Massachusetts is famous for so many things. We have history, we have sports, actors, and yes, we have music! Below, you will see how deep we go in music, with 19 famous singers from Massachusetts.

Quite a few iconic artists were born and/or raised here. I bet you can name at least a few of the super-famous singers right off the bat. But, I also bet you will name some you think are from here, and actually aren’t. Case in point, Steven Tyler of Aerosmith. Yes, the band was Boston based, but they moved here, after meeting and forming a band in New Hampshire. Tyler is actually from New York City. So he’s not among these 19 famous singers from Massachusetts.

Misconceptions

You would think Rick Ocasek from the Boston based rock band The Cars was from here, right? He was not. How about J. Geils or Peter Wolf from the Boston based J. Geils Band? Not from Boston. The Standells who famously sing about Boston and it’s “Dirty Water” are from L.A. All of these acts are not  among the 19 famous singers from Massachusetts on this list, as they were not born or raised in our great state.

Digging Deep

With  help of Google, the artists’ websites and my own personal knowledge, I’ve compiled a fairly comprehensive list of celebrity musicians and singers. I’m sure there are some that will be missed, but it’s a decent showing of talent from the Bay State. If you can think of any that should be added, please feel free to let me know.

You will recognize names from the rock world, country and pop music genres. There are singers from the past and present, representing quite an eclectic group. Some you may have seen performing our National Anthem at sporting events or at one of their shows locally. These artists are proud to call Massachusetts home, and we are proud to call them ours.

  • 1. James Taylor

    James Taylor is likely the most famous in this list, as his music crossed fan lines from rock, folk, country and pop. JT was able to reach massive audiences with his thoughtful and relatable lyrics, catchy hooks and overall likeablity factor. James was born at Mass General Hospital in Boston, where his dad, Isaac was a resident physician. Taylor moved to North Carolina as a kid, but returned to Massachusetts to attend Milton Academy. He would also always summer with his family on Martha’s Vineyard.

  • 2. Donna Summer

    Donna Adrian Gaines was born and raised in the Boston neighborhood of Mission Hill. She was the 3rd of 7 children. Her dad worked as a butcher, and her mother was a school teacher. When Donna Summer was 10, she went to her church service, where the vocalist didn’t show up. She filled in for her that day, making her singing debut! In school, Summer performed in musicals. She left school just weeks before graduation for New York City and landed a role in the musical, Hair. After accepting the role of Shiela, she also agreed to play the part in the Munich production of the show. So, she packed bags and moved to Germany for 3 years. She met her husband, Helmuth Sommer  there and married in 1973.  And it was in Germany where she recorded her first hit single as a solo pop artist with “Love to Love You Baby” in 1975. Her career was officially set on fire, and there was no stopping this powerhouse vocalist. 

  • 3. Jo Dee Messina

    Jo Dee Messina is definitely the most famous country singer from Massachusetts. Jo Dee was born in Framingham and grew up in Holliston, Mass. Her mom would drive her to gigs at local clubs starting at age 16. She always loved country music, listening to Reba, Patsy Cline and the Judds from an early age. By 19 she was off to Nashville. And the rest is country music history: 6 studio albums, 33 singles and 6 #1 hits. Jo Dee has recently enjoyed a resurgence in popularity, thanks in part to Cole Swindell’s reworking of her first big hit “Heads Carolina, Tails California.” She is one of a few very country artists to even use Boston in her lyrics. “I’ve got people in Boston” is a line in her song “Heads Carolina” that was original written as “I’ve got people in Austin,” but Jo Dee changed it to make it her own and be able to relate to it.

  • 4. Meghan Trainor

    Born on Nantucket, Meghan Trainor was exposed to music as a baby. Her father was a music teacher and also the organist at church. Meghan’s career began there, singing at their Methodist church starting around 6 years old. In 8th grade, the family moved to Orleans and then Eastham, on the Cape. At Nauset Regional High School she studied guitar and trumpet. Meghan sang in a jazz band for three years. In her late teens she wrote, recorded and produced 3 albums that she released independently. It was on to Nashville and songwriting. She was hired to write and sing demo songs. Trainor had songs picked up by Hunter Hayes and Rascal Flatts before releasing her own hit song. It was 2013 and it was “All About That Bass.”

