Famous 20th Century Pianists

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Find out more about the greatest 20th Century Pianists, including Freddie Mercury, Liberace, Elton John, John Williams and Ross Lynch.
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 1 
Sergei Rachmaninoff
(Russian Composer Who Was Considered One of the Finest Pianists of His Era)
Sergei Rachmaninoff
5
Birthdate: April 1, 1873
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Starorussky Uyezd
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.

 2 
Maurice Ravel
(One of the Leading Composers of Impressionist Music, Known for His Orchestral Work "Boléro,")
Maurice Ravel
3
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.
 3 
Igor Fyodorovich Stravinsky
(One of the Most Influential Composers of the 20th Century and a Pivotal Figure in 'Modernist Music')
Igor Fyodorovich Stravinsky
8
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.

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 4 
Ray Charles
(Singer-songwriter)
Ray Charles
6
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.

 5 
Aretha Franklin
(One of the Best-Selling Music Artists in the World & 'Queen of Soul')
Aretha Franklin
6
Birthdate: March 25, 1942
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Memphis, Tennessee, United States
Died: August 16, 2018

Widely regarded as the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin was a singer-songwriter, actress, and civil rights activist. Recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, Aretha was ranked number one on Rolling Stone magazine's 100 Greatest Singers of All Time list in 2010. Having sold over 75 million records, she is also one of the best-selling musicians ever.

 6 
John Williams
(One of the Greatest Film Composers of All Time)
John Williams
5
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.

 7 
Little Richard
(Known for His Hit Single 'Long Tall Sally' & Regarded as the 'Architect of Rock and Roll')
Little Richard
5
Birthdate: December 5, 1932
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Macon, Georgia, United States
Died: May 9, 2020
The Architect of Rock and Roll Little Richard is best known for his track Tutti Frutti, which was included in the National Recording Registry. His music was characterized by energetic piano and back beats. His songs broke all racial barriers and were equally appreciated by white and black listeners.
 8 
Nat King Cole
(Singer and Jazz Pianist Best Known His Soft Baritone Voice)
Nat King Cole
8
Birthdate: March 17, 1919
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Montgomery, Alabama, United States
Died: February 15, 1965
Jazz pianist/singer Nat King Cole, father of singer Natalie Cole, is best remembered for tracks such as Too Young and Mona Lisa. His last album, L-O-V-E, was recorded while he battled lung cancer. With The Nat King Cole Show, he became the first African-American to host his own show.
 9 
Toni Braxton
(One of the Best-Selling Female R&B Artist In History)
Toni Braxton
6
Birthdate: October 7, 1967
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Severn, Maryland, United States
Soul and R&B sensation Toni Braxton initially performed with her sisters in The Braxtons. She won three of her seven Grammys with her debut album. Known for her Billboard-charters such as Un-break My Heart, she also collaborated with Babyface, competed in Dancing with the Stars, and produced Braxton Family Values.
 10 
Edvard Grieg
(One of the Main Composers of the Romantic Era)
Edvard Grieg
3
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.
 11 
Liberace
(Pianist, Actor, Singer and the Highest-Paid Entertainer in the World From the 1950s to 1970s)
Liberace
5
Birthdate: May 16, 1919
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: West Allis, Wisconsin, United States
Died: February 4, 1987
Known as “Mr. Showmanship,” pianist, singer, and actor Liberace shot to fame with The Liberace Show, which he ended regularly with his theme song I'll Be Seeing You. The highest-paid entertainer from the 1950s-1970s, he performed in concerts and tours frequently. He also released several autobiographies and cookbooks.
 12 
Roger Waters
(Composer, Singer-songwriter, Guitarist, Screenwriter, Singer, Pianist, Record producer)
Roger Waters
6
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

 13 
Duke Ellington
(One of the Greatest Jazz Composers & Bandleader)
Duke Ellington
6
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 
Fiona Apple
(Singer-songwriter)
Fiona Apple
6
Birthdate: September 13, 1977
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: New York City, United States
 15 
Bob Seger
(Singer-songwriter, Musician)
Bob Seger
4
Birthdate: May 6, 1945
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Detroit, Michigan, United States

Singer, songwriter, and musician, Bob Seger, first gained fame in the 1960s as a heartland rock artist. Known for his classic raspy and powerful voice, he recorded many songs that dealt with themes like love and women. With worldwide sales of more than 75 million records, he is one of the world's best-selling artists of all time.

 16 
Harry Connick Jr.
(American singer)
Harry Connick Jr.
6
Birthdate: September 11, 1967
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: New Orleans, Louisiana, United States

Grammy-winning singer-actor Harry Connick Jr. was born to a lawyer mother and an attorney father, who also owned a record store. He mastered the piano as a child and formed his first jazz band at 10. He later soared to fame with the multi-platinum soundtrack of When Harry Met Sally...

