Top 20 Famous Scottish Solo Singers (With Videos)
Top 20 Scottish Solo Singers (With Videos)
For your consideration, this is a list of what I personally regard as the 20 most important solo singers to have come out of Scotland in the past 50 years—specifically in the pop and rock scene.
I've based this list on factors like quality, influence, popularity, and success, although not every singer has all of these.
I also haven't rated them in order of preference or chosen an absolute number one—especially since everyone has their own favorites. I've listed them in alphabetical order instead.
Best known for being the front man with legendary band Jethro Tull from the late 1960s to the present day, Ian Anderson was instantly recognisable onstage, playing his trademark flute whilst standing on one leg.
The band itself is highly eclectic, experimenting with blues, folk, jazz, hard rock classical, and—in later years—electronics. Tull had three hit singles in the UK in the '70s: "Living in the Past," "Sweet Dream," and "Witch's Promise." "Living in the Past" was a hit in the USA, as was "Bungle in the Jungle."
However, Jethro Tull is regarded as more of an album band, selling over 60 million individual records worldwide. Their most famous was Aqualung in 1971. Throughout the 1970s, their albums sold better in the USA than in the UK, a trend that was reversed in the '80s and '90s.
In 1988, they released the popular song, "Said She Was a Dancer," which, perhaps surprisingly, was not a major hit. Despite multiple personnel changes, Jethro Tull is still active and Anderson has always led the line.
He has released five solo albums since 1983, with the second, 12 Dances With God, becoming a major success in the USA. He is a successful businessman (he owns several salmon farms) and is also a committed environmentalist, working to protect the wildcat in Scotland.
Comparisons with Janis Joplin were both flattering and valid for this lady from Glasgow. Bell had a full-throated powerhouse of a voice that lent passion to any song she sang, whether her own music or her interpretations of others.
She broke through in 1969 singing with the band Stone the Crows; her numbers included "Danger Zone," "Sunset Cowboy," and "Touch of Your Loving Hand." The band was handled by future Led Zeppelin manager Peter Grant, and the Zep connection continued when she signed to their Swansong label, with Jimmy Page guesting on her studio work.
Some of her best songs include "We Had it All," "As the Years Go Passing By," "I Was in Chains," and a funky cover of Free's "Wishing Well." She also sang backup vocals on the Rod Stewart album Every Picture Tells a Story in 1971. Her biggest hit was a duet with fellow Scot B.A. Robertson: a cover version of the song "Hold Me" in 1981, which reached number eleven on the UK charts.
She also sang the theme tune for private detective series Hazell and the song "No Mean City," for the Scottish cop series Taggart. She herself has occasionally appeared in acting roles. She joined the British Blues Quintet in 2006, and she still appears live throughout the UK and Europe.
Without a doubt, one of the greatest Scottish musical artists ever is Jack Bruce, born in Bishopbriggs, Glasgow in 1943.
He enjoyed his greatest success as the bass player with pioneering rock band Cream, rubbing elbows with Eric Clapton and Ginger Baker.
His style of bass playing was a sensation at the time and has influenced musicians ever since. He wrote the music for the classic songs "I Feel Free" and "White Room," as well as co-writing "Sunshine of Your Love" with Clapton and lyricist Pete Brown.
He also carved out a respectable solo career and has released many albums in the past 40 years. He teamed up with other notables such as the great Rory Gallagher, Robin Trower, and Gary Moore. In 2003, he was diagnosed with liver cancer and almost died after a transplant operation.
Slowly coming back to health, he reunited with Clapton and Ginger Baker in 2005 for a series of concerts as Cream at the London Albert Hall and New York's Madison Square Garden.
Sadly, however, Jack passed away in October 2014.
Collins was born in Edinburgh and was originally the singer with the band Orange Juice, whose first and only hit was the 1982 "Rip It Up." (The song is still popular today.) After the band split, Collins seemed destined to relative obscurity as an underground act with cult status.
However, in 1994, he released the critically-acclaimed album Gorgeous George and the best-selling single "A Girl Like You," which reached number four in the UK and was a modest hit in the USA too.
Although never reaching similar heights commercially since, then he remains a respected artist for his innovative songwriting and variety of styles. In 2005 he suffered a serious brain haemorrhage, which has left him with a physical disability. However, he has recovered well: he retains his singing voice and is still active in the music business today.
