50 definitive rock stars suggested by NME readers

We asked you who the ultimate rock star was, and you didn't disappoint. Here's 50 legendary rock 'n' roll survivors, as chosen by you.

Paul McCartney

Paul McCartney Suggested by FerMcCa @FerMcCa, he might not be rock’s bad boy – Tokyo drugs arrest aside – but he’s an enduring megastar, still cutting it live and hitting you in the spine with countless great hooks.

Keith Richards

Keith Richards As Lisa Wright ‏@lisaannewright says, “Well, it’s just obviously Keef isn’t it”. The crazy hair, the low-slung dirty riffs and that unlikely longevity – “No one’s done it better and survived,” says Graham Houghton on Facebook.

Jim Morrison

Jim Morrison

Jim Morrison According to Neil Rickards ‏@NeilTheKid, the Lizard King was the “perfect front man. A genius. Great lyrics, persona, appearance”. Ben Roe ‏@BenRoe22 adds, “Lyricist & poet. Anti-establishment & the most charismatic, pioneering frontman that changed music.” And he got his chap out onstage.


Jimmy Page

Jimmy Page Led Zeppelin’s guitar hero “revolutionised rock and roll” in JUICY HOOOOOOSAL ‏@jesseYeahBitch’s eyes, heavying up the blues for a post-Beatles decade.

David Bowie

David Bowie What of the Chameleon of Pop? “Invention, re-invention, innovation, he was always ahead of the curve,” says Kevin Tanswell ‏@KevinChelt. Ryan Ferguson ‏@SweetestBarrel gets down to brass tacks: “He has done it all.”

Matt Bellamy

Matt Bellamy Leader of live music’s most awesome draw, Matt Bellamy, says KevinCasagrande ‏@kc_one, is the “romantic and musical genius of our era”. “The live shows will go down in history,” adds Aundrea Davis on Facebook, still dazzled by Muse’s pyrotechnics.

Jarvis Cocker

Jarvis Cocker

Jarvis Cocker Never your archetypal rock god, Jarvis Cocker still has all the ingredients, just shaken about a bit. “He’s just THE MAN. Great frontman, stage presence and lyrically he’s a genius, ” offers James Goodwin ‏@PULPperson, his Twitter handle a bit of a giveaway.


Kurt Cobain

Kurt Cobain There are some things you just can’t deny. Kurt Cobain “changed rock music forever,” asserts Rob Watt ‏@RobWattCT. “When I think of rock, I think of him”, says Innes Nolan ‏@nessnolano, “for always being his own man, not Geffen’s man”.

Freddie Mercury

Freddie Mercury Queen’s flamboyant frontman (as we’re contractualy obliged to call him) was an “amazing performer still being emulated today,” according to Thea de Gallier ‏@theaestelle, but whether anyone comes close is another matter.

Liam Gallagher

Liam Gallagher Monkey-walking, head thrown back, the younger Gallagher has it all: “The attitude, the look, the presence, the voice. Rock ‘n’ Roll Star!!” That’s from craig ‏@cutoutcraig. Conor Irvine ‏@ConorIrvo20 lists Liam’s achievements: “Sex, Drugs, Number 1’s, anthemic tunes, fall outs, 250,000 people in two nights!”

Pete Doherty

Pete Doherty Whether it’s healthy or not, Pete Doherty “walks the talk,” says Stu ‏@ClarkyStu. Katelyn Gormley @KatelynGormley hails our Pete the “last of the rock romantics”.


Beth Ditto

Beth Ditto W. ‏@VVMad goes for the Gossip singer and one-time coolest person in the world “because she’s smart, funny, sexy, wild and doesn’t give a F about what people think”.

Joe Strummer

Joe Strummer The maverick Clash frontman, according to Danny Kilmartin @dnnyklmrtn, might not have been “the most excessive, but I’m sure he had his fun, and stuck it to the man doing it. Icon”.

Josh Homme

Josh Homme Queens Of The Stone Age’s Ginger Elvis is “sexy, scary & sleazy. Prolific, talented & entirely entertaining,” says Cam ‏@GinAndJif. Gonzalo Paz @gonzalopaz sees Homme in a wider context: “In this Disney age he’s the real rockstar to follow”.