 17 
Taylor Hawkins
(Musician)
Taylor Hawkins
5
Birthdate: February 17, 1972
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Fort Worth, Texas, USA
 18 
Leonard Bernstein
(Composer Whose Best-Known Work is the Broadway Musical 'West Side Story')
Leonard Bernstein
4
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.

 19 
Glenn Gould
(Canadian Classical Pianist)
Glenn Gould
4
Birthdate: September 25, 1932
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Died: October 4, 1982

Glenn Gould was a Canadian classical pianist, counted among the most celebrated pianists of the 20th century. He was also an interpreter of the keyboard works of Johann Sebastian Bach. He was known for his remarkable technical proficiency and unorthodox musical interpretations. He was a writer and composer as well. The Glenn Gould Foundation was established in his honor.   

 20 
Paul Reiser
(Comedian)
Paul Reiser
6
Birthdate: March 30, 1957
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: New York City, New York, USA
 21 
Alicia Witt
(Actress)
Alicia Witt
7
Birthdate: August 21, 1975
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Worcester, Massachusetts, USA
 22 
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.

 23 
Serj Tankian
(Singer-songwriter)
Serj Tankian
6
Birthdate: August 21, 1967
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Beirut, Lebanon

Serj Tankian is an Armenian-American record producer, singer, and songwriter. Tankian is credited with co-founding the popular band System of a Down. Renowned for his wide vocal range and unusual delivery, Serj Tankian is widely considered one of the best heavy metal vocalists of all time. Also a political activist, Tankian co-founded Axis of Justice, a non-profit organization.

 24 
Jack Antonoff
5
Birthdate: March 31, 1984
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Bergenfield, New Jersey, USA
 25 
Don Shirley
(Classical and Jazz Pianist and Composer)
Don Shirley
6
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.

 26 
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
 27 
Debbie Gibson
(Singer-songwriter, Actress)
Debbie Gibson
6
Birthdate: August 31, 1970
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Brooklyn, New York, United States
 28 
Randy Newman
(Singer-songwriter & Pianist)
Randy Newman
4
Birthdate: November 28, 1943
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Los Angeles, California, United States
 29 
Nick Cave
(Singer-songwriter)
Nick Cave
6
Birthdate: September 22, 1957
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Warracknabeal
Nick Cave is best known as the lead singer of the rock band Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds. The ARIA Hall of Fame inductee is known for the intense themes of his songs, such as death. He has also written several books, including novels and anthologies of his poetry. 
 30 
Teddy Pendergrass
5
Birthdate: March 26, 1950
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Kingstree, South Carolina, USA
Died: January 13, 2010
 31 
Jon Batiste
(Musician)
Jon Batiste
4
Birthdate: November 11, 1986
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Kenner, Louisiana, United States
 32 
Benjamin Britten
(British Composer, Pianist, and Conductor Known for His Iconic Operas)
Benjamin Britten
4
Birthdate: November 22, 1913
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Lowestoft
Died: December 4, 1976

Path-breaking British composer, pianist, and conductor Benjamin Britten was known for his fine operas such as Peter Grimes and the War Requiem. He also created countless orchestral works and is known for his long professional partnership with tenor Peter Pears, a collaboration that led to the formation of the Britten-Pears Foundation.

 33 
Fats Domino
(Singer-Songwriter, Pianist)
Fats Domino
4
Birthdate: February 26, 1928
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: New Orleans, Louisiana, United States
Died: October 24, 2017
 34 
Tori Amos
(Musician and Singer)
Tori Amos
7
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. 
 35 
Herbie Hancock
(Singer-songwriter, Bandleader, Conductor, Jazz musician, Keyboardist, Actor, Musician, Pianist, Film score composer)
Herbie Hancock
4
Birthdate: April 12, 1940
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Chicago
 36 
Marie Fredriksson
(Lead Vocalist of Pop Rock 'Duo Roxette')
Marie Fredriksson
6
Birthdate: May 30, 1958
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Össjö, Sweden
Died: December 9, 2019

As one half of the Swedish pop rock duo Roxette (with Per Gessle), singer and songwriter Marie Fredriksson enjoyed international fame in the 1980s-1990s with albums like Look Sharp! and Joyride. Their single It Must Have Been Love was featured in the movie Pretty Woman. Earlier, in Sweden ,she had also enjoyed success as a solo artist releasing numerous albums.

