Illinois is home to some of the most influential musicians of all time. From jazz and blues to country and rock, the state has produced countless legends whose impact on music is still relevant to this day. Their music and contributions are out of the ordinary, with artists that are also rappers, producers, and multi-instrumentalists.
Let’s take a closer look at the 20 famous musicians from Illinois and explore the significant impact they’ve made on the music industry.
- 1. Styx
- 2. Ludacris
- 3. Cheap Trick
- 4. Miles Davis
- 5. The Smashing Pumpkins
- 6. Patti Smith
- 7. Chicago
- 8. Benny Goodman
- 9. REO Speedwagon
- 10. Minnie Riperton
- 11. Alison Krauss
- 12. Curtis Mayfield
- 13. Donny Hathaway
- 14. Fall Out Boy
- 15. Disturbed
- 16. Chance the Rapper
- 17. Eddie Vedder
- 18. Juice WRLD
- 19. Head East
- 20. John Prine
Styx is a legendary rock band who made hits such as “Come Sail Away,” “Renegade,” and “Mr. Roboto.” The band’s unique sound, which blended progressive rock with pop and hard rock elements, they have made top-charting hits that helped establish them as one of the most successful acts of their era.
Styx has sold over 54 million units worldwide and has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Ludacris, whose real name is Christopher Brian Bridges, is a rapper, actor, and producer. He rose to prominence in the early 2000s with his hit single “Southern Hospitality” and has since become one of the most successful and influential rappers.
Ludacris has won numerous awards, including three Grammys, and has starred in several popular films, including the Fast and Furious franchise.
3. Cheap Trick
Cheap Trick is a rock band from Rockford, Illinois. The band’s catchy pop-rock sound, highlighted by the unique vocal style of lead singer Robin Zander and the guitar heroics of Rick Nielsen, made them one of the most successful and beloved acts.
They gained fame in Japan with their second album “In Color.” Cheap Trick has sold over 20 million units and has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
4. Miles Davis
Miles Davis was a jazz trumpeter and composer who is widely regarded as one of the most influential musicians in the history of jazz. Davis’ career spanned several decades, and he played a key role in the development of numerous jazz sub-genres, including bebop, cool jazz, and jazz fusion.
Some of his best songs are “So What,” “Concierto de Aranjuez,” and “Venus de Milo.” With eight Grammy Awards and other accolades, Davis’ innovative approach to improvisation and his willingness to experiment with new sounds and techniques helped push the boundaries of jazz.
5. The Smashing Pumpkins
The Smashing Pumpkins is an alternative rock band who is known for its unique sound, which blends heavy guitars with dream pop melodies and brooding lyrics.
With songs “Bullet with Butterfly Wings” and “The End Is the Beginning Is the End,” they have greatly established their music and also won two Grammy Awards.
6. Patti Smith
Patti Smith is a singer-songwriter, poet, and painter who rose to fame in the 1970s as part of the punk rock movement with her debut album entitled, “Horses.”
Smith is known for her high energy live performances and her poetic lyrics. She has won numerous awards throughout her career, including induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Chicago is a rock band whose unique sound, which blended rock, jazz, and pop elements, helped establish them as one of the most successful acts of their era.
Chicago has sold over 100 million units worldwide and has had numerous hit singles, including “Saturday in the Park,” “25 or 6 to 4,” and “If You Leave Me Now.”
8. Benny Goodman
Famed as the “King of Swing,” Benny Goodman was a clarinetist and bandleader who is widely regarded as one of the most influential musicians in the history of jazz. Goodman was known for his technical skill and his ability to bridge the gap between jazz and classical music.
He is best known for his performance of “Sing, Sing, Sing” at the 1938 Carnegie Hall concert, which is considered one of the most iconic performances in the jazz world.
9. REO Speedwagon
The band behind the hit “Can’t Fight This Feeling,” REO Speedwagon is a rock band from Champaign, Illinois. The band’s catchy pop-rock sound, highlighted by the soaring vocals of lead singer Kevin Cronin, made them one of the most successful and popular bands of the 1980s.
REO Speedwagon has sold over 40 million records worldwide and has had numerous hit singles, including “Keep on Loving You” and “Take It On The Run.”