Born in Glasgow in 1945, Brian Connolly gained fame as the singer with glam-rock superstars The Sweet in the early 1970s.
They enjoyed massive hits such as "Wig Wam Bam," "Blockbuster," "Fox on the Run," "Hellraiser," "Love is Like Oxygen," and the legendary "Ballroom Blitz," which has been covered by many other artists.
They were also a massive influence on the resurgent glam-metal bands from the USA in the following decade. The comparison with bands such as Motley Crue and Poison is obvious, but even Gene Simmons admitted that The Sweet was one of the inspirations for Kiss, who followed quickly in their wake.
Joe Elliott was a huge fan growing up in Sheffield, so it was no surprise that Def Leppard brought out their own thunderous version of "Action" in 1995.
Unfortunately, Brian was plagued with drinking problems and left the band in 1978. He began an unsuccessful solo career, although he still drew crowds in Europe, where the music of The Sweet was popular on the glam revival circuit. His battle with ill health continued and he eventually died of liver failure in 1997 at the age of 51.
Dickson is a talented singer and actress who has produced some fantastic songs in a career spanning over 40 years. Born in Dunfermline, her early influences were in folk music, and she enjoyed early success in musical theatre.
She then became a household name in the 1970s on the British TV comedy The Two Ronnies, singing during a musical break in each show.
In the charts, her finest moments included "January February," and the Mike Batt-penned "Caravan Song," an evocative ballad written for the movie of the same name.
Her greatest success however was her duet with Elaine Page: "I Know Him So Well," from the stage show Chess, was a UK No.1 in 1985. The song was written by Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus of ABBA fame.
She has branched out into a fruitful career as an actress on stage, radio and TV. She is still recording music and playing sell-out tours across Great Britain.
Sheena became unpopular in her home country after leaving for the bright lights of the USA and apparently adopting an American accent. This Bellshill girl was plucked from obscurity in 1980 by the BBC when she appeared in their "wannabe" programme The Big Time.
The song "Modern Girl" gave her a modest hit single. But the follow up single "9 to 5" became a top 10 hit in the UK and set her on her way to stardom. It was released as "Morning Train" in the USA to avoid confusion with Dolly Parton's hit of the same name.
She enjoyed great success in the 1980s, including the prestige of being chosen to perform the theme song of the James Bond movie For Your Eyes Only in 1981, dueting with Prince for the song "U Got the Look" in 1987, and acting in the TV cop show Miami Vice.
She has not played in her homeland since 1990, when she encountered a hostile crowd at a festival in Glasgow who threw missiles at the stage. She has not released an album since 2000. However, since then, in the USA, she has had a successful acting and singing career, including appearances in Las Vegas and on Broadway and television.
Born Derek Dick in 1958 in Dalkeith, Fish was best known as the front man for progressive rock revivalists Marillion in the 1980s. With a style strongly reminiscent of Peter Gabriel, he sang on several hit songs as the band enjoyed chart success.
He quickly established himself as an imaginative and poetic lyricist, well-suited to the emotional complexity of some of his material. The most celebrated was "Kayleigh" in 1985, which reached No.2 in the UK. The band also had Top 10 hits with "Lavender" and "Incommunicado."
After four albums, he left to pursue a solo career. Although he has not achieved the commercial success he had during his time with Marillion, he still retains a strong fan base and regularly appears live.
Songs like "Credo," "Big Wedge," "A Gentlemen's Excuse Me," and "Long Cold Day," among many others, have displayed the quality of his songwriting to this day. Fish has also tried his hand at acting on occasion and has served as a radio presenter on Planet Rock Radio in the UK.
Kane is a classy and highly-polished singer in the venerable mould of legends such as Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole, and Tony Bennett. Kane sang as part of a double act with his brother Greg, called Hue and Cry.
They recorded sophisticated melodies in songs like "Labour of Love" and "Looking Out For Linda," which reached No.6 and No.15 respectively on the UK charts.
Long before Harry Connick Jr. and Jamie Cullum made jazz-infused pop music popular in the mass market, Kane was a fine example of the genre throughout the '80s and beyond. He is also interested in politics and the arts, having campaigned for Scottish self-government as well as appearing in the media as a columnist and TV presenter.
