The Top 10 Classic Rock Solo Artists
The rock industry is already teeming with bands that paved the way for various genres and styles. Ensembles of guitars, bass, keyboards, even brass and woodwinds, and percussion all make for a recipe of melodic masterpieces. This standard format has been the go to for most aspiring artists in the rock genre. However, a select few stood up to challenge the status quo by going solo. These artists didn’t allow the norms to confine them, and dominated the stages just as well as their band counterparts. Here are our picks (though not definitive) for classic rock’s best solo artists!
The undeniable charmer, oozing charisma, The King was one of the game changers in the genre. Riding on the newly formed rock n’ roll, Presley completed the image with his signature moves and sexual innuendos. His signature deep, macho tone can only be matched by a few, and was a fresh take on vocals back in his prime. Slick, jet black hair, and swagger known to only to him, Elvis was the complete package and the perfect instigator for rock n’ roll for it to propagate.
One of the Gods of Strings, Clapton saw success in his solo career just as much as his group ventures. Who could ever forget “Layla“, his proclamation of love to George Harrison’s ex-wife, whom Clapton married in 1979. Another classic, “Tears In Heaven“, was written in memory of his departed son, who was only 4 years old when he tragically passed away. Clapton just has that magic touch to transform his emotions into melodies that allows the listener to be in the moment as well.
Another guitar virtuoso, Jimi Hendrix is probably the poster boy of the electric guitar and riff showmanship. The “Purple Haze” artist won the UK’s hearts by his overdriven guitar style, and his penchant for effects pedals and high gain amplifier. This marked the proliferation of a heavier, grittier sound that Hendrix commanded with ease and mastery. Headlining 1969’s legendary Woodstock Festival was no fluke, and the only way to start something that big is with someone big. It’s a shame the talented musician only had four fruitful years in the mainstream scene.
One of the biggest names in pop culture, Bob Dylan is undeniably on top of the industry’s small percentile of poets. More than his music and voice, Dylan’s lyricism caught the attention of fans and critics alike. He isn’t afraid to taint the musical realm with the realities of politics and social issues, and challenged the conventional formats with his own devices, which garnered him acclamation from respected musical institutes such as the Grammys and the Rock Hall of Fame, among other arts organizations.
With her explosive style and distinctive rasp, Janis Joplin is one of the pioneers of women in classic rock. One of a kind, her electric stage presence and charisma was one of her most lethal weapons on stage. From her blues roots, Joplin could channel her emotions with the unpredictable cadence of her performances. Her historic appearance at Woodstock paved the way for women to break through the genre, and was instrumental in breaking the norms that were held strongly by the society of that bygone era.
Rod Stewart was as ambitious as he was successful: the man kept his solo ventures alongside his band endeavors. The rich, husky voice that all have come to know and love, was instrumental in bringing his signature sound to the spotlight. “Maggie May“, one of his most iconic material, was an absurd retelling of his first sexual encounter, but in a good way. The British singer-songwriter continues to be active till today, proving age is just a number.
Dubbed as the Father of Rock N’ Roll, Chuck Berry was one of the pioneers of the genre. His distinct, fast-paced catchy riffs and creative licks allowed those who followed him to be shown the ropes. Berry was one of the progenitors of early rock and roll that branched off from rhythm n’ blues. His electric stage presence was a breath of fresh air for the prim and proper audiences back in the day, and was also a prime representative of colored people in the scene.
Paul McCartney, John Lennon, George Harrison
We’ve grouped the former Beatles into one category to give way to other artists as well. George Harrison proved to be the dark horse of the group with him garnering the fastest rise to success after the legendary breakup. John Lennon’s “Imagine” was his best seller in his solo career, with a unifying message to people. He brought down walls with his music, and continues to be loved even after almost four decades since his passing. Paul McCartney’s “Band On The Run” and “Live and Let Die” proved to be one of his most powerful works, among the extensive solo career he has had, considering he is the only ex-Beatle who was active on creating new material for the years that came after the breakup.
The Jersey Shore artist is known for his lyricism and sentimental melodies, coming from influences in swamp rock and his Italian roots, most noticeably accordion music. Springsteen has managed to infuse folk influences in his work, resulting in a laid-back, dreamy ensemble that pulls some of the heavier rock sound to result in an interesting combination of heritages.
Elton John’s flamboyance is only ever towered by his enormous musical talent. One of the few musicians who show genuine elation whenever he performs, John embodies his music in a way that resonates out to the listener. The musician didn’t sell over 300 million records for nothing. Starting by playing the piano at a pub, then moving onto being a songwriter for other artists, Elton John had the perfect background to develop his skills. Being a virtuoso at the piano, the young Elton even won a music scholarship at the Royal Academy of Music. All the years of experience and learning honed the artistry of the illustrious Elton John.