Famous 20th Century Rhythm & Blues Singers

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 1 
Michael Jackson
(One of the Most Significant Cultural Figures of the 20th Century Popularly Known as the 'King of Pop')
Michael Jackson
5
Birthdate: August 29, 1958
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Gary, Indiana, United States
Died: June 25, 2009

The King of Pop and an international superstar, Michael Jackson was a musical entertainer whose work – both with Jackson 5 and solo – won accolades and hearts worldwide. Equally popular were his unique dance moves that created sensation and shaped future dance styles. Amongst the most successful entertainers of all time, Jackson was later accused of child molestation.  

 2 
Beyonce Knowles
(One of the World's Best-Selling Recording Artists and One of the Highest-Earning Black Musicians of All Time)
Beyonce Knowles
7
Birthdate: September 4, 1981
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Houston, Texas, United States

Beyonce Knowles is a singer, songwriter, and actress. She developed an interest in music as a child. As a teenager, she became the lead singer of Destiny's Child, one of the best-selling girl groups of all time. She is one of the world's best-selling recording artists and one of the highest-earning black musicians of all time

 3 
Whitney Houston
(Best-Selling Female R&B Artist of the 20th Century)
Whitney Houston
5
Birthdate: August 9, 1963
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Newark, New Jersey, United States
Died: February 11, 2012

Amongst the best-selling recording artists of all time and an inspiration to millions of budding artists, Whitney Houston achieved stardom with her eponymous debut album. The success of her later albums consolidated her position and earned her a spot in the Guinness World Records as the most awarded female artist of all time. She struggled with drug abuse and troubled marriage and died of drowning in her hotel's bathtub. 

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 4 
Aretha Franklin
(One of the Best-Selling Music Artists in the World & 'Queen of Soul')
Aretha Franklin
7
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.

 5 
Tina Turner
(The "Queen of Rock 'n' Roll")
Tina Turner
5
Birthdate: November 26, 1939
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Nutbush, Tennessee, United States

Known as the Queen of Rock 'n' Roll, Tina Turner is one of the best-selling recording artists of all time and has had a very long and successful career. Let's Stay Together, What's Love Got to Do with It, Private Dancer and Golden Eye are some of her chartbuster songs. She is also a songwriter and has acted in films too.

 6 
Alicia Keys
(Singer, Actress)
Alicia Keys
5
Birthdate: January 25, 1981
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Hell's Kitchen, New York, United States

Singer-songwriter Alicia Keys has been active in the music industry since the mid-1990s. Her debut album was a super hit and earned her five Grammy Awards. She is one of the best-selling artists in the United States and has sold over 40 million albums worldwide. She is also known for her humanitarian work, philanthropy, and activism.

 7 
Stevie Wonder
(Singer-Songwriter and Musician)
Stevie Wonder
4
Birthdate: May 13, 1950
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Saginaw, Michigan, United States

American singer and songwriter, Stevie Wonder, is one of most influential and the best-selling musicians of all time. That Girl, Gotta Have You, I Just Called to Say I Love You, Part-Time Lover and Happy Birthday are some of his chartbuster songs. He has won many awards and accolades, including 25 Grammy Awards.

 8 
Janet Jackson
(One of the World's Best-Selling Music Artists)
Janet Jackson
4
Birthdate: May 16, 1966
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Gary, Indiana, United States

A member of the prominent Jackson family, Janet Jackson is a singer, songwriter, actress, and dancer. Popularly known for her innovative and socially conscious songs, she was considered a sex icon in her youth. Beginning her career as a teenager, she went on to become one of the world's best-selling music artists of all time.

 9 
Diana Ross
(Lead Singer of 'the Supremes', the Best-Charting Female Group in History)
Diana Ross
5
Birthdate: March 26, 1944
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Detroit, Michigan, United States

With several prestigious honors, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom, under her belt, Diana Ross is one of the most popular and influential singers of all time. In 1976, Billboard named her the Female Entertainer of the Century. She has influenced popular artists like Madonna, Beyoncé, and Michael Jackson.

