Summer in Chicago is synonymous with great music. In our opinion, there is no better summer music scene than right here in Chicago. The sheer number and variety of music festivals means there is something for everyone. But how did Chicago become such a great music city? Perhaps it was music that helped make Chicago a great city in the first place.
Chicago is widely credited as the birthplace of at least two distinct musical genres: Chicago Blues and House Music. And it can (and has!) been argued that all modern popular music has its roots in Chicago Blues.
Chicago Blues is an electric style of blues music pioneered in the late 1930’s and early 1940’s by artists such as Muddy Waters and T-Bone Walker. During the Great Migration, African Americans from the South came to industrial cities like Chicago looking for work and opportunity. Musical traditions came with them, but it wasn’t long before new styles of jazz and blues began to emerge. The urban environment seemed to foster the use of more electronic instruments and a faster tempo.
Many famous musicians started by playing in the streets of Chicago, developing and perfecting their art form. The Maxwell Street Market was where many blues musicians gathered, using amplifiers, microphones and electric guitars so they could be heard over the busy sounds of the market. Before long, record labels began to capture and spread the sound of Chicago blues across the country. The Chicago Blues was one of the strongest influencers of early Rock and Roll music and gave birth to just about everything we listen to today.
Another Chicago-born music style is House. House music is a distinct genre of electronic music that began in Chicago nightclubs in the early 1980’s. It is characterized by its use of repetitive rhythms from drum machines and synthesized bass lines. House music is designed to make you get up and dance, and it was a combination of disco, European pop, Chicago blues, jazz, and soul.
Today’s Summer Music Scene
Today, Chicago’s music scene really does have something for everyone. This summer, take advantage of the free classical music concerts at Grant Park, our famous World Music Festival, or head to one of our city’s amazing blues bars.
Looking for more music festivals to hit this summer? Follow these links:
Chicago Magazine’s List of Summer Music Festivals
Chicago Tribune’s Summer Festivals