Lou Reed

Lou Reed Reno Nismara @bungreno tells us, “From ‘Venus in Furs’ to the noises in ‘Metal Machine Music’, Lou was completely ahead of his time”. And what of Reed’s reputation as a curmudgeon? “He didn’t care [about] being cool or not. He just made the music he loved,” says Mariela Aramayo on Facebook.

Julian Casablancas

Julian Casablancas hidhasbi ‏@thehidayahhasbi cuts to the chase. The studiedly dishevelled Strokes singer is the definitive rock star “because of himself! I don’t know how to explain. He is just hot”.

Win Butler

Win Butler Olivia ‏@LivManc is equally forthright. Our serious-faced Arcade Fire leader “doesn’t give a damn what people expect of him and Arcade Fire. Always delivers. Genius”.

Kanye West

Kanye West Sometimes you just have to hold your hands up. Matthew Cooper ‏@C00pasaurus gives Yeezy the nod “just because he gets people talking. Love or hate”. Polarizing opinion means you’re doing something right. And possibly something wrong.

Patti Smith

Patti Smith “Well, she’s a punk poet. Who could beat that?” says Savio Lopes @savioals. Smith also has the attitude and the principles, an icon for more than 40 years.

Alex Turner

Alex Turner The Arctic Monkeys frontman is growing into this rock star persona, and the barnet doesn’t do any harm. Here’s Rama ‏@rizki_ramadhanp: “Songwriter, lead guitar & vocal, hair style, and bikers”. That pretty much covers everything you need.

Jimi Hendrix

Jimi Hendrix Kensit ‏@Retro_jen sums up: “Heaven-sent skill, showmanship….and don’t even get me started on that godly afro”.

Black Francis

Black Francis Andrew Dickinson ‏@andy_lanx pinpoints Frank’s enduring rock star credentials. His “barks, shrieks, yelps and howls are rockier then any ‘Oh yeah!'”

Ozzy Osbourne

Ozzy Osbourne

Ozzy Osbourne The revitalised Black Sabbath master of satanic ceremonies was nominated by George Block ‏@GeorgeBlock23

Iggy Pop

Iggy Pop Surely a frontrunner for the ultimate prize, the Iggster was put forward by Adam Rees ‏@a_rees9: “He’s the rock frontman prototype. High energy, unpredictable, and a truly great performer”.


Morrissey “Life changing lyrics, awesome dance moves & the best hair in rock! Man’s a hero!” Jenna O’Neill ‏@Steviesluvchild speaks up for an unlikely, but somehow obvious rock god.

Robert Plant

Robert Plant Speaking of rock gods, Percy Plant, “formed the greatest ever rock band about 50 years ago and is still touring and rocking as good as ever”. That’s the assessment from Chewy ‏@chewy_blox

Marc Bolan

Marc Bolan

Marc Bolan The T.Rex flowerchild turned glam rock exemplar was “the coolest of the cool!!” according to Apollo ‏@proApollomusic

Polly Harvey

Polly Harvey Polly Harvey covers all bases for the definitive rock star. Au revoir ‏@jeux_deau commends Harvey “for her music, style and fashion”.

Ian Brown

Ian Brown “I can’t think of only one reason why,” says The Sailmakers Band @The_sailmakers in a rather cryptic response. Well, Ian Brown’s got attitude, deathless songs and a hairdo to defy the ages.

Johnny Cash

Johnny Cash “The original rock n roll star! #ManInBlack” yells Tom Pidcock @TomPids with the air of a man who’ll brook no argument.


Prince “I don’t even need to explain why… it’s Prince!!” The Kicks @thekicksonline also resists debate. There’s definitely something in this – Prince has the unimpeachable run of 80s albums and rock’s greatest enigma status on his side.

Robert Smith

Robert Smith Majorcure ‏@majorcure has The Cure singer’s back “bcoz he is Robert Smith!!!” Anyone with that kind of dedication to lipstick and bird’s nest hair deserves respect.

