Music of Illinois

Illinois, including Chicago, has a wide musical heritage. Chicago is most famously associated with the development of electric (or Chicago-style) blues music. Chicago was also a center of development for early jazz and later for house music, and includes a vibrant hip hop scene and R&B. Chicago also has a thriving rock scene that spans the breadth of the rock genre, from huge stadium-filling arena-rock bands to small local indie bands. Chicago has had a significant historical impact on the development of many rock subgenres including power pop, punk rock, indie rock, emo rock, pop punk, and alternative rock.

Illinois musicians with a #1 Billboard Hot 100 hit include artists from the 1950s: Sam Cooke; from the 1960s: The Buckinghams; from the 1970s: Earth, Wind & Fire, The Chi-Lites, The Staple Singers, Minnie Riperton, Styx; from the 1980s: Chicago, Cheap Trick, REO Speedwagon, Survivor, Richard Marx; from the 1990s: R. Kelly; from the 2000s: Kanye West, Twista, Plain White T's. Most of these artists are from Chicago, with soul singers Sam Cooke, Mavis Staples, Minnie Riperton, and R. Kelly hailing from the South Side. In addition, Chicago musicians with a #1 album on the Billboard 200 include bands The Smashing Pumpkins with Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness in 1995, Disturbed with 5 #1 albums like Indestructible, and Fall Out Boy with 3 #1 albums such as American Beauty/American Psycho in 2015; and rappers Common with Finding Forever in 2007, and Lupe Fiasco with Lasers in 2011. Also, Curtis Mayfield had a #1 Billboard 200 album with the Superfly (soundtrack) in 1972.


Main article: Chicago blues

Chicago blues music was developed as black musicians influenced by Delta blues joined the post-World War II migration to the burgeoning industrial city from the deep south, and, seeking a way to be heard in the raucous clubs, turned to electric guitar and other forms of amplified music. The result was a tough, gritty sound that directly led to the creation of rock and roll. As the style developed, artists added more instruments and diversification of styles. Key early Chicago blues artists included Howlin' Wolf, Willie Dixon, Bo Diddley and Muddy Waters. Chicago would continue to be a hotbed of activity in this genre, with artists including Buddy Guy, Koko Taylor, Junior Wells, Son Seals, and others calling the city home and performing regularly.


Main article: Music of Chicago

Chicago was the first important center of jazz as it left the city of its birth, New Orleans, Louisiana. The name jazz (and its early variations jass or jas) may have first been applied to the music in Chicago in the 1910s, as such hot New Orleans bands as Tom Brown's made a hit up north. New Orleans pioneers together with enthusiastic younger musicians from the Midwest gathered in Chicago. The result has sometimes been called Chicago Style. The saxophone first became a significant instrument in jazz in Chicago, and the city remained the most vibrant and advanced center of the music through the 1920s.

Famous jazz musicians originally from Illinois include trumpeter Miles Davis (from Alton, Illinois near St. Louis), clarinetist Benny Goodman "The King of Swing", Gene Krupa, Lee Sims, Ramsey Lewis, and Herbie Hancock, while singers Nat King Cole and Dinah Washington grew up in Chicago. One of early jazz's great groups, the Austin High Gang, originated from the western suburbs of Chicago. Sinyan Shen, internationally known for his Shanghai classical repertoire and Shanghai jazz performances based on tonal interests and just intervals, is based in Chicago.

Folk music

Burl Ives, hailing from downstate Illinois, helped popularize folk music, with releases beginning in the 1940s.

Chicago was a focal point for the folk music boom of the 1960s and early 1970s. A center of activity was the Old Town School of Folk Music which opened in the late 1950s and helped launch the careers of many folk musicians associated with the city, including John Prine, Steve Goodman, and Bonnie Koloc.

A large influx of Polish immigrants into Chicago in the late 19th and early 20th centuries brought Polka music with them; this music evolved into several local styles. The Polka Hall of Fame is located in Chicago, and is home to the International Polka Association which hosts a yearly convention.