  • 5. New Kids On The Block

    Donnie Walhberg, Joey McIntyre, Danny Wood and Jordan and Jonathan Knight are all from Massachusetts. Joey was born in Needham, but grew up in Jamaica Plain. The rest of the group grew up in Boston, specifically Dorchester. Donnie was the first member recruited by businessman Maurice Star. Mark Wahlberg joined, but only very briefly. Donnie asked his friends Danny Wood and Jordan and Jonathan Knight to join. Maurice then went looking for a “Michael Jackson” voice and found 12 year old Joey McIntyre. They cemented their name in Boston and music history starting with their first hit, 1988’s “You Got It (The Right Stuff).

  • Mark Wahlberg (Marky Mark and The Funky Bunch)

    Although, being in his brother’s boy band wasn’t for Mark, he did embark on a singing career of his own. Mark was the youngest in Dorchester’s Wahlberg family. He formed a hip-hop group in 1991 called Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch. After 2 albums and 2 hits, Mark moved on to a very successful acting and producing career. But we will always have “Good Vibrations.”

  • 7. Brad Delp (Boston)

    Brad Delp of the 70s and 80s rock band, Boston, was born in Peabody and raised in Danvers. Delp was original lead vocalist and occasional rhythm guitarist of  Boston. He joined Boston in 1970 and appeared on every album  except one, 1994’s Walk On. He also was part of every tour with the band, until he died in 2007. Boston released 6 albums and 16 singles. It all started with the epic “More Than a Feeling” in 1976.

     

  • 8. JoJo

    Joanna Noëlle Levesque, professionally known as JoJo was born in Brattleboro, Vermont and raised in Foxboro, MA.  JoJo picked up music from both of her parents. For her dad it was a hobby and her mom, trained in musical theater,  sang in their Catholic church choir. JoJo got the singing and acting bug after appearing on the TV show Kids Say The Darndest Things when she was 7 years old. After auditioning for a TV talent show, she was invited to sing on the Oprah Winfrey Show and Maury Povich. At age 12 JoJo had her first record deal. In 2012 JoJo had her first and only #1 hit with “Leave (Get Out).” She did have a few more hit singles, but really focused more on her acting.

  • 9. Joe Perry

    Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler is not from Boston, but guitarist and backup vocalist for the band, Joe Perry is. Technically, he was born in Lawrence and grew up in Hopedale, MA. Perry, a founding member of Aerosmith is better known as the group’s lead guitarist, but he also did backing vocals and sometimes sang lead. His solo project is The Joe Perry Project, and he is also a member of the “supergroup” celebrity band, The Hollywood Vampires with Alice Cooper and Johnny Depp.

  • 10. Billy Squier

    Born and raised in Wellesley, MA, Billy Squier briefly attended Berklee College of music. He formed his first band when he was 14, after his grandfather taught him piano, then he picked up guitar. He played Boston rock clubs before getting his big record deal in 1979 with Capitol Records. By 1981 Billy had his first #1 hit with “The Stroke.” Billy released a total of 9 studio albums, 2 live albums,7 compilations later and 24 singles.

  • 11. Rachel Platten

    Rachel Platten may have been born in New York City, but she gew up in Newton, Massachusetts. There, she went to the Mason-Rice Elementary school, and then on to the private school, Buckingham Browne and Nichols in Cambridge. Rachel studied piano early on and picked up guitar in high school. In the Spring of 2015 her “Fight Song” was released. It peaked at #1 and became an anthem for so many people and occasions. Platten even earned an Emmy Award for her performance of this song on Good Morning America. 

  • 12. Matt Nathanson

    Best known for his song, “Come On Get Higher,” Matt Nathanson was raised in Lexington, Mass. Later, he attended the boarding school, Proctor Academy in Andover, NH. Nathanson has released 13 studio albums, and has scored 5 top 10 singles.

