans Zimmer
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Famous As: Film score composer
Birthdate: September 12, 1957
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Frankfurt, Germany

German film score composer and record producer Hans Zimmer has composed music for over 150 films so far. He developed a love for music as a child and started playing professionally when he was in his teens. He eventually ventured into films. He is the recipient of four Grammy Awards and three Classical BRIT Awards.

 3 Quincy Jones

Quincy Jones
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Famous As: Musician, Composer
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.

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 4 Ennio Morricone

Ennio Morricone
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Famous As: Composer, Conductor, orchestrator
Birthdate: November 10, 1928
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Rome, Italy
Died: July 6, 2020

Regarded as one of the world’s greatest film composers, Ennio Morricone was an Italian composer, orchestrator and conductor who scored music for over 500 films in his career spanning seven decades. Morricone covered a wide range of music styles and is best known for scores in the Dollar Trilogy and Once Upon a Time in the West.

 5 Claude Debussy

Claude Debussy
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Famous As: Composer
Birthdate: August 22, 1862
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Saint-Germain-en-Laye, France
Died: March 25, 1918

Claude Debussy was a French composer whose career spanned over 30 years. Regarded as one of the most influential composers of his generation, Claude Debussy's works have influenced several other composers, such as Bill Evans, George Benjamin, Olivier Messiaen, and Béla Bartók. Claude Debussy is also regarded as the first Impressionist composer, though he rejected the term.

 6 George Gershwin

George Gershwin
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Famous As: Composer, Pianist
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.

 7 Leonard Bernstein

Leonard Bernstein
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Famous As: Conductor, Composer
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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 8 Stephen Sondheim

Stephen Sondheim
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Famous As: American composer
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.

 9 Sergei Rachmaninoff

Sergei Rachmaninoff
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Famous As: Composer
Birthdate: April 1, 1873
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Oneg, Russia
Died: March 28, 1943

Sergei Rachmaninoff was a Russian composer, conductor, and virtuoso pianist of the late Romantic period. Credited with exploring the expressive possibilities of the piano, Rachmaninoff's music continues to be featured in films. His four-year struggle with depression, which was followed by the critical failure of his Symphony No. 1, was depicted in the 2015 musical Preludes.

 10 Gustav Mahler

Gustav Mahler
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Famous As: Composer, Conductor
Birthdate: July 7, 1860
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Kaliště, Czechia
Died: May 18, 1911

Austro-Bohemian Romantic composer and conductor Gustav Mahler symbolized the transition of 19th-century Austro-German music to early-20th-century modernism. His music was banned during the Nazi era but was rediscovered later. Famous for his Eighth Symphony, he had also been the director of the Hofoper (Vienna Court Opera).

 11 Ray Charles

Ray Charles
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Famous As: Singer-songwriter
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.

 12 Elton John

Elton John
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Famous As: Singer, Pianist and Composer- One of the Best-Selling Artists of All Time
Birthdate: March 25, 1947
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Pinner, England
The supremely gifted English singer, songwriter, pianist and composer, Elton John has entertained music lovers globally since the 1970s. His phenomenal talent make him one of the best-selling music artists in the world. Not to forget his tribute to Princess Diana, Candle in the Wind 1997, which till date is one of the best-selling singles in the UK and the US.

 13 Erik Satie

Erik Satie
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Famous As: Composer
Birthdate: May 17, 1866
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Honfleur, France
Died: July 1, 1925

Erik Satie was a French pianist and composer. An influential artist during his time, Satie's works served as a predecessor to later artistic movements like repetitive music, minimalism, and the Theatre of the Absurd. Apart from being a musician, Erik Satie was also a prolific writer, who contributed to publications, such as Vanity Fair and 391.

 14 Igor Fyodorovich Stravinsky

Igor Fyodorovich Stravinsky
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Famous As: Composer, Pianist & Conductor
Birthdate: June 17, 1882
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Lomonosov, Saint Petersburg, Russia
Died: April 6, 1971

Four-time Grammy-winning Russian composer and pianist Igor Stravinsky is regarded as one of the greatest composers of the 20th century. He is remembered for his ballets The Firebird, Petrushka, and The Rite of Spring. He broke the traditional flow of music and incorporated his own style.

 15 Miles Davis

Miles Davis
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Famous As: Jazz Trumpeter
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. 

 16 Billy Joel

Billy Joel
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Famous As: Singer, Composer
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.

