Text by Joan Anderman, James Reed and Sarah Rodman | Globe Staff

Of the countless talented pop musicians who have lived in our neighborhoods and matured in our clubs, which ones actually are the greatest? The Globe Magazine took up the task of naming the 25 best, relying on a highly unscientific combination of music our critics love (or at least respect, even if it's secretly) and music that had some measure of influence on other artists or the culture at large or both. What made them local varied from birth to band formation to formative time spent in the area. (And in true Boston fashion, we're taking a little license here.) So take a look, and feel free to argue, wrangle, or create your own list, view a photo gallery, or watch our video.

Readers' picks are calculated from the lists readers submit.
1

Aerosmith

Local tie Formed in Boston
Essential works Toys in the Attic (1975), Permanent Vacation (1987)
The stats alone would be enough to secure this spot for the Bad Boys of Boston - more than 100 million albums sold, worldwide stadium tours, enshrinement in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, a raft of awards from Grammys to MTV moon men. But numbers and trophies can't possibly tell the whole glorious, raunchy, tumultuous, debauched, and ... [ MORE ]
Like (92 like) | Add a comment (5 comments)
2

Pixies

Local tie Formed in Boston
Essential works Doolittle (1989)
The Pixies released only four albums in three years and never cracked the mainstream, but their artful embrace of musical extremes and radical subversion of conventions created a blueprint for the alternative rock explosion that would follow: whiplash dynamics, a ferocious collision of noise and melody, and cryptic lyricism that flirted with the primal and the surreal. How influential ... [ MORE ]
Like (100 like) | Add a comment (8 comments)
3

James Taylor

Local tie Born in Boston; Berkshires resident
Essential works Sweet Baby James (1970)
The Beatles saw so much potential in a barely-out-of-his-teens James Taylor that he was the first non-British signee to their Apple label. We can't argue with them. They were likely impressed, as so many still are, by the warmth of his resonant tenor - still undimmed by age - his elegantly intricate guitar style, and his gift for delivering ... [ MORE ]
Like (83 like) | Add a comment (2 comments)
4

Donna Summer

Local tie Born in Boston
Essential works Bad Girls (1979)
Disco was the genre that unleashed Donna Summer's astonishing voice upon the masses, and she reigned supreme in the Studio 54 glory days. The woman born LaDonna Gaines transcended the ephemera of that era by bringing erotic heat and a beating heart to Giorgio Moroder's icy synths and pulsating beats on hits like "Love to Love You Baby" and ... [ MORE ]
Like (56 like) | Add a comment (2 comments)
5

The Cars

Local tie Formed in Boston
Essential works The Cars (1978)
Every single song on the Cars' debut album is still in rotation on rock radio - no small feat considering the competition for nostalgia programming. The Cars were utterly canny, expert at cherry-picking the most iconic and broadly appealing elements of new wave, hard rock, and Top 40 and fusing the parts into savvy anthems that were somehow as ... [ MORE ]
Like (93 like) | Add a comment (5 comments)
6

J. Geils Band/ Peter Wolf

Local tie Formed in Worcester
Essential works "Live" Full House (1972)
Long before the No. 1 hit "Centerfold" catapulted the group onto a world stage, the J. Geils Band was known around here as something much more meaningful - New England's blues-rock saviors. There's a lot to be said for a band that sticks it out for 15 years before becoming famous, but you got the impression the guys weren't ... [ MORE ]
Like (85 like) | Add a comment (5 comments)
7

Joan Baez

Local tie Got her start in area coffeehouses while living in Belmont
Essential works Joan Baez (1960)
Joan Baez, pop musician? Not exactly, but the folk matriarch ultimately transcended genre: She was the embodiment and lightning rod of her generation, a beacon of its hopes and indestructible spirit. New York had Dylan, but we could claim Baez, since she moved to Belmont when she was 17 and dropped out of BU soon after enrolling. With nothing ... [ MORE ]
Like (37 like) | Add a comment (1 comments)
8

