Music and films are considered ways of expression and sometimes our feelings are mirrored in the songs we listen to or the movies we watch. Every year, the Academy of Motion Picture and Arts holds the famous Academy Awards, commonly known as the Oscars, for those films that achieve their standards. From Best Costume Design to Best Original Song, these awards are one of the most important events of the year. In this list, we will take a look at the top 25 musicians and singers that won an Academy Award! Don’t miss #22, #14 and #8. Also, do not miss our Top 5!
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#25. T Bone Burnett
T Bone Burnett, born in 1948, is a rock legend and he is also a top music producer. Throughout his long career, he has participated in the making of several soundtracks for many films, including O Brother, Where Art Thou?, Cold Mountain and Johnny Cash’s biographic film Walk the Line. Sadly for Burnett, none of these soundtracks were even nominated for an Academy Award.
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Nonetheless, 2009 was the year where T Bone Burnett would finally win his first Oscar for Best Original Song. The film Crazy Heart, starring Jeff Bridges as a country musician who is trying to get his life back together, had his score produced by Burnett and the song The Weary Kind, co-written between Burnett and Ryan Bingham, took the award.
#24. David Byrne
Scottish musician and music producer David Byrne is worldwide known as the leader of the band Talking Heads, active from 1975 to 1991, and he’s famous for releasing 8 albums including several hits, such as Psycho Killer. Not only is Byrne a successful musician, but he has also appeared in several TV shows and films, and has participated in the making of a few films.
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In 1987, he was targeted by Ryuichi Sakamoto and Cong Su to participate in the making of the score for the film The Last Emperor. In the Academy Awards of the following year, the film won nine awards, more than any other film that same year. Among those, David Byrne took home the award for Best Original Score! His speech, though short, was very powerful.
#23. Annie Lennox
Scottish singer Annie Lenox, born in 1954, achieved worldwide success with her band Eurythmics, together with Dave Stewart. The duo released several hits during their active years, one of the most important ones being Sweet Dreams (Are Made of this). Another very important hit, also with Eurythmics, was the song Here Comes the Rain Again. It’s worth mentioning that Dave Stewart and Annie Lennox understood each other perfectly as both of them were also in the band The Tourists.
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Annie Lennox was asked if she wanted to write and sing the theme song for the final installment in The Lord of the Rings franchise, The Return of the King. The song, called Into the West, is heard in full at the end credits of the film, although several of its melodic passages can be heard during the whole final film of the trilogy. The song went on to win the 76th Academy Award for Best Original Song.
#22. Jared Leto
30 Seconds to Mars singer and frontman, Jared Leto is not only a very prolific singer, but he is also a very talented actor and has proved so in many films, including Dallas Buyer Club, Requiem for a Dream and Panic Room. Even though his band has not won any Grammy or Emmy awards, it has set a Guinness World Record for most shows performed while touring with an album and was included in the Kerrang list of best bands of the 2000s.
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As his band has not won any Oscar, Jared had to put his body to the test and won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his role in the 2013 film Dallas Buyers Club, where he played the part of Rayon, a trans woman with HIV. To portray the role with such accuracy, he attended several transgender meetings, and while filming, he never let go of the character. Leto lost 13 pounds, waxed his whole body and even shaved his eyebrows!
#21. Lady Gaga
Singer and actress Lady Gaga, known for her incredible pop music and her striking and sometimes bizarre way of dressing, won an Academy Award for Best Original Song after performing the hit song Shallow, from the film A Star is Born, together with actor Bradley Cooper. After she and co-writers Mark Ronson, Andrew Wyatt and Anthony Rossomando got up in the stage to receive the award, she gave a powerful speech.
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In a very emotional time of her life, after having obtained a leading role in a very important film and having won her first Oscar, Gaga said:
“I’ve worked hard for a long time, and it’s not about winning. But what it’s about is not giving up. If you have a dream, fight for it. There’s a discipline for passion, and it’s not about how many times you get rejected or you fall down, or you’re beaten. It’s about how many times you stand up, and are brave, and you keep going”.
Actress and singer Cher is very famous for her incredible voice and is considered one of the best female singers of all time. In 1987, Cher got the leading role in the film Moonstruck, in which she played the part of Loretta Castorini, a widow who after being committed to a man, falls madly in love with his brother-in-law. Her performance in the film made her win an Oscar award for Best Actress in 1988, one year after the release of the film.