His solo work has alternated with Hue and Cry over the years with varying success. However, the band played sellout shows in 2006 and 2007, and regularly performs at festivals in the UK. Currently, they seem to be enjoying a much-deserved revival in fortune.
It is not widely known that Mark Knopfler was actually born in Glasgow. His mother was English and his father Hungarian; nonetheless, it may not be stretching the imagination to regard him as Scottish.
Of course, his reputation stretches worldwide as the leader of, and main inspiration behind, multi-platinum stadium rockers Dire Straits.
Their 1985 record Brothers in Arms has become a timeless classic, rightly regarded as one of the top albums ever made. The album spawned the hits "Money For Nothing," "Walk of Life," and the title track, among others, and became a global phenomenon.
However, Dire Straits enjoyed great success prior to this, with tunes such as "Romeo and Juliet," "Private Investigations," and the immortal "Sultans of Swing," with Knopfler's trademark guitar style at the fore.
He has also had some solo success and is fondly remembered in Scotland for the rousing finale of "Going Home" on the soundtrack of the 1983 movie Local Hero, starring Burt Lancaster and Peter Reigert. Mark has been especially prolific as a solo artist, scoring music for various movie projects and recording solo albums, as well as participating in musical partnerships with Chet Atkins, James Taylor and The Notting Hillbillies.
Aberdeenshire lass Annie Lennox has become a legend in her own lifetime, beginning her career with new-wave artists The Tourists. They enjoyed some chart success, most notably with their punked-up version of "I Only Wanna Be With You," originally a '60s hit for Dusty Springfield.
However it was when she linked up with fellow Tourist Dave Stewart that she conquered the 1980s music scene. The Eurythmics, their resulting band, had massive success on both sides of the Atlantic and released some of the best songs of that era, including "Sweet Dreams," "Miracle of Love," "Here Comes the Rain," "Thorn in My Side," and "By Your Side."
They succeeded in making electronic music seem tender and graceful where many lesser rivals could only sound cold and technical. Annie went on to solo success with the album Diva in 1992 and with hit singles like "Why," "Walking on Broken Glass," "Little Bird," and the hauntingly beautiful but curiously titled "Love Song for a Vampire," from the Francis Ford Coppola movie Dracula, starring Gary Oldman.
The Eurythmics returned in 1999 and showed they had not lost their touch with the memorable tune "I Saved the World Today," which they sang at the Millennium celebrations in London. They have retained only an intermittent presence between solo projects, but also had a hit with "I've Got a Life" in 2005. Annie continues to record and also to conduct charity work in the Third World. She definitely has her place as one of the best-ever Scottish singers in popular music.
Born Marie Lawrie in Lennoxtown in 1948 and brought up in the East End of Glasgow, Lulu has become a major celebrity in many areas of the entertainment industry.
She had an incredible singing voice at an early age and took the charts by storm in 1964, reaching No. 7 in the UK. Her version of the Isley Brothers' "Shout" still sounds exciting today and was even endorsed by John Lennon at the time. She was only 15 years old.
She had a string of hits in the 1960s with songs such as "Leave a Little Love," "The Boat that I Row," "Me, the Peaceful Heart," and "I'm a Tiger." Then in 1967, she had a No. 1 smash hit in the USA with "To Sir, With Love" from the movie of the same name, in which she starred alongside Sidney Poitier.
In 1969, her song "Boom Bang-a-Bang," the joint winner of the annual Eurovision Song Contest, became a UK and European hit. In the same year she married Maurice Gibb of the Bee Gees in London.
In 1974 she had a hit with a cover of David Bowie's "The Man Who Sold the World" and also sang the theme for the Bond movie The Man With the Golden Gun. The hits dried up in the late '70s until a surprise Top 20 song in America: "I Could Never Miss You (More Than I Do)" in 1981.
She had more success in the '80s when her new version of "Shout" hit the Top 10 in the UK, and she achieved some minor hit singles. But she really introduced herself to a whole new generation when she guest-starred with the boyband Take That on their No. 1 single "Relight My Fire" in 1993.
Proving her versatility, she has presented TV and radio programmes and acted on both stage and screen, as well as promoting her own beauty products.
