Songcraft: Spotlight on Songwriters Podcast

100 Greats

Songcraft's 100 OTHER Greatest Songwriters

In 2015 Rolling Stone magazine published its ranking of the "100 Greatest Songwriters of All Time." As with any of these sorts of lists it stirred discussion, debate, and outrage. That's kind of the point, right? In many ways, they got a lot of stuff right. In fact, folks on the list such as Tom T. Hall, Loretta Lynn, Dan Penn, Mike Stoller, and now Lamont Dozier have been Songcraft guests.

With that said, we have some questions about the RS list. For starters, it overlooked Stephen Foster, Irving Berlin, the Gershwins, Cole Porter, and tons of other important historical songwriters. This could have been avoided if they'd called their list the 100 Greatest Songwriters of the Rock & Roll Era. But they didn't do that. They said "of all time." Weird. And what constitutes "greatness" when you get into ranking these names? Is R. Kelly really a "greater" songwriter than Marvin Gaye, Kris Kristofferson, or Barry Mann & Cynthia Weill? According to Rolling Stone, yes. Should Billie Joe Armstrong of Green Day be on a list that doesn't acknowledge the Ramones or the Sex Pistols? Who's to say? But it feels a bit questionable to us.

Rolling Stone's list is one we revisit often. When it came time to prepare our 100th episode with the great Lamont Dozier we decided it would be fun to put together our own list of the "100 OTHER Greatest Songwriters of All Time," featuring our rankings of great songwriters that Rolling Stone excluded. In order to keep this an "apples-to-apples" situation we followed the same parameters and kept our list focused on the rock era, too. Our only real rule was that nobody from the original RS list could appear on our list.
Here at Songcraft we don't always have the same taste in music, so ranking these songwriters took a good bit of discussion. Ultimately, we decided that "greatness" in songwriting is defined by pure craft (which is largely subjective), commercial impact (which, thanks to chart rankings and such, is largely objective), and influence on both popular culture and other writers/artists.    

Starting with #100 and working backward, this is our list of the other greats.

#100 Peter Gabriel

One of two guys on this list who came out of Genesis (Guess who the other is!), Gabriel managed to balance experimentation with massive pop appeal. "Solsbury Hill," "Shock the Monkey," "Sledgehammer," "Red Rain," "In Your Eyes"

#99 Craig Wiseman

If they built a machine to write commercially successful country songs it might not be able to keep up with Craig Wiseman. "The Good Stuff" (Kenny Chesney), "Live Like You Were Dying" (Tim McGraw), "Believe" (Brooks & Dunn), "Hillbilly Bone" (Blake Shelton & Trace Adins), "Voices" (Chris Young)

#98 Thom Bell

The team of Gamble and Huff gets a lot of deserved credit, but Bell was another important architect of the Philly Soul sound with his great songwriting and production work. "Didn't I (Blow Your Mind This Time)" (the Delfonics), "Betcha By Golly, Wow," "I'm Stone in Love with You," "You Make Me Feel Brand New" (the Sylistics), "I'll Be Around"  (the Spinners)

#97 Lori McKenna

She's getting a lot of attention these days, and McKenna deserves every bit of it. "Stealing Kisses" (Faith Hill), "Girl Crush" (Little Big Town), "Humble and Kind" (Tim McGraw), "Wreck You" (Lori McKenna), "Cry Pretty" (Carrie Underwood)

#96 Trent Reznor

The Nine Inch Nails mastermind popularized a whole new aesthetic for rock writing. "Closer," "Hurt," "Perfect Drug," "The Hand that Feeds," plus film scores for The Social Network, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and Gone Girl.

