100 greatest songwriters (according to Rolling Stone.....)

Rolling Stone's list of the 100 greatest songwriters. There is a lot of things wrong with this list, folks. As I scrolled through it a lot of things jumped out at me - the low placements of Kris Kristofferson and Merle Haggard are particularly troublesome..... but at least they are on it. But how can you make a list of the 100 greatest songwriters and leave Townes Van Zandt off of it and expect anyone to ever take you seriously again in this life or the next? That's not just ridiculous, it's criminal. Townes should be #1, and you can tell Mr. Zimmerman I said so.

I'd even give 'em the Z-man at #1 - but if yer going to put Woody Guthrie at #28, right behind Ray Davies - you're just making fools of yerselves.....

Rolling Stone's list of the 100 greatest songwriters. 

Artist Townes Van Zandt
Other tags Woody Guthrie

Subjective? Arbitrary? Conversation fodder from a an old Corporate dinosaur? Yup, yup & yup!! However... to get my two cents in... NO JEFF TWEEDY (of Wilco)?!?!?!?!? That is just crazy, Crazier & CRAZIEST!!
And I'm just choosing one such instance...there are plenty of others missing here too, plenty...

Missing - Guy Clark and Billy Joe Shaver.

Included - Kanye West and Taylor Swift.

Donovan? What about freaking Donovan!  (in honor of Jack 2.0 and with apologies to Dennis N).

You are quite the incendiary fellow Hal...tag team wrestling with Tweedy and Farrar and a Donovan reboot...well done!

Some great artists are included, but ranking and scope is a real problem here. How does Hank Williams and Brian Wilson end up NOT in the top 10? or Top 5? Where's John Stewart, Townes Van Zandt and Guy Clark? Why are schlocky pop writers in there alongside Leonard Cohen? These are not the greatest..but, the most notable. Big difference.


"But how can you make a list of the 100 greatest songwriters and leave Townes Van Zandt off of it and expect anyone to ever take you seriously again in this life or the next?"

I say Amen to that LH!  Didn't Steve Earle already make his declaration on Dylan's coffee table with his boots on? 

Don't know that I agree, but I get the point! 


Dude, you know John Stewart would be on my list. The guy that wrote "Yakkity Yak?" Not so much......


Nuff said there....a phto of fighting roosters might work as well! 

Absolutely!  And way up the list too.

I'd put him in the top 10, myself...

Stephen Stills? !!!!!!!!!!!!!


Was Dave Alvin in there?

Yeah, they like Neil, but they don't like Steven.

They don't like Dave, either....

Hard to narrow to 100, not too familiar with the rapprs but I guess they have to be included.  Certainly second Guy,  Townes, Billy Joe and Tom.  Robert Earl has a lot of good ones, too.  

I saw  Smokey Robinson earlier this year and I gotta say it was well worth the price of admission and probably a measurable portion of us reading this were conceived to Smokey's music...

The problem with "Rolling Stone's" list is it's too inclusive. Any list that includes such diverse styles as those of Madonna to Willie Dixon can never do it justice with just 100 entries. The songwriters I thought were glaringly missing include: Warren Zevon, Tonio K., Loudon Wainwright III, Steve Goodman, Percy Mayfield, Jerry Jeff Walker, Jimmy Buffett, Ray Wylie Hubburd; Bily Joe Shaver; Guy Clark; Dave Alvin, Chuck Prophet; John Stewart, Hays Carll, Hoyt Axton and I had planned to say, Donovan (just kidding) but Hal beat me too it.

Good list Dennis...with or without Donovan...

For the record I haven't looked at the list...and after seeing the folks listed here on the thread that aren't on it, I probably won't...not because it is an invalid list, but because, if you are going to includce all genres, you need a longer list than 100...Rolling Stone also finds it necessary to be poitically correct, and not offend any group or type of music fan...so of course, they end up mildly offending everyone...


