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Grammy-Ready: Famous San Diego Musicians

A concert in Embarcadero Marina Park

Awards season continues this Sunday night with the airing of the 57th Grammy Awards (February 8 on CBS, 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT). To get you in the mood to sing and dance, here are some San Diego-born musical artists and some of their biggest hits.

Tom Waits

Genres: Rock, avant-garde, experimental, folk, blues, jazz

While his music is best known after it’s been performed by someone else (like “Jersey Girl,” covered by Bruce Springsteen, or “Downtown Train,” covered by Rod Stewart), Tom Waits’ distinctive voice and experimental musical styles have earned him a cult following. He’s a Grammy award winner and a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee.


Genres: Pop-punk, alternative rock

Play the first few seconds of “All the Small Things,” and you’ll get the attention of every millenial or pop-punk enthusiast in the room. The band has sold over 35 million albums and inspired a diverse range of acts such as Fall Out Boy, 5 Seconds of Summer, and Mumford & Sons.

Nick Cannon

Genre: Hip hop

While he’s now best known for his acting work and his marriage to Mariah Carey, Nick Cannon began his career as part of a rap group that opened for artists like Will Smith and LFO in the late ’90s. While he’s only released two studio albums, Cannon also runs Ncredible Entertainment, which manages several hip-hop groups.

Adam Lambert

Genres: Pop, pop-rock, dance, electronic

The runner-up from American Idol season 8, Lambert’s fame has far surpassed that of the season winner (Kris Allen). His debut album. For Your Entertainment, has become iconic for its cover art – the album even made an appearance in a scene from Pitch Perfect. In 2014, Lambert and Queen went on a world tour, selling out their show at Madison Square Garden in just one day.

Frank Zappa

Genres: Rock, jazz, classical, electronic, experimental

Number 71 on Rolling Stone‘s 2004 list of the “100 Greatest Artists of All Time,” Frank Zappa had a career spanning more than 30 years. He posthumously received both an induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as well as a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.


Bonus San Diego music fun fact: While the Beach Boys are often associated with San Diego, they hail from Hawthorne, California, 120 miles north. Who knew?

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