The great state of Georgia may be better known for its delicious peaches and its particular love for peanuts. People who like history will brag about it being Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthplace, along with many historical sites. However, Georgia has more to it than meets the eye.
Did you know that some of the world’s most famous musicians hail from Georgia? From soul to country, these artists have achieved worldwide acclaim.
So, if you’re a fan of music and want to know more about 18 of the greatest and most famous musicians from Georgia, then this is the blog post for you! Let’s jump right in!
Related: For more info, check out our list of American musicians here.
1. Kanye West
The first artist on our list needs no introduction. But did you know that Kanye West is an Atlanta, Georgia native? He made a name for himself by becoming an influential rapper and singer-songwriter.
He got his start in music as a member of the hip-hop group The Go-Getters. Fast forward and he’s one of the most successful artists of all time. Some of his popular hits include “Gold Digger,” “Stronger,” “Hey Mama,” and “FourFiveSeconds.”
So far, he has won 24 Grammy Awards and six of his albums made it into Rolling Stone‘s 500 Greatest Albums of All Time in 2020. Rolling Stone also named West one of the 100 Greatest Songwriters of All Time. As of this writing, West has sold over 160 million records worldwide.
2. Michael Stipe
Our next musician, Michael Stipe, is best known as the lead singer and lyricist of the alternative rock band R.E.M. This talented musician hails from Decatur, Georgia.
Stipe was active with R.E.M. for over 30 years. The band popularized their college-rock sound in the late 1980s and developed into more alternative and folk-rock sounds.
They became a mainstream band in the early 1990s and are a household name today with hits like “Losing My Religion,” “Shiny Happy People,” and “Man on the Moon.”
R.E.M. sold over 90 million albums throughout its career, making it one of the best-selling bands of its time. As a member of the band, Stipe and his bandmates were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2007.
R.E.M. has since disbanded in 2011 but Stipe didn’t have a shortage of projects. He has already released two solo singles in 2019. A solo album will come out in 2023, as well as a new book, and his first art show.
3. Alan Jackson
One of the biggest names in country music is Alan Jackson. His music blends traditional honky-tonk with mainstream country-pop sounds, creating a “neotraditional country” music.
Born in Newnan, Georgia, Jackson began his music career as a songwriter. His debut album, Here in the Real World, was released in 1990. Since then, he has released 20 more studio albums.
Sixty-six of his songs appeared on the Billboard Hot Country Singles & Tracks chart. Of these, 38 entered the Top 5 while 35 were #1 hits. In addition, nine of Jackson’s albums have multi-platinum certifications.
Selling over 75 million records ranks him pretty high on the list of best-selling artists of all time! Due to his achievements, the Georgia Music Hall of Fame inducted him in 2001.
4. André 3000
One-half of the hip-hop duo Outkast is André Lauren Benjamin, who goes by his stage name André 3000. Born in Atlanta, Georgia, he is one of the most talented and versatile musicians in the industry.
As a rapper, singer, songwriter, and producer, he pushes the boundaries of music genres by mixing hip-hop, funk, and soul. He is best known for his work with Outkast who had #1 hits such as “Ms. Jackson,” “The Way You Move,” and “Hey Ya!”
He also collaborated with countless artists, including Beyonce, Kanye West, and Kid Cudi. With Outkast, André 3000 has sold well over 25 million records throughout their career.
5. Jason Aldean
Another country star made it to our list by being a product of Macon, Georgia. Jason Aldean is a country singer and songwriter who is among the most influential figures in music history.
Some of his biggest hits include “Dirt Road Anthem,” “Tonight Looks Good on You,” and “Big Green Tractor.” So far, he has released 38 singles, of which 27 went to #1 on either the Hot Country Songs or Country Airplay charts.
Throughout his career, he received five Grammy nominations and won American Country Awards, CMA Awards, and Billboard Music Awards. He has sold more than 13 million records globally.
6. Luke Bryan
Our next singer on the list is country singer Luke Bryan. Though he started his career in Nashville, Tennessee, he grew up in rural Georgia. Here, he was surrounded by the influences of country music. It fueled a passion for the genre from an early age.
While in Nashville, Bryan got his start as a songwriter. In fact, he’s written songs for country artists like Travis Tritt and Billy Currington.
In 2007, he released his debut album, I’ll Stay Me. It launched his career as a star who was bound to be one of the most successful country artists of his time.
