10 Minneapolis Musical Connections You Should Know About
From folk to punk to the City’s very own “Minneapolis Sound”, Minneapolis musicians have been blending styles and genres in ways that defined the popular sonic landscape for generations. Below are just a few of the key artists and recordings that brought Minneapolis music to the world stage!
Article By: Kristen Zschomler, Historian, Sound History, LLC
1. Bob Dylan
“Minneapolis and St. Paul – the Twin Cities, they were rock and roll towns. I didn’t know that. I thought the only rock and roll towns were Memphis and Shreveport.”
Bob Dylan, 2017, when asked what Minneapolis was like when he first came there in 1959.
Bob Dylan moved to Minneapolis in 1959 from Hibbing, Minnesota to attend the University of Minnesota. He lived first in a Jewish fraternity house on campus and later above Gray’s Drug Store at 327 14th Avenue SE (now the Loring Pasta Bar). While here, Dylan performed with noted local folk artists like Spider John Koerner and Dave Ray at venues such as the 10 O’Clock Scholar Coffee House in Dinkytown. While Dylan's residency in Minneapolis was short-lived (he moved to New York City in January of 1961 to work with folk legend Woody Guthrie), he remained connected to the City. Dylan returned in 1974 to record five songs for his landmark album, Blood on The Tracks, at the legendary Sound 80 Recording Studio; and he and his brother David Zimmerman owned and operated the Orpheum Theater on Hennepin Avenue in the 1980s. Dylan's time in Minnesota and Minneapolis’s emerging folk scene helped shape the man who would become the spokesman for his generation and a continuing musical force to this day.
Check out more about the history of Bob Dylan's roots in Minneapolis.
“I will always live in Minneapolis. It’s so cold, it keeps the bad people out.”
Prince, 1996, when asked why he lived in Minneapolis.
Prince made Minneapolis famous through his 1984 movie, Purple Rain, which was set in the city and featured the its premier nightclub, First Avenue. He is also the primary architect of the “Minneapolis Sound,” a blending of rhythm and blues, funk, rock, pop, punk, and new wave that defined the music of the 1980s. Born Prince Rogers Nelson on June 7, 1958 in Minneapolis, he was the child of a jazz pianist and singer. A musical prodigy, Prince mastered the piano, guitar, bass and drums at a young age; and developed studio and recording skills that allowed him to fully produce, arrange, compose and perform complete albums by himself. He left a lasting legacy on music, culture, and the recording industry—and put Minneapolis music on the map.
Take a tour of Prince's Minneapolis.
3. Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis
"One thing the Northside taught me was honor. Because you had to be honorable and you had to be accountable for everything you did.”
Terry Lewis, 2018, when asked about what it meant to grow up in Minneapolis.
“It’s a Prince Sound. I think that’s where it all began, and everyone’s taken different pieces of it and turned it into their own sound.”
James “Jimmy Jam” Harris III, 1988, when asked to describe the Minneapolis Sound.
Producing and songwriting powerhouse duo Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis have more number one hits than any other team in music history, working with artists ranging from Mariah Carey to Boyz II Men to Usher. Born and raised in Minneapolis, they formed the band Flyte Tyme as teenagers and performed in Battle of the Bands competitions throughout the City, going up against Prince’s band Grand Central. As his star rose, Prince transformed their band into one of his many side projects, The Time fronted by his former drummer Morris Day. The duo had higher aspirations, however, and eventually broke from Prince. They opened Flyte Tyme Studio at 4330 Nicollet Avenue South in the 1980s, and attracted international acts such as The Human League and Janet Jackson. Ms. Jackson’s breakthrough album, Control, was recorded at their Minneapolis studio in 1985 and spread the elements of The Minneapolis Sound to an even wider audience when it was released the following year.
“When I moved to Minneapolis, I learned how to blend.”
Lizzo, 2018, when asked how she attempted to fuse musical aspects of places she lived.
A vocal powerhouse, master flautist, energetic dancer, skilled songwriter, and ambassador for empowerment and self love, Lizzo claims Minneapolis as an adopted home even though she currently resides in Los Angeles. She moved to Minneapolis in 2011, and quickly established herself as a cutting-edge musician through her involvement in the electro soul-pop duo Lizzo & The Larva Ink and as a member of two female-fronted hip hop groups, The Chalice and GRRL PRTY. She released her first two solo albums (Lizzobangers and Big GRRL Small World) while living here, and quickly caught the eye of Prince, who co-signed her. Working with Prince, the ultimate fuser of musical styles, she learned to take her love of pop, rap, rock and funk and make it her own sound. “It gave me confidence to be an artist, not just a rapper or a singer or a girl in a band,” she says. “When you’re an artist, you become eternal.” … “That’s the biggest lesson I learned from Prince: perpetuate positivity, and also art is forever. Be eternal.”
5. The Replacements
“I like it here. People treat me very nicely. People know who I am but I don’t get any crazy screaming fans. Well, I get one or two crazy people but they usually come from out of town.”
The Replacements’ front man Paul Westerberger, 2004, on how Minneapolis kept him grounded
The Replacements were an influential Minneapolis-based rock band formed in 1979. Lead songwriter and singer Paul Westerberger, bassist Tommy Stinson, guitarists Bobby Stinson and drummer Chris Mars combined punk, rock, country, and blues to capture the angst of the early 1980s. Often referred to as “one of the best bands to never make it”, the members self-destructive ways lead to many missed opportunities for greater commercial success. Nonetheless, they hold a special place in the history of rock music, and are often cited as the inspiration for the wave of alternative rock bands in the 1990s.