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Cher also starred in the film Silkwood together with Meryl Streep. The film is based on a true story about a female worker at a plutonium plant who is purposefully contaminated after she finds out about several safety violations in the plant. Many viewers were not sure about how good a performance Cher would deliver, but it was such an incredible performance that she got a Golden Globe award for Best Supporting Actress!
#19. Common & John Legend
Pop singer John Legend, who has been recently named the world’s sexiest man of 2019, and rapper Common created the main song for the film Selma, released in 2014 and based on the true story about Martin Luther King and the long walk from Selma to Alabama to fight for the right to vote. The film was nominated for several awards, including the original song Glory.
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Both John Legend and Common performed the song in the 87th Academy Award and a few hours later, the song Glory won the award for Best Original Song. Nonetheless, that is not the only award that Glory obtained, as the song also won a Golden Globe Award for Best Original Song, a Critics’ Choice Movie Award for Best Song and a Grammy for Best Song Written for Visual Media!
British singer Adele, who is worldwide known for her hit songs Set Fire To The Rain, Hello and Rolling In The Deep, is not only one of the most famous artists of this decade, but she has also won several awards during her career, amounting to 15 Grammy Awards and 9 Brit Awards. But the climax of her career arrived when she was asked to make a song for the 007 film starring Daniel Craig, Skyfall.
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Skyfall was released in 2012 and has one of the most incredible soundtracks of any James Bond film. Apart from being nominated for several awards, the film’s main song, Skyfall, received many nominations and awards, including the Oscar for Best Original Song at the 85th Academy Awards. The song also won the Golden Globe for Best Original Song and the Critics’ Choice Award for Best Song. Way to go, Adele!
#17. Sam Smith
Sam Smith is a 27-year-old British singer known for the songs Promises and Stay With Me. He is a young and promising pop singer that has revealed that his main influences to enter the music world were Whitney Houston and our beloved Lady Gaga. Sam and music producer Jimmy Napes were contacted by Columbia Pictures and asked if they could make the song for the new James Bond film, Spectre.
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The film was released in 2015 and it’s the 24th installment in the James Bond film series, and the fourth one to have Daniel Craig in the role of agent 007. The song for the film, Writing’s on the Walls won both an Oscar and an Academy Award in 2016 for Best Original Song. Sadly for Sam, many music critics stated that his song is nowhere as perfect as Adele’s Skyfall, and for that same reason, it received mixed reviews.
#16. Jennifer Hudson
Many of us know Jennifer Hudson for having reached the final stage of the third season of American Idol but was eliminated in the Top 7. In 2008, four years after having reached the finals of American Idol, she released her first album, Self Titled, that earned her a Grammy Award and sold more than one million copies worldwide. Her most famous hit, Spotlight, was her first single ever released.
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Despite having an incredible music career, Jennifer also tried to shine in the acting world, and she did. Her first role was in the 2006 film Dreamgirls, in which she played the role of Effie White. Not only did she win worldwide attention for her performance, but she was also nominated, and won, an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress. On top of that, she won a Golden Globe, a BAFTA, and an Actors Guild Award!
#15. Melissa Etheridge
Melissa Etheridge is a famous American rock singer who has released approximately 10 records during her career, although she became famous with her fourth album, Yes I Am, released in 1993. Melissa is a very good friend of Bruce Springsteen and has even said that he was one of the most important influences in her music career. Her career is not exempt from awards, as she won two Grammys in 1992 and 1994 for her songs Ain’t It Heavy and Come to My Window.
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But Melissa’s awards did not end with those two Grammy awards, as she won an Academy Award for her song I Need to Wake Up, which was created for Al Gore’s documentary An Inconvenient Truth. The song won the Oscar for Best Original Song in 2007. The documentary also won an Academy Award, and it became the first documentary ever to win the Best Original Song award.
Marshall Bruce Mathers, most known for his artist name, Eminem, is one of the most famous American white rappers, who become known in 1999 after the release of his record The Slim Shady LP, which also won a Grammy Award. Eminem has also produced several records and has appeared in several films. The most important film in his career, 8 Mile, is an autobiography, where he retells his first steps in the world of rap.
