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Top 10 Most Influential British Musicians

VO: JB
Written by Emma Stuart These artists are known for their groundbreaking songs, stand out style and everlasting impact. Welcome to WatchMojo UK and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the top 10 Most Influential British Musicians. For this list we will be looking at British musicians who significantly shaped not only music, but general society and culture. Special thanks to our user Joemcb for submitting the idea on our interactive suggestion tool: WatchMojo.comsuggest
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Top 10 Most Influential British Musicians


These artists are known for their groundbreaking songs, stand out style and everlasting impact. Welcome to WatchMojo UK and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the top 10 Most Influential British Musicians.

For this list we will be looking at British musicians who significantly shaped not only music, but general society and culture.

#10: The Clash


Emerging from the first wave of the London punk scene in 1976, the Clash helped define the early punk genre. Confrontational tracks such as “White Riot” and “London Calling” shook the status quo, and demanded to be played. Mixing reggae, ska and funk the band’s style evolved with each LP. Styling himself as a ‘punk rock warlord’ Joe Strummer and his bandmates paved the way for countless others, both in Britain and around the world.

#9: Kate Bush


Breaking onto the scene in 1978 at only 19 years old, Kate Bush liberated British music for female singers. She was the first British female artist to top the UK album charts, and singers such as Florence Welch and Bjork have since claimed that Bush is an inspiration for their own music. Writing and producing her own material, she took risks to create playful but emotive songs that freed female creativity. Who else could’ve turned Emily Bronte’s gothic romance into a weird and wonderful number one hit? She’s one of a kind.

#8: The Smiths


Although they were only together for five years, The Smiths certainly made an impact, with records which tapped into teenage angst like no other, offering an alternative sound to the mainstream pop of the 80’s. Frontman Morrissey carved out a successful solo career after the break up of the band, but it’s his work with The Smiths that still supplies a soundtrack for generations. The Killers and Belle & Sebastian are some of the many bands that owe these guys a pint or two for their pioneering indie rock.

#7: Oasis


The global reach of this Manchester band surprised many, but not themselves. And their rise to the top was unprecedented. By 1996, Oasis were breaking records, playing in front of 250,000 fans across two nights at Knebworth. Their media battle with fellow Brit-pop outfit Blur made evening news, while the often-fraught relationship between the Gallagher brothers added another dynamic. The band split in 2009, but constant hype for a potential reunion has kept songs like “Wonderwall”, “Slide Away” and “Don’t Look Back in Anger” on our speakers. These tracks will surely live forever.

#6: Pink Floyd


Best known for their massively successful, seminal rock album, “The Dark Side of The Moon”, Pink Floyd continually subverted genres throughout their time at the forefront of British music. Selling over 45 million copies, the band’s eighth and most famous album would stay in the US charts for an incredible 14 years. Floyd’s progressive, psychedelic, experimental sound and legendary live shows rightfully earned them a spot in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, in 1996.

#5: Queen


Icons of British rock, Queen have sold up to 300 million records worldwide. And, with the likes of Kurt Cobain citing them as one of his earliest influences and Lady Gaga basing her stage name on a Queen hit, the band boasts a lasting and wide-reaching impact. “Bohemian Rhapsody” was number one in the UK singles charts for nine weeks, the band became a definitive stadium rock act, and the “We Will Rock You” musical proved a massive global success. They weren’t lying when they said they were the champions.

#4: Black Sabbath


Birmingham’s own Black Sabbath were heavy metal pioneers when they set up shop, in 1968. Led by Ozzy Osbourne’s distinguished and distorted vocals, the group created their own unique sound, establishing a brand of hardcore rock which spurred on the likes of Metallica, Motorhead and Iron Maiden. Selling in excess of 14 million records and playing to sell out crowds well into the twenty-first century, Black Sabbath are still setting the gold standard in metal.

#3: The Rolling Stones


Consistently labelled as one of the world’s greatest rock and roll bands, The Rolling Stones shook up the ‘60s like no one else. The group’s rough rock sound saw them stand out amongst the peace and love, giving a voice to a generation of young rebels. With the band's iconic logo printed on every type of merchandise, and with Mick Jagger remaining a prominent and recognisable figure across the world, it’s clear that the Stone’s influence isn’t likely to let up anytime soon.


#2: David Bowie


Constantly reinventing himself and his music, and producing hits until his death in 2016, David Bowie inspired generations of fans. Proving that it’s OK to be yourself, his original style and fresh approach to sexual identity paved the way for a broad spectrum of artists, from Boy George to Marilyn Manson. Creating Ziggy Stardust and other personas, while also branching out into film and TV, he’s remembered as a cultural icon, an instigator of change and a standout performer.

#1: The Beatles


John, Paul, George and Ringo; the Fab Four and probably the most influential band of all time. Redefining pop music in the ‘60s, these lads from Liverpool caught global imagination as they spearheaded youth culture. From their famously fashionable look to their historic live shows, Beatlemania was an international obsession. Competing with the likes of The Who and The Kinks, The Beatles rode the wave until their breakup in 1970, and their popularity hasn’t waned. In 2000, a greatest hits compilation became the fastest-selling album ever - more than 30 years after the band’s original success.
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