Top 10 musicians of all time from Birmingham

Birmingham is known for having a rich and diverse music scene which is full of opportunities for both emerging and established artists. It has produced some amazing musicians over the years. Here are Access Creative College’s top 10 picks:


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Ozzy Osbourne and Black Sabbath

Birmingham is famously the birthplace of heavy metal, and Black Sabbath were the pioneers of this genre. From humble beginnings in Aston, their influence on rock and metal musicians all over the world has been immense. Their second album, Paranoid. with its infectious single of the same name is an absolute classic.


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Named after a form needed to claim unemployment benefits, UB40 are a product of a 1980s Birmingham which was becoming increasingly ethnically diverse. The band have been incredibly successful and dominated the singles charts in the 80s and 90s. Underneath the diverse musical influences and tight musicianship are great tunes, the best of which perfectly capture lazy summer evenings in Birmingham.


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Jeff Lynne and ELO

For the most part, the Electric Light Orchestra was the brainchild of the extraordinary Jeff Lynne, who set out to make music that used a range of classical instruments. 1977’s Out Of The Blue is an epic double album featuring adventurous arrangements and pop bangers, like the irresistible Mr. Blue Sky, which became ELO’s signature song. The band’s catalogue is vast (Out Of The Blue was their seventh album) and is well worth exploring.


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Duran Duran

In terms of record sales, Duran Duran might be Birmingham’s most successful band with over 100 million records sold. Apart from writing and recording some of the most iconic songs of the 1980s, a key factor in their success was their pioneering use of music videos, the concept of which was relatively new, to command attention. Duran Duran made full use of the new format, from mud wrestling (Girls On Film) to an exotic yacht in the Caribbean (Rio). 



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Laura Mvula

Laura Mvula is one of the most exciting acts to emerge from Birmingham in the last ten years. Her diverse musical upbringing is reflected in her output. As well as studying classical music, Laura toured the world with different cappella groups and community choirs. The result is a heady mix of R&B, soul, funk and jazz, peppered with complex warm vocal arrangements and lush orchestration.


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Mike Skinner

Although the pioneering wordplay and thrilling storytelling of Mike Skinner’s most famous project, The Streets, launched when he was living in London, he grew up in West Heath, and as a teenager built his own studio in his house. After spending time in Australia, Skinner returned to the UK and moved to London where he honed his craft and reputation as a unique rapper and producer. Although it’s hard to beat the smart lyricism and production on the debut album ‘Original Pirate Material’ or the solid-gold pop of mega hits ‘Fit But You Know It’ and ‘Dry Your Eyes’, most recent album ‘The Darker The Shadow The Brighter The Light’ features some of the strongest songs in his entire catalogue.


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Judas Priest

Another product of the pioneering Birmingham metal scene in the late 1960s, Judas Priest enjoyed massive success, although they had to work hard to achieve it. Their first major breakthrough was the album British Steel which was released in 1980, 11 years and 6 albums into their career. As well as great songs the band are known for their incredible live shows, which often feature singer Rob Halford riding a motorbike on stage.


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The Moody Blues

Originally a rhythm and blues band who mainly recorded covers, The Moody Blues started writing their own songs in the mid-1960s and produced one of the first concept albums with Days Of Future Passed in 1967. Musically, this was a world away from the R&B that the band had started their careers playing, with rich orchestral arrangements, complex harmonies, unpredictable structures, and a narrative thread that ran through the record that inspired lots of other musicians. The album also boasted the swooning ‘Nights in White Satin’ which became a global hit and is still regarded as their signature song.


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Malkit Singh

After moving to Birmingham from his native India at the age of nine, Malkit Singh has become one of the best-selling Bhangra artists of all time. He was the first Punjabi singer to be awarded with an MBE in 2008 and has been bestowed numerous other honours from the city of Birmingham as one of its most celebrated residents. Malkit was signed to the Birmingham-based Oriental Star Agencies, a legendary label that championed British Asian music. Singh’s catalogue is vast, but a great place to start is the iconic and uplifting ‘Jind Mahi’, which featured in the hit 2002 film Bend It Like Beckham.


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Joan Armatrading

After moving to Birmingham at the age of three and picking up a guitar in her teens, Joan Armatrading cut her teeth playing in the city’s clubs before going on to record an extensive and varied catalogue of songs. ‘Love and Affection’, her first big hit, showcases her rich vocals and silky songwriting, whereas ‘Me, Myself and I’ has a distinctive rock flavour. Joan is still making music, with her most recent work being a classical symphony which is to be recorded soon.


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Where can I study music in Birmingham?

If you want to follow in the footsteps of these legendary artists, ACC Birmingham is the perfect place to start! We offer Level 2 – 4 vocational courses in music, ranging from Music Performance to Artist Development. Check out our full course list here, applications are open for September 2024.

Last updated on: 28th March 2024