The Musical Greats of Seattle

Seattle Skyline, Space Needle upfront (wiki)

Seattle, Washington, known as the City of Goodwill and also as Emerald City, is known for coffee, rainy weather, the Space Needle, and some great musical legends. While it may not be along the lines of New York or Hollywood in terms of being a magnet for entertainers, Seattle’s high quality of life, strong arts culture, and much educated populace are enough reasons for the city to generate more talent than anywhere else.

Here are some of the famous artists, musicians, and bands that came from Seattle or at launched their careers while living in Seattle.

1. Jimi Hendrix

Hendrix had a short-lived career, spanning seven years. In all of those seven years, the last three years catapulted and cemented his stature as the “Black Elvis”. These last three years of superstardom were and still are considered among the most influential in the history of pop music.

Jimi Hendrix was born and bred in Seattle. In fact, his first ever gig was in the basement of Temple De Hirsch, a synagogue in Seattle. His ticket to fame was touring with the Isley Brothers and going to London, where he attained worldwide fame as a singer, songwriter, and guitar phenomenon.

He died a premature death due to the fatal combination of alcohol and sleeping pills. He was only 27 years young then.

2. Ray Charles

Technically, Ray Charles isn’t a native of Seattle. He was born in Albany, Georgia on September 23, 1930, lived as a blind, orphaned young boy in Tampa, Florida, and later on moved to Seattle to get as far away as he could from where he currently lived.

He stayed briefly in Seattle, but it was noted that it served as the launch pad of his career. This was where he cut his first record and developed the genre-bending musical style that made him the international star that he was.

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Ray Charles, 2003

3. Quincy Jones

Quincy is a record producer, composer, arranger, conductor, film and TV producer, and musician rolled into one. His career spans six decades and his resiliency in the entertainment industry is proven by his record 79 Grammy award nominations. Of these, he has won 27 awards, including the prestigious Grammy Legend Award in 1991. He has worked with some of the biggest names in the music industry including Celine Dion, Frank Sinatra, and Michael Jackson. Incidentally, Quincy Jones was a good friend of Ray Charles, and in fact, owed his musical beginnings to the latter.

4. Nirvana and Kurt Cobain

Kurt Cobain grew up in the logging town of Aberdeen. In the late 80s, he formed the band Nirvana together with his fellow Aberdeener, Krist Noveselic. Nirvana was famous for grunge music, and it was in the early 90s, through the said genre, that Seattle shot to a type of cultural prominence it has never experienced before.

Kurt’s strong vocal prowess, uncanny command of melody, and adolescent rage combined to form hits such as “Smells like Teen Spirit”. Sadly, Kurt’s life was cut short when he took his own life at the age of 27, after struggling with depression, stomach pain, and heroin abuse.

5. Kenny G

Known as the titan of smooth jazz, Kenneth Bruce Gorelick was born in Seattle, Washington on June 5, 1956. He attended Franklin High School and University of Washington. After graduating from college, he became a successful jazz instrumentalist and even played along with Barry White while on tour. Eventually, he recorded his own work, which paved the way for his multi-platinum success. Over the years, he has sold over 70 million records and he continues to be a popular jazz instrumentalist to this day.

Some of other famous bands/musicians (living and otherwise) who hail from Seattle are:

Eddie Vedder and Pearl Jam
Macklemore
Alice in Chains
Bing Crosby
Dave Matthews
Soundgarden

All these names are proof that Seattle has, indeed, a great musical history and that it has produced more talent per capita than any other city in the United States.

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Kurt Cobain, 1993

Much Ado about the Space Needle

 

Seattle is considered the major commercial, educational, and cultural powerhouse of the western Washington region. It may seem like an ordinary city, but you would never want for anything when you visit the place. The city boasts of extraordinary and fun things to do no matter what age group you belong to.

At least three bodies of water surround Seattle – Lake Union, Lake Washington, and Elliot Bay. In addition, it’s where you’ll find Mount Olympic, Cascade, and Mount Rainier. Aside from these natural treasures, Seattle boasts of a thriving city life, world class museums such as the Seattle Art Museum, classic theaters, restaurants that serve world class cuisine, and many more famous landmarks.

seattle space needle
at 605 ft

Nevertheless, one of the most famous distinguishing features of Seattle is the Space Needle. This 605 feet tower, which was built for the 1962 World Fair, has become a favorite tourist attraction and a symbolic figure in Seattle. It is to Seattle as Sears Tower is to Chicago or the Statue of Liberty is to New York.

Edward Carlson envisioned the Space Needle, and he had the Stuttgart Tower in Germany to thank for the inspiration. Upon seeing the tower in Germany, he immediately made rough sketches on a napkin of something that would eventually become the Space Needle. Carlson’s original design had a top that looked like a floating balloon. However, the man who was responsible for bringing it to life was John Graham. For practical reasons, Graham and his team of architects decided to tweak Carlson’s original design, transforming the balloon top of the tower into a UFO. This is the sauce-topped tower we see now.

You’re probably wondering why Carlson would design something so futuristic. Well, the theme of the 1962 World Fair hosted in Seattle was “Century 21”, which explains why the Space Needle’s design had to be so. At 605 feet, the Needle seems to be teetering on a precarious ledge. However, the architects made sure that its concrete foundation was 30 feet deep in order to balance the structure. The actual tower and 24 lightning rods ensure that the structure is safe when lightning strikes.

Ever since it was created, the Space Needle has always had a light atop the structure. Through the years, this light has seen different “versions”, the most recent of which is the Legacy Light. The Legacy Light was first illuminated on New Year’s Eve of 1999/2000, as the whole world ushered in a new millennium. This beam of light shines its light skyward from the top of the Space Needle and is lit up to honor national holidays and commemorate other special occasions celebrated in Seattle.

The Space Needle owes part of its appeal to its observation deck, which is at 520 feet, and this provides a 360-degree view of Seattle’s landscape. Through telescopes found on the deck, you could zoom in on 60 different landmarks found around the city of Seattle.

The Needle also has a restaurant called the SkyCity, which revolves fully at 500 feet every hour. Incidentally, Where Magazine’s Visitors Choice Dining Awards named this restaurant “Best View”, and the Washington Wine Commission named it Best Restaurant for 2009. There is also the Skyline Banquet Facility that hosts events at 100 feet. If you want to go shopping for souvenirs, there is a gift shop at the base of the Space Needle aptly called the Space Base.

A trip to the Space Needle would be pretty special, and just the mere sight of this beautiful structure is enough to confirm that. If you haven’t been there, go and visit the place to find out why people are abuzz about it and why Seattle Weekly calls it the “Best Place to Get Engaged”.

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