#95 Ronnie Van Zant

Lynyrd Skynyrd doesn't always get the critical respect they deserve, but frontman Ronnie Van Zant led the band to true rock & roll greatness thanks to his skills as a lyricist and arranger. "Gimme Three Steps," "Sweet Home Alabama," "Free Bird," "Saturday Night Special," "That Smell"

#94 John Legend

Even before he became a chart-topping artist in his own right, Legend was working behind the scenes to write some powerhouse songs. "I Want You" (Janet Jackson), "American Boy" (Estelle), "Magnificent" (Rick Ross with John Legend), "All of Me" (John Legend), "Glory" (Common & John Legend)

#93 Mel Tillis

Few Nashville songwriters remained as prolific for as long as the great Mel Tillis. "I Ain't Never" (Webb Pierce), "Detroit City" (Bobby Bare), "Burning Memories" (Ray Price), "Ruby, Don't Take Your Love to Town" (Kenny Rogers & the First Edition), "Honey (Open That Door)" (Ricky Skaggs)

#92 Bobbie Gentry

Before seemingly disappearing off the face of the earth, the smokey-voiced queen of Southern Gothic songwriting left us with some true classics. "Ode to Billy Joe," "Mornin' Glory," "Benjamin," "Fancy," "But I Can't Get Back"

#91 Jeff Tweedy

Fiercely committed to his vision, Wilco frontman Jeff Tweedy has created great songs like "Can't Stand It," "What Light," "You Never Know," "I Might," and "Random Name Generator"

#90 Mickey Stevenson

Behind all the great Motown reocrds are the great songs from the pens of guys like Mickey Stevenson. "Beachwood 4-5789" (the Marvelettes), "Stubborn Kind of Fellow (Marvin Gaye)," "Dancing in the Street," (Martha and the Vandellas), "It Take Two" (Marvin Gaye & Kim Weston), "Devil with a Blue Dress On" (Mitch Ryder & the Detroit Wheels)

#89 Moby

His sonic experiments brought songwriting into another dimension. "Move (You Make Me Feel so Good)," "Honey," "Run On," "South Side," "Disco Lies"

#88 Bill & Gloria Gaither

How many living people have contributed so many songs to the hymn book? The answer is two, and this is them. "He Touched Me," "Because He Lives," "There's Something About That Name," "Jesus, We Just Want to Thank You," "The Family of God"

#87 Linda Perry

Another game changer who went from '90s artist to a behind-the-scenes force to be reckoned with in the recording studio. "What's Up" ( 4 Non Blondes), "Get the Party Started" (Pink), "Beautiful," (Christina Aguilera), "What You Waiting For?" (Gwen Stefani), "Superwoman" (Alicia Keys)

#86 Jerry Reed

The guitar slinger and actor who made everything look so easy also crafted some truly great songs. "Misery Loves Company" (Porter Wagoner), "Guitar Man" (Elvis Presley), "Amos Moses," "When You're Hot You're Hot," "East Bound and Down" (Jerry Reed)

#85 The Smeezingtons (Bruno Mars, Philip Lawrence, Ari Levine)

Bruno gets all the media attention, but this now-defunct trio of writers injected some much-needed musical integrity back into the pop charts. "Nothin' on You" (B.o.B. w/ Bruno Mars), "Billionaire" (Travie McCoy w/ Bruno Mars), "F**k You!" (Cee Lo Green), "Just the Way You Are" (Bruno Mars), "All I Ask" (Adele)

#84 Billy Gibbons, Dusty Hill, and Frank Beard (ZZ Top)

It may not be poetry, bur for guitar-driven Texas-fried blues rock, it doesn't get much better. "La Grange," "Cheap Sunglasses," "Gimme All Your Lovin'," "Sharp Dressed Man," "Legs"

#83 Ani DiFranco

Almost too prolific to keep up with, DiFranco's fiercely independent commitment to her art is infinitely admirable. "Fire Door," "Buildings and Bridges," "32 Flavors," "Out of Range," "Little Plastic Castle"

