New England is no stranger to the music scene. Phish, Tavares, The Carpenters, and Michael Bolton are just a few talents hailing from this region of the country. While we can’t include every single musical group from Massachusetts in just one post (there’s 300+ of them), we’ve rounded up a few of our favorite bands from Boston to inspire your next Spotify playlist.
In 1970 the members of Aerosmith moved into a small Allston apartment in hopes of launching a music career. Three years later the band released the single “Dream On” opening the doors to rock and roll stardom. Aerosmith drew inspiration from the Rolling Stones, Fleetwood Mac, and Led Zeppelin and would go on to influence bands such as Guns N’ Roses, Skid Row, and Def Leppard.
Arguably the most successful American new wave band of the 1970’s and early 1980’s is The Cars. Formed in Boston, The Cars went on to release six studio albums before breaking up in 1988. The band would temporarily reunite twice as their music continued to draw attention. Lead singer Ric Ocasek went on to produce music for bands such as Weezer, No Doubt, and Motion City Soundtrack.
The “Queen of Disco” was born in Boston in 1948 and raised in Mission Hill. In 1967 Donna Summer (born LaDonna Adrian Gaines) joined a blues rock band in New York City. Following the band’s dissolution, Summer earned a role in the musical Hair performing in Munich, Germany. Donna escalated to fame quickly in Europe and in 1976 “Love to Love You Baby” hit the US Billboard’s #2 spot. (Yes, we know Donna Summer is not a band but she is too badass to exclude from this list)
In 1986 three friends — Guru, Big Shug, and DJ Suave D — from Massachusetts formed the hip hop group Gang Starr. The group changed members a few times eventually recording with Guru and DJ Premier (also known as Waxmaster C) out of Brooklyn, New York. Gang Starr would pave the way for the next generation of rappers and defined East Coast hip hop.
According to David Bowie, The Pixies didn’t receive the recognition they deserved in the United States. Fortunately the Boston-based band was embraced in Europe and broke ground for the alternative music scene of the 1990’s. Remember the final song in the movie Fight Club? That’s The Pixies’ Where is my Mind. The band is touring next month, September 2021.
In 1978 Bobby Brown, Johnny Gill, Ricky Bell, Michael Bivins, Ralph Tresvant, and Ronnie DeVoe joined forces creating the R&B group New Edition. Members of New Edition experienced greater success with solo projects than the group ever did leading to several separations followed by reunions. There’s a documentary about the behind scenes drama.
J. Geils Band
J. Geils Band formed in Boston in 1967 and released their debut album three years later. In 1981 their hit song “Centerfold” shot to the US Billboard #1 spot where it remained for eight weeks. Remember Adam Sandler’s rendition of Love Stinks in The Wedding Singer? Yup, he was covering J. Geils Band.
American Hi-Fi had a lot of competition in the early 2000’s leaving fans wondering if this band from Boston will ever make it off one-hit wonder lists.
Born and raised in Massachusetts, James Taylor rose to fame in the 1970’s with his sensitive song-writing and singing. Did you know Taylor’s Bay State roots date back to the mid-1600’s? He’s touring right now.
New Kids on the Block
Paving the way for boy bands of the 1990’s, NKOTB formed in 1984 with help from Maurice Starr. The band took a 14-year hiatus (1994 – 2008) before reuniting in 2008 and eventually touring with the Backstreet Boys in 2011. Did you know the Commonwealth of Massachusetts designated April 24, 1989 as NKOTB Day?
Most of their songs reference Boston, of course the Dropkick Murphys are locals. But you guys already knew that!
Nothing screams “We’re from Boston!” quite like naming your rock and roll band ‘Boston’.