The 17 Most Famous Musicians from Minnesota

musicians from minnesota

For a humble Midwestern state, our beloved Minnesota has made quite the impact on the sound of music!

That’s thanks to a surprising number of famous musicians that were born and raised in, or otherwise hugely influenced by, our great state of Minnesota.

In this article, we’re highlighting all the most famous bands and musicians from Minnesota.

1. Prince (Minneapolis, MN)

  • Origin: Minneapolis, MN
  • Biggest hit: Purple Rain

You can’t think about musicians from Minnesota without immediately going to Prince. The American icon was born and raised in Minneapolis, and he lived in the Twin Cities for his entire life.

He made us locals especially proud when he famously proclaimed on Oprah, “I will always live in Minneapolis. It’s so cold, it keeps the bad people out.”

Before Prince was topping the charts, winning Academy Awards, and being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, he attended Central High School in Minneapolis and was trained in classical ballet at the Minnesota Dance Theatre. Oh, and that time he was accidentally interviewed by WCCO as a fifth grader.

He recorded his first demo tape at a Minneapolis studio, and even after his staggering success, he was even known to perform surprise performances around Minneapolis.

In the late 1980s, Prince opened Paisley Park recording studio in his home in Chanhassen, MN, which is now open to the public for tours.

2. Bob Dylan (Duluth, MN)

  • Origin: Duluth, Hibbing, & Minneapolis, MN
  • Biggest hit: Like a Rolling Stone

Bob Dylan is one of the most famous musicians of all time, having sold over 145 million records, received 10 Grammy awards, and even awarded a Nobel Prize as one of Minnesota’s most famous writers. And of course, he also has deep Minnesotan roots!

Born Robert Allen Zimmerman at St. Mary’s Hospital in Duluth, Dylan and his family lived in Duluth until he reached age 6. After his father contracted polio, the family moved back with his grandparents in the small Northern Minnesota town of Hibbing.

Dylan attended Hibbing High School before moving to Minneapolis in 1959 to attend the University of Minnesota. There, he lived in a small apartment over the former Loring Pasta Bar / Gray’s Restaurant, a historic site which was recently purchased by the University.

At the end of his first year at college, Dylan dropped out of the UofM and headed to New York, where he caught his big break. And although he never lived in Minnesota again, he left a lasting legacy on the state, including multiple return performances and even a silent rescue of the Orpheum Theatre in 1979.

3. Judy Garland (Grand Rapids, MN)

  • Origin: Grand Rapids, MN
  • Biggest hit: The Wizard of Oz

Judy Garland, the famous singer and star of The Wizard of Oz, was born in Grand Rapids, MN. And while her family moved away from Minnesota before she was five years years old, by that time, the future star already made her stage debut here in Minnesota!

Judy’s parents owned a movie theater in Grand Rapids that featured vaudeville performances. Her first on-stage appearance occurred at this theater at the age of 2, when she joined her two older sisters to sing Jingle Bells for a local Christmas show. Judy and her two sisters would perform there for the next few years, before the whole family moved to California in 1926.

From there, the rest is history. At age 13, Garland was signed by MGM and began radio performances, and at age 16, she was cast in her iconic role as Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz.

Today, the city of Grand Rapids operates Garland’s birthplace home as The Judy Garland Museum.

4. Eddie Cochran (Albert Lea, MN)

  • Origin: Albert Lea, MN
  • Biggest hit: Summertime Blues

Eddie Cochran is a rock and roll hall-of-famer who was a teenage icon in the 1950s and 1960s.

Arguably, his biggest hit was Summertime Blues, recorded in 1958. Rolling Stones once ranked the single #73 on their list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame features it as one of “The Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll.”

But before Cochran’s legendary career, he was born and raised in Albert Lea, MN, where he took music lessons in school until his family moved to California at age 14.

Recently, the city of Albert Lea officially renamed James Street to “Eddie Cochran Street.”

5. Lizzo (Minneapolis, MN)

  • Origin: Minneapolis, MN
  • Biggest hit: Truth Hurts

Although Lizzo was born in Detroit and raised in Houston, after college she moved to Minneapolis, began her recording career, and rose to fame.

In the early 2010s, Lizzo worked for years in the Twin Cities music scene as she struggled to break out. After a few years in various bands, she released her debut solo album in 2013, which was first praised by local media outlets like Star Tribune and City Pages.

