Famous 20th Century Folk Singers

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

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 1 John Denver

John Denver
5
Famous As: Singer-songwriter
Birthdate: December 31, 1943
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Roswell, New Mexico, United States
Died: October 12, 1997

John Denver was one of the highest-selling and most popular singers during the 1970s. He was known for folk, pop and country music. Some of his greatest songs are Take Me Home Country Roads, Leaving on a Jet Plane, Rocky Mountain High, Sunshine on My Shoulders and Annie's Song. He died when a plane he was piloting crashed in California.

 2 Leonard Cohen

Leonard Cohen
5
Famous As: Singer-songwriter
Birthdate: September 21, 1934
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Westmount
Died: November 7, 2016

Leonard Cohen was one of the most popular Canadian celebrities of all time. After starting his career as a poet and novelist, Leonard went on to become a famous singer-songwriter, exploring themes like sexuality, religion, depression, and romantic relationships in his work. Leonard Cohen was one of the inspirations for Steven Clark and Matthew Bissonnette's 2002 film Looking for Leonard.

 3 Cat Stevens

Cat Stevens
4
Famous As: Singer-songwriter
Birthdate: July 21, 1948
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: London, England

British singer, Cat Stevens, has released more than 15 studio albums and has churned out many hit songs. He converted to Islam in 1977 and adopted the name Yusuf Islam. He was slammed for reportedly backing the death fatwa on author Salman Rushdie. He has also been accused of allegedly having ties with terrorist organisations, a charge he has vehemently denied.

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 4 Tracy Chapman

Tracy Chapman
6
Famous As: Singer
Birthdate: March 30, 1964
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Cleveland, Ohio, United States

A four-time Grammy Award-winning artist, singer Tracy Chapman is best known for her hit single, Give Me One Reason. Interested in music from a young age, she learned to play multiple instruments as a child. She made her major-stage debut in 1985 and soon became a sensational hit. She is also known for her social activism.

 5 John Prine

John Prine
4
Famous As: Singer-songwriter
Birthdate: October 10, 1946
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Maywood, Illinois, United States
Died: April 7, 2020

 6 Harry Belafonte

Harry Belafonte
4
Famous As: Singer, Actor
Birthdate: March 1, 1927
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: New York City, United States

 7 Gordon Lightfoot

Gordon Lightfoot
5
Famous As: Singer, Songwriter
Birthdate: November 17, 1938
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Orillia
Canadian folk-rock sensation Gordon Meredith Lightfoot Jr. is best known for his chart-topping tracks such as If You Could Read My Mind and Ribbon of Darkness. He set the tone for the folk-pop genre in the 1960s and 1970s. The 16-time Juno-winner has earned the Governor General's Performing Arts Award.
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 8 Joni Mitchell

Joni Mitchell
11
Famous As: Singer-songwriter
Birthdate: November 7, 1943
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Macleod, Canada

Joni Mitchell is one of the most popular Canadian singer-songwriters. Widely regarded as one of the greatest songwriters of all time, her songs reflect her feelings about joy, romance, disillusionment, and confusion. Apart from being a musician, Joni is also a visual artist who designs most of her album covers. In fact, she calls herself a painter derailed by circumstance.  

 9 Townes Van Zandt

Townes Van Zandt
4
Famous As: Singer & Songwriter
Birthdate: March 7, 1944
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Fort Worth, Texas
Died: January 1, 1997

Country singer Townes Van Zandt is remembered for his melancholy and lyrical tracks. His hits such as Pancho and Lefty and To Live Is to Fly have influenced many artists of subsequent generations. He struggled with depression and spent a considerable part of his life in cheap shacks and motels.

 10 Pete Seeger

Pete Seeger
4
Famous As: Singer
Birthdate: May 3, 1919
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Manhattan, New York City, United States
Died: January 27, 2014

Pete Seeger was an American social activist and folk singer. Seeger believed that the power of music could bring about a social change, an ideology that reflected on his works. Through his music, Seeger expressed his support towards counterculture, civil rights, environmental rights, international disarmament, and workers rights.