 10 
Marvin Gaye
(Known as the 'Prince of Soul' and Popular for His Song 'Sexual Healing')
Marvin Gaye
7
Birthdate: April 2, 1939
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Washington, D.C., United States
Died: April 1, 1984

American singer Marvin Gaye is one of the most successful black artists ever and his albums have sold in millions. His success reached great heights with the 1972 song What's Going On. The 1982 single Sexual Healing was the biggest hit of his career and was a chartbuster. He was tragically shot dead by his father after a family altercation.

 11 
James Brown
(Central Progenitor of Funk Music and Referred to as 'Godfather of Soul')
James Brown
4
Birthdate: May 3, 1933
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Barnwell, South Carolina, United States
Died: December 25, 2006

Referred to by honorific nicknames, such as Godfather of Soul, James Brown was a prominent figure of 20th century music. A progenitor of funk music, Brown influenced the development of many music genres. An inductee of the Rhythm & Blues Music Hall of Fame, Brown is ranked seventh in Rolling Stone magazine's 100 Greatest Artists of All Time list.

 12 
Ray Charles
(Singer-songwriter)
Ray Charles
5
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.

 13 
Lionel Richie
(Co-Lead Singer Of Funk Band The Commodores)
Lionel Richie
5
Birthdate: June 20, 1949
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Tuskegee, Alabama, United States

Lionel Richie is an American singer-songwriter, record producer, and composer whose work with the band Commodores and his solo career established him as a successful balladeer of the 1980s. Having sold more than 90 million records, Lionel Richie is one of the best-selling musicians of all time. Also a philanthropist, Richie helped raise money for the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.

 14 
Sam Cooke
(Singer-songwriter)
Sam Cooke
4
Birthdate: January 22, 1931
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Clarksdale, Mississippi, United States
Died: December 11, 1964
The King of Soul Sam Cooke is best remembered for his hits A Change is Gonna Come, You Send Me, and Wonderful World. He began singing gospel as a child and later joined The Soul Stirrers. He was shot and killed by a motel manager in Los Angeles. 
 15 
Lauryn Hill
(One of the Greatest Rappers Of All Time)
Lauryn Hill
4
Birthdate: May 26, 1975
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Newark, New Jersey, United States

Famous rapper and singer, Lauryn Hill, is widely regarded as one of the greatest rappers of all time and a pioneer in the Neo soul genre. The artist whose album The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill won five Grammy Awards, is an inspiration for numerous singers and rappers. Earlier, she gained recognition as member of Fugees, an award-winning hip hop group.

 16 
Mary J. Blige
(Rapper, and Actress Known as "Queen of Hip-Hop Soul")
Mary J. Blige
4
Birthdate: January 11, 1971
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Bronx, New York, United States

Mary J. Blige is a popular singer-songwriter and actress. Having sold 80 million records worldwide, she is one of the best-selling female artists of all time. Referred to as the Queen of Hip-Hop Soul, Mary is credited with influencing the fusion of R&B and hip hop. She often gets featured in lists like The 100 Greatest Women in Music.

 17 
Erykah Badu
(Singer-Songwriter Know for Her Singles like "On & On," "Honey," and "The Healer.")
Erykah Badu
3
Birthdate: February 26, 1971
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Dallas, Texas, United States

Widely regarded as the queen of neo-soul, Erykah Badu is an American singer-songwriter whose debut studio album Baduizm helped popularize neo-soul in the late-1990s. Thanks to her popularity, Erykah Badu serves as a subject for street art in several places, including Greater London, England. Also an actress, Badu has appeared in popular films, such as The Cider House Rules.