New Edition

Local tie Formed in Boston
Essential works New Edition (1984)
The Roxbury group may have set a record for successful spinoffs, as Bobby Brown, Ralph Tresvant, and Brown replacement Johnny Gill all enjoyed solo careers, and Ricky Bell, Michael Bivins, and Ronnie DeVoe teamed up for the '90s sensation Bell Biv DeVoe. But it was the '80s R&B bubble gum confections like "Cool It Now" and "Candy Girl" that ... [ MORE ]
Like (30 like) | Add a comment
9

New Kids on the Block

Local tie Formed in Boston
Essential works Hangin' Tough (1988)
If you attended high school anywhere in the country in the late 1980s, there's a good chance you heard a familiar refrain in your lunchroom: Who do you love most, Jordan or Joey? New Kids on the Block were global pop stars, but you could tell from those accents that they were the pride of Boston. Assembled by ... [ MORE ]
Like (28 like) | Add a comment (1 comments)
10

Aimee Mann/'Til Tuesday

Local tie Formed 'Til Tuesday in Boston
Essential works Magnolia soundtrack (1999)
Til Tuesday, the band Aimee Mann formed in the early '80s after dropping out of Berklee College of Music, enjoyed one big single with the moody new wave anthem "Voices Carry." But it was Mann's whip-smart songwriting that leapt off the page and became her stock in trade when the frontwoman set out as a solo artist. She stepped ... [ MORE ]
Like (64 like) | Add a comment (4 comments)
11

Boston

Local tie Formed (where else?) in Boston
Essential works Boston (1976)
From the fertile mind of an MIT whiz kid (Tom Scholz) and an angelic vocalist from Danvers (the late Brad Delp) came an arena-rock band that broke ground in melding state of the art with state of the heart on its blockbuster debut. More than "just another band," Boston, which included guitarist Barry Goudreau, drummer Sib Hashian, and bassist ... [ MORE ]
Like (98 like) | Add a comment
12

Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers

Local tie Grew up in Natick, formed band in Boston
Essential works Jonathan Richman & the Modern Lovers (1977)
Thoroughly eccentric, totally inscrutable, completely charming. A fearless, nimble negotiator of pop music stylings, Jonathan Richman is the ultimate cult artist. He may have started out a punk and underground rock pioneer, but Richman and his music have grown in wildly unexpected ways during a nearly four-decade-long career that remains creatively vibrant to this day.
Like (62 like) | Add a comment (2 comments)
13

Mission of Burma

Local tie Formed in Boston
Essential works Vs. (1982)
Mission of Burma navigated the sweet spot between art and chaos like a bunch of post-punk PhDs. This was a band that tickled your brain and battered your psyche (not to mention eardrums) with aplomb bordering on annihilation. Moreover, it reconvened in 2002 after a nearly 20-year hiatus and did it all over again, in a rare second act ... [ MORE ]
Like (50 like) | Add a comment (4 comments)
14

The Mighty Mighty Bosstones

Local tie Formed in Boston
Essential works Let's Face It (1997)
This rowdy, plaid-clad bunch, led by mischievous carnival barker frontman Dicky Barrett, was a true DIY success story long before the major labels got hip to its blend of serrated metal guitar, buoyant rock-steady ska grooves, a jubilant horn section, and a whole lot of punk snarl. The band's Top 40 breakthrough in 1997 was icing on a long-cooking ... [ MORE ]
Like (57 like) | Add a comment (1 comments)
15

The Lemonheads

Local tie Formed in Boston
Essential works It's a Shame About Ray (1992)
Evan Dando isn't the first near-superstar whose personal antics derailed his band's prospects, but he's Boston's own, which means that we know what much of the rest of the world has forgotten: Dando was and is a first-rate pop-rocker, master of sunny hooks and weary refrains that sketch alt-ennui in deceptively breezy miniature.
Like (40 like) | Add a comment (4 comments)
16

Dropkick Murphys

Local tie Formed in Boston
Essential works The Warrior's Code (2005)
If the concept of working-class Boston could be scientifically translated into a musical equivalent, it would be the sound of this endearingly scruffy band of punks. Whether celebrating Celtic pride or the heart of the working man, rooting on our home teams, or lionizing misfits, barflies, and brawlers, the Murphys manage to marry menace, mirth, and meaning into something ... [ MORE ]
Like (72 like) | Add a comment (6 comments)
17

