With the Chicago Cubs advancing to the World Series for the first time since 1945, djrobblog pays tribute to the Windy City with an updated countdown of the 25 greatest musicians to hail from the nation’s third largest city.
(This article was republished on October 23, 2016. A previous version was published in May 2015.)
Any true Chicagoan knows that not everyone in the city is celebrating the Cubs’ first National League Pennant in 71 years, as those on the city’s south side – being true fans of cross-town rivals the White Sox – likely took the first red line train out of the Loop when the Cubs turned the game’s final double play to seal their trip to Cleveland to meet the Indians in the Fall Classic.
But regardless of which Chicago team one roots for, or which side of the city Chicagoans claim as their own, all Chicagoland residents can be proud of the rich musical legacy that the city’s artists have created over the decades.
Chicago has long been known for its contributions in blues and blues-oriented rock music. Several of the genre’s biggest names – many of whom are Rock and Roll Hall of Famers – have hailed from this great city.
There are many non-RRHOF artists on this list as well – noteworthy ones who may be there soon, but whose musical accomplishments stand out nonetheless.
So I’ve come up with this ranking of who I consider to be Chicago’s 25 best, with a short story for each. With lots of chart facts and figures and other information at my disposal, I think I’ve been able to come up with a list that – at the very least – approximates Chicago’s most influential, most successful acts of the rock-and-roll and hip-hop eras (i.e., from the 1950s to now).
I considered as eligible any solo artist who was born or raised in Chicago or any of the city’s many suburbs, or any band whose members were primarily born/raised in the area or which was formed here. It also includes any artists who’ve spent a considerable amount of their lives here and have called it home. Of course, these rankings also take into account record sales, chart performance, critical recognition, innovation, amount of influence and general popularity (and in some cases, level of disdain – which ironically can also be a measure of one’s significance in the industry).
So now I present to you this countdown of Chicago’s Best 25 Music artists. You may disagree with the exclusion, inclusion or ranking of some of these musicians, and I welcome your views in the comment section below the article.
To hear the notable songs listed for each recording artist, click here for my Top 25 Chicago Artists playlist on Spotify.
Here they are:
Tied - 25. Paul Butterfield
Notable songs: "I Got My Mojo Working" (1965); "Born In Chicago" (1965); "Shake Your Money Maker" (1965).
Paul Butterfield was born in Chicago in 1942. He was raised in the Hyde Park area and played with great Chicago Blues artists like Muddy Waters (who comes up later on this list), Howlin' Wolf and others. Unlike most of the rock and roll greats coming out of the Chicago Blues scene, Butterfield's specialty was the harmonica, which is featured prominently on his band's songs. Butterfield died in 1987 at a young age and his group, The Paul Butterfield Blues Band, was inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2015.
Other notable Chicago-based musicians not making the list: The Emotions, Jennifer Hudson, Ministry, Ramsey Lewis, Gene Chandler, Flamingos, Donny Hathaway, Da Brat, Liz Phair, Lupe Fiasco, Veruca Salt, Disturbed, Warren Zevon, Benny Goodman, Jeremih, Phil Everly*, Herbie Hancock, Philip Bailey, Krewella, Plain White T’s, the Buckinghams, OK Go, Twista, Avant, Peter Cetera, Frankie Knuckles, Donell Jones, Impressions**
*Note – Phil Everly of the Everly Brothers was born in Chicago, but his brother Don was not, and the duo did not consider Chicago home, otherwise they would have been strong contenders for this list.
**Note – The Impressions as a group were certainly eligible for this list, however their success was largely the work of lead singers Jerry Butler and Curtis Mayfield, both of whom made the list as solo artists and were credited for their work with the legendary group.