Famous 20th Century Jazz Musicians

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 Frank Sinatra

Frank Sinatra.
4
Famous As: Singer and Actor
Birthdate: December 12, 1915
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Hoboken, New Jersey, United States
Died: May 14, 1998

Amongst the most popular singers of the 20th century and one of the bestselling artists of all time, Frank Sinatra began his musical career singing with bands and later established his successful solo career with albums like The Voice of Frank Sinatra. Also an award winning actor, he featured in movies like From Here to Eternity and The Manchurian Candidate.

 2 Billie Holiday

Billie Holiday.
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Famous As: Musician
Birthdate: April 7, 1915
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Philadelphia
Died: July 17, 1959
Jazz legend Billie Holiday had a tumultuous childhood and ended up in prison due to prostitution. Upon her release, at 14, she started singing using her pseudonym and performed at sold-out Carnegie Hall shows. Nicknamed Lady Day, she was riddled with alcohol and drug issues. She won four posthumous Grammys.
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 3 Miles Davis

Miles Davis.
4
Famous As: Jazz Trumpeter
Birthdate: May 26, 1926
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Alton, Illinois
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. 

 4 Louis Armstrong

Louis Armstrong.
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Famous As: Musicain & Singer
Birthdate: August 4, 1901
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: New Orleans, Louisiana, United States
Died: July 6, 1971

Louis Armstrong was an American trumpeter and singer who played an important role in the development of jazz. Thanks to his playing, trumpet became known as a solo instrument and jazz, which was previously known as a collectively improvised folk music, became a soloist's art form. Not surprisingly, Louis Armstrong is widely accepted as the embodiment of jazz. 

 5 Eartha Kitt

Eartha Kitt.
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Famous As: Singer
Birthdate: January 17, 1927
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: North, South Carolina, United States
Died: December 25, 2008

Eartha Kitt was an American actress, comedian, dancer, and singer-songwriter. Renowned for her distinctive singing style, Kitt recorded several chartbusting songs during the 1950s. Also a well-known activist, Eartha Kitt established a non-profit organization called the Kittsville Youth Foundation, which helped underprivileged youths in Los Angeles. She was also an ardent advocate for same-sex marriage and LGBT rights.

 6 Carlos Santana

Carlos Santana.
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Birthdate: July 20, 1947
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Autlán de Navarro, Jalisco, México

Guitarist Carlos Santana rose to fame in the late 1960s and 1970s with his rock band Santana. He introduced elements of Latin American jazz in his rock music to create unique songs. He is the recipient of ten Grammy Awards and three Latin Grammy Awards. Rolling Stone magazine listed him on its list of the 100 greatest guitarists in 2015.

 7 Fiona Apple

Fiona Apple
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Famous As: Singer-songwriter, Singer, Composer, Pianist, Writer, Songwriter, Jazz musician
Birthdate: September 13, 1977
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Manhattan
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 8 Chaka Khan

Chaka Khan.
6
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.

 9 Bobby Darin

Bobby Darin
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Famous As: Singer, Actor, Jazz musician, Songwriter
Birthdate: May 14, 1936
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: New York City
Died: December 20, 1973

 10 Gary Burghoff

Gary Burghoff.
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Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: May 24, 1943
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Bristol, Connecticut

Gary Burghoff is an American actor who is credited with originating the popular role of Charlie Brown in the 1967 Broadway musical You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown. He is also known for originating the role of Walter Eugene O'Reilly in the 1970 black comedy war movie MASH and the popular TV series of the same name.

 11 Ginger Baker

Ginger Baker
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Famous As: Drummer, Jazz musician, Musician, Songwriter
Birthdate: August 19, 1939
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: London Borough of Lewisham

 12 Chet Baker

Chet Baker.
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Famous As: Jazz Trumpeter
Birthdate: December 23, 1929
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Yale, Oklahoma
Died: May 13, 1988

Chet Baker was an American vocalist and jazz trumpeter. He achieved recognition during the 1950s and his innovations within cool jazz, a style of modern jazz music, earned him the nickname prince of cool. However, his drug addiction overshadowed much of his professional achievements. His life and work inspired the 2015 drama film Born to Be Blue.

 13 Kenny G

Kenny G.
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Famous As: Saxophonist
Birthdate: June 5, 1956
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Seattle, Washington

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.

 14 Kyle Eastwood

Kyle Eastwood
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Famous As: Actor, Composer, Jazz musician, Music arranger, Jazz guitarist, Film score composer
Birthdate: May 19, 1968
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Los Angeles

 15 Gwen Verdon

Gwen Verdon.
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Famous As: Actress
Birthdate: January 13, 1925
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Culver City, California, United States
Died: October 18, 2000

Four-time Tony-winning actor Gwen Verdon is remembered for her SAG-nominated performance in Marvin’s Room. She was known for her signature red hair and her love for cats. She was nominated for Emmys for the series Magnum, P.I., Dream On, and Homicide: Life on the Street. She inspired the series Fosse/Verdon.

