Famous 20th Century Rhythm & Blues Singers

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 20th Century Rhythm & Blues Singers

 1 Michael Jackson

Michael Jackson
5
Famous As: Singer-songwriter
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

Beyonce Knowles
7
Famous As: Singer-Songwriter
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. As of today, she is one of the world's best-selling recording artists. 

 3 Whitney Houston

Whitney Houston
5
Famous As: Best-Selling Female R&B Artist of the 20th Century
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. 

Recommended Lists:

 4 Aretha Franklin

Aretha Franklin
7
Famous As: Singer-Songwriter
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

Tina Turner
5
Famous As: The "Queen of Rock 'n' Roll"
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

Alicia Keys
5
Famous As: Singer, Actress
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

Stevie Wonder
4
Famous As: Singer-Songwriter and Musician
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.

You May Like

 8 Janet Jackson

Janet Jackson
4
Famous As: One of the World's Best-Selling Music Artists
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

Diana Ross
5
Famous As: Entertainer
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

Marvin Gaye
7
Famous As: Singer-songwriter
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

James Brown
4
Famous As: Singer
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

Ray Charles
5
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.

 13 Lionel Richie

Lionel Richie
5
Famous As: Co-Lead Singer Of Funk Band The Commodores
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 Lauryn Hill

Lauryn Hill
4
Famous As: One of the Greatest Rappers Of All Time
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.

 15 Sam Cooke

Sam Cooke
4
Famous As: Singer-songwriter
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. 

 16 Erykah Badu

Erykah Badu
3
Famous As: Singer-songwriter
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.

 17 Mary J. Blige

Mary J. Blige
4
Famous As: Singer-songwriter
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.

 18 Otis Redding

Otis Redding
3
Famous As: Singer-songwriter
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

 19 Luther Vandross

Luther Vandross
3
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.

 20 Aaliyah

Aaliyah
4
Famous As: Singer
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.

 21 Justin Randall Timberlake

Justin Randall Timberlake
4
Famous As: Billboard Best Performing Male Soloist in the History of the Mainstream Top 40
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.

 22 Chaka Khan

Chaka Khan
3
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.

 23 Dionne Warwick

Dionne Warwick
3
Famous As: Singer & Actress
Birthdate: December 12, 1940
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: City of Orange, New Jersey, United States

Dionne Warwick is an American singer, TV host, actress, and former FAO Goodwill Ambassador. Warwick was one of the most successful singers between 1955 and 1999, ranking among the 40 biggest hitmakers according to the Billboard Hot 100. 80 of her singles have been featured on Billboard's music charts, making Warwick one of the most-charted female singers in history. 

 24 Jamie Foxx

Jamie Foxx
4
Famous As: Actor
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 Pink

Pink
4
Famous As: Singer-Songwriter
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.

 26 Selena

Selena
9
Famous As: The 'Queen of Tejano Music'
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.

 27 Bill Withers

Bill Withers
3
Famous As: American singer-songwriter
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. 

 

 28 Gladys Knight

Gladys Knight
3
Famous As: Singer-Songwriter
Birthdate: May 28, 1944
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Atlanta, Georgia, United States

 29 Smokey Robinson

Smokey Robinson
3
Famous As: Ffounder and Front Man of the Motown Vocal Group 'The Miracles'
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.

 30 Queen Latifah

Queen Latifah
6
Famous As: Best Known as 'Queen of Rap'
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.

 31 Etta James

Etta James
4
Famous As: Singer-songwriter
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.

 32 Barry White

Barry White
5
Famous As: Singer-songwriter
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.

 33 Tom Jones

Tom Jones
4
Famous As: Singer
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 Patti LaBelle

Patti LaBelle
4
Famous As: Singer
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.

 35 R. Kelly

R. Kelly
7
Famous As: Most Successful R&B Male Artist of the 1990s & One of the Best-Selling Music Artists
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.

 36 Little Richard

Little Richard
4
Famous As: Musician
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.

 37 Vanessa Paradis

Vanessa Paradis
4
Famous As: Singer
Birthdate: December 22, 1972
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Saint-Maur-des-Foss├ęs, France

French singer and actress, Vanessa Paradis, became a celebrity at the age of 14 with the French song Joe le taxi in 1987. She tasted further success with English songs like Be My Baby and many other French songs. She has also acted in several French films and has modelled regularly for high-end fashion products by Chanel like perfume and handbags.

 38 Bobby Brown

Bobby Brown
4
Famous As: Singer-Songwriter
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. 

 39 Akon

Akon
4
Famous As: Solo R&B and Hip-Hop Artist to Hold Both No.1 & No.2 Position at Billboard Hot 100 Simultaneously Twice
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.

 40 Brandy Norwood

Brandy Norwood
4
Famous As: Singer-songwriter
Birthdate: February 11, 1979
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: McComb, Mississippi, United States

The singer of chartbuster songs like The Boy Is Mine, I Wanna be Down and Sittin' Up in My Room, Brandy Norwood is known for her raspy and husky voice. Most of her songs are about love, relationships and heartache. She was involved in a car accident in 2006, leading to multiple lawsuits, which were eventually settled out of court.

 41 Al Green

Al Green
3
Famous As: Singer, Songwriter, Record producer
Birthdate: April 13, 1946
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Forrest City, Arkansas, United States

 42 Mariah Carey

Mariah Carey
1
Famous As: First Artist to Have Her First Five Singles Reach #1 on the Billboard Hot 100
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. 

 43 Toni Braxton

Toni Braxton
3
Famous As: One of the Best-Selling Female R&B Artist In History
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.

 44 Jill Scott

Jill Scott
3
Famous As: Singer-songwriter
Birthdate: April 4, 1972
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States

 45 Nat King Cole

Nat King Cole
3
Famous As: Singer
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.

 46 Tammi Terrell

Tammi Terrell
3
Famous As: Known as a star singer for Motown Records during the 1960s, notably for a series of duets with singer Marvin Gaye
Birthdate: April 29, 1945
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States
Died: March 16, 1970

 47 Donna Summer

Donna Summer
3
Famous As: Singer-Songwriter
Birthdate: December 31, 1948
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Boston, Massachusetts, United States
Died: May 17, 2012

 48 Vanessa Williams

Vanessa Williams
3
Famous As: Singer
Birthdate: March 18, 1963
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Bronx, New York, United States

 49 Donny Hathaway

Donny Hathaway
3
Famous As: Singer, Singer-songwriter, Conductor, Musician, Pianist, Record producer
Birthdate: October 1, 1945
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Chicago
Died: January 13, 1979

 50 Natalie Cole

Natalie Cole
3
Famous As: Singer
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.