 37 
Dmitry Shostakovich
(One of the Major Russian Composers of the 20th Century)
Dmitry Shostakovich
6
Birthdate: September 25, 1906
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Saint Petersburg, Russia
Died: August 9, 1975

Dmitry Shostakovich was a Soviet and Russian pianist and composer. Widely regarded as one of the 20th century's major composers, Shostakovich's music is characterized by ambivalent tonality, elements of the grotesque, and sharp contrasts. He composed 15 symphonies during his lifetime and most of his work came under Joseph Stalin.

 38 
Gram Parsons
(Singer, Singer-songwriter, Songwriter, Musician, Guitarist, Pianist)
Gram Parsons
5
Birthdate: November 5, 1946
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Winter Haven, Florida, United States
Died: September 19, 1973
 39 
Vladimir Horowitz
(Russian-Born American Virtuoso Pianist)
Vladimir Horowitz
4
Birthdate: October 1, 1903
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Kyiv, Ukraine
Died: November 5, 1989
 40 
Neil Sedaka
(One of the Best Selling Pop Singer-Songwriter Known for His Hits 'Oh! Carol' and 'Calendar Girl')
Neil Sedaka
4
Birthdate: March 13, 1939
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Brooklyn, New York, United States

Singer, pianist, and composer Neil Sedaka initially co-founded the group The Tokens. Most of his collaborations have been with lyricists Phil Cody and Howard Greenfield. He has delivered hits such as Breaking Up Is Hard to Do and Bad Blood. He also launched free online mini-concerts during the COVID-19 pandemic.

 41 
Teddy Geiger
(Musician)
Teddy Geiger
6
Birthdate: September 16, 1988
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Rochester, New York, USA
 42 
Dan Fogelberg
(Musician)
Dan Fogelberg
4
Birthdate: August 13, 1951
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Peoria, Illinois, USA
Died: December 16, 2007
 43 
Lupe Fiasco
(Rapper)
Lupe Fiasco
5
Birthdate: February 16, 1982
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Chicago, Illinois, United States
 44 
Andy Biersack
(Lead Vocalist of the Rock Band ‘Black Veil Brides’)
Andy Biersack
5
Birthdate: December 26, 1990
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Cincinnati, Ohio, United States

Andy Biersack is an American pianist and singer-songwriter. He is credited with founding a rock band named Black Veil Brides where he also serves as the lead vocalist. In 2011, Biersack was mentioned in Revolver magazine's 100 Greatest Living Rock Stars list. In 2012, he was ranked fourth in Kerrang magazine's 50 Greatest Rock Stars in the World Today list.

 45 
Daniel Barenboim
(Pianist, Conductor, Music director)
Daniel Barenboim
4
Birthdate: November 15, 1942
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Buenos Aires

Daniel Barenboim is a pianist and conductor currently serving as the general music director of the Berlin State Opera and the Staatskapelle Berlin. He has previously been the music director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the Orchestre de Paris, and La Scala in Milan. He is a recipient of Spain's Prince of Asturias Concord Award among others.

 46 
Arthur Rubinstein
(One of the Greatest Pianists and Chopin Interpreters of His Time)
Arthur Rubinstein
3
Birthdate: January 28, 1887
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Łódź, Poland
Died: December 20, 1982

Arthur Rubinstein was a Polish-American pianist counted amongst the greatest pianists of all time. He had an extensive career spanning eight decades, during which he earned much international acclaim. He played music performed by several illustrious composers and is especially remembered for his interpretation of Chopin’s music. Renowned pianists François-René Duchâble and Avi Schönfeld were his students. 

 47 
Leon Russell
(Singer, Musician, Singer-songwriter, Pianist, Guitarist)
Leon Russell
6
Birthdate: April 2, 1942
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Lawton
Died: November 13, 2016
 48 
Thelonious Monk
(Jazz Pianist & Composer)
Thelonious Monk
5
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.

 49 
André Previn
(Known for His Versatile Orchestral Compositions)
André Previn
5
Birthdate: April 6, 1929
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Berlin, Germany
Died: February 28, 2019
German-American pianist and composer André Previn was a prominent figure in jazz and classical music. He composed tracks for MGM and won four Grammys and four Academy Awards. He was the music director of the Houston Symphony Orchestra and the main conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra, among others.
 50 
Keren Peles
(Singer)
Keren Peles
6
Birthdate: March 11, 1979
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Yavne'el, Israel

Keren Peles is an Israeli pianist, singer-songwriter, and poet. Over the course of her songwriting career, Peles has contributed immensely to the success of other popular singers like Shiri Maimon and Miri Mesika by writing the lyrics of some of their hit songs. She has also found success as a singer as many of her albums have been certified gold.