 16 Thelonious Monk

Thelonious Monk.
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Famous As: Jazz Pianist & Composer
Birthdate: October 10, 1917
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Rocky Mount, North Carolina, United States
Died: February 17, 1982

Thelonious Monk was an American jazz pianist and composer who was noted for his unorthodox approach and idiosyncrasy during his performance. Mentored by Mary Lou Williams, Thelonious Monk contributed to bebop and was associated with Columbia and Riverside labels. His run-in with the police affected his performance after his New York City Cabaret Card was confiscated following the discovery of narcotics in a car.

 17 Buddy Rich

Buddy Rich
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Famous As: Musician
Birthdate: September 30, 1917
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Brooklyn, New York, USA
Died: April 2, 1987

 18 Jaco Pastorius

Jaco Pastorius
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Famous As: Bassist, Composer, Jazz musician, Bandleader
Birthdate: December 1, 1951
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Norristown
Died: September 21, 1987

 19 Mick Taylor

Mick Taylor.
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Famous As: Musician
Birthdate: January 17, 1949
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Welwyn Garden City, England

Mick Taylor soared to fame as the guitarist of iconic rock band The Rolling Stones. He has also been part of John Mayall's Bluesbreakers. Named to the Rock 'n Roll Hall of Fame, he was also declared one of Rolling Stone magazine’s 100 greatest guitarists of all time.

 20 Django Reinhardt

Django Reinhardt.
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Famous As: Musician
Birthdate: January 23, 1910
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Liberchies, Belgium
Died: May 16, 1953
Belgian-born Romani-French jazz musician Jean Reinhardt was better known by his nickname Django. Some of his most celebrated composition were Belleville and Swing '42. Though he died at 43, he influenced an entire generation of musicians, which led to annual Django Festivals, a film, and a biography.

 21 Herb Alpert

Herb Alpert.
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Famous As: Musician
Birthdate: March 31, 1935
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Los Angeles, California
Herb Alpert is an American trumpeter who achieved popularity in the 1960s when he led the band Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass. He is also credited with co-founding A&M Records. Also a well-known philanthropist, Alpert launched the Herb Alpert Foundation in the 1980s in an attempt to deal with environmental issues and support youth and arts education.

 22 Julie London

Julie London
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Famous As: Actor, Singer, Singer-songwriter, Jazz musician, Character actor, Stage actor, Television actor
Birthdate: September 26, 1926
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Santa Rosa
Died: October 18, 2000

 23 Martin Kemp

Martin Kemp
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Famous As: Actor, Musician
Birthdate: October 10, 1961
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: London

 24 Ralph Tresvant

Ralph Tresvant
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Famous As: Singer
Birthdate: May 16, 1968
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Roxbury

 25 Herbie Hancock

Herbie Hancock
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Famous As: Singer-songwriter, Bandleader, Conductor, Jazz musician, Keyboardist, Actor, Musician, Pianist, Film score composer
Birthdate: April 12, 1940
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Chicago

 26 Dizzy Gillespie

Dizzy Gillespie.
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Famous As: Bandleader
Birthdate: October 21, 1917
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Cheraw, South Carolina, United States
Died: January 6, 1993

Jazz trumpeter, bandleader, and singer Dizzy Gillespie developed the virtuoso style of Roy Eldridge, modifying it with innovative harmony and rhythm. He popularized the bebop style of music and was famous for his signature horn-rimmed spectacles. His contribution to modern jazz earned him the title of the Ambassador of Jazz.

 27 George Benson

George Benson
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Famous As: Guitarist, Singer, Songwriter, Jazz musician, Composer, Jazz guitarist
Birthdate: March 22, 1943
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Pittsburgh

 28 Lea DeLaria

Lea DeLaria
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Famous As: Actor, Jazz musician, Singer, Stage actor, Television actor
Birthdate: May 23, 1958
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Belleville

 29 Les Paul

Les Paul
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Famous As: Guitarist, Banjoist, Inventor, Jazz musician, Jazz guitarist, Radio personality, Musical instrument maker
Birthdate: June 9, 1915
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Waukesha
Died: August 13, 2009

Jazz and country guitarist Les Paul developed his version of the solid-body electric guitar, which he named the Log. He is also credited with pioneering innovations such as multitrack recording, the eight-track tape recorder, and overdubbing. He won the Special Merit/Technical Grammy Award for his achievements.