 18 
Luther Vandross
3
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.

 19 
Otis Redding
(Singer-songwriter)
Otis Redding
3
Birthdate: September 9, 1941
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Dawson, Georgia, United States
Died: December 10, 1967
The King of Soul Otis Redding, who had performed with the Pinetoppers, among others, is remembered for his track (Sittin' on) The Dock of the Bay, released after his death in a plane crash. It became the first posthumous Billboard R&B- and Hot 100-topping record. He also won two posthumous Grammys
 20 
Chaka Khan
(Singer)
Chaka Khan
3
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.
 21 
Aaliyah
(Best Known as 'Princess of R&B' & 'Queen of Urban Pop')
Aaliyah
4
Birthdate: January 16, 1979
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Brooklyn, New York, United States
Died: August 25, 2001

Aaliyah was an American singer, actress and model, who became famous when her debut album, Age Ain't Nothing but a Number sold three million copies in the US. Her subsequent albums also sold in millions and won her numerous accolades. She also acted in some films. She tragically died in an airplane crash in the Bahamas, at the age of 22.

 22 
Gladys Knight
(Singer-Songwriter)
Gladys Knight
3
Birthdate: May 28, 1944
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Atlanta, Georgia, United States
 23 
Justin Randall Timberlake
(Billboard Best Performing Male Soloist in the History of the Mainstream Top 40)
Justin Randall Timberlake
4
Birthdate: January 31, 1981
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Memphis, Tennessee, United States

Justin Randall Timberlake is an American actor, singer-songwriter, and record producer. Regarded as a pop icon, Timberlake has sold more than 56 million singles worldwide, which makes him one of the best-selling music artists. In 2007 and 2013, he was named in Time magazine's 100 most influential people in the world list. Timberlake is also known for his philanthropic activities.

 24 
Jamie Foxx
(Best Known for His Portrayal of Ray Charles in the Biopic 'Ray')
Jamie Foxx
4
Birthdate: December 13, 1967
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Terrell, Texas, United States

Actor, singer-songwriter, and comedian, Jamie Foxx became internationally famous for his portrayal of Ray Charles in the biographical film Ray, a role that earned him an Academy Award. He is also known for hosting his own television sitcom, The Jamie Foxx Show. Besides acting, he is also a Grammy Award-winning musician who has released four albums.

 25 
Bill Withers
(American singer-songwriter)
Bill Withers
3
Birthdate: July 4, 1938
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Slab Fork, West Virginia, U.S.
Died: March 30, 2020

Soul and R&B legend Bill Withers is best remembered for hits such as Ain't No Sunshine and Lean on Me. The three-time Grammy Award-winner also inspired the documentary Still Bill. A Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee, Bill moved on to other jobs after his 15-year music career. 

 

 26 
Smokey Robinson
(Ffounder and Front Man of the Motown Vocal Group 'The Miracles')
Smokey Robinson
3
Birthdate: February 19, 1940
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Detroit, Michigan, United States

Singer, songwriter, and record producer, Smokey Robinson, first gained fame as the founder and frontman of the vocal group, The Miracles, in the 1950s. He embarked on an equally successful solo career after leaving the group. He is the recipient of many awards, including the prestigious Golden Plate Award of the American Academy of Achievement.

 27 
Pink
(Singer and Songwriter Known for Her Rock-Influenced Pop Songs, Distinctive Raspy Voice and Acrobatic Stage Presence)
Pink
4
Birthdate: September 8, 1979
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Doylestown, Pennsylvania, United States

Pink is an American singer-songwriter known for her acrobatic stage presence and raspy voice. Having sold more than 90 million records worldwide, Pink is one of the best-selling musicians in the world. A recipient of several prestigious awards, Pink was named in VH1's 100 Greatest Women in Music list. Her work has inspired many other artists like Taylor Swift.