#82 Don Schlitz

If he never wrote anything but "The Gambler" he'd still make the list! "On the Other Hand," "Forever and Ever, Amen" (Randy Travis),"  "When You Say Nothing at All" (Keith Whitley, Alison Krauss), "Daddy's Come Around" (Paul Overstreet), "The Gambler" (Kenny Rogers)

#81 The Cure

Songs so good they'll almost make you want to paint your fingernails black. Almost. "Boys Don't Cry," "Just Like Heaven," "Lovesong," "Friday I'm in Love," "The 13th"

#80 Gram Parsons

His legend might have grown to ridiculous proportions over the years, but there's no denying Parsons' impact on what's come to be known as Americana. "Hickory Wind," "Sin City," "She," "Christine's Tune (Devil in Disguise)," "Luxury Liner"

#79 Marijohn Wilkin

Perhaps the first real female legend of the Nashville songwriting community. "The Long Black Veil" (Lefty Frizzell), "Waterloo" (Stonewall Jackson), "I Just Don't Understand" (Ann-Margret, The Beatles), "Cut Across Shorty" (Carl Smith), "One Day at a Time" (Cristy Lane)

#78 John Mellencamp

Bruce Springsteen might be the measuring rod, but as far as heartland rockers go, John Mellencamp is pretty damn great. "Hurts so Good," "Jack & Diane," "Pink Houses," "Small Town," "Cherry Bomb"

#77 Guns N' Roses

Before grunge came along Guns N' Roses changed the game and made all the hair metal bands who came before them seem kind of stupid. "Welcome to the Jungle," "Sweet Child o' Mine," "Paradise City," "Patience," "November Rain"

#76 Neil Sedaka & Howard Greenfield

They may not be hipster-approved, but these guys knew their way around a great pop song. "Stupid Cupid" (Connie Francis), "Oh! Carol," "Breaking Up is Hard to Do" (Neil Sedaka), "The Hungry Years" (Neil Sedaka, The Captain & Tenille), "Love Will Keep Us Together" (The Captain & Tenille)

#75 Neko Case

Somewhere between the worlds of folk, country, rock, and alternative is where you'll find the fantastic songs of the amazing Neko Case. "Deep Red Bells," "Hold On, Hold On," "Maybe Sparrow," "People Got a Lotta Nerve," "Hell-On"

#74 Garth Brooks

Talk about polarizing! Love him or not, you can't deny Garth's epic impact on the trajectory of commercial country music. "If Tomorrow Never Comes," "Unanswered Prayers," "The Thunder Rolls," "Ain't Goin' Down (Til the Sun Comes Up)," "Standing Outside the Fire"

#73 Lyle Lovett

There must be something about Texas that made it produce more great songwriters per capita than any other state, but Lyle Lovett shines as one of the truly special ones among all the greats. "She's No Lady," "Farther Down the Line," "Cowboy Man," "If I Had a Boat," "Private Conversation"

#72 Richard Marx

Remember the guy with the mullett? Well don't laugh, 'cause he's a songwriting beast! "Don't Mean Nothing," "Hold On to the Nights," "Right Here Waiting" (Richard Marx), "Dance with My Father" (Luther Vandross), "Better Life" (Keith Urban)

#71 Townes Van Zandt

One of the great Texas singer-songwriters who impacted a lof of guys who went on to be more famous. "Highway Kind," "If I Needed You," "Pancho and Lefty," "White Freight Liner Blues," Loretta"

#70 Eddie Van Halen

Not only did he reinvent the electric guitar, but Eddie was there writing hits in both the Dave and Sammy eras of Van Halen. "Jump," "Panama," "Why Can't This Be Love," "When It's Love," "Finish What Ya Started"

#69 Ryan Adams

Like Prince or Ani Difranco, the ridiculously prolific Ryan Adams manages to churn out an unbelievably high volume of work that's also really good. "16 Days," "New York, New York," "Two," "Lucky Now," When the Stars Go Blue"