There is a thriving indie folk scene across the state, most notably from Chicago south to Bloomington.

Country music

With the largest country radio station, WUSN in Chicago, Illinois has become one of the leading country music destinations outside of Nashville, Tennessee.

Alison Krauss was part of the revival of bluegrass music in the late 1990s. She grew up in the central Illinois city of Champaign. Suzy Bogguss from Aledo in western Illinois had a number of country hits in the 1990s. Gretchen Wilson of Pocahontas, Illinois charted several top ten hits from 2004 to 2006. She had a #1 album on the Billboard 200. David Lee Murphy who hails from Herrin, Illinois had hits in the mid-1990s. Joshua Scott Jones, winner of Season 2 of CMT "Can You Duet" and one-half of the duo "Steel Magnolia", is from the southeastern town of Charleston, Illinois.Meanwhile, in the Alternative Country Scene,The Band Uncle Tupelo hailing from Belleville are considered early pioneers to genre(Their breakup would later form the bands Son Volt and Wilco from their former members).Illinois is also a center of the shaped note singing revival with the Midwest Sacred Harp convention taking place yearly in Chicago.

Rock and roll

Singer Sam Cooke was raised in Chicago (and had a #1 Top 100 hit with "You Send Me" in 1957), and Phil Everly of the Everly Brothers, Minnie Riperton (who had a #1 Hot 100 hit with "Lovin' You" in 1975), and singer-musician Curtis Mayfield were born there. Earth, Wind & Fire had a #1 Billboard Hot 100 hit with the funk and disco song "Shining Star" in 1975. The Staple Singers had a #1 Hot 100 hit with "I'll Take You There" in 1972. Notable Illinois pop and rock bands include The Smashing Pumpkins, Styx (who had a #1 Hot 100 hit with "Babe" in 1979, and whose members originally lived in the Chicago suburbs), Chicago (the original members of which were students at DePaul University in Chicago and hailed from the area, though they moved to Los Angeles before becoming famous and eventually releasing 3 #1 Hot 100 hits, including "Look Away" in 1988), Jim Peterik (who founded Chicago-area band the Ides of March and was later a member of Survivor (who had a #1 hit with "Eye of the Tiger" from Rocky III in 1982). The Boyzz, or the Boyzz from Illinois, were a hard rock, boogie band from the Fox River Grove area. Nearby Rockford, Illinois produced the power pop four-some Cheap Trick (who had a #1 Hot 100 hit with "The Flame" in 1988) and 1970s hard rock band Stone Cold Fever. Members of REO Speedwagon hailed from Champaign-Urbana and Sterling. They had 2 #1 Hot 100 hits including "Keep on Loving You" in 1980. Richard Marx had 3 #1 Hot 100 hits including "Right Here Waiting" in 1989. Enuff Z'nuff, who had a couple of minor hits in 1989 with the songs "New Thing" and "Fly High Michelle", hailed from the Chicago suburb of Blue Island. The Southern and South Central Illinois regions have also produced influential rock, most notably Head East. Dan Fogelberg, an influential singer/songwriter of the 1970s and 1980s, was from Peoria, Illinois. The heavy metal band Mudvayne was also a product of Peoria. The death/doom metal band Novembers Doom are from Chicago. The death metal band Macabre is from Downers Grove. The rock band Dope from Villa Park was formed in Chicago. Songwriters who hail from the Chicago area have had success on the US pop rock charts as well, including Jim Whelan, from Wilmette who co-wrote Belinda Carlisle's Go-Go's first hit. Illinois musicians inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame include Sam Cooke, Muddy Waters, The Impressions and Curtis Mayfield, The Staple Singers; Earth, Wind & Fire; Buddy Guy, Miles Davis, Paul Butterfield Blues Band, Chicago, and Cheap Trick.