 28 
Selena
(American Singer Popularly Known as the 'Queen of Tejano Music')
Selena
9
Birthdate: April 16, 1971
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Lake Jackson, Texas, United States
Died: March 31, 1995

Known as the queen of Tejano music, Selena became the most famous Mexican-American entertainers during the late 20th century, thanks to her contributions to fashion and music. She is one of the most influential Latin artists ever. Her rags-to-riches story, which includes struggle, fame, and finally death at the age of 23, was showcased in the 1997 film, Selena.

 29 
Etta James
(Singer-Songwriter Know for Hits Such as "The Wallflower", "At Last", "Tell Mama")
Etta James
4
Birthdate: January 25, 1938
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Los Angeles, California, United States
Died: January 20, 2012

Etta James was an American singer whose powerful, deep voice bridged the gap between rock and roll and rhythm and blues. Her ability to perform in various genres earned her a spot in Rolling Stone magazine's 100 Greatest Singers of All Time list. Her work has influenced several musicians, including Christina Aguilera, Diana Ross, Janis Joplin, Adele, and Rita Ora.

 30 
Barry White
(Singer-songwriter)
Barry White
5
Birthdate: September 12, 1944
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Galveston, Texas, United States
Died: July 4, 2003

Barry White was an American musician, composer, singer-songwriter, and record producer. Renowned for his bass-baritone voice, White was one of the most popular vocalists of his generation. Having sold more than 100 million records worldwide, Barry White is counted among the best-selling musicians of all time.

 31 
Patti LaBelle
4
Birthdate: May 24, 1944
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States
The Godmother of Soul Patti LaBelle is best known for her chartbusting song Lady Marmalade, released with her group Labelle. She has had a successful solo career, too, winning multiple Grammys. She has appeared on her own TV shows, released cookbooks, and has launched her line of food and bedding.
 32 
Queen Latifah
(Best Known as 'Queen of Rap')
Queen Latifah
6
Birthdate: March 18, 1970
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Newark, New Jersey, United States

Queen Latifah is an American musician and actress whose song U.N.I.T.Y. played a major role in raising awareness about women's rights worldwide. Dubbed Queen of Jazz-Rap, Latifah has influenced several soul, R&B, and hip-hop artists like Remy Ma, Lil' Kim, Ivy Queen, Missy Elliott, Lauryn Hill, and Eve among other artists. As an actress, Latifah has won several prestigious awards.

 33 
Tom Jones
(Singer)
Tom Jones
4
Birthdate: June 7, 1940
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Treforest, Pontypridd, Glamorgan, Wales

Tom Jones is a Welsh singer who has sold more than 100 million records worldwide. His life and work inspired the 2016 musical, Tom: A Story of Tom Jones. In 2005, for his services to music, Tom Jones was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II.

 34 
R. Kelly
(One of the Most Successful and Best-Selling R&B Male Artists of the 1990s)
R. Kelly
7
Birthdate: January 8, 1967
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Chicago, Illinois, United States

One of the best known R&B artists, R Kelly, who’s sung many chart-topping songs and has sold millions of records, has been accused of sexual abuse by many women. He and is facing several state and federal charges in the US. He was arrested in July 2019 on charges of sex trafficking and child pornography.

 35 
Al Green
(Singer, Songwriter, Record producer)
Al Green
3
Birthdate: April 13, 1946
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Forrest City, Arkansas, United States
 36 
Bobby Brown
(Singer-Songwriter)
Bobby Brown
4
Birthdate: February 5, 1969
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Boston, Massachusetts, United States
Grammy-winning singer and New Edition member Bobby Brown was a pioneer of the new jack swing, a combination of R&B and hip-hop, and shot to fame with the album Don't Be Cruel and the hit My Prerogative. His marriage to Whitney Houston was plagued with domestic strife and drug issues. 
 37 
Akon
(Solo R&B and Hip-Hop Artist to Hold Both No.1 & No.2 Position at Billboard Hot 100 Simultaneously Twice)
Akon
4
Birthdate: April 16, 1973
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: St. Louis, Missouri, United States

Akon is one of the most successful R&B, hip hop and rap singers in the world. His albums Trouble, Konvicted, Freedom, El Negreeto and Akonda have many chartbusters songs. He has also founded record labels Akonik Label Group, KonLive Distribution and Konvict Mizik. He courted controversy in 2007 for an onstage act involving simulated sex with a 15-year-old girl.