The Remains

Local tie Formed in Boston
Essential works The Remains (1966, reissued and expanded in 2007)
Like Cape Cod rock band the Barbarians, the Remains should have been much bigger than they were. Led by Barry Tashian, the quartet whose members formed while at BU was a regional sensation, playing a lean blast of garage rock and soul while selling out long-gone venues like the Rathskeller. By 1965, the Remains were signed to a major ... [ MORE ]
Like (14 like) | Add a comment
18

Galaxie 500

Local tie Formed in Cambridge
Essential works On Fire (1989)
The trio's three-year run was short but potent, and it's safe to say Galaxie 500's legacy as a seminal slow-core band, with its downbeat gauzy melodies and arrangements, was fully recognized only after guitarist Dean Wareham, bassist Naomi Yang, and drummer Damon Krukowski had split up in 1991. Still living in Cambridge, Krukowski and Yang continue to release evocative ... [ MORE ]
Like (18 like) | Add a comment (2 comments)
19

Morphine

Local tie Formed in Cambridge
Essential works Cure for Pain (1993)
On paper, a lineup of two-string slide bass, baritone saxophone, and drums doesn't make a lot of rock 'n' roll sense. But Morphine made minimalist rock that somehow brimmed with bluesy, jazz-inflected sounds and dark, intense moods. Mark Sandman, Dana Colley, and Billy Conway hung out on the cutting edge - a wry, urbane alternative during the grunge-drenched '90s ... [ MORE ]
Like (56 like) | Add a comment (2 comments)
20

Amanda Palmer/ Dresden Dolls

Local tie Formed in Boston
Essential works The Dresden Dolls (2003)
Songwriter-piano basher-performance artist-provocateur-pop confessor-theater renegade-rabid collaborator-goth pinup-ukulele powerhouse . . . Amanda Palmer is Boston's ever-enterprising art-world hyphenate, at home on street corners and in Symphony Hall. The Dresden Dolls, her cabaret-punk duo with Brian Viglione, set the tone, but hardly the boundaries, for Palmer's expansive and fiercely independent vision.
Like (31 like) | Add a comment (5 comments)
21

Guster

Local tie Formed in Medford
Essential works Lost and Gone Forever (1999)
Tufts University was the incubator for this affable trio that started out armed only with acoustic guitars, bongos, and a dream. Ryan Miller, Adam Gardner, and Brian Rosenworcel met at freshman orientation and have been inseparable since, releasing a string of albums that have evolved from scrappy and earnest dorm-room demos to mature and inventive pop-rock opuses.
Like (34 like) | Add a comment (3 comments)
22

Tavares

Local tie Formed in New Bedford
Essential works It Only Takes a Minute (1975), More Than a Woman (1977)
In the grand tradition of family acts, these five brothers - Ralph, Feliciano, Arthur, Antone, and Perry Lee - were blessed with heavenly harmonies and the good fortune to hit the bull's-eye of the '70s soul/disco revolution, thanks in part to another band of brothers, the Bee Gees, who penned Tavares' Saturday Night Fever hit.
Like (45 like) | Add a comment
23

Dick Dale

Local tie Born in Boston, raised in Quincy
Essential works Surfer's Choice (1962, released under Dick Dale and His Del-Tones)
He certainly didn't learn to surf around these parts, but Dick Dale spent his formative years in Quincy and was known then as Richard Monsour. That's an overlooked fact about the legendary guitar master who's inextricably linked to California's sun and sand. Responsible for some of surf rock's defining anthems ("Miserlou" for one), Dale influenced countless generations of future ... [ MORE ]
Like (24 like) | Add a comment (1 comments)
24

Tom Rush

Local tie Got his start in Cambridge's folk clubs in the 1960s
Essential works Tom Rush (1965)
James Taylor openly admits he modeled his early career on Tom Rush, marveling at his prowess for interpreting classic folk and blues and later country-rock. An accomplished guitarist and early champion of singer-songwriters such as Jackson Browne and Joni Mitchell, Rush kept a low profile in recent years before resurfacing with last year's overlooked What I Am.
Like (26 like) | Add a comment (3 comments)
25

