New Jersey is one of those places where cultures from all over mix together and create some of the most talented people around. Often, many artists and creators that become popular in New York circles have their roots in the state! Let’s take a look at some of the biggest musicians from New Jersey and learn about some of the notable influences that have come from the state. (Here are 35 musicians with legendary long careers.)
To determine the 10 biggest musicians from New Jersey, 24/7 Tempo used public records and information commons, plus some editorial discretion to determine what makes someone “influential” or “big” in the world of music. This list doesn’t cover every single musician or even all of the big ones, but it does cover a diverse range of influential people from the state that we think represents it well.
1. Paul Simon
Paul Simon is a music icon of the caliber that few people will ever achieve. Born in Newark, Simon spent a lot of his time developing his ability in New York, specifically Queens. Later, Simon would go on to form the musical duo “Simon & Garfunkel” and create some of the most influential folk-rock songs in history. After the duo split, Simon continued on his journey and is, to this day, an extremely celebrated solo artist with multiple Grammy Awards, including Album of the Year.
2. Wesley Shultz
Wesley Shultz may not be as well-known by name, but the band he founded, “The Lumineers,” is one of the most popular folk bands in the United States. Shultz himself was born in Ramsey and, to this day, operates as the frontman for the group. Some of the most famous releases from them include “Ho Hey” and “Stubborn Love.” As an Americana and folk influence, “The Lumineers” are among the most influential groups around today, as their many Grammy nominations go to show.
3. Gloria Gaynor
Gloria Gaynor is another one of those legendary artists from an era. Born in Newark, Gaynor has been a cornerstone artist in the disco and dance genres, earning herself the name “The Queen of Disco” for that very reason. With some of the most notable powerhouse vocals and huge hits like “I Will Survive”, Gaynor is undoubtedly an icon. As far as accolades go, Gaynor has a Grammy for Best Disco Recording.
4. Whitney Houston
It’s hard to talk about legendary vocalists without bringing up Whitney Houston. Born in Newark, Houston started developing her musical talents at her church, but it was clear that she was bound for larger stages in the years to come. Her powerful vocals, emotion-imbued lyrics, and pure soul have earned her 11 number-one singles, and she is the only artists to have seven consecutive Billboard Hot 100’s. Plus, she’s earned eight Grammy Awards, 16 Billboard Music Awards, two Emmy Awards, and 28 entries into the Guinness Book of World Records. Some of her most famous hits include “I Will Always Love You,” “How Will I Know,” and “The Greatest Love of All.” (Here are the most popular patriotic songs on the Billboard Top 100.)
5. Bruce Springsteen
Bruce Springsteen was born in Long Branch, New Jersey, and is one of the most prolific songwriters in music history. Springsteen has released 21 albums over six decades and has heavily influenced the rock genre. He still tours and is known for concerts that can last up to four hours, and his band E Street Band often focuses on living in America and working-class imagery. Springsteen has won 20 Grammy Awards, and albums like “Born to Run” and “Born in the U.S.A.,” are certifiable classics. (Here are the best albums of Bruce Springsteen’s career)
6. Frank Sinatra
Continuing on with legends in music, we have Frank Sinatra. Sinatra was one of the most successful singers and entertainers of the 20th century, and his impact on music is felt to this day. “Ol’ Blue Eyes,” as they called him, was from Hoboken, although much of his later life was spent in New York. Some of his biggest hits include “My Way,” “New York, New York,” and “Fly Me to the Moon.” Additionally, Sinatra is one of the best-selling artists of all time and holds nine Grammy Awards, plus a Presidential Medal of Freedom.
7. Lauryn Hill
Lauryn Hill was born in East Orange, New Jersey, and rose to fame as a member of the “Fugees,” a hip-hop group that rose to prominence in the ’90s. Additionally, Hill’s solo album, “The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill,” is maybe her most well-received and popular, earning her two Grammy Awards, one for Album of the Year and another for Best New Artist. Hill’s influence in the world of rap helped pave the way for women in the genre, and she continues to impact music to this day.
8. Jon Bon Jovi
New Jersey seems to be home to some legends of art! Jon Bon Jovi, whose real name is John Francis Bongiovi Jr., was born in Perth Amboy, New Jersey. His band, Bon Jovi, was one of the most influential groups of the 80s, and songs like “Livin’ on a Prayer,” “You Give Love a Bad Name,” and “Wanted Dead or Alive” are easily among the most iconic songs ever written. Bon Jovi’s influence on rock, pop, and the fusion of the two are felt today, and the group has won numerous awards, including multiple Grammy Awards, MTV Music Awards, and an induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Redman, otherwise known as Reginald “Reggie” Noble, was born in Newark and rose to fame as a rapper in the early ’90s. His lyricism, wit, and high energy set him apart, eventually becoming associated with Def Squad, one of the most influential rap collectives of all time. Redman earned a Grammy with Method Man on the song “Da Rockwilder,” but has other notable songs, including “Muddy Waters” and “Dare Iz a Darkside.” He was one of the more influential rappers during the “golden era of rap” and has since established himself as an important figure in the movement.
10. Gerard Way
A more recent name on the list, Gerard Way is from Summit, New Jersey, and is the frontman for the emo-rock group “My Chemical Romance” (often shortened to MCR). MCR is one of the most influential groups in alt-rock, emo-rock, and pop-punk, and notable songs from the group include “The Black Parade,” “Teenagers,” and “Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge.” The group has earned plenty of awards, and Way has since branched out into other mediums, including his comic book series “The Umbrella Academy.” (Here are the biggest pop hits of the ’90s)