10. Minnie Riperton
Minnie Riperton was a singer who is best known for her hit single “Lovin’ You,” which reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1975.
Riperton was known for her remarkable vocal range and her ability to hit high notes with ease. She also collaborated with other iconic artists, such as Stevie Wonder and Peabo Byson.
11. Alison Krauss
Alison Krauss is a bluegrass-country singer and musician from Decatur, Illinois. She has won a whopping 27 Grammy Awards, making her one of the female artists with the most wins in Grammy history.
Krauss is known for her angelic voice and her ability to blend traditional bluegrass with contemporary styles. Some of her most famous songs include “When You Say Nothing at All,” “Baby, Now That I Found You,” and “Whiskey Lullaby.”
12. Curtis Mayfield
Curtis Mayfield was a singer, songwriter, and record producer. He is best known for his work as a member of the group The Impressions and for his solo career, which produced hits such as “Superfly” and “Move on Up.”
Mayfield’s socially conscious lyrics and innovative use of rhythm and melody helped shape the sound of soul and funk music in the 1960s and 1970s.
13. Donny Hathaway
Donny Hathaway was a singer-songwriter, arranger, and musician who is considered one of the legendary soul singers of all time.
He is known for his smooth and soulful voice and his ability to blend elements of gospel, R&B, and jazz into his music. Hathaway’s most famous songs include “The Ghetto” and “A Song for You.”
14. Fall Out Boy
Fall Out Boy is a rock band who are famed for their unique sound, which blended punk, pop, and emo elements, helped establish them as one of the most successful and popular acts of the 2000s. Fall Out Boy has released numerous hit singles, including “Sugar, We’re Goin Down” and “Dance, Dance.”
A heavy metal band that formed in the late 1990s, Disturbed is known for its aggressive sound and politically charged lyrics. Some of their most famous songs include “Down with the Sickness” and “The Sound of Silence,” a cover of the Simon & Garfunkel classic that became a surprise hit in 2015.
16. Chance the Rapper
Chance the Rapper gained fame in the early 2010s with his mixtapes, which showcased his unique style of blending R&B and hip hop.
Chance has won three Grammy Awards and has collaborated with other famous artists, such as Ed Sheeran, Cardi B, and Saba. Some of his most famous songs include “No Problem,” “Chain Smoker,” and “Blessings.”
17. Eddie Vedder
Eddie Vedder is a singer-songwriter, and musician who is famed for being the lead vocalist of the band Pearl Jam. He has also released several solo albums and contributed to various soundtracks and collaborations.
His talent in songwriting and singing has allowed him to make contributions to film soundtracks.
18. Juice WRLD
The man behind the catchy song “Lucid Dreams,” Juice WRLD was a rapper, singer, and songwriter who rose to fame for his introspective and emotional lyrics and his ability to blend elements of hip hop, rock, and pop into his music. Juice WRLD’s most famous songs include “Bandit” and “All Girls Are the Same.”
19. Head East
Head East is a classic rock band from East Central Illinois that formed in the early 1970s. The band’s catchy and upbeat sound helped them score several hit singles, including “Never Been Any Reason” and “Love Me Tonight.”
While they had multiple lineup changes over the years, they have maintained a dedicated following of fans for over four decades.
20. John Prine
John Prine was a singer-songwriter, actor and guitarist. He was known for his clever and poignant lyrics, his unique guitar playing style, and his distinctive voice.
Prine’s most famous songs include “”Angel from Montgomery” “Illegal Smile,” and “Paradise.” He passed away in 2020 at the age of 73, but his legacy continues to inspire generations of musicians and fans alike.
The state of Illinois is jam-packed with the most talented musicians of all times. One of the most notable Illinois musicians is Alison Krauss, who has dominated the country music scene, while in the realm of rock and roll, Fall Out Boy has emerged as one of the most successful bands to come out of Illinois.
There are also many other thriving artists emerging from Illinois, making it a state worth exploring for music lovers.
Styx Featured Image (Top-Left) by: Ralph Arvesen, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Smashing Pumpkins Featured Image (Top-Right) by: Gyang333, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Fall Out Boy Featured Image (Bottom-Right) by: ECarterSterling, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons