Long Island doesn’t lack talent, especially when it comes to the music department. It’s why Jim Faith, the man behind the Great South Bay Music Festival, and friends founded the Long Island Music Hall of Fame in 2004 and will open a museum inside the Wyandanch Village project this year.
From rock to hip hop to pop, these acts will keep you tapping your feet and feeling proud to be from Long Island.
It’s impossible not to speak about Long Island musicians without mentioning the Piano Man. Raised in Hicksville, the singer is one of the most celebrated musicians decades after launching his career in the early 70s. More than 150 million albums sold, an induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1999 and the record for most solo performances in Madison Square Garden (aka The World’s Most Famous Arena) have made Joel one of the Island’s most famous sons.
Lou Reed was an influential force in the rock world during his five decades in the business. After leaving the rock band Velvet Underground in 1970, he launched a solo career and released hits including “Walk On the Wild Side” and “Satellite of Love.” Reed, who grew up in Freeport, died in 2013 from liver disease in his Southampton home.
The late Grammy Award-winning songwriter may have been born in New York City, but his love for Long Island earns him a spot on the list. Chapin, known for songs like “Taxi,” “W.O.L.D,” and “Cat’s in the Cradle,” lived in Huntington Bay before his 1981 death in a car accident on the Long Island Expressway (near exit 40) when he was 38. Aside from making beautiful music, Chapin was also a humanitarian who raised money for Long Island causes and fought to end hunger by founding Long Island Cares in 1980.
LL Cool J
Hip hop wouldn’t be the same without LL Cool J. Born in Bay Shore (later moving to Queens), LL Cool J released his first album Radio in 1985 followed by 12 more. Aside from a fruitful music career, LL Cool J found success in acting with roles in several movies, including Any Given Sunday and Deliver Us from Eva. He currently hosts Spike’s Lip Sync Battle and has been a regular on NCIS: Los Angeles since 2009.
Having sold more than 200 million records worldwide and 18 No. 1 hits on Billboard (second highest to The Beatles), this Long Island native is one of the most successful singers of all time. Carey continues to reign on the charts decades after releasing her debut album in 1990. Recently, she’s made headlines for giving 2016 the coda it deserved—a rough performance on Dick Clark’s Rockin’ New Year’s Eve. Like a true Long Islander, Carey has bounced back before and likely will again (she owns Christmas, after all).
The Garden City native left his job as a 10-year co-host of “Entertainment Tonight” in 1996 to pursue a career in music. He quickly became an accomplished pianist and composer, releasing three gold albums, which garnered two Grammy nominations. He now also hosts the syndicated radio show, The John Tesh Radio Show, which is followed by millions in the US, Canada and the U.K.
Blue Öyster Cult
Another rock sensation from Long Island, Blue Oyster Cult formed in the late 60s and went on to sell over 24 million albums internationally. Several of the group’s hits, including “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper,” “Burnin’ For You” and “Godzilla,” have been covered by numerous other musicians proving the impact of the band’s music.
This rock band’s legacy is understood from its ability to influence other big acts like Deep Purple and Styx. The Long Island band, which formed in the 60s, is believed to be the “forerunners of heavy metal,” as bass guitarist Pete Bremy told Montgomery News in 2012.