Anybody can argue about who's the best at any particular occupation. The all time "best" lists are in no way either right or wrong. But they sure are a lot of fun to come up with. People love lists. They love to see what other people think so that they can send in letters and emails arguing with those lists.
Well, according to almost every list ever made, from TV Guide, to Entertainment Weekly, to you name it, the most popular, if not the greatest singer of all time, was Bing Crosby. Crosby had no less that 383 songs in the top 30 during his lifetime, including 41 number 1 hits. Crosby had a one of a kind voice that simply dominated the music scene from 1931 to 1954. His biggest hit of all time was "White Christmas", which radio stations still play today when Christmas time comes around. Not only was it Crosby's biggest hit but it was the biggest selling single of all time. It was number one on the charts for an amazing 14 weeks. There is no artist that has come even close to Crosby's popularity, not even the man most lists have at number 2.
That would be the great Elvis Presley, who was the most popular singer of the last half of the 20th century. Presley is given credit for almost single handedly starting the rock and roll revolution. His style completely changed the look and feel of popular music. His popularity ran from 1956 to 1981. He had 85 songs in the top 30 and a total of 18 number 1 hits. His biggest hit of all was "All Shook Up" which was number 1 on the charts for a solid 9 weeks.
Surprisingly, at least as far as popularity goes, no other stars even come close to the popularity of Crosby and Presley. However, there have been other great singers during the 20th century and certainly somebody, even if he or she is far from the front runners, has to come in at number 3. Unfortunately, this is where most lists usually go off in their different directions. Many are split between pre 1950s singers and post 1950s singers and the top 10 in many lists is so varied that it is hard to get a sense of who the majority of the people feel should be in that top 10.
For example. Many lists have Al Jolson at number 3 because of his 91 charted hits and 23 number 1 hits. But other lists don't even have Jolson listed, probably because he was in an era that has long been forgotten. Certainly Jolson had one of the most unique voices of all time. Some lists have Elton John coming in at the third position because of his 47 top 30 hits and 8 number 1 hits. Much of John's appeal must be credited to his ties to many other people as well as his tributes to Marilyn Monroe and Princess Diana. And yet, there are lists that don't even have Elton John in the top 30.
Much of the problem probably can be attributed to who you ask. Younger people will lean more towards the post 1950s era while older folks will go for the old time standards. That's why to find Crosby and Presley at the top of most lists is truly a tribute to these two great singers.