John Schlitt, best known for leading Petra, continues as a solo artist.
By Andy Argyrakis, senior music editor, GospelMusicChannel.com
While there's no definitive way of identifying the top ten best singers in Christian rock history, here's this critic's picks for some undeniable talents with an indelible impact upon generations past and present.
1. John Schlitt
Long before hitting the faith-centered scene, John Schlitt found secular fame in classic rock band Head East and had all the worldly treasures anyone could desire. After converting to Christ, he stepped up to the microphone in Petra, leading the band through its most commercially viable period and nailing dozens of sky-high hits to the top of the charts. The band may have called it a day, but the singer/songwriter continues to tour as a solo artist and remains one of the most distinctive and impactful men to ever stand behind a microphone.
2. Jon Foreman
Switchfoot singer and part-time solo star Jon Foreman is the hands-down leader of the new school, with a stadium-filling sound to add to the group's already anthemic riffs. With pipes that can transition from urgently gritty to contemplative and even folk-flavored at times, he's just as versatile as he is magnetic.
3. Michael Sweet
Believers know Michael Sweet as blazing the heavy-metal trail as leader of Stryper, but that's only a third of his success story. Several solo albums offer tremendous displays of his vast vocal range, while a recent singer appointment to classic rock superheroes Boston shows off his melodic sensitivity mixed with bellowing screams.
4. Mike Farris
This reverse crossover of sorts started as lead singer of the jam band the Screamin' Cheetah Wheelies, but turned his life around upon hitting the solo road. The critical favorite has since torn up stages as diverse as Gospel Music Week in Nashville and South by Southwest Festival in Austin, blending everything from authentic, blue-eyed soul to Americana and good, old-fashioned rock n' roll.
5. Kevin Max
This particular third of dcTalk has always been Christian music's most controversial chameleon who's named checked everyone from Bono to David Bowie to The Smiths' leader Morrissey. But at the end of the day, either in group or solo contexts, Max's voice is instantly recognizable and his register is delightfully innovative and unpredictable.
6. Phil Keaggy
Everyone considers Phil Keaggy the ultimate Christian guitar hero, but upon closer examination of his plethora of individual albums, he's also an incredibly accomplished vocalist. Falling somewhere in between Paul McCartney and John Lennon, this axe-slinger turned singer is quite possibly the best Beatles-esque entertainer this market has ever seen.
7. Michael Tait
Speaking of dcTalk, the soulful superstar also stood out in the group for his crystal clarity and multiple octave abilities. Though a self-titled band was short-lived, his vocals in that context continued showcasing an R&B-inspired round of alternative rock, which has since carried into his charismatic stepping up to the microphone for newsboys.
8. John Cooper
Out of any other faith-based act these days, Skillet is perhaps the best poised to make a major splash in the mainstream, thanks in part to attention commanding frontman John Cooper. His strengths outside of the infectious songwriting field include the ability to direct a crowd towards a unanimous, soul-stirring sing-a-long, while also inspiring a hushed silence with his affinity (and dead on delivery) of 1980s-influenced ballads.
9. Steven Delopoulos
He first rose to fame as leader of the short-lived Burlap to Cashmere and has since become one of the indie world's best kept secrets. No matter what the format, this provocative storyteller is the only artist of any religion to ever come close to matching Cat Stevens' hypnotic nuances, which coupled with a spiritual outlook, make many of Delopoulos' vocals nothing short of sublime.
10. Tony Vincent
The name Tony Vincent may be nothing more than a blast from the past for some, but he's since branched out well beyond "One Deed" and other '90s pop/rockers. The powerhouse vocalist set his sights towards musicals, starting with Jesus Christ Superstar and then paying tribute to the music of Queen in We Will Rock You. Considering he was able to fill the shoes of the ultimate entertainer Freddie Mercury makes this under-the-radar artist worth getting to know.
About the Writer
Andy Argyrakis is a Chicago-based entertainment writer/photographer who appears in the Chicago Tribune, Illinois Entertainer, Daily Journal, Concert Livewire, Hear/Say Magazine and Image Chicago (to name few). His record label writing credits include Warner Brothers, Atlantic, Curb, EMI and Universal, with additional photo credits for Fuse TV, Live Nation, Nikon, Pollstar, Celebrity Access, Paste Magazine, MTV.com and Vibe.com. He's also the author/narrator of "Access Matthews" (an audio CD tracing the career of Dave Matthews Band) and spends considerable time on tour, including outings with Arlo Guthrie, The Guess Who, Madina Lake (on Linkin Park's Projekt Revolution) and Gospel Music Channel's very own "Gospel Dream" (where he served as season one judge).