 38 
Toni Braxton
(One of the Best-Selling Female R&B Artist In History)
Toni Braxton
3
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.
 39 
Jill Scott
(Singer-songwriter)
Jill Scott
3
Birthdate: April 4, 1972
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States
 40 
Donna Summer
(Singer-Songwriter)
Donna Summer
3
Birthdate: December 31, 1948
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Boston, Massachusetts, United States
Died: May 17, 2012
 41 
Tammi Terrell
(Known as a star singer for Motown Records during the 1960s, notably for a series of duets with singer Marvin Gaye)
Tammi Terrell
3
Birthdate: April 29, 1945
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States
Died: March 16, 1970
 42 
Nat King Cole
(Singer and Jazz Pianist Best Known His Soft Baritone Voice)
Nat King Cole
3
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.
 43 
Mariah Carey
(First Artist to Have Her First Five Singles Reach #1 on the Billboard Hot 100)
Mariah Carey
1
Birthdate: March 27, 1969
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Huntington, New York, United States

Known for her five-octave vocal range and melismatic singing style, singer-songwriter Mariah Carey is one of the best-selling music artists of all time. She holds the record for the most number-one singles by a solo artist and a female songwriter. She was ranked second on VH1's list of the 100 Greatest Women in Music in 2012. 

 44 
Vanessa Williams
3
Birthdate: March 18, 1963
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Bronx, New York, United States
 45 
Donny Hathaway
(Singer, Singer-songwriter, Conductor, Musician, Pianist, Record producer)
Donny Hathaway
3
Birthdate: October 1, 1945
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Chicago
Died: January 13, 1979
 46 
Curtis Mayfield
(Singer, Guitarist)
Curtis Mayfield
5
Birthdate: June 3, 1942
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Chicago, Illinois, United States
Died: December 26, 1999
Soul singer and guitarist Curtis Mayfield gained fame with The Impressions. His songs such as People Get Ready carried prominent social themes. The Grammy Hall of Fame inductee was paralyzed from the neck down after an accident during a live performance in 1990 but continued to record even after that.
 47 
Natalie Cole
(Singer)
Natalie Cole
3
Birthdate: February 6, 1950
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Los Angeles, California
Died: December 31, 2015
R&B and pop singer Natalie Cole, daughter of jazz pianist and singer Nat King Cole, is known for hits such as Inseparable and her cover of Pink Cadillac. The nine-time Grammy-winning artist soared to fame with the album Unforgettable... with Love, which sold more than 7 million copies.
 48 
Rick James
(American Singer-Songwriter, Multi-Instrumentalist and Record Producer.)
Rick James
3
Birthdate: February 1, 1948
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Buffalo, New York, United States
Died: August 6, 2004

Rick James was an American multi-instrumentalist, singer-songwriter, and record producer. He is credited with forming several bands, including The Mynah Birds and Stone City Band. His career was hampered by his controversial personal life and drug addiction problems; he was convicted of kidnapping and torturing women on two separate instances under the influence of crack.

 49 
Anita Baker
(R&B Singer)
Anita Baker
3
Birthdate: January 26, 1958
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Toledo
 50 
B.B. King
(Singer-songwriter)
B.B. King
3
Birthdate: September 16, 1925
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Berclair, Mississippi
Died: May 14, 2015
Known as “The King of the Blues,” legendary musician B. B. King introduced a signature style of soloing using string bending and vibrato. His song The Thrill is Gone won him a Grammy Hall of Fame Award. He was featured on Rolling Stone’s “100 greatest guitarists of all time” list.