     

  • 13. Bobby Pickett

    You may not have heard of Bobby Pickett, but you’ve likely heard of the song “The Monster Mash.” The Halloween favorite was written and sung by the Somerville native. He certainly had inspiration to write it, as his father was the manager of a theater, as Bobby would watch lots of horror movies there. Pickett lived in the Winter Hill area of Somerville and went to Somerville High School before leaving for Hollywood to embark on a comedy, movie and music career. He wrote “The Monster Mash” in 1962 as a spoof to all the dance crazes that were happening at the time. He made a career of this one song that sold millions and became a mutli-week #1 hit. The song was originally rejected by all the major labels, but was picked up by a small label willing to take the risk on this novelty smash.

  • 14. Gary Cherone

    Gary Cherone is the lead singer of the band Extreme and briefly worked with Van Halen. Cherone grew up in Malden and attended high school there. He sang in local bands before forming Extreme. According to Wikipedia, in 1985, Gary and a bandmate, met guitarist Nuno Bettencourt and bassist Pat Badger while they were fighting over at dressing room. That fight led to a collaboration of the 4 men and they eventually became Extreme. In 1991, “More Than Words” by Extreme went #1. They toured with David Lee Roth, and ironically, Gary later became the lead singer of David’s former band, Van Halen. He was their third lead vocalist. Gary also sang with The Joe Perry Project, but never recorded with them.

     

  • 15. Rob Zombie

    Rob Zombie is best known musically for his solo career and his heavy metal band White Zombie. The singer, songwriter, record producer, actor and filmmaker was born in Haverhill, MA. Growing up, Rob (born Robert Bartleh Cummings) was obsessed with horror films. It could be because his parents both worked at a carnvial. After graduating from Haverhill High, Rob moved to New York and took the stage name Rob Zombie, reportedly after the Bella Lugosi horror moie,  White Zombie. And that’s how the band name came to be.

    Zombie had 7 hit albums, and 12 top 20 hit singles, including 1998’s debut single, “Dragula”

  • 16. Norman Greenbaum

    As you could probably guess, Norman Greenbaum is this artist’s real name. He was born and raised in Malden, MA and went to the Hebrew school at Congregation Beth Israel. Southern blues and folk music of the late 50s and early 60s inspired Norman to sing in some high school bands. He went on to study at Boston University and sang in coffeehouses, before moving to L.A. It was in California where Greenbaum wrote and recorded “Spirit in the Sky,” the song he would forever be known for. Released in 1969 it went become a #1 and Norman’s only hit.

  • 17. Tavares

    4 brothers, Ralph, Pooch, Chubby, Butch, and Tiny Tavares made up the group Tavares. They are a soul, R&B and funk group that started in New Bedford, MA in the 1970s. Some of the brothers were born in New Bedford and some in Providence. For over 10 years they cranked out hit after hit. They had music featured on the Grammy Award winning soundtrack to the movie, Saturday Night Fever. The band had 4#1 hits, including this one: 

     

     

  • 18. Bel Biv DeVo

    The trio of Ricky Bell, Michael Bivins and Ronnie DeVo actually started together in the Boston based boy band New Edition, with Bobby Brown. Producer Maurice Starr spotted the boys at a talent show and signed them. BBD was all over radio in the early 90s, starting with their debut single, “Poison” which became their first #1 hit.

  • 19. Bobby Brown

    Bobby Brown had a blossoming music career, before he became famous for marrying Whitney Houston. Bobby was born in Boston. He is one of 8 kids born to a construction worker dad, Herbert and a substitute school teacher mom, Carole. He grew up in the Orchard Park Projects of Roxbury, MA. He honed his singing skills in the church choir. When Brown was just 12, Maurice Starr discovered him and made him a star in the boy band New Edition. He left the group to sign a solo record deal and the hits started coming, beginning in 1986 with “Girlfriend.” But Bobby is best known for his massive hit “My Prerogative” from 1988.

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