 11 Arlo Guthrie

Arlo Guthrie
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Famous As: Singer
Birthdate: July 10, 1947
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Brooklyn, New York
Folk singer Arlo Guthrie is known for his songs that have prominent social themes and talk about his anti-war sentiments or about social injustice. Two of his most popular tracks are Alice's Restaurant Massacree, Massachusetts, and City of New Orleans. He has also starred in films such as Alice's Restaurant.

 12 Harry Chapin

Harry Chapin
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Famous As: Singer
Birthdate: December 7, 1942
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Brooklyn, New York, United States
Died: July 16, 1981
Grammy-winning folk rock and pop rock singer Harry Chapin was one of the highest-paid artists of the 1970s, known for tracks such as Cat's in the Cradle. An avid philanthropist, he was part of the Presidential Commission on World Hunger. He also won a posthumous Congressional Gold Medal

 13 Mary Travers

Mary Travers
3
Famous As: Singer-songwriter
Birthdate: November 9, 1936
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Louisville, Kentucky, United States
Died: September 16, 2009

Mary Travers was an American singer and songwriter. She was part of Peter, Paul and Mary, one of the most successful and popular folk music groups of the 1960s. Apart from working with the music group, Travers released five solo albums. In 1999, she was inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame as part of the group.

 14 Paul Simon

Paul Simon
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Famous As: Musician
Birthdate: October 13, 1941
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Newark, New Jersey, United States

One half of the popular musical duo Simon & Garfunkel, Paul Simon is a singer-songwriter, musician, and actor. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest guitarists and songwriters of all time. His career, which has spanned more than 60 years, has been so influential that Time named him among the 100 People Who Shaped the World in 2006.

 15 Linda Ronstadt

Linda Ronstadt
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Famous As: Singer
Birthdate: July 15, 1946
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Tucson, Arizona, United States

One of the world's best-selling music artists ever, Linda Ronstadt has sold over 100 million records worldwide. She performed in diverse genres, including Latin, light opera, rock, and country. She is also one of the most decorated female music artists of all time, having won prestigious awards, such as the National Medal of Arts and Humanities.

 16 Cass Elliot

Cass Elliot
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Famous As: Singer
Birthdate: September 19, 1941
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Baltimore, Maryland
Died: July 29, 1974

Cass Elliot was a popular American singer and actress. As part of the famous folk-rock vocal group The Mamas and the Papas, Cass Elliot played an important role in influencing the counterculture of the 1960s and its music scene. She had a great impact on the American entertainment industry of the 1960s.

 17 Sandy Denny

Sandy Denny
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Famous As: Singer-songwriter, Singer, Songwriter
Birthdate: January 6, 1947
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: London
Died: April 21, 1978

 18 Joan Chandos Baez

Joan Chandos Baez
4
Famous As: Singer
Birthdate: January 9, 1941
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Staten Island, New York, United States

Singer, songwriter, musician, and activist Joan Baez has been active in the music world for over six decades. She emerged as a major musical figure in the counterculture era of the 1960s. Her music encompasses various genres like pop, folk-rock, country, and gospel music. She is involved in civil rights, human rights, and environmental activism as well.

 19 Van Morrison

Van Morrison
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Famous As: Singer
Birthdate: August 31, 1945
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Bloomfield, Belfast, Northern Ireland

Northern Irish singer, Van Morrison, garnered recognition in the 1960s while playing with the band, Them, and then later as a solo singer with the 1967 song Brown Eyed Girl. Over the years, he has released more than 40 albums. Astral Weeks, Moondance, Wavelength, Down the Road and Keep It Simple are some of his acclaimed and commercially successful albums.

 20 Richard Thompson

Richard Thompson
3
Famous As: Musician, Singer-Songwriter
Birthdate: April 3, 1949
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Notting Hill Gate, London

 21 Art Garfunkel

Art Garfunkel
4
Famous As: Singer, Actor
Birthdate: November 5, 1941
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Forest Hills, New York City, United States
Eight-time Grammy winner Art Garfunkel is part of the folk-rock duo Simon & Garfunkel, along with Paul Simon. He has had a successful solo career, too. One of Rolling Stone’s 100 Greatest Singers of All Time, he also earned a Golden Globe nomination for playing Sandy in Carnal Knowledge.