The G-Clefs

Local tie Formed in Boston
Essential works Ka-Ding Dong (1956)
Troll YouTube for evidence of the G-Clefs' legacy, and you get just a handful of wildly infectious doo-wop songs such as "Ka-Ding Dong" and " 'Cause You're Mine." Otherwise, you have to dig a little deeper to track down out-of-print records from this Roxbury R&B quintet that's still performing.
Like (30 like) | Add a comment (2 comments)

Passion Pit

Earnest, infectious electro-pop. For this young band, let's hope adulthood doesn't kill the joy.
Like (12 like) | Add a comment

Converge

Twenty years in, our punk-metal heroes are still breaking through. Go, team.
Like (4 like) | Add a comment

Crooked Still

Its dark, quietly brash take on bluegrass is a bridge between old-time and new-school.
Like (6 like) | Add a comment

Faces on Film

Frontman Mike Fiore spins an ethereal web with the dark-hearted ruminations heard on 2008's sublime The Troubles.
Like (2 like) | Add a comment

Eilen Jewell

Almost always on the road, Jewell has real feeling for the dusky country, gospel, and rock songs she performs with her tight backing band.
Like (19 like) | Add a comment

Eli 'Paperboy' Reed

This Boston-bred soul singer who summons Sam Cooke is well on his way to proving he's not just an R&B revivalist.
Like (5 like) | Add a comment

Killswitch Engage

Recognition for the brutal beauty of these heavy-duty metal masters is in the bag.
Like (9 like) | Add a comment

Susan Tedeschi

If anyone is in it for the long haul, it is this gifted R&B singer and guitarist from Norwell.
Like (20 like) | Add a comment (1 comments)

Boys Like Girls

And girls like Boys Like Girls, helping the emo quartet become one of the Hub's most recent success stories.
Like (7 like) | Add a comment

Wheat

First-rate pop spanning lo-fi, melancholic dirges and pastoral, wholehearted anthems.
Like (11 like) | Add a comment (1 comments)

Jonatha Brooke

An elegant, articulate, perennially under-appreciated singer-songwriter.
Like (11 like) | Add a comment

Letters to Cleo

Fronted by the indefatigable Kay Hanley, they rocked with both hooks and heft during their '90s heyday.
Like (44 like) | Add a comment (1 comments)

Thalia Zedek/Come

Zedek is the quintessential unsung hero, the damaged and defiant rocker who had several local alternative bands, including Come, before striking out on her own.
Like (10 like) | Add a comment

The Barbarians

Roaring out of Cape Cod, these garage rockers charted with just a few songs but inspired generations of bands from New England and beyond.
Like (9 like) | Add a comment (1 comments)

Blake Babies/Juliana Hatfield

With three albums of classic '80s college rock, Blake Babies were briefly Boston's next big thing before they split and Hatfield went on to a solo career.
Like (13 like) | Add a comment (1 comments)

Buffalo Tom

Linchpin of the alt-rock '90s, packing emotional and musical power.
Like (55 like) | Add a comment (9 comments)

Lori McKenna

The pride of Stoughton and an exquisite singer-songwriter.
Like (8 like) | Add a comment

Jo Dee Messina

From Holliston to Nashville, one of our most successful country singers.
Like (7 like) | Add a comment
1

The Cars

Local tie Formed in Boston
Essential works The Cars (1978)
Every single song on the Cars' debut album is still in rotation on rock radio - no small feat considering the competition for nostalgia programming. The Cars were utterly canny, expert at cherry-picking the most iconic and broadly appealing elements of new wave, hard rock, and Top 40 and fusing the parts into savvy anthems that were somehow as ... [ MORE ]
Like (93 like) | Add a comment (5 comments)
2

Aerosmith

Local tie Formed in Boston
Essential works Toys in the Attic (1975), Permanent Vacation (1987)
The stats alone would be enough to secure this spot for the Bad Boys of Boston - more than 100 million albums sold, worldwide stadium tours, enshrinement in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, a raft of awards from Grammys to MTV moon men. But numbers and trophies can't possibly tell the whole glorious, raunchy, tumultuous, debauched, and ... [ MORE ]
Like (92 like) | Add a comment (5 comments)
3

