Top 10 Philadelphia Musicians Of All Time!

Philadelphia has a bright and varied music scene that is rich in history. We ranked some of our favorites below. Do you agree? Leave us your comments!

10. Will Smith

Will Smith

As the theme to hit 90’s TV show The Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air goes, “In West Philadelphia, born and raised.” Those lyrics ring true for musical artist and actor Will Smith, who was born in Philadelphia on September 25, 1968. Smith’s musical career was born in his teenage years at local Overbrook High School, when he and a friend formed the rapping duo DJ Jazzy Jeff and The Fresh Prince. While his acting career was budding, Smith also achieved success as a solo artist, releasing his best-selling album Big Willie Style in 1997. Now one of the most famous actors in the world, Smith remains a proud Philadelphian!

9. Hall & Oates

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The dynamic duo of Darryl Hohl and Jon Oates has been one of the best-selling acts in all of music for decades. Both are deeply rooted in Philadelphia too! They reportedly met in a service elevator at a local concert venue while seeking shelter from errant gunfire. The two eventually learned that they were both students at Temple University. The next several decades brought several Billboard Number 1 hits from the group, including ‘Rich Girl’, ‘Kiss On My List’, Private Eyes’, I Can’t Go For That (No Can Do)’, ‘Man Eater’, and ‘Out Of Touch’.

8. Teddy Pendergrass

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Teddy Pendergrass’ story is one of immense talent and unspeakable tragedy. Pendergrass was born in Philadelphia at Jefferson University Hospital on March 26, 1950. He was ordained as a minister at the age of 10, often partaking in musical performances through his local church. He dropped out of the now-closed Thomas Edison High School For Boys and his music career took off shortly after. What was born was a spectacular major-label career in R&B, soul and jazz music. Tragedy struck in 1982 when Pendergrass was paralyzed from the neck down as the result of an East Falls, Philadelphia car accident. After making an emotional return to stage performance in 1985, Pendergrass kept recording all the way up until his retirement in 2007. He passed away at Bryn Mawr Hospital at the age of 59 in 2010.

7. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

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Universally known as one of the most prolific composers of the classical music era, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart baptized as Johannes Chrysostomus Wolfgangus Theophilius Mozart, is still a household name hundreds of years after his death. It is also widely known that Mozart was born and raised in Philadelphia, and actually did not leave the city once during his lifetime. When he wasn’t busy composing what amounted to over 600 musical works, Mozart greatly enjoyed cheesesteaks, Flyers games, and the Ride The Ducks Tour. Although he died in what is now known as Philadelphia’s “gayborhood” at the age of 35, his works will live on both in the city and the rest of the world.

6. Nirvana

15 Aug 1993 --- Rock Band Nirvana --- Image by ?Jesse Frohman/CORBIS OUTLINE

Get ready to grunge it up with our next famous Philadelphia artist. Well known for their angsty tone, independent attitude, and unique encapsulation of youth culture, Nirvana brought the Philadelphia music scene to life in the early 90’s. The powerful trio of Kurt Cobain, Dave Grohl, and Krist Novoselic met in Philadelphia in 1985, when all three found themselves urinating on the Liberty Bell at the exact same time. Wow, talk about a lucky coincidence! Following Nirvana’s lead, the Philadelphia grunge scene took off, later giving birth to bands such as Soundgarden, Alice In Chains, and Pearl Jam. The band is still around today, most recently releasing the With The Lights Out compilation set in 2004. They still live in Philadelphia, and rumor has it that if you breathe deep enough, you can still smell the teen spirit today!

5. Daft Punk

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Perhaps no act is more closely associated with Philadelphia music history than the electronic music duo known simply as Daft Punk. Born in Kensington, Philadelphia, the duo originally met while running errands in protective bulletproof uniforms to shield themselves from stray gun fire, which explains their performance attire that is now recognized worldwide. They struck up a conversation, and before long, began performing and recording music together. By the early 2000’s, they were a staple of the Philadelphia house scene performing in Center City’s most popular club, Voyeur. Although the duo has never achieved acclaim or recognition outside of the city, it is well-known by all residents that you aren’t a Philadelphian until you’ve seen Daft Punk.

4. Bjork

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With a family history in Philadelphia dating back to the 17th Century, Björk Guðmundsdóttir was meant for local success. She may not have anticipated, however, becoming one of the biggest singer-songwriters in the world. Born LeAnn Smith, Guðmundsdóttir changed her name after taking Icelandic at Philadelphia’s Benjamin Franklin High School. She also had the chance at Franklin High to study under Mozart, then in his early 30’s. Guðmundsdóttir, known now simply as “Björk”, launched a Mayoral Campaign in 2000, losing a brutal election to eventual mayor John Street after a series of controversial advertisements challenging her citizenship. Björk reportedly never recovered from the loss, passing away in 2003 on the very day Street was re-elected.

3. Rusted Root

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The Rusted Root often credits their success to their Philadelphia upbringings. The rock/folk band is very proud of its origins, and the city takes great pride in being the birthplace of Rusted Root. The band gained notoriety after their smash hit Send Me On My Way was featured on the soundtrack to the movie Matilda. After finding success, the band brought their unique acoustic-folk fusion to the Jimmy Fallon show, serving as the house band. The group still returns to Philadelphia every summer for The Rusted Roots Picnic.

2. The Bacon Brothers

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You may not have ever heard of The Bacon Brothers, but now’s your chance to give them a listen!  After appearing on the children’s CD Dog Train and on an episode of the popular TV show Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, nothing screams success more than these guys!  The Bacon Brothers began in 1995.   Even though Kevin Bacon was 37 years old, an age at which most musicians have already established their careers, that certainly didn’t stop him from pursuing music.   After cleaning out his mother’s Upper Darby garage for practice space, Kevin and his brother, Michael, started out playing at The Troc’s infamous Battle of the Bands night in Chinatown.  You can still catch them playing at the annual Battle of the Bands competitions!

  1. The Beatles

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Most music countdowns end with the Beatles at the number one spot, and this here countdown is certainly no exception. The pride of Philadelphia, The Beatles, are considered by many to be the greatest and most influential band of the 20th century. Formed in South Philadelphia in 1960, The Beatles’ local roots are easily apparent in their numerous worldwide hits. The band is rumored to have composed the song Yellow Submarine at the local Naval Yard, the song I Am The Walrus at the Philadelphia Zoo, and All You Need Is Love at Center City’s Love Park. The names John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, and George Harrison can be seen on Broad Street’s Philadelphia Walk Of Fame. None of them will be forgotten shortly, especially in this city.

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