Every generation has its musical icons. Paul Simon could have been talking about himself when he said in his 1986 song “The Boy in the Bubble” that “every generation throws a hero up the pop charts.” These artists have huge fan followings, sell millions of records, and create the soundtrack of each era. And while the popularity of musicians waxes and wanes, those who reach the top often achieve an enduring status.
Like popular music, the industry itself has changed over the years. For musicians, fame was once measured by record and concert ticket sales as well as chart positions of their singles and albums on Billboard, the music information bible. With the advent of online media and streaming services, the distribution of music has changed dramatically, as has the way fans interact with their favorite musicians.
24/7 Tempo used modern measures to determine the most famous musician born each year since 1930. We created an index based on Wikipedia page views, Spotify listeners, and Billboard chart performance.
The most famous artists by these measures who were active in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s were not necessarily the most popular musicians of their day. Tastes have changed, careers have been reappraised, and the fame of many of the most popular artists in the mid-20th century has not lasted. Many artists who had chart-topping hits 50 or more years ago have relatively few Spotify listeners today.
Yet others remain very popular despite the age of their music. Elvis Presley is one such example. His most popular songs were released more than 60 years ago and remain beloved by music fans. These are the most popular Elvis Presley songs.