15 Iconic Country Singers and Their Biggest Hits

willie nelson standing against a fence and holding a guitar
15 Famous Country Singers of the Past and PresentGetty Images
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.


"Hearst Magazines and Yahoo may earn commission or revenue on some items through these links."

Country music is seemingly as popular as ever, with rising artists like Morgan Wallen, Jelly Roll, and Zach Bryan topping charts and building loyal fanbases. Their success is due, in large part, to the scores of popular singers who have helped the genre evolve for decades.

From early superstars like Johnny Cash and George Jones to contemporary performers like Shania Twain and Darius Rucker, these artists have left an indelible mark on country music through their iconic songs and considerable presence in popular culture. These 15 famous country singers are some of the greatest to ever grace the stage and airwaves.

Hank Williams

1923-1953

Famous songs: “Your Cheatin’ Heart” and “Cold, Cold Heart”

Considered country music’s first superstar, Hank Williams suffered from spina bifida and found an escape in music. He first played guitar at age 8 and made his debut on the radio when he was only 13.

He rose in popularity after early hits like “Move It On Over” and “Lovesick Blues,” but the singer struggled on and off the stage with alcohol and morphine abuse. Just days after collapsing in a Knoxville, Tennessee, hotel room, Williams died on January 1, 1953, while traveling to a concert.

Luckily, his legacy lives on in more ways than one. His son, Hank Williams Jr., also became a country star.

Read More About Hank Williams

hank williams standing his arms folded on top of his left knee and smiling
Getty Images

George Jones

1931-2013

Famous songs: “He Stopped Loving Her Today” and “White Lightning”

George Jones began performing on the streets of Texas as a child to help his family. During the Korean War, he played in San Jose, California, bars while serving in the Marines. By the end of the 1950s, he had his first No. 1 country single in “White Lightning.”

The singer also had a number of hits with his third wife, singer Tammy Wynette, including “We’re Gonna Hold On” in 1973, but his ongoing substance abuse helped lead to their 1975 divorce.

Jones did eventually improve his lifestyle and received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2012.

Read More About George Jones

close up of singer george jones playing guitar at a concert
Getty Images

Johnny Cash

1932-2003

Famous songs: “I Walk the Line” and “Ring of Fire”

Known as the “Man in Black” for his striking onstage attire, Johnny Cash served in the U.S. Air Force and set off on a music career following his discharge in 1954. Performing with his bandmates the Tennessee Two, the singer became a superstar with the release of “I Walk the Line” in 1956.

Cash continued making music all the way into the new millennium before dying of complications from diabetes in September 2003. His life and marriage to June Carter Cash were the basis of the 2005 biopic Walk the Line starring Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon.

Read More About Johnny Cash

johnny cash playing a guitar and looking toward an audience behind a standing microphone
Getty Images

Loretta Lynn

1932-2022

Famous songs: “Coal Miner’s Daughter” and “You Ain’t Woman Enough (To Take My Man)”

Loretta Lynn, born in Butcher Hollow, Kentucky, rose to fame in the 1960s with the help of her friend Patsy Cline. Lynn’s songs didn’t shy away from political issues and often illustrated the everyday struggles of young women and mothers.

Lynn’s 1970 autobiographical song “Coal Miner’s Daughter” later served as the title of her 1976 memoir and the Oscar-winning 1980 biopic starring Sissy Spacek as Lynn. The country singer died in October 2022 at age 90.

Read More About Loretta Lynn

Related: Patsy Cline and Loretta Lynn’s Unbreakable Bond

loretta lynn wearing a light blue dress and smiling for a photo
Getty Images

Patsy Cline

1932-1963

Famous songs: “Crazy” and “She’s Got You”

Considered one of country’s greatest vocalists, Patsy Cline dropped out of school at age 16 to help earn money for her family. In between jobs, she performed on radio stations and competed in singing competitions. She eventually joined the cast of the Grand Ole Opry and toured with Johnny Cash.

Cline tragically died in a plane crash in March 1963. Like her good friend Loretta Lynn, Cline’s life became the subject of a biographical film: Sweet Dreams starring Jessica Lange came out in 1985.

Read More About Patsy Cline

patsy cline sitting on a tree stump and looking right out of frame
Getty Images

Willie Nelson

1933-present

Famous songs: “On the Road Again” and “Always on My Mind”

Willie Nelson, 90, became the face of the “outlaw country” genre, which challenged the conservatism prevalent in Nashville, Tennessee, and the industry writ-large. After initially starting off as a songwriter in 1960—earning as little as $50 per week—the Texan found mainstream success starting with his 1975 album Red-Headed Stranger.

The 12-time Grammy winner also formed the supergroup Highwaymen with Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, and Kris Kristofferson. He also helped organize the first Farm Aid benefit concert in 1985.

Read More About Willie Nelson

willie nelson wearing a cowboy hat and smiling as he looks into the crowd
Getty Images

Dolly Parton

1946-present

Famous songs: “I Will Always Love You” and “9 to 5”

Dolly Parton is one of the most beloved figures in music, with a pair of overall No. 1 songs and countless country hits such as “Jolene” and “Heartbreaker.” A member of both the Country Music Hall of Fame and Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, she is set to release her first rock-focused album Rockstar in November 2023.

In addition to singing, the 77-year-old is also an author, founder of the Imagination Library, and an accomplished businesswoman who co-owns the popular Dollywood amusement park in Tennessee.