#68 Will Jennings

The unfathomably successful lyricist behind songs such as "Up Where We Belong" (Joe Cocker & Jennifer Warnes), "Higher Love" (Steve Winwood), "Didn't We Almost Have it All" (Whitney Houston), "Tears in Heaven" (Eric Clapton), "My Heart Will Go On" (Celine Dion)

#67 Rodney Crowell

Standard-bearer of the second wave of great Texas songwriters who changed Nashville forever. "Til I Gain Control Again," "Voila An American Dream" "I Ain't Living Long Like This," "Ashes By Now," "Shame on the Moon"

#66 Rudy Clark

There aren't any pictures of the elusive and mysterious Rudy Clark on the web, but you know his great songs! And if you can find him and get him to do a Songcraft interview we'll give you a prize. "Got My Mind Set On You" (James Ray, George Harrison), "The Shoop Shoop Song (It's in his Kiss)" (Betty Everett, Cher), "Beg Me" (Chuck Jackson), "Good Lovin'" (The Olympics, The Young Rascals), "Everybody Plays the Fool" (The Main Ingredient, Aaron Neville)

#65 John D. Loudermilk

As if discovering the Allman Brothers wasn't enough, Loudermilk brought quirky literacy to the Nashville songwriting community in ways that would continue to flower for generations. "Waterloo" (Stonewall Jackson), "Talk Back Trembling Lips" (Ernie Ashworth), "Abilene" (George Hamilton IV), "Tobacco Road" (The Nashville Teens), "Then You Can Tell Me Goodbye" (Eddy Arnold)

#64 Steven Tyler & Joe Perry

They've never quite gotten the same respect as Mick and Keith, but the former Toxic Twins of Aerosmith are a force to be reckoned with when it comes to rock songwriting. "Dream On," "Sweet Emotion," "Walk This Way," "Dude Looks Like a Lady," "What It Takes"

#63 Bobby Braddock

Forever revered as one of the Nashville greats, Braddock has never stopped reinventing himself for country music's evolving eras. "D-I-V-O-R-C-E," (Tammy Wynette), "Golden Ring" (George Jones & Tammy Wynette), "He Stopped Loving Her Today" (George Jones), "Time Marches On" (Tracy Lawrence), "People Are Crazy" (Billy Currington)

#62 Patty Griffin

Perhaps one of the most incisive and empathetic writers to ever put pen to paper. "Let Him Fly," "Mary," "Truth #2," "Heavenly Day," "Up to the Mountain"

#61 Sting

Sure, we're all a little annoyed that he seems like a dude that got a bit too into the Renaissance Fair, but Sting will always be a great songwriter. "Roxanne," "Every Little Thing She Does is Magic," "Every Breath You Take," "If You Love Somebody Set Them Free," "Fields of Gold"

#60 Sheryl Crow

Has anyone ever so masterfully bridged classic rock sensibility with her own era? "All I Wanna Do," "Strong Enough," "If It Makes You Happy," "My Favorite Mistake," "Soak Up the Sun"

#59 Lindsey Buckingham

Great songs often emerge from relational struggles, so Fleetwood Mac was the perfect incubator for Buckingham's best work. "Second Hand News," "Go Your Own Way," "The Chain," "Tusk," "Trouble"

#58 Nina Simone

She typically recorded songs written by others, but on the rare occasion when she crafted her own songs? Look out! "Mississippi Goddam," "Sinnerman," "Four Women," "Do I Move You," "To Be Young, Gifted and Black"

#57 J.J. Cale

One of the originators of the Tulsa Sound, who might very well be flipping us off in this photo. "After Midnight," "Crazy Mama," "Clyde," "Cocaine," "Call Me the Breeze"

#56 Coldplay

Treading the line between massive mainstream success and cool artistic integrity, Coldplay has gone the distance. "Yellow," "Viva la Vida," "Paradise," "A Sky Full of Stars," "Something Just Like This"