6. Hüsker Dü
“Oh, I don’t know… who knows? Fastest in town, maybe. Probably in the top 10 in the world.”
Bob Mould, guitarist and lead singer of Hüsker Dü, when asked in 1981 City Pages interview if they were the fastest band in the world.
Known for their fast, short songs, the punk band Hüsker Dü was founded in the late 1970s by Bob Mould (vocals and guitars); Greg Norton (bass), and the late Grant Hart (drums and vocals). The trio played key punk and rock venues throughout Minneapolis, including Jay’s Longhorn Bar, Kelly’s Bar, and First Avenue/7th Street Entry, and released 6 independent label records. Their growing success on college radio stations drew the attention of national labels, leading to their signing with Warner Bros. and the release of 3 more albums. While the band broke up in 1987, just before the explosion of alternative rock and grunge, their pioneering sounds are cited as a key influence by bands such as Soul Asylum, Nirvana, and Foo Fighters.
7. Babes in Toyland
“I’m very proud of the city I’m from. I’ve very proud of the people I’ve crossed paths with and continue to cross paths with. Being from the Twin Cities and just playing music.”
Babes in Toyland drummer, Lori Barbero, 2014, reflecting on her past
Babes in Toyland formed in 1986 and shook up the male-dominated punk music scene with the incisive lyrics and aggressive music of Kat Bjelland (vocal and guitar), Michelle Leon (bass), and Lori Barbero (drums). Like their peers The Replacements and Husker Du, the group released several records on the Minneapolis-based label Twin/Tone, and later signed with a branch of Warner Bros. Throughout the late 1980s and early 1990s, the band gained national and international praise for their unique punk rock offerings. Their 1992 album, Fontanelle, was a best-selling album which solidified their place in the alt-rock movement. Babes in Toyland is often noted as a key inspiration from modern punk rock bands such as Sleater Kinney and Bikini Kill.
8. Soul Asylum
“I feel very luck to be from Minneapolis. I use to call it the second greatest city in America, after New Orleans. And now they’re kind of tied for first.”
Soul Asylum lead singer Dave Pirner, 2016, when asked about how it felt to come back to Minneapolis from New Orleans.
Founded in 1981 as Loud Fast Rules, the band renamed themselves Soul Asylum two years later and released several records on the Twin/Tone label and A&M. Their signature “high-octane, punk-infused rock” was crafted by Dave Pirner (vocals and rhythm guitar), Dan Murphy(lead guitar), Karl Mueller(base), and Grant Young(drums). Soul Aslyum’s breakthrough moment came with the release of Grave Dancers Union in 1992. The album included the Grammy-award winning hit, Runaway Train, and established Soul Asylum as was one of the most successful alternative rock bands of the 1990s.
9. Funkytown - Minneapolis’s First Number One Hit!
“Won’t you take me to… Funkytown!”, Lipps, Inc. 1980
“Funkytown” was recorded in 1979 by Lipps, Inc. (pronounced “lip synch”) at Minneapolis’s premier recording studio, Sound 80. The song combined the declining disco genre with the upcoming new-wave sounds, with some old-school rhythm and blues mixed in. “Funkytown” is one of the most successful singles of all time and the first song recorded in Minnesota to chart at Number One.
10. Minneapolis was home to the World’s first digital Recording!
Today digital music is everywhere, and is something most people take for granted. The technology is relatively new, however, and it was developed in part right here in Minneapolis. The company 3M developed a digital recording system, and in 1978 recorded the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra performing Appalachian Spring inside the Sound 80 Recording Studios (then located at 2709 East 25th Street). The recording was the first ever digital recording for commercial release, and the first to win a Grammy Award. You can tour inside the building today, which also has the distinction of housing one of the quietest rooms in the world.
Sources and Additional Information:
For an in-depth history of Minneapolis music, including the addresses of key locations to visit: http://www.minneapolismn.gov/h...
25 Bob Dylan landmarks to visit in Minnesota, Star Tribune
The Minnesota Profile: Forever Bob Dylan, Star Tribune
The silent partner: Bob Dylan's days as owner of Minneapolis' Orpheum Theatre, Star Tribune
In-depth look at Prince's life
Visit key places that illustrate Prince's journey from the Northside to the World
Jam and Lewis Take Control, Rolling Stone
Why Janet Jackson Recorded Rhythm Nation in Minnesota, Mpls/St. Paul Magazine
Lizzo on Judging ‘Drag Race,’ Working With Prince and Becoming Eternal, Rolling Stone
Lizzo's career: A timeline from the Chalice to 'Cuz I Love You, The Current
Slideshow: Replacements-related landmarks in the Twin Cities, The Current
The Replacements: 10 of the best, The Guardian
Hüsker Dü, MNopedia
The Curmudgeon: Why Hüsker Dü—Not Nirvana—Were the Real Kings of Punk's Second Wave, Paste Magazine
Babes in Toyland, MNopedia
Babes in Toyland, Wikiwand
Soul Asylum Finds Success, Rolling Stone
Wrong Way on a One-Way Track: The Oral History of Soul Asylum’s ‘Runaway Train’, Spin
Today in Music History: 'Funkytown' hits No. 1, The Current
Today's music: History made at Sound 80 studios, MPR