Minnesota has a long, rich history of producing famous musicians who’ve gone on to achieve worldwide success. From rock legends to pop sensations, the state has been home to some of the most iconic figures in music. Many Minnesota music artists were born and raised here, while others put down roots a little later in life, but there’s no doubt the Land of 10,000 Lakes is at the center of their music careers. Let’s take a closer look at some of the most famous musicians from Minnesota.
Prince: The Iconic Musician from Minneapolis
No list of famous musicians from Minnesota would be complete without Prince. Born Prince Rogers Nelson in Minneapolis in 1958, Prince is widely regarded as one of the most influential musicians of all time. He first achieved massive success in the 1980s with hits like “Purple Rain” and “When Doves Cry,” but Prince’s unique blend of funk, rock, R&B, pop, and new wave set him apart from his contemporaries and cemented his status as a true icon of music.
Prince released dozens of albums over his career, including Purple Rain, which is widely considered one of the greatest albums of all time, and he was a prolific and generous songwriter who wrote numerous songs for other artists to perform. Even though he passed away in 2016, his music continues to inspire musicians around the world.
Bob Dylan: The Voice of a Generation
Rivaling Price for the top spot among famous musicians from Minnesota is Bob Dylan. Dylan, born Robert Zimmerman in Duluth in 1941, is one of the greatest songwriters of the 20th century. His poetic and politically charged lyrics continue to influence other artists to this day. Dylan started his career as a folk musician in the early 1960s with songs like “Blowin’ in the Wind” and “The Times They Are a-Changin’,” but he quickly expanded his sound to include rock, country, and blues.
Dylan has released over 40 albums over his career and has won numerous awards, including the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2016. His music has been covered by countless artists, and his influence on popular music is immeasurable.
The Replacements: Trailblazers of Alternative Rock
The Replacements, one of the most famous Minnesota bands, left its own lasting impact on the national music scene. Formed in Minneapolis in 1979, The Replacements were known for their punk rock sound and rebellious attitude. The band was full of famous musicians from Minnesota–all four original members (guitarist and vocalist Paul Westerberg, guitarist Bob Stinson, bassist Tommy Stinson, and drummer Chris Mars) hailed from the state, as did later members Slim Dunlap and Steve Foley. The Replacements are often credited with paving the way for the alternative rock movement of the 1990s. They were known for their wild live shows and their penchant for trouble, but their music has also stood the test of time.
Hüsker Dü: Pioneers of Hardcore Punk
Hüsker Dü was another legendary Twin Cities band with a huge influence beyond Minnesota music. Like The Replacements, Hüsker Dü was formed in 1979, at a time when many musicians were experimenting across genres. Made up of guitarist Bob Mould, bassist Greg Norton, and drummer Grant Hart, Hüsker Dü was known for its hardcore punk sound and intense live shows. Mould and Hart, who both later had robust solo careers, were the primary songwriters and vocalists. Hüsker Dü was one of the first bands to combine punk rock with elements of pop music. Their music was highly influential for the alternative rock movement, and their legacy as famous musicians from Minnesota lives on today.
Judy Garland: A Hollywood Legend
It’s important to remember that Minnesota’s influence on music worldwide isn’t limited to rock, folk, and pop. Some of the most famous musicians from Minnesota also claimed space on the silver screen. Judy Garland, our very own Hollywood legend, was born in Grand Rapids, Minnesota in 1922. While she’s best known for her work as an actress in Hollywood, Garland was also a talented singer who had a number of hits over the years. She is perhaps best known for her performance of “Over the Rainbow” in the film The Wizard of Oz, and her legacy as a Hollywood icon is still felt to this day.
The Jets: A Family Band that Made It Big
Minnesota is no stranger to successful pop musicians. The Jets, a family band of eight siblings that gained attention in the 1980s and 1990s, made their start in Minneapolis in 1977. They found success in 1986 with their album The Jets, which featured the hit songs “Crush on You” and “You Got It All” and was full of fun, danceable sounds.
The Jayhawks: Alt-Country Pioneers
The Jayhawks, another band full of famous musicians from Minnesota, are often credited with pioneering the alt-country movement of the 1990s. Formed in Minneapolis in 1985, they blended elements of country, rock, and folk music. After putting out innovative, smaller scale albums, they achieved critical acclaim with their 1992 Hollywood Town Hall.
The Time: A Funky Side Project
Prince’s fame is undeniable, but sometimes we forget about his many successful side projects with other famous musicians from Minnesota. The Time was a funk band from Minneapolis created in 1981 featuring lead singer Morris Day. They released many hit songs, like “Jungle Love” and “777-9311,” and were known for their danceable music and energetic live shows.
Semisonic: The Sound of 90s Alternative Rock
Famous bands from Minnesota continued to influence the national music scene in the 1990s and beyond. Semisonic, formed in Minneapolis in 1995, is probably best known for the hit song “Closing Time.” Their sound was heavily influenced by the alternative rock movement, and their music has become synonymous with 90s rock.
Soul Asylum: A Grunge Sensation
Soul Asylum, another icon of Minnesota music, also made a huge impact in the 1990s. Founded in Minneapolis in 1983, they reached a significant national audience with their 1992 album Grave Dancers Union. The album featured the hit song “Runaway Train,” which became a massive hit around the world. Soul Asylum’s music is often associated with the grunge movement.
Lizzo: A Pop Sensation
Lizzo has taken the pop music world by storm in recent years. Born in Detroit, Michigan, Lizzo moved to Minneapolis in 2011 and quickly made a name for herself in the local music scene. Her breakthrough came in 2019 with the release of her album Cuz I Love You, which featured the hit songs “Truth Hurts” and “Good as Hell.” Lizzo’s music is full of joy and fun, and she has become a role model for many younger artists. Plus, she’s a classically trained flutist!
Hippo Campus: Indie Rock from St. Paul
And speaking of more recent famous Minnesota musicians, Hippo Campus, an indie rock band from St. Paul, has also developed a solid reputation nationally. Formed in 2013, the band blends indie rock, pop, and folk music. They achieved critical acclaim with their 2017 album Landmark, which featured the hit song “Way It Goes.”
Even More Minnesota Musicians
The list of famous musicians from Minnesota goes on and on. Beyond the icons we’ve already covered, you might want to check out the following Minnesota music artists, who were either born here or who have made the North Star state their musical home:
- Gear Daddies – a roots rock band formed in Austin, Minnesota in the late 1980s focused on music that combined rock, country, and folk
- The Suburbs – a band that blended new wave and punk rock in the late 1970s and found success nationally in the 1980s with their most famous song “Love Is the Law”
- Atmosphere – a hip-hop duo formed in 1989 by rapper Slug and producer Ant most known for their album God Loves Ugly
- Chastity Brown – contemporary singer-songwriter who now calls Minnesota home and blends folk, soul, and Americana into her deeply personal lyrics
- Poliça – an indie pop band from Minneapolis started in 2011 that draws on indie rock, pop, and electronic music in their haunting vocals and atmospheric sound
- Mod Sun – a rapper, singer, songwriter, and overall fan favorite from Bloomington who incorporates elements of punk rock and pop-punk into his music
Minnesota has produced some of the most famous musicians in the world. From Prince and Bob Dylan to Lizzo and Hippo Campus, the state has been home to a diverse array of talented artists over the years. Whether it’s the alt-country sound of The Jayhawks or the funk of The Time, famous musicians from Minnesota have had a lasting impact on the music world. So, if you’re a music lover looking for a new sound to explore, be sure to check out Minnesota music artists. You never know what you might discover!