Top Five Chicago Artists

By Alex Fiore

Chicago has a deep and complex musical history, rooted in decades of blues and jazz tradition. As the years went by, Chicagoans saw local artists like Lupe Fiasco, R. Kelly, Rise Against and Styx grow up and make it big. But which artist is really the most emblematic of a city that has produced such a wide array of musical talent?

“If you have any appreciation about Chicago music, you must respect all eras, including those of today and yesterday,” said senior finance major Joe Rocco,

Very true. Find out which artists I think sit atop the city of broad shoulders as I present my top five artists ever produced by the city of Chicago. (To be considered, the artists don’t need to be born in Chicago, but they need to have gotten their break while living there.)

5. The Smashing Pumpkins

Following the likes of Nirvana and Pearl Jam, the Pumpkins made their way into the grunge/alternative scene in the early ’90s, hitting it big with 1993’s Siamese Dream. Soon after, the group was selling out Chicago clubs like the Metro and would go down as one of the greatest alternative acts of all time.

“They were innovators of the grunge era,” Rocco said. “They were the biggest thing to come out of Chicago since who? Styx?”

4. Curtis Mayfield & the Impressions

Formed in 1958, soul powerhouse the Impressions was a leading voice in the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s. The group’s crowning achievement is the anti-racism ballad “People Get Ready,” in which Mayfield delicately croons about escaping the Cabrini-Green projects where he grew up.

3. Nat King Cole

One of the most influential, recognizable voices in jazz history, Nat King Cole grew up performing in Chicago and perfected his craft before leaving for Los Angeles in 1936, taking the Chicago jazz tradition with him out west.

2. Kanye West

In his music, West leaves absolutely no confusion as to where he grew up. Songs like “Homecoming” and “Two Words” sing the praises of the Second City. West is also largely responsible for the recent explosion of the Chicago hip-hop scene that has produced artists like Fiasco and Common. “The lyrics in all of Kayne’s songs are so powerful and deliberate,” said Gina Reggi, senior business administration major. “The music isn’t just about how it sounds, but what it’s saying.”

1. Muddy Waters

Chicago is the blues, and no man is more emblematic of the blues the Muddy Waters. Waters moved to Chicago from the Mississippi Delta in 1943 and quickly earned a name for himself performing to sold-out clubs on the city’s south side. Waters’ brand of deep, gut-wrenching blues would go on to influence the Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton, Led Zeppelin and countless other bands.