In 2015, she released her second album and started picking up steam. In fact, around this time, we can remember seeing her jump from small overlooked venues to bringing the house down at a still intimate show at First Ave.

By the time her 2017 single Truth Hurts started to go viral on TikTok, she was selling out the Xcel Energy Center!

6. Adam Young aka Owl City (Owatonna, MN)

  • Origin: Owatonna, MN
  • Biggest hit: Fireflies

Adam Young, founder of the platinum-record producing electronic music group Owl City, was raised in Owatonna, MN.

Young had just graduated from Owatonna Senior High School and was working at the local Coca-Cola warehouse when he started composing music in his head to pass the time. Young would then go home, record the music in his parent’s basement, and upload the songs to MySpace. The music soon went viral, and he signed a record deal in 2009.

His first album included the hit single Fireflies, which topped the charts at #1 and eventually became just the 99th song in history to be certified Diamond. At one point, the BBC reported that Fireflies was the UK’s 20th most downloaded song of all time.

Despite his continued success, Young still lives in Owatonna, although he has moved out of the parent’s basement. 😉

7. Mod Sun (Bloomington, MN)

  • Origin: Bloomington, MN
  • Biggest hit: Flames feat. Avril Lavigne

Mod Sun is a famous singer and rapper equally known for his chart-topping music as his wild-ride personal life. But before he was doing collaborations with Avril Lavigne, Mod Sun started with humble beginnings as the drummer for Twin Cities punk band The Semester. (Shout out to the The Garage in Burnsville!)

Mod Sun’s musical career started taking off with the release of his first solo album, Look Up, which peaked at #1 on Billboard’s Heatseekers chart in 2015. Since then, his influence has continued to rise, partially fueled by a roller coaster of a personal life that included a thruple relationship with Tana Mongeau and Bella Thorne, a near-death drug overdose, and an engagement and breakup to Canadian superstar Avril Lavigne. 

8. The Andrews Sisters (Minneapolis, MN)

  • Origin: Minneapolis, MN
  • Biggest hit: Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy

The Andrews Sisters were an influential harmony group from the 1930s and 40s. Bloomberg once called them “the most popular female vocal group of the first half of the 20th century” citing their estimated 90 million record sales and 46 hits on the Billboard’s top 10 pop charts. (For reference, that’s over twice as many top 10s as Beyonce… 😲)

The three sisters (Patty, Maxene, and Laverne) attended Franklin Junior High School and North High School in Minneapolis.

The group formed when Patty, the lead singer, was just 7 years old. Five years later, the sisters received their first public recognition by winning first place at a Minneapolis talent show at the Orpheum Theatre. Later, when the family’s restaurant closed in Minneapolis, the three sisters began touring the country to support the family, eventually gaining national attention from radio broadcasts of their performances.

9. Chad Smith – Red Hot Chili Peppers (St. Paul, MN)

  • Origin: St. Paul, MN
  • Biggest hit: Californication

Chad Smith is the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame drummer for the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

He was born in St. Paul, Minnesota, although outside of his birthplace, his connections to our state are limited. He grew up in Michigan, and he joined the Red Hot Chili Peppers in Los Angeles after open auditions in 1988.

10. Bernie Leadon – The Eagles (Minneapolis, MN)

  • Origin: Minneapolis, MN
  • Biggest hit: Hotel California

Bernie Leadon is another Minnesota-born Rock and Roll Hall of Famer.

He was born in Minneapolis in 1947, but he met fellow Eagles members in California in the 1960s.

11. Semisonic (Minneapolis, MN)

  • Origin: Minneapolis, MN
  • Biggest hit: Closing Time

Semisonic, best known for kicking stragglers out of bars on a nightly basis with their hit single Closing Time, is a band with true Minneapolis origins.

Lead singer Dan Wilson was born in St. Louis Park, MN, and bass player John Munson was born in Minneapolis. While living here, the two teamed up with drummer Jacob Slichter to form a band called Pleasure, which was later renamed Semisonic.

Their 1998 hit single, Closing Time, was recorded in Minneapolis. In an interview with Song Exploder, Dan Wilson even gave a shout out to ZVEX Effects, based in Minneapolis, for their distortion box that gave the song’s guitar solo its recognizable sound.

12. The Replacements (Minneapolis, MN)

  • Origin: Minneapolis, MN
  • Biggest hit: I Will Dare

The pioneering alternative rock band, The Replacements, were formed in Minneapolis.