Boston

Local tie Formed (where else?) in Boston
Essential works Boston (1976)
From the fertile mind of an MIT whiz kid (Tom Scholz) and an angelic vocalist from Danvers (the late Brad Delp) came an arena-rock band that broke ground in melding state of the art with state of the heart on its blockbuster debut. More than "just another band," Boston, which included guitarist Barry Goudreau, drummer Sib Hashian, and bassist ... [ MORE ]
Like (98 like) | Add a comment
4

Pixies

Local tie Formed in Boston
Essential works Doolittle (1989)
The Pixies released only four albums in three years and never cracked the mainstream, but their artful embrace of musical extremes and radical subversion of conventions created a blueprint for the alternative rock explosion that would follow: whiplash dynamics, a ferocious collision of noise and melody, and cryptic lyricism that flirted with the primal and the surreal. How influential ... [ MORE ]
Like (100 like) | Add a comment (8 comments)
5

James Taylor

Local tie Born in Boston; Berkshires resident
Essential works Sweet Baby James (1970)
The Beatles saw so much potential in a barely-out-of-his-teens James Taylor that he was the first non-British signee to their Apple label. We can't argue with them. They were likely impressed, as so many still are, by the warmth of his resonant tenor - still undimmed by age - his elegantly intricate guitar style, and his gift for delivering ... [ MORE ]
Like (83 like) | Add a comment (2 comments)
6

J. Geils Band/ Peter Wolf

Local tie Formed in Worcester
Essential works "Live" Full House (1972)
Long before the No. 1 hit "Centerfold" catapulted the group onto a world stage, the J. Geils Band was known around here as something much more meaningful - New England's blues-rock saviors. There's a lot to be said for a band that sticks it out for 15 years before becoming famous, but you got the impression the guys weren't ... [ MORE ]
Like (85 like) | Add a comment (5 comments)
7

Donna Summer

Local tie Born in Boston
Essential works Bad Girls (1979)
Disco was the genre that unleashed Donna Summer's astonishing voice upon the masses, and she reigned supreme in the Studio 54 glory days. The woman born LaDonna Gaines transcended the ephemera of that era by bringing erotic heat and a beating heart to Giorgio Moroder's icy synths and pulsating beats on hits like "Love to Love You Baby" and ... [ MORE ]
Like (56 like) | Add a comment (2 comments)
8

Aimee Mann/'Til Tuesday

Local tie Formed 'Til Tuesday in Boston
Essential works Magnolia soundtrack (1999)
Til Tuesday, the band Aimee Mann formed in the early '80s after dropping out of Berklee College of Music, enjoyed one big single with the moody new wave anthem "Voices Carry." But it was Mann's whip-smart songwriting that leapt off the page and became her stock in trade when the frontwoman set out as a solo artist. She stepped ... [ MORE ]
Like (64 like) | Add a comment (4 comments)
9

The Mighty Mighty Bosstones

Local tie Formed in Boston
Essential works Let's Face It (1997)
This rowdy, plaid-clad bunch, led by mischievous carnival barker frontman Dicky Barrett, was a true DIY success story long before the major labels got hip to its blend of serrated metal guitar, buoyant rock-steady ska grooves, a jubilant horn section, and a whole lot of punk snarl. The band's Top 40 breakthrough in 1997 was icing on a long-cooking ... [ MORE ]
Like (57 like) | Add a comment (1 comments)
10

The Lemonheads

Local tie Formed in Boston
Essential works It's a Shame About Ray (1992)
Evan Dando isn't the first near-superstar whose personal antics derailed his band's prospects, but he's Boston's own, which means that we know what much of the rest of the world has forgotten: Dando was and is a first-rate pop-rocker, master of sunny hooks and weary refrains that sketch alt-ennui in deceptively breezy miniature.
Like (40 like) | Add a comment (4 comments)
11

Dropkick Murphys

Local tie Formed in Boston
Essential works The Warrior's Code (2005)
If the concept of working-class Boston could be scientifically translated into a musical equivalent, it would be the sound of this endearingly scruffy band of punks. Whether celebrating Celtic pride or the heart of the working man, rooting on our home teams, or lionizing misfits, barflies, and brawlers, the Murphys manage to marry menace, mirth, and meaning into something ... [ MORE ]
Like (72 like) | Add a comment (6 comments)
12

