17 Most Famous Minnesota Musicians

Unfortunately, I’ve never been to Minnesota, but several of my friends and family members have, and they all rave about how beautiful the countryside is there and one of them even moved to Minneapolis. 

But I do know it’s a place that has some strange paradoxes.

For example, the lakes are well known for fishing and of course, the loons that inhabit those lakes are equally famous for their calls. It sounds like Minnesota is a natural paradise, right?

On the other hand, the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul offer a big city environment that some people describe as being pretty tough to live in, especially in the last few years.

And even further from the idea of a natural paradise is something called the Mall of America, which is the largest mall in the USA. You could literally live in there for the rest of your life and never see the sky again. 

Well, maybe someday I’ll make it there and understand the place a little better, but for now, I guess I’ll have to content myself with the music from this cold Northern state.

But I  have to wonder, does the dichotomy of country lakes and concrete jungles exist in the music?

Perhaps it does… Duluth, Minnesota was home to one of the biggest Folk musicians in recent history while Minneapolis had some of the most respected underground (punk) Rock bands of the 80s

There are some other massively successful stars from the state too, but except for a couple of people, another thing stands out to me as well. 

Almost all of the “big” musicians we will take a look at today became popular no later than the early 90s and most of them were from the 80s or much earlier. 

Yes, I’m sure that there are fantastic local bands to experience there.

But after making this list, and admittedly from an outsider’s point of view, I kind of think it’s time for Minnesota to step up its music game for this generation. 

Until then, these are the artists you should be listening to. Let’s get started. 

1. Bastards of Young – The Replacements

Along with Hüsker Dü, The Replacements helped put Minneapolis Rock music on the map in the 1980s…

But I don’t think it was just a couple of bands putting out music, it was “a scene” and I’m kind of jealous of people that got to experience it.

Because just like Grunge in Seattle or Southern Rap in Atlanta, once the rest of the country finds out about it, some of the spark and magic is already gone. 

You really had to be there at the beginning to see the famous bands when they were performing local shows to a few excited people!

Although The Replacements still get together for tours and to release some EPs, I think their real legacy these days is the influence that they have had on Alternative music over the years. 

2. Raspberry Beret – Prince and The Revolution

Prince was obviously one of the most beloved superstars in the music business, shocking the world when he overdosed on fentanyl a few years ago. 

And he was a multi-instrumentalist who could seemingly do anything, not to mention a singer who could hit the really high notes, an entertaining performer who could dance… you get the idea.

I admit I didn’t really experience him in the 80s like many other people did. Because I swear a lot of people about ten years older than me talk about him like he was the second coming of Christ. 

Of course, I’ve seen his Purple Rain film, and l love his music, but at my age, I also remember him changing his name due to fights with record labels, being parodied on The Chappelle Show, and being one of the earliest musical artists to constantly take down his music from Youtube.

But I know that stuff isn’t really important; it’s the music he left us that matters. 

And while a lot of music superstars tend to leave their Midwest or smaller city homes for the major metropolises, Prince continued to live just outside of Minneapolis. 

So he was a true Minnesota legend who never forgot his roots. 

3. Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door – Bob Dylan

Good ol’ Bob was born in Duluth, Minnesota, and while many people know the name of the city that’s probably because he was born there. 

I don’t know what the population there was in the 1940s when he was born, but today it is home to less than 100,000 people. That’s a decent amount of people but I feel like it’s pretty small compared to most cities.

So how did Dylan become one of the biggest musical phenomenons of the 1960s and also one of the most influential songwriters?

Well from Duluth, he went to the University of Minnesota (in Minneapolis), then to New York City to pursue his musical dreams

For the last forty years, he has been living in Malibu, California, but I still think his small-city upbringing had an effect on his music and who he became as a person. 

And I know there has been some controversy about his music over the years. Some people say that he copied other singers’ styles, but that doesn’t really account for decades of success, does it?

But there was that time that someone was listening to one of his newer albums after reading Junichi Saga’s Confessions of a Yakuza and realized Dylan’s lyrics were a little too similar to some lines in the book. 

Whatever… I mean, all musicians copy styles and take bits and pieces of other things to a certain extent. 

And the music world just wouldn’t be the same without this Folk hero.

4. About Damn Time – Lizzo

Lizzo is by far the most popular star to come out of Minnesota in the last decade and she’s made quite an impression.

But in today’s social media landscape, I feel like I hear “about” her more than I hear her actual music, which is a shame. 

There’s a silver lining though as she uses her stardom to tear down the unwritten law that female music performers need to look like supermodels, instead spreading a message of body positivity. 

She was actually raised in Michigan and Texas but she later moved to Minneapolis to pursue her music career: a decision that worked out pretty well for her and fans of Funky and Soulful Hip Hop.

I expect we’ll be hearing about LIzzo for years to come and I personally love that she plays the flute too.   

5. Golden – Cory Wong feat. Cody Fry

The other “recent” Minnesota star on this list also moved to Minneapolis though he was born in New York. 

He’s a super talented guitar player who can play many styles from Jazz to Rock, but the thing that stands out to me about his playing is how damn smooth it always is. 

Fender took notice too and Cory has a signature Stratocaster guitar with the brand, although the $2200 price tag probably seems a bit steep for most people (including me). 

And for fans of Funk music, check out his work with Michigan-based band Vulfpeck on songs like Dean Town and 3 on E. You won’t regret it!

6. God’s Bathroom Floor – Atmosphere

7. Runaway Train – Soul Asylum

8. Closing Time – Semisonic

9. Three Steps to Heaven – Eddie Cochran

10. Surfin’ Bird – The Trashmen

11. Waiting for the Sun – The Jayhawks

12. Don’t Want to Know If You Are Lonely – Hüsker Dü

13. Funkytown – Lipps Inc.

14. What’s on Your Mind (Pure Energy) – Information Society

15. Tiptoe Through the Tulips – Tiny Tim

16. Bruise Violet – Babes in Toyland

17. Crush with Eyeliner – Bill Berry (drummer for R.E.M.)