Read More About Dolly Parton

dolly parton looking to her right and toward a camera and smiling for a picture
Getty Images

George Strait

1952-present

Famous songs: “I Saw God Today” and “All My Ex’s Live in Texas”

George Strait, 71, signed a solo record contract in 1981 and didn’t look back, releasing a series of successful albums including Something Special (1985) and Ocean Front Property (1987). By 1990, he was a two-time Country Music Association Entertainer of the Year (having earned the title consecutively, no less).

In 2003, Strait received the National Medal of the Arts from President George W. Bush. He also started a children’s charity called the Jennifer Lynn Strait Foundation—named after his daughter, who died in a car accident in 1986.

Read More About George Strait

george strait smiling and wearing a cowboy hat while holding a guitar during a performance
Getty Images

Reba McEntire

1955-present

Famous songs: “Fancy” and “Whoever’s in New England”

Reba McEntire has long been one of the busiest artists in country music, releasing more than 30 studio albums over her career. She overcame tragedy after a 1991 plane crash killed eight members of her band.

A four-time recipient of Best Female Vocalist honors from the Country Music Association, the 68-year-old singer also became an accomplished television star who fronted her own sitcom, Reba, and is currently a mentor on the singing competition The Voice.

Read More About Reba McEntire

reba mcentire pointing toward an audience with her left hand as she sings onstage
Getty Images

Randy Travis

1959-present

Famous songs: “On the Other Hand” and “Forever and Ever, Amen”

Randy Travis and his instantly recognizable baritone voice ushered in a new wave of country artists like Travis Tritt and Clint Black as part of a “New Traditionalist” movement that propelled country back to its roots. Known for his series of popular faith-based songs, 64-year-old Travis was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2016.

The singer survived a stroke in 2013 and relearned how to sing and play the guitar, though he no longer performs.

Read More About Randy Travis

randy travis wearing a black red and gray suit and smiling on an award show red carpet
Getty Images

Toby Keith

1961-2024

Famous songs: “Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue (The Angry American)” and “I Love This Bar”

A former oil worker and professional football player, Toby Keith’s music career quickly took off as his 1993 debut album became platinum-certified the next fall. In addition to his solo work, the singer also collaborated with country legends Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard.

In recent years, Keith’s primary concern was his health. He was diagnosed with stomach cancer in 2021 and underwent chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery. Despite reassuring updates over the years, Keith died at age 62 in February 2024.

Read More About Toby Keith

toby keith holding and playing a guitar while he performs onstage
Getty Images

Garth Brooks

1962-present

Famous songs: “Friends in Low Places” and “If Tomorrow Never Comes”

Garth Brooks made history in 1991 when his studio album Ropin’ the Wind debuted atop the Billboard 200—the first country album to ever do so. According to the Songwriters Hall of Fame, he has sold more than 160 million albums to date. The 61-year-old also helped launch the career of Martina McBride, who opened for the singer on his 1990 tour.

Brooks, who married country singer Trisha Yearwood in 2005, is also known for his bipartisan political views and has performed at two inauguration ceremonies: for President Barack Obama in 2009 and Joe Biden in 2021.

Read More About Garth Brooks

garth brooks posing with his hands on his knee and smiling for a promotional picture
Getty Images

Shania Twain

1965-present

Famous songs: “You’re Still the One” and “That Don’t Impress Me Much”

Born in Windsor, Canada, 58-year-old Shania Twain emerged as a country and pop crossover star in the 1990s off the success of her albums The Woman in Me and Come On Over. As a result, she is the highest-selling female country music artist ever according to Billboard.

Twain had several surgeries, including as recently as 2018, to treat tightening of her vocal muscles, a condition known as dysphonia. But in 2022, she proved her career was far from over with the release of her sixth studio album Queen of Me.

Read More About Shania Twain

shania twain posing on the blue carpet at the cmt music awards
Getty Images

Darius Rucker

1966-present

Famous songs: “It Won’t Be Like This for Long” and “Alright”

Before he became a country star, Darius Rucker was known as the frontman for rock band Hootie & the Blowfish—who had hits like “Hold My Hand,” “Only Wanna Be with You,” and “I Go Blind” in the 1990s.

Rucker has said radio stations and others in the country community doubted he could succeed in the genre as a Black artist. However, the 57-year-old immediately proved them wrong when his first single, “Don’t Think I Don’t Think About It,” went right to No. 1 on the Hot Country Songs chart in 2008.

Learn More About Darius Rucker

darius rucker smiling on stage as he takes a break during a performance
Getty Images

Tim McGraw

1967-present

Famous songs: “It’s Your Love” and “Just to See You Smile”

The son of former MLB pitcher Frank “Tug” McGraw, Tim McGraw took pre-law courses in college but quickly dropped out to pursue music. Seems like he made the right choice.

Twenty-six of McGraw’s songs have reached No. 1 on Billboard’s Hot Country Songs chart, and the singer has acted in films like Friday Night Lights (2004), Flicka (2006), and The Blind Side (2009).

McGraw, 56, is also known as one half of country music’s biggest power couple. He married five-time Grammy winner Faith Hill in 1996.

Read More About Tim McGraw

tim mcgraw wearing a white suit and black cowboy hat at an awards show
Getty Images

You Might Also Like