Since then, 30 of his songs have been the #1 hits for country music. His fourth album, Crash My Party, debuted at #1 on Billboard 200. ACM also awarded it the Album of the Decade award.
7. Zac Brown
The country singer, musician, and songwriter Zac Brown grew up in the Lake Lanier region in Georgia. Here, his musical journey began.
You’ll know him for being the co-founder and lead singer of Zac Brown Band, which has been active for more than a decade.
The band’s most prominent musical hit is “Chicken Fried,” which topped the country charts when it was released. This achievement made Zac Brown Band the first band to top the charts with a debut single.
Aside from “Chicken Fried,” the band was also known for “Jump Right In,” “Toes,” and “Knee Deep.” The band won three Grammy Awards and achieved 13 country #1 hits.
8. Ray Charles
Legendary singer and pianist Ray Charles was born in Albany, Georgia, in 1930. As you probably know, Charles is blind, losing his sight as a young child due to glaucoma. By the time he was seven years old, he had lost his vision, becoming legally blind.
However, his blindness did not stop him from becoming one of the most influential musicians of all time. He mastered the piano and penned some of the biggest hits of the 20th century.
In his career, he had 80 songs that charted. This was between 1958 and 1990 when Charles’ “I’ll Be Good To You” became his last on the chart. Of these songs, 12 were #1 hits, including “Georgia on My Mind,” “Hit the Road Jack,” and “I Can’t Stop Loving You.”
For his contributions to music, Charles received various awards, including 18 Grammy Awards and the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. He was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame and the Black Music & Entertainment Walk of Fame.
Related: Read about more blind musicians here.
9. Little Richard
The contributions to music by the American singer-songwriter and pianist Little Richard cannot be overstated. No wonder he is named the “Architect of Rock and Roll.”
This Macon, Georgia native had gone through a lot of hardship before he found success. But through it all, he had met people who influenced him in one way or another. His voice, his style, and even his fashion sense and flamboyant persona were a reflection of the people he met along the way.
Eventually, Little Richard, born Richard Wayne Penniman, became known as a pioneer of rock and roll music. His music had a significant impact on the sound and style of popular music of the 20th century. In addition, his vocalizations influenced the development of other popular music genres such as soul and funk.
Some of his biggest hits include “Tutti Frutti,” “Lucille,” and “Good Golly, Miss Molly.” Due to his being a “crossover” artist, Little Richard’s music defied cultural barriers and defined the rock genre for his generation.
10. Ma Rainey
Next on the list, we have “Mother of the Blues” Gertrude “Ma” Rainey. She was born in 1886 in Columbus, Georgia. She was one of the early pioneers of blues music with her songs that were a mix of gospel and blues. Her style later became known as the “classic blues.”
Rainey was one of the first female blues singers to achieve success. She toured extensively throughout the United States making over 100 recordings, the first one being in 1923.
Some of her popular songs include “Bo-Weevil Blues” and “Moonshine Blues.” Both of these showcase Rainey’s powerful voice and her “moaning” style of singing. She also found success in “See See Rider Blues” and “Black Bottom.”
11. Mary Lou Williams
The jazz pianist and composer, Mary Lou Williams, was born in Atlanta, Georgia, in 1910. Born Mary Elfrieda Scruggs, she got her start in music as a member of her church choir.
Music provided Williams with solace from a difficult life. She later started playing jazz piano, teaching herself to play and becoming known for her prodigious skills.
In the 1930s, she helped develop the Kansas City swing sound. She composed, performed, and recorded countless songs that cemented her status as one of the most popular jazz pianists of her time.
For her contributions to music, Williams was named “the first lady of the jazz keyboard.” She was also nominated for a Grammy Award in 1971 for Best Jazz Performance – Group.
12. Sam Hunt
Cedartown, Georgia has one person to be proud of: Sam Hunt. This country singer and songwriter was born in 1984 and grew up in the area. He’s known as a trailblazer in the country scene for mixing R&B and pop sounds with his music.
Hunt’s most significant hits include “Take Your Time,” “House Party,” “Break Up in a Small Town,” and “Leave the Night On.” He has also written songs for greats such as Reba McEntire and Keith Urban.
For his contributions to music, he has received various awards. These include one American Music Award and one CMT Music Award. He also received nominations for Grammy Awards and Billboard Music Awards.