You should check-out the list Jim out of curiosity if nothing else. Some interesting and  deserving inclusions even if their placement is dubious and some downright crazy choices. But I think you nailed it when you said in their attempt to offend no one they offend many. I don't know what their guidelines were--perhaps songwriters of the rock era or why would all the great writers of the so-called American Songbook be absent? (The Gerswin brothers, Cole Porter, etc.) and yet they included Robert Johnson who was mostly unknown (even to blues fans) when he was alive. 

Still it's great to see songwriters like John Prine included (but at #94?!) and Tom Waits (#55!) both beaten out by the likes of Stevie Nicks (#53-give me a break) and the most ridiculous: Max Martin (#41-I'd never heard of him. I guess he wrote hits for the likes of the Backstreet Boys, Britney Spears, Katy Perry etc.) Those included from the genres of hip-hop and smooth r&b I can't judge being no fan of that music.

I can't believe that in my list of deserving songwriters who didn't make it I forgot James McMurtry who should be in the top 10 in my opinion. Also  missing: J.J. Cale, Jessie Winchester and no doubt many more I will recall later...

A couple young men who might belong on that list. And a young woman who might belong on it too....


Rolling Stone. Hmm. I have DVDs with their first 40 years of articles two feet away, and four books a shelf closer. Thing is, then they put out lists like this. Lou Reed and Prince rated above Ray Davies and Van Morrison. A whole floor of the Brill Buiding represented in the top twenty. Many other omissions and head scratchers, are they just trying to stir up controversy? Davies belongs in the top 10.


Now , one should not trust any ranking or other foolish action by RS



Is that because of this list, or political bent, or the poorly fact checked campus rape story that has them being sued, or some other reason?...I'm not being contrary, I'm just asking...while we'd all likely agree it isn't what it used to be, it was the home of Hunter S. Thompson and PJ O'Rourke for many years, and in it's heyday, it had the best music journalism in total (though I did love Lester Bangs and Creem)...nothing in print is what it used to be...this list, such as it is, is just a list...trying hard to be all things to all people...failng to be anything signficant to anyone as a result...

Once again Jim I agree with you completely. "Rolling Stone" used to kick ass and now it's mostly an embarrassment in their music coverage as they seem to go for popularity over substance. When Britney Spears made their cover I ended my subscription all those years ago. I got a free subscription with the purchase of a Rock'N'Roll Hall Of Fame Concert DVD so tried them again and enjoyed some of it but was really frustrated by the music coverage. When Chuck Prophet failed to show up anywhere in any of their coverage but every movement of Taylor Swift was duly noted I knew they were hopeless musically. Their political coverage, however, seems to be pretty good but I find politics so depressing I don't read those anyway.

I've had your experience Dennis...I don't hink there was any one event that caused me to let the subscription lapse, but I did...then my daughter bought me a year as a birthday present  a few years ago, and they followed up with anothr year at a ridiculous price so I had RS for a couple of years...some of the political journalism was pretty good, but the music for the most part was just so-so, and as you noted, some of the politics is pretty grim...so I let it go too.

Chuck Prophet is a good one...Yep-Roc...

Well, I'm going to nitpick a little. Their recent coverage of the shadowy workings of Wall St. and its unholy alliance with Washington - mostly by Matt Taibbi - has been rightfully acclaimed, and is entirely worthy of HST's legacy. Their lists, on the other hand, are pure horseshit.

and that is a definitive statment Dale...well done!  Any writing worthy of HST is on my mandated reading list...Gonzo journalism lives!

Best of or greatest this and that are always subjective and cause caustic responses. In the long run does it really matter?

Nothing on this list is as bad as the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation this summer naming Arcade Fire the best band in Canada's history.

Absolutely. It should have been Stompin' Tom Connors.

"The Hockey Song"..."The Ketchup Song"...."Bud the Spud"...RIP Stompin' Tom!  No way Arcade Fire is better than that...

I would have to move Van Morrison up to Top 10 and move blues writer Willie Dixon higher.  Willie's output and clever lyrics for a wide variety of blues artists is amazing.  Also would bring Dave Alvin in and what about Gordon Lightfoot's 60's and 70's writing?

I don't want to start a fight but I would guess that Texas wins the honor for the largest number of great writers, either by birth or transplants, especially in the country field.  Also may win the honor for the largest number of new genres created and live music scene.