 22 Phil Ochs

Phil Ochs
3
Famous As: Singer
Birthdate: December 19, 1940
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: El Paso, Texas, USA
Died: April 9, 1976

 23 Emmylou Harris

Emmylou Harris
4
Famous As: Singer
Birthdate: April 2, 1947
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Birmingham, Alabama, United States

Emmylou Harris is an American musician, singer, and songwriter. Apart from being a bandleader, a solo artist, and an interpreter of other artists' works, Harris is also an activist; since 1999, she has been conducting Concerts for a Landmine Free World, an annual benefit tour. She is also an ardent supporter of animal rights organizations, such as PETA.

 24 Jewel

Jewel
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Famous As: Singer-Songwriter
Birthdate: May 23, 1974
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Payson, Utah, United States

 25 James Blunt

James Blunt
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Birthdate: February 22, 1974
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Tidworth, Wiltshire, England, United Kingdom
Five-time Grammy nominee James Blunt topped international charts with his single You're Beautiful. His album Back to Bedlam recorded the highest sales in the U.K. in the 2000s. He is also concerned about climate change and is known for screening the environmental documentary An Inconvenient Truth before his concerts.

 26 Victor Garber

Victor Garber
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Famous As: Actor, Singer
Birthdate: March 16, 1949
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: London, Canada

Victor Garber is a Canadian singer and actor best known for his work in theatre, television, and film. Over the years, Garber has received nominations for several prestigious awards, such as Primetime Emmy Awards and Tony Awards. His work in critically acclaimed movies like Titanic, Argo, and Milk was also appreciated with Screen Actors Guild Award nominations.

 27 Sufjan Stevens

Sufjan Stevens
4
Famous As: Singer-songwriter most famous for his Illinois album, which includes the hit Chicago
Birthdate: July 1, 1975
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Detroit, Michigan, United States

 28 Pernell Roberts

Pernell Roberts
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Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: May 18, 1928
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Waycross, Georgia
Died: January 24, 2010
Pernell Roberts is best known as Adam Cartwright from the Western series Bonanza and Dr. John McIntyre from Trapper John, MD. He was also a prominent social activist and had participated in protests such as the Selma to Montgomery marches. He also narrated documentaries and experimented as a singer.

 29 Nick Drake

Nick Drake
4
Famous As: Singer-songwriter, Songwriter, Guitarist, Composer
Birthdate: June 19, 1948
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Yangon, Myanmar
Died: November 25, 1974

Nick Drake was a British singer-songwriter best remembered for his acoustic guitar-based music. Although he failed to achieve popularity during his lifetime, Drake's music has achieved recognition in recent times. He suffered from depression throughout his life and died at the age of 26 from an overdose of a prescribed antidepressant called amitriptyline.

 30 Donovan

Donovan
4
Famous As: Singer-songwriter, Guitarist, Composer, Autobiographer, Writer, Poet, Record producer, Film score composer
Birthdate: May 10, 1946
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Glasgow, Scotland

Donovan is a Scottish guitarist, singer, and songwriter. He is best known for developing and popularizing a distinctive and eclectic style that blended many genres, such as folk, jazz, pop, calypso, and psychedelic rock. Donovan was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Songwriters Hall of Fame, in 2012 and 2014, respectively.

 31 Nelly Furtado

Nelly Furtado
10
Birthdate: December 2, 1978
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Victoria

Nelly Furtado is a Portuguese-Canadian record producer and singer-songwriter. Known for her constant reinvention and musical versatility, Furtado is one of the most successful musical artists from Canada, having sold more than 40 million records. Her work has also inspired fellow musicians like Dua Lipa and Bridgit Mendler. Also a philanthropist, Furtado is a member of Artists Against Racism charity.