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The film was such a complete success that it was nominated for several awards, and in the end, it won an Academy Award in 2003 for the song Lose Yourself, which was the first hip hop song ever to win an Oscar. A fact that not many people know is that Eminem holds the Guinness Record for the longest rap song to be in the Top 1 position for 23 weeks!
One of the most famous musicians of the century, Prince, was a singer, songwriter, and dancer that had a very extensive vocal range that made him shine with every song he released. Prince was also known for the extravagant clothes he wore on stage during every performance. He signed his first contract when he was 18 years old and released his first full album in 1987.
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As with the case of Eminem and 8 Mile, Prince acted in the film Purple Rain that told the whole world about his story and how he became one of the most famous musicians ever. The film’s soundtrack was wholly created by Prince and hits such as When Doves Cry and Let’s Get Crazy saw the light. In 1985, the soundtrack of the film won an Oscar for Best Original Song Score and stayed at the Billboard Top 1 for 24 weeks!
#12. Bob Dylan
Music legend Bob Dylan, born in 1949, is one of the most prolific musicians of this century and has recorded several albums during his active years. He does not have a distinguished genre, although he is more known in the rock and blues world. Not only is Dylan famous for his music, but he also wrote several poetry books and even won a Nobel prize.
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In the year 2000, Dylan was requested to make a few songs for the film Wonder Boys, and he came up with the song Things Have Changed. In the 2001 academy awards, the song won an Oscar for Best Original Song and then won a Grammy. As he was unable to attend because he was on tour, he did an online appearance through satellite television!
#11. Barbra Streisand
Another music legend in this list is Barbra Streisand, an actress and musician with a long-standing career. Born in 1942, Barbra starred in almost 20 films and has recorded more than 20 albums, and as you may imagine, she has participated in the recording of several soundtracks for films. Streisand is considered one of the most complete actresses and singers and the only one to have earned an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and even a Tony award!
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In 1969, at the young age of 27 years old, Barbra won her first Oscar award for her role as Fanny Brice in the film Funny Girl. In that year’s Academy Awards there was a tie between her and Katherine Hepburn, and so they shared the prize. Nonetheless, a few years later, she won another Oscar for Best Original Song, thanks to her song Evergreen, which she made for the drama film A Star Is Born.
#10. Elton John
Continuing with the legendary section, Elton John is one of the most important British musicians, singers, and pianists of all time. He has recorded more than 30 records in his 50-year career. He is widely known for his shows and the costumes he wears at each concert, in which his extravagant personality comes out and shines. John has sold more than 300 million copies of his records worldwide and has won several awards.
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In 1995, three of Elton John’s songs from the Disney film The Lion King were nominated for an Academy Award: Circle of Life, Hakuna Matata, and Can You Feel the Love Tonight, the latter of which was the winner. What an amazing career!
#9. Phil Collins
Another legendary musician who won an Academy Award for a Disney song is Phil Collins, a British singer and drummer born in 1951. Collins is considered one of the most important pop-rock musicians in the world. In 1999, he was contacted by Disney to create the music for their new animated film, Tarzan, and he decided to go for it. We’re glad he agreed since he gave us one of the most amazing Disney soundtracks of all time.
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One of the film’s songs, You’ll Be in My Heart, won an Academy Award, and a few months later, it went on to win a Golden Globe. According to his daughter, actress, and model Lilly Collins, the song was originally written for her, as Phil and her always watched Disney movies together when she was a child!
#8. Stevie Wonder
Blind since birth, young Stevie Wonder did not refuge himself in his disability. On the contrary, he used his other enhanced senses, especially his hearing, to become one of the most famous musicians, singers, and pianists that the world has ever seen, heard and enjoyed. Stevie is also one of the musicians who most records sold worldwide, amounting to 100 million. Not only that, but he has also earned dozens of music awards.
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In 1984, the film The Woman In Red was released, starring Gene Wilder and Kelly LeBrock. Even though it was not a great success, the music composed for the film was nominated for several awards. Both Stevie Wonder and John Morris composed the soundtrack, and the song I Just Called to Say I Love You won the 1985 Academy Award for Best Original Song. In his winning speech, Wonder dedicated the award to Nelson Mandela, who was imprisoned at the time. As a consequence, his music was banned from South Africa.
