From rock and jazz to soul and hip-hop, myriad genres have shaped Minnesota’s history with music—which happens to be chock-full of storied producers, historic venues and an endless list of artists and musicians who identify our state as their home.
Famous Minnesota Musicians
Born in Albert Lea, Minnesota, rock ’n’ roll musician Eddie Cochran’s popularity soared in the 1950s-60s, with hits like “Summertime Blues” and “Twenty Flight Rock.” Cochran played guitar, piano, bass and drums and was one of the first rock ‘n’ roll artists to write his own songs. Sadly, Cochran died tragically in a car accident while on tour in England at the age of 21, but the spirit of his music lives on.
Another famed Minnesota musician emerged in the 1960s: Bob Dylan. Regarded as of the greatest songwriters in history, Dylan’s impressive 60-year career is bursting with many notable accomplishments, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom, 10 Grammy Awards, a NobelPrize in Literature, a Golden Globe Award and an Academy Award. He has sold more than 125 million records worldwide, making this Duluth native one of the best-selling musicians of all time.
Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis
Legendary pop and R&B songwriters Jimmy JamandTerry Lewisare essentially Minnesotaroyalty, and while you might not see them behind the microphone, they are certainly behind more hit songs than many present-day producers. Both attended high school in Minneapolis and went on to write 41 chart-topping singles and earn more than 100 gold, diamond, platinum, multiplatinum and diamond albums. Notable artists they worked with include Janet Jackson, George Michael, BoyzII Men, Mariah Carey and Usher, to name a few.
Best known for her role as Dorothy in the 1939 classic, “The Wizard of Oz,” Judy Garlandwasnot only an actress but also proved to be an exceptional musician. Born in Grand Rapids to vaudevillian parents, Garland was interested in song and dance from an early age. She had a 45-year career in which she appeared in dozens of films for MGM Studios, released eight studio albums, received a Golden Globe Award and was the first woman to win a Grammy Award for Album of the Year.
Arguably (and rightfully so) another one of the most famous musicians to hail from Minnesota is none other than Prince. Known for his recognition and love for Minnesota, Prince pioneered the“Minneapolis Sound” of the1980s, a combination of funk, rock, pop, punk and rhythm and blues. During his nearly 40-year career as a singer-songwriter, producer and actor, Prince released more than 40 albums and sold more than 100 million records worldwide—featuring well-known hits like “Purple Rain,” “When Doves Cry” and “I Wanna Be Your Lover.”
On the hip-hop front, Minnesotans know and love Atmosphere, featuring rapper Slug and DJ/producer Ant. Formed in 1996, the duo has released 12 studio albums and are cofounders of the independent hip-hop record label Rhymesayers Entertainment. Since 2008, RhymesayersEntertainment has been a sponsor of Minnesota’s annual Soundset Music Festival, which takes place over Memorial Day weekend.
Other Notable MN Names
- Brother Ali
- Gear Daddies
- Hüsker Dü
- MotionCity Soundtrack
- Owl City
- The Replacements
- Soul Asylum
- Trampled by Turtles
Worthy musicians require stages worthy of their caliber and talent, right? From auditoriums and coffee shops to bars and massive stages, Minnesota has it all. Home to some of the most famous and familiar local clubs, music lovers alike can take in a show at one of these venues in Minnesota, nearly any night of the week.
Did you know? The song “Funkytown” that was released in 1979 was written by Steven Greenberg while he was living in Minneapolis, dreaming of moving to New York.
Famous Minnesota Music Venues
First Avenue & 7th St. Entry
A true Minnesota music experience doesn’t get much more iconic than First Avenue & 7th St.Entryin Minneapolis. Originally opened as “The Depot” in 1970, First Avenue—lovingly dubbed“First Ave.” by locals—has been making history since its inception. Many local and nationalartists (including Prince) credit First Ave. with the launch of their career, so it’s no wonder the landmark venue has been mentioned in numerous songs and movies. Let’s not forget the famous star-studded mural on the building’s exterior, highlighting an impressive list of hundreds of past venue performers like Green Day, Foo Fighters, Eminem, Aerosmith and more.
Located in the heart of downtown St. Paul, the Palace Theatre has been a Twin Cities fixture for more than a century. This historic gem originally opened in 1916 as a vaudeville theater, where esteemed actors like Charlie Chaplin and the Marx Brothers graced the stage. After being closed for nearly four decades and near condemnation, the city of St. Paul purchased and restored the Palace Theatre—and reopened the venue in 2017 as a music lover’s dream destination.
Dakota Jazz Club
The famousDakota—a jazz club and restaurant—is a rare gem in the Twin Cities entertainment scene, featuring a full, chef-driven menu and world-class music performances every night of the week. Established in St. Paul’s Bandana Square in 1985, the Dakota has since moved to downtown Minneapolis.
Cedar Cultural Center
Often referred to more affectionately as “the Cedar,” the Cedar Cultural Center is a unique arts and entertainment venue located near the University of Minnesota campus in the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood. Originally a movie theater when it opened in 1948, the Cedar plays host to a wide variety of music genres, with a special emphasis on global music—including folk, indie, bluegrass, blues and more.
More Notable MN Venues
- The Amsterdam
- The Armory
- The Cabooze
- Myth Live
- Ordway Center for the Performing Arts
- Roy Wilkins Auditorium
- Turf Club
- Varsity Theater
Did we include every notable and wonderful musician, producer or venue regarding the Minnesota music scene? Absolutely not! This was intended to be a high-level overview; we'd love to hear your insights and stories at email@example.com.