Born in England in 1948 to an English mother and Scottish father, John Martyn was brought up in Scotland by his grandmother.
His career began in the 1960s, when he embarked on a musical journey combining traditional folk with jazz, blues and rock.
He had a distinctive lolling style of singing, almost opaque, which lent itself well to the sublime ambience of such ballads as "Couldn't Love You More" and the ethereal "Small Hours" both from his 1977 album One World.
However, his major album release was Solid Air in 1973, containing such excellent songs as "Man at the Station" and the classic "May You Never," which Eric Clapton later covered on his album Slowhand.
During his career, Martyn collaborated with Steve Winwood, Paul Kossoff, and Phil Collins, and counted Paul Weller as one of his long-time admirers. He continued to make albums over his 40 year career, but without significant commercial success.
Nevertheless, his haunting atmospheric music and thoughtful lyrics have been greatly admired by musicians and fans alike. His death in January 2009 from pneumonia was a tremendous loss to the world of music.
Born in Glasgow in 1949, Frankie Miller is renowned throughout the music world as a fantastic singer of blues and rock. He sang with Robin Trower in the 1960s before going solo in the '70s.
In 1977, he enjoyed a UK Top 40 hit with "Be Good to Yourself," written by Andy Fraser of Free, before hitting the Top 10 the following year with his most famous song "Darlin," which became No. 6 in the UK.
The follow-up single "When I'm Away From You" was arguably a superior song, but did not have the same impact. Ironically, it became a US No. 1 in the country charts for the Bellamy Brothers in 1983.
His songs have been covered by many stars in the music business, including Ray Charles, Bob Seger, Roy Orbison, Johnny Cash, Rod Stewart, and The Eagles. He also sang alongside lead singer Phil Lynott on the memorable Thin Lizzy ballad "Still in Love With You" from the album Nightlife in 1974. In Scotland, his most popular song is undoubtedly his version of Dougie MacLean's "Caledonia," released in 1990 in conjunction with a TV commercial for Tennent's Lager.
In 1994, he suffered a devastating brain haemorrhage that left him in a coma for 5 months, after which he embarked on a long rehabilitation process. Such is the high regard in which he is held that Joe Walsh flew over to Glasgow to make a special appearance at a tribute night to Miller at the Barrowland venue. A 3-disc album of covers of his songs was produced in 2002 and his own albums have since been re-released on CD.
Born in Paisley, Rafferty is another singer who will always be remembered for one song. But not for nothing is "Baker Street," released in 1978, still regarded as one of the finest songs ever written.
In "Baker Street," Rafferty's soft and understated vocals nicely contrast with a famous soaring saxophone by Raphael Ravenscroft and a visceral guitar solo in the finale.
Thanks to Quentin Tarantino, Rafferty enjoyed double success with the Stealers Wheel classic "Stuck in the Middle," originally released with partner Joe Egan in 1972. It became a Top 10 hit on both sides of the Atlantic, and re-emerged as a US hit in 1992, after it appeared in an infamous scene in Reservoir Dogs.
Rafferty also recorded many more fine tunes such as "Night Owl," "Shipyard Town," "Moonlight and Gold," and "Get it Right Next Time," as well as writing and recording with other artists. He produced the famous Scottish anthem "Letter From America" for The Proclaimers in 1987.
Over his career, Rafferty usually shunned the limelight, and there were reports that he was seriously ill in the late 2000s and struggling with alcoholism. Sadly, he passed away in January of 2011.
Reader hit the big time as lead singer with the British band Fairground Attraction, who reached No. 1 in the UK with the singalong classic "Perfect" in 1988.
The band split up soon after and Eddi recorded the beautiful ballad "Patience of Angels," from her second solo album in 1994.
The album won her a BRIT award for best female lead singer. She has remained a firm favourite on the live scene, as well as having regular exposure on radio and TV. She has also performed many wonderful musical versions of Robert Burns poetry and released a whole album of material based on his works in 2003.
In total, she has recorded nine albums throughout her solo career in the past 20 years. She has also acted on stage, radio and screen, but remains a regular performer on stage and TV as a singer.
