Arizona music is as deep and vast as the Grand Canyon, so choosing 25 of the most influential Copper State greats was a tough act. We placed a high value on professional esteem (artists who’ve written/produced for or inspired others, and are considered pioneers in their genres), community impact (support for local business/charities/music), and to a lesser extent, commercial success. We also wanted the list to reflect the diversity of Arizona music – like a radio listener twisting dials through snippets of songs, you can catch and tune in to something you like, whether that’s vintage country, classic rock, New Wave, heavy metal, or the blues.
AZ connection: The legendary jazz player was born on an Army Base in Nogales, Arizona in 1922. He died of Lou Gehrig’s disease in Mexico in 1979.
Though Charles Mingus spent most of his life in L.A. and New York City, a more influential jazz musician has yet to be born on Arizona soil. A double-bass player, composer and bandleader, Mingus was a forerunner of free jazz and a pioneer of fusion jazz, combining the fiery vibes of hard bop with dashes of black gospel and classical music, sometimes in explosive collective jams so cohesive they were more like alchemy than improvisation. Mingus was inspired by Duke Ellington, with whom he later played, and Dizzy Gillespie once said Mingus reminded him “of a young Duke” because o