#55 Waylon Jennings

As the James Brown of country music, Waylon created a sound and style that were uniquely his. "Good Hearted Woman," "Rainy Day Woman," "Are You Sure Hank Done it This Way," "I've Always Been Crazy," "My Rough and Rowdy Ways"

#54 Bobby Womack

This guy was all over the genre map and made an impact that's still felt in popular music today. "It's All Over Now" (the Valentinos, Rolling Stones), "Across 110th Street, "Woman's Gotta Have It," "If You Think You're Lonely Now" (Bobby Womack), "STYLO" (Gorillaz featuring Mos Def & Bobby Womack)

#53 Angus Young & Malcolm Young

You've never heard an AC/DC song and wondered what band it was. These guys defined what it means to be true hard rock stylists with songs such as "Highway to Hell," "You Shook Me All Night Long," "Back in Black," "For Those About to Rock," and "Thunderstruck"

#52 Bill Anderson

Unparalleled among country songwriters for remaining relevant through decades of changes. "City Lights" (Ray Price), "Once a Day" (Connie Smith), "Saginaw, Michigan" (Lefty Frizzell), "Give it Away" (George Strait), "Whiskey Lullaby" (Brad Paisley with Alison Krauss)

#51 Jeff Lynne

The ELO mastermind who never quit creating. "Evil Woman," "Don't Bring Me Down" (Electric Light Orchestra), "Handle with Care" (Traveling Wilburys), "You Got It" (Roy Orbison), "I Won't Back Down" (Tom Petty)

#50 Steve Cropper

Memphis soul would never be the same in the wake of Steve Cropper. "Green Onions" (Booker T. & the MGs), "In the Midnight Hour" (Wilson Pickett), "Seesaw" (Don Covay, Aretha Franklin), "Knock on Wood" (Eddie Floyd), "(Sittin' On) the Dock of the Bay" (Otis Redding)

#49 Kenny Loggins

You kind of forget the sheer number of hits this dude was associated with until you look it up and get blown away all over again. And who remembered that he looked like Teen Wolf at one time? "Your Mama Don't Dance," "Danny's Song," "What a Fool Believes," "This is It," "Footloose"

#48 Tupac Shakur

We're not hip hop experts by any means, but there's no denying that Shakur fundamentally impacted the genre forever. "Keep Ya Head Up," "Dear Mama," "California Love," "How Do U Want It," "Runnin' (Dying to Live)" (with Notorious B.I.G.)

#47 Pearl Jam

Kurt Cobain might get the credit as the tortured songwriting genius of the grunge movement, but Eddie Vedder and his band came out of the gate writing great songs and haven't slowed down for nearly 25 years. "Even Flow," "Jeremy," "Daugther," "I Got Id," "Given to Fly"

#46 Norman Gimbel

The skilled lyricist behind "I Will Follow Him," "The Girl From Impanema," "Killing Me Softly with his Song," "It Goes Like it Goes" and the themes to numerous TV shows, such as Happy Days.

#45 Glen Ballard

Best known for his work with Alanis Morisette, the prolific writer and producer is one of the great architects of edgy '90s pop and more. "Man in the Mirror" (Michael Jackson), "Hold On" (Wilson Phillips), "You Outta Know" (Alanis Morisette), "Falling in Love (Is Hard on the Knees)" (Aerosmith), "Believe" (Josh Groban)

#44 Eric Clapton

They should call him "Slowhand " for not writing too many songs, but his relatively small number of originals still pack a serious punch. "Layla," "Bell Bottom Blues," "Let it Rain," "Wonderful Tonight," "Tears in Heaven"

#43 Johnnie Johnson

The longtime Chuck Berry sideman who inspired "Johnny B. Goode" and claimed to be an uncredited co-writer of 52 of Berry's songs, including "Roll Over Beethoven," "School Day," "Rock and Roll Music," "Sweet Little Sixteen," and  "No Particular Place to Go."