Gordon Lightfoot absolutely gets my vote.

Let not your hearts be troubled. This is why we have fantastic magazines like No Depression.

Buddy Holly?

Shel Silverstein, Richard Thompson, Alex Chilton, Gene Clark...

That'll be the day!

Start a "real" top 100 list Hal (or somebody.....) Rolling Stone is just clueless. I do read it, though. They have their strong points, but top 100 lists ain't one of 'em.


I agree...there is still some good content...the music content is what has suffered...

In 2002, a television station in England conducted a poll of the 100 greatest Britons of all time.   A woman whose claim to fame was an arranged marriage with a man lucky enough to be born into a “royal” family was number three on the list.   Number three.   Ahead of Horatio Nelson.   Ahead of William Shakespeare.   Ahead of Charles Darwin, Isaac Newton and Charles Dickens.   Not to mention John Lennon, Paul McCartney and Julie Andrews.   And my favorite Brit, Diana Rigg, wasn’t even on the list.

After that, I must admit I am no longer surprised by any lists, especially ones from magazines that haven’t been relevant since Grand Funk was topping the charts.       

The only question I have is this – what the hell was that general thinking when he agreed to give an interview to this magazine about US policy in Iraq?       

what...no David McCallum?  No Liz Hurley?  No wonder we declared independence!

They might have been relevant a little after Grand Funk...depends on whether or not you are talking about the beginning or the Todd Rundgren productions...Mark Farner thanks you for nod...

I can't answer your question either, though it may have been mostly rhetorical anyway...I haven't read much RS recently...are you referencing Stanley McChrystal or someone else?   It's a good question...not sure why anyone in his position would talk to RS...

I’m not embarrassed to say that one of the first albums I purchased was Grand Funk’s “All the Girls in the World Beware” Jim.  But it was in 1975, not 2015.  

I was talking about McChrystal.   I was amazed that he gave those candid, not for public comments to a magazine that probably still has ads for bongs in the back.   Not the New Yorker, the Economist or the Atlantic – the Rolling Stone?!?  Was Tiger Beat not available?   You, Dennis and Johnclink nailed it as to the state of the magazine today and their songwriter list.

Speaking of Grand Funk – a funny Simpsons clip…..love the line about Don Brewer. 


That is too funny...the Don Brewer line is the funniest too...

Yes...the General was indeed very candid...you would have to wonder what his mindset was...maybe he wanted out?

I keep thinking of other worthy songwriters whose absence from the list is no mystery since most  aren't huge stars with a long history of influence but they are superior to many on the list in my opinion. And of course we all know that popularity has little to do with "best". 

So here, for what it's worth, are another half dozen: Greg Brown, John Gorka, Dan Bern, Todd Snider, Dr. John and Shawn Colvin.

All very good ones Dennis...

Over here on the Western side of the Pacific ... Paul Kelly, Neil Finn.

Steve Forbert

David Hildago

Caesar Rosas

Bruce Cockburn

Arthur Lee

Bryan McLean

Andy Partridge

Colin Moulding

Matthew Ryan

Glen Tillbrook

Chris Difford

Nick Lowe


Since RS listed REM, I'll add The Flatlanders: Butch Hancock, Jimmie Dale Gilmore and Joe Ely. 

Anybody ever hear of this young man? I think he's about number two on my list of the top two greatest songwriters. Number One would bw Woody Guthrie.

Okay, I realize I just bumbed Townes to number 3.......


Yes...that's the problem with these list thingys Lost Hills!   If you are arguing about those 3 though, it is a good problem to have...

Well we are fortunate to have a lot of great songwriters. I'd rather have a list of two hundred and not even rank them. ..

Works for me...I do love other genres of music that fall outside of the Americana/Alt-Country/Acoustic categories...if I had a list of 200, there would be people like Cole Porter, George and Ira Gershwin, Hoagy Carmichael, etc. on it as well as most of the people who have been noted here as "left off" the RS list...I still haven't looked at the RS list, so I am assuming they got a few of the 100 right...

I am fine with not ranking them as well...