 17 Bjork

Bjork
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Famous As: Singer-songwriter
Birthdate: November 21, 1965
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Reykjavík, Iceland

Bjork is an Icelandic singer, record producer, songwriter, DJ, and actress. She is best known for her association with the now-defunct yet popular band, The Sugarcubes. The bestselling Icelandic singer-songwriter of all time, Bjork was named in Time magazine's most influential people in the world list in 2015. Over the course of her illustrious career, Bjork has received several awards.

 18 Joan Jett

Joan Jett
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Famous As: Singer-songwriter
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

 19 Maurice Ravel

Maurice Ravel
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Famous As: Composer, Pianist
Birthdate: March 7, 1875
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Ciboure, France
Died: December 28, 1937
French impressionist composer Maurice Ravel is best known for his orchestral composition Boléro. He rejected the Legion d'honneur and all French awards. He was one the first composers to realize the importance of recording music to gain a wider reach. Most of his music consisted of piano and orchestration.

 20 Philip Glass

Philip Glass
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Famous As: Founder of the Philip Glass Ensemble
Birthdate: January 31, 1937
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Baltimore, Maryland, United States

 21 John Cage

John Cage
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Famous As: Composer, Writer
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. 

 22 Alan Thicke

Alan Thicke
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Famous As: Film actor, Composer
Birthdate: March 1, 1947
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Kirkland Lake, Ontario, Canada
Died: December 13, 2016

Best known for his star role in the television sitcom Growing Pains, Alan Thicke was a Canadian actor, songwriter and television host, who began his career as a series regular in It's Our Stuff, eventually appearing in numerous films and television productions. Also a popular game and talk show host, he patronized many NGOs including the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.

 23 Danny Elfman

Danny Elfman
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Famous As: Composer
Birthdate: May 29, 1953
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Los Angeles, California, United States

Composer, singer, songwriter, and record producer, Danny Elfman is best known for his association with the new wave band Oingo Boingo. He has written over 100 feature film scores and has composed music for numerous TV shows and stage productions. He is the recipient of two Emmy Awards and one Grammy and has been nominated for the Academy Award.

 24 Giacomo Puccini

Giacomo Puccini
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Famous As: Composer
Birthdate: December 22, 1858
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Lucca, Italy
Died: November 29, 1924

Born into a musical dynasty, composer Giacomo Puccini lost his father at age 5. Some of his best opera pieces include Madama Butterfly and La Bohème. The suicide of his maid, who was wrongly accused by his wife of being in an affair with him, affected his later career adversely.

 25 Joe Walsh

Joe Walsh
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Famous As: Guitarist, Singer
Birthdate: November 20, 1947
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Wichita, Kansas, United States

Joe Walsh is an American guitarist, songwriter, and singer. Over the years Walsh has contributed to the success of popular rock bands such as Eagles and James Gang. In 1998, he was made an inductee of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In 2011, he was ranked 54th on Rolling Stone magazine's 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time list.

 26 Tom Waits

Tom Waits
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Famous As: Musician, Composer
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.

 27 Alanis Morisette

Alanis Morisette
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Famous As: Singer-Songwriter
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.

 28 Don Henley

Don Henley
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Famous As: Musician, Singer
Birthdate: July 22, 1947
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Gilmer, Texas, United States

Don Henley is an American record producer, singer, songwriter, and musician. A founding member of Eagles, Henley contributed immensely to the success of the band. Don Henley has also been successful as a solo artist, selling more than 10 million albums and winning two Grammy Awards. In 2008, Rolling Stone magazine named him among the greatest singers of all time.

 29 Luther Vandross

Luther Vandross
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Famous As: Singer
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.

 30 Robert Mitchum

Robert Mitchum
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Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: August 6, 1917
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Bridgeport, Connecticut, United States
Died: July 1, 1997
Robert Mitchum is best known for his film noirs, such as Undercurrent, and for defining the antihero in movies of the 1950s and 1960s. Fans loved him in The Story of G.I. and Joe and as U.S. Navy Captain Victor Henry in The Winds of War and its sequel.

 31 Roger Waters

Roger Waters
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Famous As: Composer, Singer-songwriter, Guitarist, Screenwriter, Singer, Pianist, Record producer
Birthdate: September 6, 1943
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Surrey

Co-founder of the rock band, Pink Floyd, Roger Waters is celebrated singer, songwriter and composer. Beginning his career with rhythm guitar, he initially served solely as a bassist in Pink Floyd before emerging as their lyricist, co-lead vocalist, and conceptual leader. Later he left the group due to creative difference and embarked on his solo career, releasing numerous albums and singles

 32 Chaka Khan

Chaka Khan
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Famous As: Singer
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.