#42 Desmond Child

If you want to know how hard rock bands transformed into Top 40 radio darlings in the 1980s look no further than the great Desmond Child. "Livin' on a Prayer" (Bon Jovi), "Dude Looks Like a Lady" (Aerosmith), "We All Sleep Alone" (Cher), "I Hate Myself for Loving You," (Joan Jett & the Blackhearts), "Livin' La Vida Loca" (Ricky Martin)

#41 Ann Wilson & Nancy Wilson

There weren't a ton of women rockers getting attention in the '70s, but the Wilson sisters' powerful performances and fabulous rock songs demanded that listeners take notice of Heart. "Crazy on You," "Magic Man," "Barracuda," "Straight On," "Never"

#40 Michael McDonald

Like several other folks on this list, fans often think of the voice first. But you can't overlook the great songs. "Takin' it to the Streets," "It Keeps You Runnin'," "What a Fool Believes," "This is It," "Yah Mo Be There"

#39 Buck Owens

Merle Haggard was the poet of the common man, but his fellow Bakersfield honky tonker could craft deceptively simple country songs like nobody's business. "Love's Gonna Live Here," "My Heart Skips a Beat," "Together Again," "I've Got a Tiger By the Tail," "Crying Time"

#38 Ryan Tedder

The OneRepublic frontman is the biggest songwriting superheo of the modern era. "Apologize" (Timbaland w/ OneRepublic), "Bleeding Love" (Leona Lewis), "Already Gone" (Kelly Clarkson), "Rumour Has It" (Adele), "Counting Stars" (OneRepublic)

#37 J.D. Souther

When the Eagles were at their earthy best it was usually because J.D. Souther was involved. "Best of My Love," "New Kid in Town," "Heartache Tonight" (The Eagles), "You're Only Lonely" (J. D. Souther), "Heart of the Matter" (Don Henley)

#36 Carole Bayer Sager

Smooth pop ballads? Nobody does 'em better! "Groovy Kind of Love" (The Mindbenders, Phil Collins), "Arthur's Theme (Best That You Can Do)" (Christopher Cross), "Heartlight" (Neil Dimaond), "That's What Friends Are For" (Dione Warwick), "On My Own" (Patti LaBelle & Michael McDonald)

#35 Dave Grohl

He wears a lot of hats and wears 'em well. "Songwriter" is just one of the many. "Smells Like Teen Spirit" (Nirvana), "Everlong," "Learn to Fly," "Best of You," "The Pretender" (Foo Figthers)

#34 Maurice White

Earth, Wind & Fire's hits were written in various configurations among the band members, but the one consistent presence was the great Maurice White. "Shining Star," "That's the Way of the World," "Sing a Song," "September," "Let's Groove"

#33 Roy Orbison

Orbison wasn't the first guy to write darkly emotional rock songs, but he turned it into a high art. "Only the Lonely," "Crying," "Blue Bayou," "Oh, Pretty Woman," "You Got It"

#32 Freddie Mercury

When you're one of the greatest singers of all time you sometimes overshadow your amazing songwriter skills. Here's a reminder: "Killer Queen," "Bohemian Rhapsody," "We Are the Champions," "Crazy Little Thing Called Love," "Under Pressure"

#32 Bill Monroe

The man who invented bluegrass and wrote the song that introduced Elvis Presley to the world. "Kentucky Waltz," "Uncle Pen," "Blue Moon of Kentucky," "Walk Softly on this Heart of Mine" "Will You Be Loving Another Man"

#30 Nile Rodgers

An insanely prolific writer, composer and producer who's now the chair of the Songwriters Hall of Fame. "Le Freak," "Good Times" (Chic), "We Are Family" (Sister Sledge), "Upside Down," "I'm Coming Out" (Diana Ross)

#29 Jackie DeShannon

One of the first female singer/songwriters of the rock era. "Dum Dum," "Put a Little Love in Your Heart," "Love Will Find a Way," "Bette Davis Eyes," "When You Walk in the Room"