#7. Lionel Richie
American singer and songwriter Lionel Richie, born in 1949, was part of the original members of the band The Commodores, whose mixed funk-rock style was a success during the 1970s. In his solo career, Richie has recorded 12 albums and has had several hit songs in the United States Top 1 for several weeks. His most famous song Say You, Say Me won his only Academy Award.
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White Nights was a 1985 drama film about a Russian dancer who worked for the Academy of Ballet, but teams with an American to desert his home country. Richie accepted to perform the song, and in 1986 he won both the Academy Award and the Golden Globe for Best Original Song. However, the song did not appear in the film’s original soundtrack, as the record company Motown did not want it to.
#6. Three 6 Mafia
American hip hop band Three 6 Mafia was formed in 1991 in Memphis, Tennessee by its 4 original members: Paul Beauregard, Jordan Houston, Lord Infamous and Crunchy Black. The band made history as it became the first hip hop band to become Platinum and the first one to win an Academy Award.
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Their song was featured in the 2005 film Hustle & Flow which starred American actor Terrence Howard. The film version of the song It’s Hard out Here For a Pump was performed by Terrence Howard and Taraji P. Henson, and they won the Oscar for Best Original Song the year after.
#5. The Beatles
One of the most important and influential bands of all time, The Beatles, has had an incredible and successful career while releasing several albums and earning more than 84 awards. Their original four members, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, and George Harrison created music that will live forever in the heart of their fans.
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But did any of you know that they won an Academy Award for the score of their film, Let It Be? Originally intended to be a TV documentary, it finally became a film that showed the band rehearsals while they were recording their last album, also titled Let It Be, and it also showed fragments of some of their concerts. It’s lucky that they decided to make their own film, as TV documentaries are not entitled to Academy Awards.
#4. Bruce Springsteen
Known by many as The Boss, Bruce Springsteen is an American musician, singer, and songwriter, and is considered one of the most successful rock singers in the world. His success began with his first band, the E Street Band, with whom he recorded approximately twenty albums and sold more than 64.5 million records worldwide. As could not be otherwise, Bruce was nominated for two Academy Awards, although he only won one.
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He won the Academy Award for his song Streets of Philadelphia, which he wrote for the 1990 drama film Philadelphia. His other Oscar nomination was for the song Dead Man Walking, written for the film of the same name. Nonetheless, Bruce Springsteen is considered one of the few EGOT musicians, which stands Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony awards!
#3. Carly Simon
Born in 1945, Carly Simon not only is a singer, songwriter, and musician, but she also writes books for young children! She rose to fame during the 1970s, after several of her songs became Top 1 hits for several weeks in the U.S. charts. As with other musicians on this list, she wrote a song for one of the James Bond films, Nobody Does It Better, and received an Oscar nomination.
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Nonetheless, Carly Simon was requested to write, compose and sing the feature song for the film Working Girl. The film was released in 1988 and the song Let The River Run won both the Golden Globen and the Academy Award for Best Original Song and a Grammy for Best Song Written Specifically for a Motion Picture or Television. Thanks to that, Carly Simon became the first artist to win all those three awards with the same song!
#2. Isaac Hayes
Late Isaac Hayes, born in 1942, was one of the most important and influential figures for Soul music in the United States, and the founder of Stax Records. Hayes’ song Soul Man, which he wrote together with David Porter, was recognized by the Grammy Hall of Fame as one of the most influential songs of the last 50 years.
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However, Isaac Hayes won his only Academy Award for the song Theme from Shaft from the 1971 film Shaft, which starred Richard Roundtree and Moses Gunn. Hayes became the third African American to win an Oscar and the first one to win in the Best Original Song category.
#1. Trent Reznor
Trent Reznor may be best known for being the frontman and mastermind behind the industrial rock and metal band Nine Inch Nails, which has had a very long-standing career since 1988. The band has released 9 studio albums and created the original soundtrack for the 1996 videogame Quake. Nine Inch Nails sold over 20 million records worldwide and was nominated for 13 Grammy Awards, winning on two occasions.
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Reznor has also participated in the making of several scores and soundtracks for several films, including Natural Born Killers and Lost Highway. It wasn’t until 2010 when Reznor and Atticus Ross joined their brains to create the score for the film The Social Network by David Finch, which told the story of Mark Zuckerberg and how Facebook became such an important social network.