 32 Stephen Stills

Stephen Stills
4
Famous As: Singer-songwriter
Birthdate: January 3, 1945
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Dallas, Texas, United States

 33 Woody Guthrie

Woody Guthrie
4
Famous As: Singer-songwriter
Birthdate: July 14, 1912
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Okemah, Oklahoma, United States
Died: October 3, 1967
Legendary folk singer Woody Guthrie is best remembered for his songs such as This Land Is Your Land and Cocaine Blues, and the concept album Dust Bowl Ballads. He inspired artists such as Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen, and performed with a guitar labeled “This machine kills fascists.”

 34 Don McLean

Don McLean
4
Famous As: Singer-songwriter
Birthdate: October 2, 1945
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: New Rochelle, New York, United States

 35 Tyler Childers

Tyler Childers
4
Famous As: Singer
Birthdate: June 21, 1991
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Lawrence County, Kentucky, United States

 36 Burl Ives

Burl Ives
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Famous As: American singer
Birthdate: June 14, 1909
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Hunt City Township, Illinois, United States
Died: April 14, 1995

 37 Passenger

Passenger
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Famous As: musician, singer-songwriter, singer
Birthdate: May 17, 1984
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Brighton and Hove

 38 Garrett Morris

Garrett Morris
4
Famous As: Comedian
Birthdate: February 1, 1937
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: New Orleans, Louisiana, United States
Garrett Morris is best known as part of Saturday Night Live, where he played characters such as Chico Escuela and the News for the Hard of Hearing translator. He also played Uncle Junior on The Jamie Foxx Show and Earl Washington in 2 Broke Girls.

 39 Deborah Falconer

Deborah Falconer
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Famous As: Actress
Birthdate: August 13, 1965
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Sacramento, California, United States
Deborah Falconer has appeared in quite a few films, such as the comedy Pyrates and the biographical film The Doors. She also released music albums such as Untangle and Brave Like Me. She was previously married to actor Robert Downey Jr. and also had a son with him.

 40 Judy Collins

Judy Collins
9
Famous As: Singer-songwriter
Birthdate: May 1, 1939
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Seattle, Washington, United States

 41 Colbie Caillat

Colbie Caillat
7
Famous As: Singer-songwriter
Birthdate: May 28, 1985
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Malibu, California, United States

 42 Suzanne Vega

Suzanne Vega
5
Famous As: Singer-songwriter, Musician
Birthdate: July 11, 1959
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Santa Monica, California, United States

 43 Jack Savoretti

Jack Savoretti
3
Famous As: Singer, Pianist
Birthdate: October 10, 1983
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: London

 44 Ralph McTell

Ralph McTell
3
Famous As: Guitarist, Songwriter, Singer-songwriter
Birthdate: December 3, 1944
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Farnborough

 45 Sixto Rodriguez

Sixto Rodriguez
5
Famous As: Detroit-based folk musician who released little-heard but influential folk music in the 1970's.
Birthdate: July 10, 1942
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Detroit, Michigan, United States

 46 Buffy Sainte-Marie

Buffy Sainte-Marie
3
Famous As: Actor, Singer-songwriter, Visual artist, Record producer, Composer
Birthdate: February 20, 1941
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Piapot, Canada

Known for her music that showcases the issues of Native Americans, Canadian-American singer Buffy Sainte-Marie became the first person from any indigenous community to win an Oscar, with the song Up Where We Belong. She had also been blacklisted by many radio stations earlier due to her activism.

 47 Janis Ian

Janis Ian
3
Famous As: Singer, Songwriter, Musician & Author
Birthdate: April 7, 1951
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Farmingdale, New Jersey, United States

 48 Demis Roussos

Demis Roussos
3
Famous As: Vocalist
Birthdate: June 15, 1946
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Alexandria, Egypt
Died: January 25, 2015

 49 Laura Marling

Laura Marling
5
Famous As: Singer-songwriter, Guitarist, Singer
Birthdate: February 1, 1990
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: England

 50 Peaches

Peaches
6
Famous As: Musician
Birthdate: November 11, 1968
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Canadian musician Merrill Nisker was fighting thyroid cancer in 2000, when she suddenly changed her name to Peaches and worked on a phenomenal album named The Teaches of Peaches. The queer singer has gained followers for her gender-oriented lyrics and her sexual gestures during her stage performances.