10 Cities That Influenced Music

Posted: July 18, 2019 in Music, Opinion, Rock Music, Things I Love
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For various reasons many cities have been the center of musical revivals, places where something special either started or was centered. Sometimes there doesn’t seem to be a rhyme (get it, rhyme?) or reason why the seed was planted there, but planted it was. Sometimes big cities like San Francisco, Los Angeles, London, Cleveland are New York City are involved, other times it’s a small college town like Austin, Texas. Some of the most famous musicians in the world came from places we don’t even associate with music. Hell, John Mellencamp grew up in Bloomington, Indiana. James Brown? Macon, Georgia. And although everyone thinks of Manhattan when hearing the Velvet Underground, they’re actually from Long Island. Of course, we all know what that hot-bed of music, Tupelo, Mississippi produced, right? The King himself, Elvis Presley. And Cleveland? While the term Rock ‘n’ Roll actually originated there with legendary DJ Alan Freed, it doesn’t really have its own sound, right?

I guess the old saying is true – it doesn’t matter where you’re from, it’s where you’re at. 

Anyway, what follows are 10 of the most influential musical cities, cities that changed the world of music as we know it. Let’s start our travels now . . .

DETROIT

  • We’re talkin’ Motown, baby. The Jackson 5, The Supremes, Marvin Gaye, Diana Ross, Smokey

    Smokey Robinson & The Miracles

    Robinson, and Stevie Wonder all began their careers in Detroit in the 1960’s. Berry Gordy started Tamla records there in the early 60’s, and it eventually evolved into the legendary Motown Records. Without Motown we wouldn’t have songs like “Heard It Through The Grapevine” by Marvin Gaye, “Dancing in the Street” by Martha and the Vandellas, “Please Mr. Postman”by the Marvelettes, “My Girl” by the Temptations, “Super Freak” by Rick James, or “Superstition” by Stevie Wonder. ‘Nuff said.

LIVERPOOL

  • Back in the 1950’s Liverpool was one of England’s biggest seaports. Sailors brought all sorts of American goods into the United Kingdom, including books, clothes . . . and records. A lot of these records were of the R & B variety. This made Liverpool one of the centers of American culture and American R & B music, and a couple young men named Paul McCartney and John Lennon were listening. The rest, as they say, is history. The British Invasion was on. Soon came not only The Beatles, but Gerry and the Pacemakers, Echo and the Bunnymen, Frankie Goes to Hollywood, The Las, The Searchers, The Wombats and more.

The King

MEMPHIS

  • Come on, man, Memphis could be argued as the birthplace of Rock and Roll. It had two legendary record labels, Sun Recored in the 50’s and Stax in the 60’s. The Memphis Sound was an eclectic mix of country, swing, gospel, and blues, and when you put them all together you got Rock and Freakin’ Roll. Legendary producer Sam Phillips once famously said this – “If I could find a white man who had the Negro sound and Negro feel, I could make a billion dollars.” Two years later Elvis Presley walked into his studio, and the rest was history.

NEW ORLEANS

  • I mean, the Birthplace of Jazz has to make the list, right? Not only Jazz, but Ragtime, Dixieland, Cajun and Zydeco all have strong bases in The Big Easy. Want some names? How ’bout none other than Louis Armstrong, Dr. John, Fats Domino, Harry Connick Jr. and Jelly Roll Morton? And oh yeah, we can’t forget a famous rapper – Lil’ Wayne.

NEW YORK CITY

  • Hip-Hop, Punk, and Disco all have strong roots in The Big Apple, and the artists from NYC are as diverse as music itself. What city could boast such wide-ranging artists such as Lady Gaga, Simon & Garfunkel, Beastie Boys, Santana, Billy Joel, Lou Reed, Talking Heads, KISS, The Ramones, and Jay-Z? New York has so many different sounds that you can’t really choose just one. PS- I can choose one because it’s my website – Punk. 

PHILADELPHIA

  • Now you’re in my wheelhouse, baby. The Philly Sound! The Philly Sound combined the rhythms of Motown but added symphonies and dare I say Beatlesque production to make some of the best damn sound ever created. God how I loved the music coming out of Philadelphia during the early 70s. I loved a million of these artists, but I’ll list my absolute favorites – Blue Magic, the Delfonics, Hall & Oates, Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes, the O’Jays, The Spinners, and The Stylistics. Also, there’s another legend that emerged from Philly during this time that doesn’t really fit any musical genre – Mr. Todd Rundgren. Put him in the Hall of Fame! Fun Fact: The O’ Jays were originally from Ohio!

R.E.M.

ATHENS

  • As in Athens, Georgia to be precise. In the late 70s-early 80s Athens became the city that produced a big part of the sound that was to be called Alternative Music. Bands like The B-52s, Love Tractor, Drive-By Truckers, Pylon, Widespread Panic, The Whigs, and the greatest of all, R.E.M. began playing in the little college town of Athens.

MINNEAPOLIS

  • Around the same time Alt Music was kicking off in Athens, another alt music revolution was taking place up north in Minneapolis. Bands such as Hüsker Dü, The Replacements, Soul Asylum, Babes in Toyland and Semisonic all came blasting out of the Twin Cities with their unique take on Alternative Music. Oh, and there was another sound coming out of the area as well – a nasty blend of funk-rock by some dude who called himself Prince.

CHICAGO

  • Although being famous for a lot of genres, Chicago is probably most famous for one – The Blues. Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Willie Dixon, Buddy Guy, and Bo Diddley all sharpened their skills in the Windy City. Other famous bands or artists that originated there? How about Chicago, The Chi-Lites, Rufus, REO Speedwagon and Cheap Trick?

SEATTLE

  • Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and Soundgarden. Need I say more? Actually I need to. Why? Because bands

    The Melvins

    like Mudhoney, Green River, Screaming Trees and most notably The Melvins, all started the whole Grunge movement of the early-80s to mid-90s. Alice in Chains too! By the way, Grunge music was, in a nutshell, music that was loud, tough . . . and molasses slow.

So there ya go. My Top 10 Cities that influenced music. What did I miss? Who ya got? Lemme hear it.

Gimme a holler.

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