 33 Virgil Abloh

Virgil Abloh
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Famous As: Fashion designer
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.

 34 Richard Georg Strauss

Richard Georg Strauss
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Famous As: Considered a Leading Composer of The Late Romantic & Early Modern Eras
Birthdate: June 11, 1864
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Munich, Germany
Died: September 8, 1949

Richard Georg Strauss was a German conductor, composer, violinist, and pianist. Renowned for his pioneering subtleties of orchestration, Strauss is generally regarded as a modernist, although he was initially considered a conservative, backwards-looking composer. Over the years, his music has influenced other prominent composers like Béla Viktor János Bartók, Karol Maciej Szymanowski, Edward Elgar, and Benjamin Britten.

 35 Damon Albarn

Damon Albarn
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Famous As: Guitarist, Singer, Musician, Composer, Songwriter
Birthdate: March 23, 1968
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Whitechapel

Grammy-winning English singer Damon Albarn has previously been part of two major bands, Blur and Gorillaz, as their lead vocalist and primary songwriter. He has also performed as part of the supergroup The Good, the Bad & the Queen. His solo album Everyday Robots was nominated for a Mercury Award.

 36 Dimebag Darrell

Dimebag Darrell
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Famous As: Guitarist, Composer, Musician
Birthdate: August 20, 1966
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Dallas
Died: December 8, 2004

 37 Christopher Guest

Christopher Guest
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Famous As: Screenwriter, Director
Birthdate: February 5, 1948
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: New York, New York, United States

Screenwriter, composer, musician, and director Christopher Guest is a multifaceted man. He is known for writing and directing a series of comedy films shot in mock-documentary (mockumentary) style. He has also starred in many of his films, often playing comedic characters. Despite his penchant for portraying comedic characters onscreen, he is known to be a serious person in real life.

 38 Duke Ellington

Duke Ellington
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Famous As: Composer, Pianist
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.

 39 John Coltrane

John Coltrane
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Famous As: Saxophonist, Composer
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.

 40 Rick Rubin

Rick Rubin
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Famous As: Record Producer
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.

 41 Steven Van Zandt

Steven Van Zandt
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Famous As: Musician, Actor
Birthdate: November 22, 1950
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Winthrop, Massachusetts, United States

Steven Van Zandt is an American singer, musician, songwriter, actor, producer, and activist. Steven is renowned for his association with E Street Band. As a member of the band, Steven was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2014. Also known for his philanthropic efforts, Steven works with a nonprofit organization called Little Kids Rock.

 42 Trent Reznor

Trent Reznor
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Famous As: Frontman and founder of the industrial rock band Nine Inch Nails
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. . 

 43 Edvard Grieg

Edvard Grieg
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Famous As: Composer, Pianist
Birthdate: June 15, 1843
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Bergen, Norway
Died: September 4, 1907
Regarded as Norway’s Shakespeare, musical legend Edvard Grieg learned the piano from his mother. The Scottish claim he was their own, as Grieg’s Scottish grandfather had migrated to Norway. Grieg was known for his compositions such as the Piano Concerto and for infusing Norwegian folk elements into his music.

 44 Brian Eno

Brian Eno
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Famous As: Musician, Record producer
Birthdate: May 15, 1948
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Melton, Suffolk, England
Brian Eno created "The Microsoft Sound" for Windows 95 and co-developed the card-based creativity-improving technique Oblique Strategies. His ambient music album Reflection was nominated for a Grammy, and his visual installations have been projected on structures such as the Sydney Opera House. He also co-founded the Long Now Foundation.

 45 Carroll O’Connor

Carroll O’Connor
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Famous As: Actor
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.

 46 Mos Def

Mos Def
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Famous As: Rapper, Actor
Birthdate: December 11, 1973
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Brooklyn, New York, United States

 47 Ronnie James Dio

Ronnie James Dio
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Famous As: Former heavy metal singer, songwriter and composer
Birthdate: July 10, 1942
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Portsmouth, New Hampshire, United States
Died: May 16, 2010

 48 Tom Morello

Tom Morello
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Famous As: Musician
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.

 49 Dudley Moore

Dudley Moore
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Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: April 19, 1935
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Charing Cross, London, England
Died: March 27, 2002
Dudley Moore was a prominent figure of the 1960s’ British satire boom. He is best known for writing the stage revue Beyond the Fringe and was also part of the sketch comedy Not Only... But Also. He delivered an Academy Award-nominated and Golden Globe-winning performance in the comedy film Arthur

 50 Bret Michaels

Bret Michaels
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Famous As: Singer
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.