Nashville has been home to many great country artists over the years, but the city also houses several other genre pioneers! Here are just a few of the ground-breakers from Nashville’s history of hit songwriters!

Bob Dylan

Dylan is one of the most highly acclaimed storytellers in songwriting history, receiving a special citation from the Pulitzer Prize board in 2008 for great impact of his poetic lyrics. Dylan is a 2002 Nashville Songwriter’s Hall of Fame member, a ten-time Grammy-winner, in the Rock and Roll and Songwriter’s Hall of Fame,  AND still an active songwriter after 60 years of startling success. He is also the writer behind greats like “Blowin’ in the Wind” and “Like a Rolling Stone”, and an illustrator.

Dolly Parton

This legendary lady in country music has been active since 1956 and has written hits like “Coat of Many Colors,” “I Will Always Love You,” and “9 to 5.” Parton is also a beloved author, humanitarian, and a devout Christian. Few names in music are as representative of Nashville songwriters as Parton’s, whose influence was solidified in history with her earning the 2004 U.S. Library of Congress living legend award!

Johnny Cash 

This songwriter and performing legend was a 1977 Nashville Songwriter’s Hall of Fame inductee, plus a country, rock and roll, and gospel music Hall of Fame member. He wrote classics from the late 50s to the early 2000s, recording 60 songs in the last of his 73 years alive. He was known for wearing all black in his performances, giving free concerts in prisons, and for dealing with rawly emotional, sometimes redemptive themes in his songs like “Man in Black” and in his rendition of “Hurt.”

Roy Orbison

A true rock and roll legend, Orbinson wrote favorites “Oh, Pretty Woman” and “Only the Lonely.” He primarily wrote ballads in the 1960s, beautifully complementing his classical vocal style. Orbinson joined the Nashville Songwriter’s Hall of Fame in 1987, and he was also honored with the Grammy Lifetime Achievement award.

Buddy Holly

Another rock n’ roller from the mid-twentieth century, Holly is known for pioneering the classic rock band set-up, performing with fellow list-member Roy Orbinson, and being the first rock and roll singer/songwriter. He created rock classics like “Peggy Sue” and “That’ll Be the Day”, and despite his tragic early death in a plane crash is still remembered by many for his contributions to modern music. Holly became a member of the Nashville Songwriter’s Hall of Fame in ‘94.

Taylor Swift

Young but highly acclaimed, this unconventional artist and songwriter has topped charts and poured out her heart to countless fans. She approaches her career with a personal touch; often Swift has shown up at fan’s houses, gone out to personally meet and talk with the lines at her concerts, and spoken for her beliefs, including artist’s rights. She has received over 80 awards and released her successful 2020 reflections during the pandemic, Folklore and Evermore.

Luke Bryan

A country legend and judge on the American Idol TV show, Bryan is one of the most successful country artists on the market today, as seen in his success with songs like “Play It Again.” He received the Entertainer of the Year award in 2013 at the Academy of Country Music Awards from the Country Music Association. He is also known for his philanthropy with the organizations such as City of Hope and Red Cross.

Ben Folds

Folds is a composer, author, singer, songwriter, pianist, and was the first Artistic Advisor for the Nashville Symphony Orchestra. He has mastered and released music in a wide variety of genres, from pop song hits like “The Luckiest” to a classical piano concerto! He hosts a podcast and is also a photographer and advocate for arts education and music therapy.

Keb’ Mo’

Blues legend, 14-time Blues Foundation Award winner, and holder of five GRAMMYs, Keb’ Mo’ has established himself as an authority in his Nashville home. For 50 years and counting, Mo’ has innovated in the Blues genre with albums like Just Like You. He has performed around the world and melded multiple genres into his project Good to Be, which includes country, folk, and world music influences.


If you are a songwriter, whether in country or some other style, these names are important to know! And if you move to Nashville, you just might even have the chance to rub shoulders with one of them!


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