50 Greatest Solo Artists in Rock History
Whether by choice or by fate, many of rock’s biggest names have indulged in a career as a solo artist.
The majority of these acts have gotten their big breaks in bands, only to jump ship in an effort to become solo stars. For some, the move has failed, often resulting in a return to the group from which they began. For others, a solo career has offered the chance to embrace broader artistic freedom than they ever had before, resulting in some truly memorable work.
There are also those rare cases where an artist set out to be a solo act from the get go, never even entertaining the idea of sharing the spotlight with anyone else.
Below, we’ve assembled our list of the 50 Greatest Solo Artists in Rock History. For the ranking, we only counted a musician's output as a solo act. Any material released as part of a band was ignored from the conversation. For example, the Beatles’ catalog was not factored into John Lennon’s evaluation, nor did Van Halen’s albums with Sammy Hagar impact the Red Rocker’s ranking.
READ MORE: Worst Solo Albums by Superstar Band Members
It wasn’t easy whittling down rock’s greatest solo artists to a list of 50. Even determining who qualified was up for debate. Very few solo artists are truly solo. Session musicians, guest performers, co-writers and producers all help bring material to life. So for our purposes, headlining stars who handled the wide majority of songwriting, yet made their names with notable backing bands – like Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band or Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers – were counted as solo artists.
The result was incredible, as our list features an amazing collection of talent from throughout history. Artists from various countries, racial backgrounds, musical genres, sexes and religions make up our Top 50, a reflection of how truly universal music can be.