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5 Great Musicians Who Called Seattle Home

5 Great Musicians Who Called Seattle Home

Some of the best musicians of our time have come from Seattle. While you likely know of a few famous Pacific Northwest artists, you may be surprised to discover others who called the city home.

When it comes to the music scene in Washington State, you might think about grunge bands or the state’s famous punk scene. But some of our favorite revolutionary rock artists hailed from Seattle.

Join us as we look into five of the most iconic Seattle musicians.

Let’s hit it!

About Seattle, Washington

This popular Pacific Northwest city is located along the Puget Sound estuary and has been an important port throughout history. Travel about 100 miles north from downtown, and you’ll find yourself in Canada. Seattle’s metropolitan area has over four million residents, making it the largest in the region.

Seattle is well-known for its fresh seafood from Pike Place Market and the infamous Space Needle. Boeing Airplanes based their business out of this Northwestern city until 2001, and Bill Gates, a native of the area, created Microsoft there. You can even visit the original Starbucks. So citizens of Seattle have been at the forefront of US culture for over a century.

In the 1980s, the city’s music scene boomed with the development of grunge. More recently, it became a hotspot for indie rock bands like The Postal Service and Fleet Foxes.

Before it gained notoriety as a popular spot for fresh takes on music, the city had already raised several legendary songwriters. Throughout the years, Seattle musicians have helped shape music as we know it today.

#1 Jimi Hendrix

Guitar legend James Marshall, known as Jimi Hendrix, got his start as a kid in the Pacific Northwest. The social worker at his elementary school noticed he carried a broom everywhere, pretending it was a guitar, and suggested his parents purchase him an instrument. 

Though his parents didn’t follow through, he eventually found a ukulele with a single string in the garbage and learned to play. He finally bought a guitar for five dollars during junior high in 1958. By 1964, he started recording as a professional player with The Isley Brothers. Two years later, Hendrix became very popular in Europe, particularly in London. 

His album Are You Experienced spent nearly eight months on the charts and peaked at number two behind The Beatles’ most recent album. Hendrix lit his guitar on fire at the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967, becoming an instant hit throughout the US. You’ve probably heard some of this famous musician’s most popular tunes, including Hey Joe and Purple Haze.

#2 Kurt Cobain

Few bands have reached the level of fame that Nirvana did. The alternative rock group, founded in Seattle by Kurt Cobain, has been named one of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time by Rolling Stone magazine. Unfortunately, Cobain met an untimely death in 1994 at just 27 years of age.

Born to Irish-immigrant parents in Aberdeen, Washington, Cobain started playing piano when he was four years old. He had an unstable home life and became quite the menace in his teenage years. When Kurt’s mother kicked him out for dropping out of high school, and he took to couch surfing or sleeping under a bridge. 

Cobain eventually found a home in the thriving Washington punk rock scene. His band Nirvana recorded its first album in 1989, and when they weren’t satisfied with the results, they laid down Nevermind in 1991. Their first single from the record, Smells Like Teen Spirit, became extremely popular and rocketed the group to stardom. 

#3 Quincy Jones 

Though born in Chicago, Illinois, Quincy Jones grew up and started his music career in Seattle. During his career, he amassed an astounding 28 Grammy awards for his arranging, recording, and songwriting work. He also has two honorary doctorates and was awarded the National Medal of Arts by President Obama.

During his time at Garfield High School, the same place Jimi Hendrix later attended, he honed his trumpet performance and arrangement skills. At just 14 years of age, Jones joined the National Reserve band to begin garnering professional experience. 

The trumpeter went on to have a prolific production career. He produced a little album you may have heard of in 1982 called Thriller and also created the soundtrack for the film The Wiz in 1978. In addition, he wrote music for the show The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and even starred in Disney’s Fantasia 2000. 

#4 Ray Charles

At just 16 years of age, a 14-year-old admirer by the name of Quincy Jones approached Ray Charles during a show at the Black Elks Club. The two Seattle musicians became fast friends and built an enduring companionship. 

Ray Charles, a pianist that went blind during childhood, pioneered the genre of soul music. You might’ve heard him croon his first number-one hit, Georgia on My Mind. He won 18 Grammy awards and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986 with the inaugural class.

Though originally from Georgia, Charles moved around a lot at the start of his career. After spending some time in sunny Florida, he relocated to the Pacific Northwest in 1948.

#5 Heart

Sisters Ann and Nancy Wilson formed this heavy-hitting rock band in 1973. Their father was in the military so the family moved around quite a bit. While both women were born in California, Seattle became their home when they were still fairly young.

Music was integral to the Wilson family. They believed it helped create a sense of home no matter where they lived. The family would regularly be together on Sundays to eat pancakes and listen to a variety of music. Sometimes it would be opera, while other times they’d pop a Ray Charles or Peggy Lee album on the turntable.

While Heart didn’t remain in Seattle for long after forming, these musicians definitely got their start there. And many Seattlites claim them as one of their hometown bands.

Seattle Produces Legendary Musicians

We wish we had unlimited space to talk about all the greatest Seattle musicians. The city has been churning out fantastic artists for nearly a century. The trend seems to be continuing as new musicians emerge from this Pacific Northwest city. We’re excited to see what future legends come out of the area.

Which Seattle musicians do you enjoy listening to the most? Let us know in the comments.

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