Axl Rose

Axl Rose

Axl Rose There’s a touch of sarcasm to Trololololo ‏@ncar675’s nomination – “For drugs, shit songs, and hating absolutely everyone! Now, will he show up on time to accept?” – but they’re all handy facets for a definitive rock star. If occasionally unfair.

Howard Devoto

Howard Devoto

Howard Devoto The former Buzzcocks and Magazine lead man is your fiercely intelligent and aloof sort of rock star, never compromised in more than 35 years. Suggested by Andrew Miles ‏@Manwithaview1

Courtney Love

Courtney Love “Probably the most controversial woman in rock but also one of the best musicians ever!!” Sophie ‏@lolitalips keeps it understated.

John Frusciante

John Frusciante

John Frusciante The occasional Red Hot Chili Peppers virtuoso and former rock casualty was recommended by James Handscombe ‏@JamesMH91

Billie Joe Armstrong

Billie Joe Armstrong Green Day’s pocket eyelinered dynamo is Neil Cunningham ‏@FosterThePeeps_’s choice for “the appearance, the on stage presence and the ‘don’t give a fuck’ attitude”.

Thom Yorke

Thom Yorke A more reserved kind of definitive rock star, albeit with a razor-sharp political mind, Radiohead’s big man gets the nod from Electric Candyman ‏@crze “because he’s just insanely genius”. Milan Perisic ‏@infactable agrees, praising “the smartest use of the greatest talent rock and roll has ever seen”.

John Lydon

John Lydon

John Lydon jacob ‏@jacobharris_ specifically goes for Johnny Rotten “for being absolutely mental!” but stark staring Lydon has never let the punk flame fizzle out.

Janis Joplin

Janis Joplin avin ‏@avinchuelamagik speaks up for “the queen witch. She had the voice, the style, the spirit of #rocknroll”.


Madonna Maybe a bit of a curveball, but Madonna has courted controversy in true rawk style for 30 years. And has the intimidating body of work and unwavering relevance to back it up. That one from Hey Jonnie ‏@heyJ0nnie

Karen O

Karen O Always compelling, Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ firecracker of a singer is suggested by ciera ‏@its_blitz, whose Twitter name might hint at bias, but the sentiment’s undeniable.

Marilyn Manson

Marilyn Manson Courtney Meyers ‏@redcurtain13 goes for goth-freak Brian Warner “if for no other reason than the pseudonym itself”.

Noel Gallagher

Noel Gallagher Liam might get most of the votes, but bro’s worth a shout too. “He has it all, don’t think he needs any further explanation,” explains Ik, Willem @Under_A_Bridge and Gregor Davis ‏@GregorDavis96 hails a “consistent rock & roll anthem writer whose worst songs are better than most artists’, Godlike Genius”.


Slash Jean Hall Gaultier ‏@johnnyghall has the measure of this one: “Any man who dies multiple times and at one point had a rotting tongue and is STILL alive is a win!”

Bobby Gillespie

Bobby Gillespie There’s a common thread running through shouts for the Primal Scream original rocker. “Sex, drugs, drink and everything in between. Also who else could pull off a Pink Suit at Glastonbury?” says TheKieranMurray @iamkieranmurray. “Who else can pull of reflective shirts and suits like that?” asks Jack Christie ‏@JC_Westside

Johnny Marr

Johnny Marr Pithy stuff from alexis le men ‏@somescallywag: “Do I need to explain I don’t think so”. No, you don’t.


Björk Daniel John Lonsdale casts a vote for the Icelandic innovator on Facebook. Björk’s a wildcard for a definitive rock star, but embodies the vision, longevity and adaptability you need to set yourself apart.

Debbie Harry

Debbie Harry

Debbie Harry The Blondie singer, still as consummate a star as she was in the late 70s, “makes it look so natural and effortless,” says Jackie Helena Gay on Facebook.


MIA Also on Facebook, Dol Lee York speaks up for MIA, an ultra-modern rock star with a magpie mind who has all the poses and an unperturbable rebellious streak. Basically, she does what she wants.