Mission of Burma

Local tie Formed in Boston
Essential works Vs. (1982)
Mission of Burma navigated the sweet spot between art and chaos like a bunch of post-punk PhDs. This was a band that tickled your brain and battered your psyche (not to mention eardrums) with aplomb bordering on annihilation. Moreover, it reconvened in 2002 after a nearly 20-year hiatus and did it all over again, in a rare second act ... [ MORE ]
Like (50 like) | Add a comment (4 comments)
13

Tracy Chapman

Like (28 like) | Add a comment
14

Billy Squier

Like (18 like) | Add a comment
15

Morphine

Local tie Formed in Cambridge
Essential works Cure for Pain (1993)
On paper, a lineup of two-string slide bass, baritone saxophone, and drums doesn't make a lot of rock 'n' roll sense. But Morphine made minimalist rock that somehow brimmed with bluesy, jazz-inflected sounds and dark, intense moods. Mark Sandman, Dana Colley, and Billy Conway hung out on the cutting edge - a wry, urbane alternative during the grunge-drenched '90s ... [ MORE ]
Like (56 like) | Add a comment (2 comments)
16

Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers

Local tie Grew up in Natick, formed band in Boston
Essential works Jonathan Richman & the Modern Lovers (1977)
Thoroughly eccentric, totally inscrutable, completely charming. A fearless, nimble negotiator of pop music stylings, Jonathan Richman is the ultimate cult artist. He may have started out a punk and underground rock pioneer, but Richman and his music have grown in wildly unexpected ways during a nearly four-decade-long career that remains creatively vibrant to this day.
Like (62 like) | Add a comment (2 comments)
17

The Del Fuegos

Like (35 like) | Add a comment
18

Dinosaur Jr.

Like (19 like) | Add a comment (1 comments)
19

Buffalo Tom

Linchpin of the alt-rock '90s, packing emotional and musical power.
Like (55 like) | Add a comment (9 comments)
20

They Might Be Giants

Like (24 like) | Add a comment (1 comments)
21

Letters to Cleo

Fronted by the indefatigable Kay Hanley, they rocked with both hooks and heft during their '90s heyday.
Like (44 like) | Add a comment (1 comments)
22

New Edition

Local tie Formed in Boston
Essential works New Edition (1984)
The Roxbury group may have set a record for successful spinoffs, as Bobby Brown, Ralph Tresvant, and Brown replacement Johnny Gill all enjoyed solo careers, and Ricky Bell, Michael Bivins, and Ronnie DeVoe teamed up for the '90s sensation Bell Biv DeVoe. But it was the '80s R&B bubble gum confections like "Cool It Now" and "Candy Girl" that ... [ MORE ]
Like (30 like) | Add a comment
23

Joan Baez

Local tie Got her start in area coffeehouses while living in Belmont
Essential works Joan Baez (1960)
Joan Baez, pop musician? Not exactly, but the folk matriarch ultimately transcended genre: She was the embodiment and lightning rod of her generation, a beacon of its hopes and indestructible spirit. New York had Dylan, but we could claim Baez, since she moved to Belmont when she was 17 and dropped out of BU soon after enrolling. With nothing ... [ MORE ]
Like (37 like) | Add a comment (1 comments)
24

Guster

Local tie Formed in Medford
Essential works Lost and Gone Forever (1999)
Tufts University was the incubator for this affable trio that started out armed only with acoustic guitars, bongos, and a dream. Ryan Miller, Adam Gardner, and Brian Rosenworcel met at freshman orientation and have been inseparable since, releasing a string of albums that have evolved from scrappy and earnest dorm-room demos to mature and inventive pop-rock opuses.
Like (34 like) | Add a comment (3 comments)
25

New Kids on the Block

Local tie Formed in Boston
Essential works Hangin' Tough (1988)
If you attended high school anywhere in the country in the late 1980s, there's a good chance you heard a familiar refrain in your lunchroom: Who do you love most, Jordan or Joey? New Kids on the Block were global pop stars, but you could tell from those accents that they were the pride of Boston. Assembled by ... [ MORE ]
Like (28 like) | Add a comment (1 comments)