 30 Rachael MacFarlane

Rachael MacFarlane
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Famous As: Voice actor, Unit production manager, Writer, Actor, Jazz musician, Singer
Birthdate: March 21, 1976
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Kent

 31 Charles Mingus

Charles Mingus.
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Famous As: Jazz Musician
Birthdate: April 22, 1922
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Arizona, United States
Died: January 5, 1979
Jazz double bassist and pianist Charles Mingus is remembered for his stints with artists such as Louis Armstrong, Charlie Parker, Dannie Richmond, and Herbie Hancock, and was named to the Down Beat Jazz Hall of Fame. His scores and recordings are preserved in the Library of Congress.

 32 Malcolm John Rebennack Jr.

Malcolm John Rebennack Jr.
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Famous As: Singer-songwriter, Singer, Pianist, Jazz musician, Guitarist
Birthdate: November 21, 1940
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: New Orleans

 33 Jeff Porcaro

Jeff Porcaro
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Famous As: Drummer, Jazz musician
Birthdate: April 1, 1954
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Hartford
Died: August 5, 1992

 34 Peggy Lee

Peggy Lee
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Famous As: Singer
Birthdate: May 26, 1920
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Jamestown, North Dakota, United States
Died: January 21, 2002

 35 Chet Atkins

Chet Atkins
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Famous As: Guitarist, Jazz musician, Record producer, Jazz guitarist, Classical guitarist, Songwriter
Birthdate: June 20, 1924
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Luttrell
Died: June 30, 2001

 36 Mel Tormé

Mel Tormé
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Famous As: Actor, Singer, Composer, Novelist, Songwriter, Autobiographer, Jazz musician, Television actor, Writer
Birthdate: September 13, 1925
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Chicago
Died: June 5, 1999

 37 Judith Durham

Judith Durham
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Famous As: Singer, Jazz musician, Pianist, Songwriter
Birthdate: July 3, 1943
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Essendon

Judith Durham is an Australian musician, singer, and songwriter. In 1963, she became the lead singer of the popular folk-influenced pop quartet The Seekers, which became the first Australian pop band to achieve major sales and chart success in the United States and the United Kingdom. Her services to music earned her the title Victorian of the Year in 2015.

 38 Michael McCary

Michael McCary
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Famous As: Singer
Birthdate: December 16, 1971
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Philadelphia

 39 Tevin Campbell

Tevin Campbell
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Famous As: Singer
Birthdate: November 12, 1976
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Waxahachie

 40 Cindy Breakspeare

Cindy Breakspeare.
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Famous As: Miss World 1976
Birthdate: October 24, 1954
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Toronto

Cindy Breakspeare is a Canadian-Jamaican jazz singer, musician, and beauty queen. She was crowned Miss World 1976, becoming the second Jamaican to clinch the crown. She later became a recording artist and entrepreneur, founding a Rastafarian craft store called Ital Craf. She was once in a relationship with reggae musician Bob Marley that lasted until his death.

 41 Tim Buckley

Tim Buckley
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Famous As: singer-songwriter, singer, banjoist, jazz musician, guitarist, jazz guitarist
Birthdate: February 14, 1947
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Washington, D.C.
Died: June 29, 1975

 42 Gary Kemp

Gary Kemp
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Famous As: Actor, Musician, Guitarist, Songwriter
Birthdate: October 16, 1959
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: England

 43 Madlib

Madlib
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Famous As: Composer, Disc jockey, Jazz musician, Record producer
Birthdate: October 24, 1973
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Oxnard

 44 Neal Schon

Neal Schon
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Famous As: Guitarist, Jazz musician
Birthdate: February 27, 1954
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Tinker Air Force Base

 45 Danny Carey

Danny Carey
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Famous As: Drummer, Jazz musician
Birthdate: May 10, 1961
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Lawrence

 46 Sarah Vaughan

Sarah Vaughan
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Famous As: Singer
Birthdate: March 27, 1924
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Newark, New Jersey, United States
Died: April 3, 1990

 47 Oscar Peterson

Oscar Peterson.
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Famous As: Jazz Pianist
Birthdate: August 15, 1925
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Montreal
Died: December 23, 2007
Seven-time Grammy-winning jazz pianist Oscar Peterson had initially wished to be a trumpeter but switched to the piano because of a lung ailment. He was the first living person, apart from a king, to get a commemorative Canadian stamp. He used a signature handkerchief between performances.

 48 Corinne Bailey Rae

Corinne Bailey Rae
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Famous As: Singer-songwriter, Singer, Guitarist, Jazz musician
Birthdate: February 26, 1979
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Leeds

 49 Buckethead

Buckethead
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Famous As: Guitarist, Composer, Banjoist, Jazz musician, Jazz guitarist
Birthdate: May 13, 1969
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Huntington Beach

 50 Esperanza Spalding

Esperanza Spalding
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Famous As: Music educator, Jazz musician, Singer
Birthdate: October 18, 1984
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Portland