Born in Edinburgh in 1958, Scott is a vastly underrated singer-songwriter who deserves to be huge in the international scene. He is best remembered as the leader of The Waterboys, with their classics "Whole of the Moon" and "Fisherman's Blues" in the 1980s. They supported U2 on their 1984 North American tour.
Mike Scott successfully combines soft-rock and Celtic folk in an eclectic mix that always resonates with passion and emotion, as in the rousing "This is the Sea" from the 1985 album of the same name. He has produced two solo albums—Bring 'em All In and Still Burning in the 1990s—plus another two restricted to his fan club (Lion of Love and Sunflowers).
He has that rare ability to fashion a brilliant tune out of nothing: the saying "simplicity is genius" is never more applicable than in his touching love ballads "Open," "She is So Beautiful," and "A Man Is in Love." Throughout, his music is imbued with spirituality and love of nature, whether playing Celtic folk or harder rock-influenced music. He is still recording and touring with The Waterboys.
Stewart is an absolute legend in the annals of Scottish music, although born in Highgate, London. Always sporting an English accent, Stewart had a Scottish father and an English mother but flies the flag with pride, especially when it comes to his love of football.
Without a doubt, he is the most famous Scottish singer in the world and along with Sean Connery, Ewan McGregor, and Billy Connolly, one of the most famous Scotsmen.
He has had a string of international hits throughout the decades, from his early days fronting The Faces and their raunchy classic "Stay With Me" through a stratospheric solo career with the stalwarts "Maggie May," "You Wear it Well," "Sailing," and the disco-inspired "D'Ya Think I'm Sexy."
His many hits continued into the 1980s and '90s with "Baby Jane," "Every Beat of My Heart," and "Downbound Train." Always reinventing himself and always relevant in the scene, Stewart has had remarkable success with his cover albums of classic crooner tunes of the '30s and '40s. He is still active in a career that has garnered over 100 million record sales throughout the world.
From busking on the streets of Burlington, Vermont and Camden Town in London to appearing in front of thousands of festival crowds throughout Europe, the St. Andrews lass KT Tunstall has undergone a slow rise to fame.
She released her debut album Eye to the Telescope in 2004 at the age of 29, to critical and public acclaim. It won her many fans as well as two Top 20 singles in the UK: "Suddenly I See" and "The Other Side of the World." Her soft-rock and acoustic music has been accessible to many on radio and on the live circuit. She had a breakthrough in the USA when her song "Black Horse and the Cherry Tree" was covered by a contestant on the TV talent show American Idol in 2005.
Her music has also been chosen for the soundtracks of various American TV shows. Her second album, Drastic Fantastic, was another hit, reaching Top 10 in both the UK and USA, although single releases achieved only modest success. However, she is best known for her live performances and is a regular attraction at major festivals such as Glastonbury and T-in-the-Park. She is also active in campaigning against climate change.
Ure is a Scottish legend from Cambuslang who came on to the scene in 1976 as the singer with the Scots band Slik, who hit the UK No. 1 slot with "'Forever and Ever."
He later replaced John Foxx as lead singer with Ultravox, and his magic touch transformed them from cult status into chart superstars. They had hits with "Love's Great Adventure," "Sleepwalk," and "Dancing With Tears in My Eyes."
He also collaborated with Phil Lynott for Thin Lizzy and toured with the band in 1979. He would have been best remembered for his soaring vocal performance on the Ultravox monster hit "Vienna," were it not for the fact that he was a driving force in the band Band Aid in 1984.
Along with Bob Geldolf, he co-wrote and produced Band Aid's ground-breaking charity song "Do They Know It's Christmas," and was a main protagonist behind the incredible "Live Aid" movement, which culminated in two legendary 1985 concerts in London and Philadelphia to raise money and awareness for the victims of the Ethiopian famine.
Ure also had solo success with "If I Was," which reached the top spot in the UK, and his version of Scott Walker's "No Regrets" was well received. He re-united with Bob Geldof to organise the "LIve8" concerts in 2005. Ultravox reformed for a strictly one-off tour in 2009, including an appearance at the Isle of Wight Festival.
I hope you enjoyed reading this article and watching some of the videos. If you have your own special favourites, or if this is your first introduction to some of these wonderful artists, let me know in the comments.
© 2010 Shinkicker