Paul Westerberg (lead singer, guitarist, and songwriter), Tommy Stinson (bass player), and Chris Mars (drummer) were born in Minneapolis, and Bob Stinson (lead guitarist) was born in Waconia, MN.

The band recorded their first demo tape in the basement of Chris Mars’s Minneapolis house, and their first album was also recorded in Minneapolis. Their second album was recorded in Roseville, and the band spent a while building up a following around the Twin Cities before eventually taking the alternative rock genre by storm.

Today, the band has numerous landmarks around the Twin Cities. These include the subject of the Let It Be album cover (Bob and Tommy Stinson’s childhood home on Bryant Ave) and a memorial bench for Bob Stinson near Lake Bde Maka Ska.

13. Soul Asylum (Minneapolis, MN)

  • Origin: Minneapolis, MN
  • Biggest hit: Runaway Train

The alternative rock band Soul Asylum formed in Minneapolis in 1981, just over a decade before releasing their Grammy-winning single Runaway Train.

Throughout the 1980s, the band recorded most of their music at a studio on Nicollet Avenue in South Minneapolis.

14. Yung Gravy (Rochester, MN)

  • Origin: Rochester, MN
  • Biggest hit: Mr. Clean

Yung Gravy is a platinum-certified rapper with surprising roots to Minnesota.

He was born Matthew Raymond Hauri in Rochester, MN, and he attended Rochester’s Mayo High School before graduating from University of Wisconsin-Madison with a degree in marketing.

While in college, Hauri began rapping for fun and uploading his songs to Soundcloud, keeping his face anonymous and tagging his location as just “Minnesota/Wisconsin.”

With a few months before his final semester, his songs started gaining traction. After graduating, he was offered a marketing job, but he declined the offer and decided to instead spend the summer exploring music. He spent the next few months recording songs before releasing the viral music video for his hit song, Mr. Clean. The song would eventually be certified Platinum.

15. Motion City Soundtrack (Minneapolis, MN)

  • Origin: Minneapolis, MN
  • Biggest hit: Everything Is Alright

Motion City Soundtrack is local Minneapolis band that was a staple of the late 2000s punk-rock scene. Their lead singer, Justin Pierre, is originally from Mahtomedi and the guitarist, Joshua Cain, is from St. Paul.

In the band’s early days, they paid their dues in local venues around the Twin Cities, before breaking out and touring all over the world, including with hot-shot bands like Blink-182, Fall Out Boy, Panic at the Disco, and more. They had multiple albums land in the Top 20 on Billboard’s charts, and their biggest single, Everything is Alright, was certified gold in 2017.

16. Trampled by Turtles (Duluth, MN)

  • Origin: Duluth, MN
  • Biggest hit: Wait So Long

Trampled by Turtles is one of the top bluegrass/folk groups in the United States, and they hail from Minnesota’s North Shore.

The popular band formed in Duluth, Minnesota, and they originally gained traction performing at the Papa Charlie’s ski bar, one of the best restaurants/bars near Lutsen, MN.

They’ve since had three albums hit #1 on Billboard’s Bluegrass charts.

17. Tay Zonday (Minneapolis, MN)

  • Origin: Minneapolis, MN
  • Biggest hit: Chocolate Rain

Finally, we close with viral sensation, Tay Zonday.

While he might not have the critical acclaim of some of the other artists on this list, Tay Zonday is a Minneapolis local that published one of the most viral videos in the history of the internet.

In April 2007, while a PhD student at the University of Minnesota, Zonday (born in Minneapolis as Adam Bahner in 1982) uploaded an original song he called Chocolate Rain to YouTube. Within a few months, the song broke the internet. The Daily Telegraph reported that “Tay Zonday has written perhaps the most listened-to song in the world right now” and KnowYourMeme confirmed the song was among the 50 most viewed Youtube videos of all time. 

Before you ask whether Zonday is worthy of including on this list, ask yourself how many other artists have since performed alongside Weezer? Featured in a Superbowl Commercial with Beyonce? Covered by John Mayer or Green Day? Found on the front page of the Los Angeles Times? Interviewed on Good Morning America, twice? CNN? Jimmy Kimmel? A full-length Dr. Pepper Commercial?

Way to go, fellow Minnesota-native!

P.S. – Looking for more celebrities from Minnesota? Don’t miss our articles about famous authors from Minnesota and famous people from Minnesota.

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