13. Otis Redding
The legendary musician, Otis Redding, wasn’t called the “King of Soul” for nothing. Born in Dawson, Georgia, his soulful voice and timeless songs captured not only African-Americans but a wider American audience.
Redding’s influence on other soul artists of the 1960s cannot be emphasized enough. His style of singing made him popular in soul music and rhythm and blues. It was inspired by his experience as a member of a gospel group.
His biggest hits include “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long” and “(Sittin’ on) The Dock of the Bay,” which was released after his tragic death in a plane crash.
It became the first ever #1 hit to be released after his death, cementing his place in history as one of the greatest soul singers of all time.
14. Billy Currington
Up next, we have Billy Currington, a country singer-songwriter born in Savannah, Georgia. He is a Georgian through and through, growing up in the region and choosing to make it home.
While he was still in high school, Currington aspired to work at the Opryland amusement park. Following his rejection after auditions, he persevered and became a part of the Nashville country scene.
Currington is known for his vulnerable lyrics chronicling his traumatic childhood. His hits include “People Are Crazy” and “Must Be Doin’ Somethin’ Right.”
In his career, he sold more than three million records. His albums produced 18 singles that entered the Billboard Hot Country Songs and Country Airplay charts. Of these, 11 were #1 hits.
15. Cee Lo Green
The American singer-songwriter Cee Lo Green made significant contributions to music with his blend of soul, rap, and R&B. He was born in Atlanta, Georgia, and had his career beginnings as a member of the hip-hop group Goodie Mob.
In 1999, he embarked on a solo career that produced two albums: Cee-Lo Green and His Perfect Imperfections and Cee-Lo Green… Is the Soul Machine.
Despite some big collaborations and backing vocal gigs, it wasn’t until 2004 that he formed a duo with DJ Danger Mouse called Gnarls Barkley. They released their super hit “Crazy” in 2006.
He went on to win five Grammy Awards, a BET Award, a Billboard Music Award, and a Brit Award.
16. Cindy Wilson
The world first knew of Cindy Wilson as one of the vocalists and songwriters of the new wave rock band the B-52s. Wilson was born in Athens, Georgia, in 1957.
With the B-52s, they released “Rock Lobster” and “Planet Claire,” both of which charted and propelled them to fame. The B52s are one of the most popular new wave bands of all time, popularizing retro looks and sounds in the 1980s.
In 2016, Wilson released an EP, Sunrise, and another in 2017 called Supernatural. Her debut solo album, Change, came out in 2017 through an independent label. Her second solo album was slated for release in mid-2023.
17. Gladys Knight
Dubbed the “Empress of Soul” is our next musician on the list, Gladys Knight. This legendary R&B singer was born in Atlanta in 1944. She had her career beginnings as a singer for the group The Pips, later called Gladys and the Pips.
She later branched into a successful solo career, including recording the theme song for the James Bond movie, License to Kill.
Some of her achievements include having two #1 hits on the Billboard Hot 100, namely, “Midnight Train to Georgia” and “That’s What Friends Are For.” In addition, she had 11 #1 R&B singles and six #1 R&B albums.
Throughout her career, Knight won seven Grammy Awards. She was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Hollywood Walk of Fame, and National Rhythm & Blues Hall of Fame.
Born in Athens, Georgia, Quavious Keyate Marshall, better known as Quavo, is an American rapper, singer, songwriter, and record producer. He is best known as a member of the rap group Migos, along with rappers Takeoff and Offset.
The Migos group has roots in Georgia since the three members grew up right outside of Lawrenceville, Georgia. The group helped sculpt the rap genre by popularizing the now-mainstream triplet rap flow.
Quavo released his debut solo album, Quavo Huncho, in 2018. It peaked at #2 on the Billboard 200. He also collaborated with some big names in the music industry. He was featured in Post Malone’s “Congratulations” and DJ Khaled’s “No Brainer” and “I’m the One.”
Summing Up Our List Of Musicians From Georgia
One thing that adds to the rich history and identity of Georgia is the countless talented musicians who have helped shape music’s history. From Kanye West to Quavo, each musician has brought acclaim and representation to their chosen genre.
Our compilation today spanning over a hundred years of creativity and boundary-pushing is proof of Georgia’s proud musical heritage.