Sunshine pop

From the years 1966 to 1967, the Chicago area was a key area in the rise of Sunshine pop, a genre that evolved out of surf-rock and early pop/rock acts such as the Mamas and the Papas. This fad featured bands such as Shadows of Knight, The New Colony Six, The Cryan' Shames, Ides of March, The Mauds, Mason Proffit, H.P. Lovecraft, most notably The Buckinghams, among others. The Buckinghams topped the Hot 100 charts in 1966 with their song 'Kind of a Drag'. The Shadows of Knight's cover of Van Morrison's Gloria is still a classic 40 years later. The Ides of March (band) topped the chart with Vehicle. This was a great period during the 1960s where Chicago was a very happening place both musically and nationally with the 1968 Democratic National Convention and the Sly and the Family Stone riot. This fad died with the growth of psychedelia, and so did the popularity of most of these bands.

Punk rock

Main article: Chicago hardcore

The first punk rock club in Chicago was La Mere Vipere, located near DePaul University. Chicago's first punk rock band was The Crucified, who issued their own self-titled EP in 1977. Hated by the locals, La Mere Vipere "mysteriously" burned down in 1978. A gay club called O'Banion's replaced it, and new wave bands like Special Effect, The Dadistics, Epicycle and Ono played there. Another gay bar, Oz, soon opened and began catering to the burgeoning hardcore punk scene as local bands like Naked Raygun, Big Black, Strike Under and, most famously, The Effigies, formed. The next wave of Chicago hardcore was more pure hardcore, as opposed to incorporating many different influences, and included Articles of Faith and Rights of the Accused. Shellac are a Chicago post-hardcore band formed in 1992. Arguably the most popular Punk Rock band from Chicago is Rise Against - a politically charged 4 piece band who formed in 1999. In Elmurst, IL the band the Orwells is a smaller punk band that has been making a name for themselves since 2009.

Pop punk

Fall Out Boy, from Wilmette, Illinois, has been the most commercially successful band to come from the Chicago area in recent years, scoring 3 #1 albums on the Billboard Hot 200. Chicago maintains a thriving pop punk scene. Bands such as Allister, The Lawrence Arms, The Squids, and Alkaline Trio are prime examples of "second wave" pop-punk musical acts that hail from Chicago. Smoking Popes, another Chicago-area pop-punk band, maintains a small but loyal following throughout the country. The Fireside Bowl provided a venue for many local acts cutting their teeth, and a unique venue for touring bands. Celtic punk rock bands Like The Tossers and Flatfoot 56 are also from Chicago. Material Issue power popped the late 1980s and early 1990s.

Alternative rock

Growing out of the Chicago hardcore scene was a vibrant industrial rock tradition in the mid-1980s. Industrial musicians from Chicago included members of Ministry, My Life with the Thrill Kill Kult, and Pailhead. The Chicago-based Wax Trax! label put out several key industrial rock recordings during the 1980s.

During the early 1990s, several Illinois alternative rock artists garnered national attention, including Didjits, Disturbed, SOiL, The Smashing Pumpkins, Local H, Liz Phair, Urge Overkill, and Veruca Salt. Members of several notable early 1990s alternative rock groups were originally from the state. Soundgarden's Kim Thayil and Bruce Pavitt, the founder of Sub Pop Records, both were from Illinois and Pearl Jam frontman Eddie Vedder was originally from Evanston, Illinois. The guitarist Tom Morello (of the bands Rage Against the Machine and Audioslave) was originally from Libertyville, Illinois as well as Adam Jones from the band Tool. Kill Hannah, an alternative band from Chicago, Illinois, has gained great popularity over the last few years, and still remains famous in Chicago, playing their annual Christmas show in their hometown. The space rock band Hum originate from Champaign, Illinois. The band Chevelle originated from Grayslake, Illinois. Wilco, a popular Chicago-based indie rock group, formed out of the ashes of Uncle Tupelo, who in turn hailed from Belleville, Illinois. Lucky Boys Confusion is also from Illinois, in Downers Grove and Naperville. Also other bands that come from the Chicago area are The Hush Sound from Dupage County, The Academy Is... from Hoffman Estates and The Plain White T's who are also from Dupage County. The Plain White T's had a #1 Billboard Hot 100 hit with "Hey There Delilah" in 2007. Doug Pinnick, vocalist and bassist of the hard rock/progressive rock band King's X was from Joliet. The band Fall Out Boy also originated from the Chicago area.

