Since the late 1950s when Minnesota-native Bob Dylan broke onto the folk-rock scene playing free shows on the West Bank of the University of Minnesota, Minnesota has highly impacted American music and some of the world’s most respected and well-known artists got their start in Minneapolis clubs.
THE 80S – THE R&B AND PUNK ERA
The early 1980s helped define Minneapolis’ sound and launched the careers of R&B mega-producing team Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis, who started the band that would become The Time and was joined by Morris Day and toured as an opening act for Prince. The team then went on to produce such artists as Janet Jackson, Sounds of Blackness, Boyz II Men, Alexander O’Neal, Cherrelle and Patti LaBelle.
Also in the 80s, Minneapolis’ innovative punk scene and the rise of music-royalty Prince solidified Minneapolis’ music scene place on the map. Several bands including The Suicide Commandos, Hüsker Dü, Soul Asylum and The Replacements quickly rose to punk cult status and became pivotal in the development of alternative rock. Hit songs like, “What’s on Your Mind (Pure Energy)” by Minneapolis area band Information Society and The Jayhawks modern folk-rock sound, helped to further solidify Minneapolis purely original sound. But the “Minneapolis sound” was truly pioneered by Prince’s hybrid mixture of funk, rock, pop, R&B and New Wave. It has influenced many other musicians.
THE 90S - MORE COMMERCIAL SUCCESS
The 1990s saw continued success for Minneapolis bands. Prince introduced one of his most popular albums, Diamonds and Pearls, and Semisonic, an alternative rock band formed in 1995, topped the charts in 1998 with their single “Closing Time.” Semisonic member and Minneapolis resident Dan Wilson continues to top charts today with his songwriting for Adele, Keith Urban, Josh Groban and many more.
INTO THE NEW MILLENNIUM – MAKING WAVES IN THE HIP-HOP SCENE
Home to a thriving underground hip hop scene due largely to the presence of Rhymesayers Entertainment and Doomtree – two major hip hop crews whose artists include Atmosphere and P.O.S., as well as a growing techno/dance landscape, Minneapolis is still a musical hotbed.
FIRST AVENUE STARS IN THE MINNEAPOLIS MUSIC SCENE
First Avenue has been the starting point for virtually every single band to come out of the Twin Cities, including The Replacements, Hüsker Dü, Prince, Soul Asylum, Semisonic, American Head Charge, Atmosphere, Brother Ali, Dillinger Four, Dosh, The Jayhawks, Curtiss A and many others.
Bands and artists have performed at the nightclub and influenced the Minneapolis music scene from 1970 onward, as exemplified by the silver stars that adorn the black building’s exterior (every star has the name of an artist who has played at First Avenue or 7th Street Entry).
First Avenue also appeared in Prince’s 1984 film Purple Rain. U2 wrote part of October at First Avenue during a sound check. And Grammy Award winning alt-country star Lucinda Williams was married on stage here, following her performance at First Avenue in 2009.