Before the Beatles, most of the hit songs that appeared on weekly music charts weren't written by the same people who sung them. It wasn't even until the '60s that the majority of artists started writing down their personal feelings and experiences.

For some artists, songwriting came as naturally as breathing. So naturally, in fact, they couldn't quite fathom anyone lacking the skill. “As far as songwriting, any idiot could do it,” Bob Dylan said in the book Songwriters on Songwriting. “Everybody writes a song, just like everybody’s got that one great novel in them.”

Dylan viewed it less as a revelation than a necessity to move through life – something that really wasn't all that remarkable of a skill “unless,” he admitted, "someone’s gonna come along with a pure heart and has something to say. That’s a different story.”

And that's something the artists on the below list of the Top 40 Singer-Songwriter Albums can attest to.

Most songwriters also agree that it's a vulnerable profession. “I started scraping my own soul more and more, and got more humanity in it. It scared the singer-songwriters around me; the men seemed to be nervous about it," Joni Mitchell told Clive Davis in 2021. “Like, ‘Does this mean we have to do this now?’ But over time I think it did make an influence. It encouraged people to write more from their own experience.”

Singer-songwriters often, though not always, accompany themselves on piano or guitar. Whatever the format, as you'll see below, they helped usher in an era of commercial success during the '60s and '70s by telling their most intimate stories through song.

Top 40 Singer-songwriter Albums

From Bob Dylan and John Lennon to Joni Mitchell and Billy Joel.

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