#28 Carl Perkins

His songwriting was as good as his toupée was bad. That's why he's the songwriter most covered by the Beatles. "Blue Suede Shoes," "Honey Don't," "Matchbox" (Carl Perkins),  "Daddy Sang Bass" (Johnny Cash) "Silver and Gold" (Dolly Parton)

#27 Mac Davis

It takes a real craftsman to write songs that seem just as effortless as Mac's easy-going personality. "A Little Less Conversation," "In the Ghetto" (Elvis Presley), "Watching Scotty Grow" (Bobby Goldsboro), "Baby Don't Get Hooked on Me," "It's Hard to be Humble" (Mac Davis)

#26 Ray Charles

A brilliant song interpreter who also contributed his own unforgettable originals to the popular music canon: "This Little Girl of Mine," "A Fool for You," "Hallelujah I Love Her So," "What'd I Say," "I Believe to My Soul"

#25 Gloria Estefan

The Cuban-American pioneer who brought Latin influences to the pop mainstream in a major way. "Words Get in the Way," "The Rhythm is Gonna Get You," "1-2-3," "Coming Out of the Dark," "Whenever, Wherever" (with Shakira)

#24 Rod Temperton

One of the funkiest skinny white British dudes around. "Boogie Nights" (Heatwave), "Stomp!" (Brothers Johnson), "Rock with You," "Thriller" (Michael Jackson), "Yah Mo Be There" (James Ingram w/ Michael McDonald). Who thought you'd see "Yah Mo Be There" twice in the same list today?

#23 Jimi Hendrix

He showed the world that the electric guitar could take song composition to entirely new places. "Purple Haze," "The Wind Cries Mary," "Foxy Lady," "Little Wing," "Crosstown Traffic"

#22 Roger Miller

A writer of "novelty songs" with surprising depth. "Invitation to the Blues," "Dang Me," "King of the Road," "The Last Word in Lonesome is Me," "Walkin' Talkin' Cryin' Barely Beatin' Broken Heart"

#21 Mutt Lange

The man behind some of the biggest albums of all time. "Do You Believe in Love" (Huey Lewis), "Pour Some Sugar on Me" (Def Leppard)," All For Love" (Bryan Adams/Rod Stewart/Sting), "You're Still the One" (Shania Twain), "Breathless" (The Coors)

#20 Andrae Crouch

The father of modern gospel music. "The Blood Will Never Lose Its Power," "My Tribute (To God be the Glory)," "Soon and Very Soon," "Bless His Holy Name," "Jesus is the Answer"

#19 Emmylou Harris

She doesn't write tons of songs, but when she does she reveals what she's learned as an unparalleled interpreter of the craft. "In My Hour of Darkness" (with Gram Parsons), "Boulder to Birmingham," "Heartbreak Hill," "Prayer in Open D," "Red Dirt Girl"

#18 The Ramones

They stripped rock music back down to its essence and set a template for punk songwriting that still endures.  "Blitzkrieg Bop," "Sheena is a Punk Rocker," "Rockaway Beach," "Rock 'n' Roll High School," "I Wanna be Sedated"

#17 George Michael

How many writer/artists can say they had six Top 5 pop singles from one album that were all written solo? George Michael, that's how many. "Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go," "Careless Whisper," "Faith," "Father Figure," "Freedom"

#16 Pharrell Williams

A master at using the studio as a tool for songwriting creativity. "Rock Your Body" (Justin Timberlake), "Milkshake" (Kelis), "Blurred Lines" (Robin Thicke featuring T.I. & Pharrell), "Happy" (Pharrell), "Get Lucky" (Daft Punk)

#15 Steve Earle

From country-rockin' Texan to Nashville hit maker to progressive New York activist, Steve Earle has never stopped writing great songs. "Guitar Town," "Someday," "Copperhead Road," "Sometimes She Forgets," "The Revolution Starts Now"

