The 20 Greatest Lyricists of All Time

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  1. Bob Dylan
  2. John Lennon
  3. Jim Morrison
  4. Stevie Wonder
  5. Roger Waters
  6. Paul Simon
  7. Notorious BIG
  8. Robert Hunter
  9. Nick Cave
  10. Paul McCartney
  11. Kurt Cobain
  12. Nas
  13. Pete Townshend
  14. Neil Young
  15. Rakim
  16. David Crosby
  17. Dave Matthews
  18. Elton John
  19. Lou Reed
  20. Sly Stone

Leonard Cohen!

Nick Cave!

Nick Cave was another i should have mentioned along with these: Tom Waits, Patti Smith, Mark Kozelek, Micael Stipe, Lisa Germano, Paul Westerberg, Joe Strummer.... but, Leonard Cohen is possibly the best. David Thomas wrote good lyrics for the early Pere Ubu singles.

In my opinion the best are probably:

1 & 2. Leonard Cohen or Bob Dylan (Cohen was more poetic in a pretty, eloquent way, and therefore is probably the ultimate lyricist of romantics, but Dylan often has a more visionary, surrealist, complex style to him [like T.S. Elliot])
3. Nick Cave
4. Patti Smith
5. Captain Beefheart (his lyrics spawn from a startlingly fertile imagination that always amazes with its strange, harrowing, hilarious and wondrous wordplay)
6. Joanna Newsom (Already... Ys is one of the great lyric masterworks)
7. Robert Wyatt (utterly unique, totally idiosynchratic)
8. Jeff Mangum (of Neutral Milk Hotel)
9. Tom Waits
10. Tim Buckley (hugely underrated/overlooked)

Pretty damn good list, actually. Nice to see Waters that high. Deservedly so.