Best Oldies Singers and Bands of the '50s, '60s, and '70s

It's no easy task to rank the top oldies artists of all time — there were so many great singers in the '50s, '60s, and '70s. One way to gauge a singer's popularity is based on how many records they've sold. Here are some influential rock 'n' rollers from the '50s, '60s, and '70s who still have us singing the oldies, based on the number of certified units sold. You might just be surprised by some of the rankings.

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1950s: Elvis Presley

Elvis Presley portrait with an acoustic guitar
Michael Ochs Archives / Getty Images

Elvis has been dead since 1977, yet he remains the top-selling '50s singer as of 2017. In fact, the only group that has outsold Elvis is The Beatles. Presley certainly wasn't the first to sing what's now considered rock 'n' roll; other notable artists like Chuck Berry, Ike Turner, and Bo Diddly were also making their mark in the middle years of the 1950s. But Presley was the first to become a true pop star, appearing on popular TV programs like "The Ed Sullivan Show" and in hit films like "Jailhouse Rock." He had more records in the Billboard Top 40 than any other singer and more No. 1 albums than any other solo artist.

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1950s: Johnny Cash

Johnny Cash Performing
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Johnny Cash's recording career began at Sun Records, the same Memphis, Tenn., studio where Elvis Presley cut his first songs. Cash's music ranges from country to gospel to rock 'n' roll, and more than 30 million certified units have been sold as of 2017. His career was marked with several highs and lows, both professional and personal, but over his four-decade career, he recorded several notable albums. Critical favorites include the 1968 live recording "At Folsom Prison" and the multi-album "American Series" of cover songs he recorded in the final years of his life with producer Rick Rubin.

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1960s: The Beatles

A Hard Day's Night
Michael Ochs Archives / Getty Images

The Beatles' influence is unquestionable. They've sold more records than any other singer or band (220 million), had more No. 1 singles in the U.S. than anyone else (20), and had the most No. 1 albums in the U.S. by a group (19). The song "Yesterday," credited to John Lennon and Paul McCartney (but written by McCartney), remains the most-recorded song of all time as of July 2017, with more than 1,600 known versions. Lennon and McCartney are also considered the most successful songwriting duo in modern pop music, with more No. 1 singles than any other pair. All four Beatles enjoyed successful solo careers after the band broke up in 1970.

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1960s: The Rolling Stones

We Love You
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The Rolling Stones can't match their British peers, The Beatles, in terms of sales, but there's no question that they, too, are rock royalty. The band has sold more than 96 million units since they got started in 1962 and recorded 30 studio albums. Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, and company have much to boast about, including a string of eight consecutive No. 1 albums in the U.S, beginning with 1971's "Sticky Fingers" and ending with 1981's "Tattoo You." As of July 2017, the band is still actively touring the world.

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1960s: Barbra Streisand

Barbra Streisand
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Barbra Streisand isn't a rock singer like most of the artists on this list, but the Brooklyn-born vocalist has enjoyed plenty of pop-music appeal in her career. Streisand has more top-10 albums than any other female singer (34) and the only performer to have No. 1 albums in six consecutive decades. Her influence extends to other arts as well. She's won two Academy Awards for her acting in "Funny Girl" and "A Star is Born," as well as Emmy, Tony, and Peabody Awards.

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1960s: Bob Dylan

Bob Dylan Records 'Bringing It All Back Home'
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Although other '60s singers have enjoyed more commercial success than Bob Dylan, none of his musical peers can boast of having received the Nobel Prize for literature in 2016. Among his other achievements: more than 100 million records sold, 12 Grammy Awards, an Academy Award, and even a special Pulitzer Prize citation. Musicians ranging from David Bowie to Paul McCartney to Bruce Springsteen have cited Dylan's influence in their own work, and '60s singers like Jimi Hendrix ("All Along the Watchtower") and The Byrds ("Mr. Tambourine Man") enjoyed big hits written by Dylan. 

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1970s: Led Zeppelin

Zeppelin at the Forum
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Led Zeppelin's unique blend of blues, folk, and rock made them one of the most successful '70s bands, and Jimmy Page's heavy-handed guitar work is an unquestionable influence on the pioneers of heavy metal. They released their first four albums — (officially unnamed, but commonly known as Led Zeppelin I, II, III, and IV) — in a two-year span between 1969 and 1971, all of which are considered staples of classic rock. In 2008, Guitar World magazine named "Stairway to Heaven" from " Led Zeppelin IV" as the best guitar solo of all time. 

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1970s: Michael Jackson

Michael Jackson
Michael Ochs Archives / Getty Images

You could argue Michael Jackson is an '80s singer because that's the decade that he enjoyed his greatest fame and influence. You could also argue that he's an oldies act from the '60s, when he and his brothers formed the Jackson 5. But it was the 1970s when Jackson grew up and went solo when his true talents began to emerge. His 1979 album "Off the Wall," co-produced with Quincy Jones, became the first U.S. solo album to generate four top-10 hits: "Rock With You," "Don't Stop Til You Get Enough," "She's Out of My Life," and the title track. Amazingly, this was already Jackson's fifth solo album of the decade, the other four recorded when he was still a teen. 

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1970s: Elton John

Elton John File Photos 1970's
WireImage / Getty Images

Elton John is the top-selling British singer of all time, having sold more than 167 certified units since his 1969 debut album. Elton John, born Reginald Dwight, got his start as a professional pop songwriter in the mid-1960s, writing songs for others with Bernie Taupin, who would remain John's creative partner after he went solo. Between 1972 and 1975, Elton John had five No. 1 albums in the U.S., including the landmark double album "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road." As of July 2017, Elton John is still recording albums and touring, with nine No. 1 U.S. singles and 27 songs in the top 10. 

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1970s: Pink Floyd

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Psychedelic English rock band Pink Floyd has sold more than 118 million units worldwide, but they're best known for two albums. "Dark Side of the Moon," released in 1973, and "The Wall," a double album from 1979, remain two of the best-selling albums of all time. "Dark Side of the Moon" spent 14 years on Billboard's top 200 sales charts and has sold more than 45 million copies to date. "The Wall" spent 15 weeks atop the U.S. charts and has sold more than 23 million copies.