Although not always Alternative Rock or necessarily Chicago area, Champaign, Illinois has a rich local rock scene, mainly because it is a large college town, home of the University of Illinois. Many of the surrounding towns throughout central and southern Illinois have rich local scenes, with a large number of hardcore bands and alternative rock bands. This includes the newly signed Tooth & Nail Records band Icon For Hire, based out of Decatur, Illinois, and the popular Champaign native So Long Forgotten. Illinois is also known for the famous Cornerstone Festival, which is held every year in Bushnell, Illinois on the Fourth of July time period. A new scene is rising from Chicago that includes bands such as Real Friends, Knuckle Puck, Sworn In, Marina City, Sleep On It, Mighty Fox, AyOH, and Bonfires.

Heavy metal

The late 1990s put nu-metal on the map with Disturbed from Chicago southwest side. Originally made up of members from the band Loudmouth who showed promise broke up with Dan Donegan going on to form Disturbed.

Christian rock

Illinois has several Christian Rock bands. Resurrection Band started in the early days of Jesus rock and became a forerunner of Christian metal. Whitecross was a heavy metal/glam metal band. BarlowGirl and Superchick where recognized nationally for their Christian music. The Normals were an alt rock band from Normal, Illinois while Ballydowse from Chicago performed Celtic rock. Resurrection Band and Jesus People USA ran the label, Grr Records, which produced several bands.


Illinois has a thriving indie music scene. Artists include: Smith Westerns, Andrew Bird, Jim O'Rourke, Tortoise, The Sea and Cake, and Gauntlet Hair. Chicago-based indie labels include Thrill Jockey Records, Touch and Go Records, Drag City, and Atavistic Records.

Chicago is also home to the indie music webzine Pitchfork Media.

Elsinore and Santa are two indie bands from Champaign-Urbana.

Electronic music

Main article: Chicago house

Chicago's greatest influence on electronic dance music is its role as the birthplace of house music. The name House music is said to come from the Chicago dance club, the Warehouse, where the legendary Frankie Knuckles DJed. The classic house record label Trax Records was based in Chicago, and put out seminal house records like Jamie Principle & Frankie Knuckles's "Your Love" and Marshall Jefferson's "Move Your Body". Other influential house artists to come out of Chicago include Adonis, Larry Heard, Ron Hardy, Phuture, Robert Owens, and Farley Jackmaster Funk.

Hip hop

Chicago has had a hip-hop scene for decades, but recent years have led to the rise of the city's hip-hop musicians, including Kanye West (who has had 3 #1 hits on the Billboard Hot 100 including "Gold Digger" in 2005. Kanye has also had 7 #1 consecutive albums on the Billboard 200 from 2005-2016.), Common, Chief Keef, Twista (who had a #1 Hot 100 hit with "Slow Jamz" ft. Kanye West in 2004), Rhymefest, R. Kelly (who had 2 #1 Hot 100 hits in the 1990s including "Bump n' Grind"), Lupe Fiasco, and Jeremih. On the underground level, Chicago is home to The Molemen, Robot Hilarious, Tomorrow Kings, Gravel Records and Mc juice. William Upski Wimsatt also began writing about hip-hop in Chicago.

Classical music

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra is Illinois' premier symphonic orchestra and has received widespread recognition for its recordings. The orchestra has received 10 Grammys in the classical album category, more than twice the number of any other group. Each summer since 2004, Southern Illinois University Carbondale plays host to the Southern Illinois Music Festival, which presents dozens of performances throughout the region. Classical singer Deborah Voigt was born in the Chicago area. Irwin Bazelon was a successful composer born in Evanston. Professional violinist David Kim was born in Carbondale.

See also


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