#14 David Foster

If you're looking for '80s pop with a perfect sheet, you can't beat David Foster. "She's a Beauty" (The Tubes), "You're the Inspiration" (Chicago), "Who's Holding Donna Now" (DeBarge), "St. Elmo's Fire (Man in Motion)" (John Parr), "Glory of Love" (Peter Cetera)

#13 Phil Collins

Just go look up the full list of the hit songs Collins wrote, both in and out of Genesis, and prepare to be astonished. "Invisible Touch," "Tonight, Tonight, Tonight," "In the Air Tonight," "Against All Odds" (Take a Look at Me Now)," "One More Night"

#12 Guy Clark

The superior craftsman of Texas tunesmiths. "Desperados Waiting for a Train," "L.A. Freeway," "Heartbroke," "Homegrown Tomatoes" (Guy Clark), "She's Crazy for Leavin'" (Rodney Crowell)

#11 Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis

The dynamic duo behind Janet Jackson's huge run of hits, and so much more. "Miss You Much," "That's the Way Love Goes," "All For You" (Janet Jackson), "Human" (Human League), "No More Drama" (Mary J. Blige),

#10 Lionel Richie

The sheer number of classics he's written is astounding. Bonus points for his odd couple bromance with Kenny Rogers. "Three Times a Lady" (the Commodores), "Endless Love" (Diana Ross & Lionel Richie), "We Are the World" (USA for Africa), "All Night Long," "Hello" (Lionel Richie)

#9 Muddy Waters

Willie Dixon might be the king of blues songwriting, but Muddy contributed plenty of his own classics to the canon. "I Can't be Satisfied," "Rollin' and Tumblin'," "Rollin' Stone," "Mannish Boy," "Got My Mojo Working"

#8 Roger Waters & David Gilmour

Together and separately, the Pink Floyd partners produced some of classic rock's most enduring staples. "Money," "Wish You Were Here" "Another Brick in the Wall (Part II)," "Hey You," "Comfortably Numb"

#7 Phil Spector

His best known record these days might be his criminal record, but Spector's contributions to the American songbook can't be denied. "Spanish Harlem" (Ben E. King), "Then He Kissed Me" (The Crystals), "Be My Baby" (The Ronettes), "Chapel of Love" (The Dixie Cups), "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'" (The Righteous Brothers)

#6 Led Zeppelin

Despite some, uh, "borrowing," these guys still created some of the most enduring rock anthems of all time. "Whole Lotta Love," "Ramble On," "Immigrant Song," "Stairway to Heaven," "Kashmir"

#5 Diane Warren

The high priestess of unstoppable pop ballads. "If I Could Turn Back Time" (Cher), "How Do I Live" (LeAnn Rimes, Trisha Yearwood), "Un-Break My Heart" (Toni Braxton), "I Don't Want to Miss a Thing" (Aerosmith), "Because You Loved Me" (Celine Dion")

#4 Bob Seger

Much more that just a great singer, Seger's underappreciated songwriting chops make him the poetic king of blue collar rock. "Night Moves," "Still the Same," "We've Got Tonight", "Against the Wind," "Like a Rock"

#3 Otis Redding

He's still the standard bearer of soul singing AND songwriting. "Mr. Pitiful," "I've Been Loving You Too Long," "Respect," "Sweet Soul Music," "(Sittin' On) The Dock of the Bay"

#2 Harlan Howard

The Dean of Nashville Songwriters, with more than 100 Top 10 country hits. "I Fall to Pieces," "Busted," "Heartaches by the Number," "I've Got a Tiger by the Tail," "The Chokin' Kind"

#1 Little Richard & Bumps Blackwell

Writing together or separately, the pair penned most of Richard's hits and helped set the template for rock & roll songwriting. "Tutti-Frutti," "Long Tall Sally," "Slippin' and Slidin'," "Lucille," "Keep a Knockin'"

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