Famous and influential music artists who either lived or became famous in Seattle include a bevy of stand-out stars.
We’re talking about the likes of Bing Crosby, Brandi Carlile, Ernestine Anderson, Foo Fighters, Heart, Jimi Hendrix, Kenny G, Kenny Loggins, Macklemore, Queensryche, Quincy Jones, Ray Charles, and Sir Mix-a-Lot.
These talented folks have together tackled the music industry like a multigenerational colossus, leaving a Seattle-flavored mark on genres as all-encompassing yet disparate as the blues, country, heavy metal, jazz, pop, and rock.
The most famous Seattle musicians are Bing Crosby, Ray Charles, and Jimi Hendrix.
Table of Contents
- The most famous Seattle musicians
- Why are these three musicians considered the most famous?
- Bing Crosby
- Ray Charles
- Jimi Hendrix
Bing Crosby is one of the most famous because he recorded “White Christmas,” a cultural phenomenon that is still on most people’s Christmas playlist to this very day.
Ray Charles is one of the most famous because of his longevity at the top of the music industry – and he basically invented the genre of soul all on his own!
Jimi Hendrix is one of the most famous because although the incandescent spark of his life was soon put out, it burnt brightest of all (possibly because of his early death).
His virtuosity with an electric guitar puts him ahead of Seattle’s other notable early death, Kurt Cobain.
Hard to say. Was it pop-influenced jazz or jazz-influenced pop? If push came to shove, pop is probably the closest-fitting description, although many might take umbrage.
Born in Tacoma, Washington, on May 3, 1903, the future Bing Crosby was first named Harry Lillis Crosby.
The seventh child in a poor family, he loved to sing and was a member of the jazz group at his high school.
Bing Crosby was, without doubt, the most adored and influential star in the early part of the twentieth century.
He was the undisputed top-selling artist late into the rock period (with over half a billion records sold).
Bing Crosby was also a huge movie star and was Hollywood’s most popular box office draw from 1944 until 1947 and was one of the most popular box office-draws fifteen times between 1934 and 1952.
He was nominated to win Best Actor Oscars three times and won an Academy Award for Going My Way, the Oscar award winner for best picture of 1944.
Bing had more No. 1 records than anyone else and his songs stayed in the charts the longest too.
Crosby: “Well, I’ll tell you, back in the knee-britches day, when I was a wee little tyke, a mere broth of a lad, as we say in Spokane, I used to totter around the streets, with a gun on each hip, my favorite after school pastime was a game known as ‘Cops and Robbers’, I didn’t care which side I was on, when a cop or robber came into view, I would haul out my trusty six-shooters, made of wood, and loudly exclaim bing! bing!, as my luckless victim fell clutching his side, I would shout bing! bing!, and I would let him have it again, and then as his friends came to his rescue, shooting as they came, I would shout bing! bing! bing! bing! bing! bing! bing! bing!”Bing Crosby
“White Christmas” was first sung and released as a song in the 1942 film Holiday Inn. The track became instantly popular and quickly became one of the most iconic parts of the film.
It has since been bought over 50 million times around the world.
Barbara Walters asked in 1977: “Are you sick of ‘White Christmas?'” With a smile, Bing responded: “No, no, I could never be sick of it. I just fear that people will be sick of it.”Bing Crosby
Blues, country, gospel, jazz, R&B, rock and roll, soul.
The first child of Aretha and Bailey Robinson of Albany, Georgia, Ray Charles Robinson was born September 23, 1930.
The family began in poverty and continued to live in hardship through the tense years of the Great Depression.
When he was just five years old, Charles witnessed his brother drowning. The two boys had been playing in the backyard near the steel tub that their mother used to wash their clothes.
Four-year-old George fell over the edge and fell into the salted water. Charles tried to help, but his brother was weighed down by wet clothes and was just too heavy.
Charles ran to get his mother, but it was too late.
Not long after the drowning, Charles began to lose his vision, believed to be untreated glaucoma. By the age of seven, Charles was completely blind.
His mother compelled him to fetch water out of the well, bring firewood in, and complete other chores, even though he often fell and tripped.
“You may be blind,” she told him, “But you’re not dumb, and you must take care of things yourself because no one else will do them for you.”Ray Charles’ mother
In 1948, an orphaned teenager, Charles decided to relocate to Seattle, choosing the city due to its location, being as far away from his home as his meager finances would allow him to go.
In his time in the city, he released his first album and created the genre-bending style that would eventually make him a world-renowned superstar.
Charles often referred to moving to Seattle as the pivotal moment in his long and successful career as a musician and singer.
Charles once told an interviewer he had made a lot of firm friends in the city, and he loved its atmosphere, noticing the locals’ friendliness and how they took to him straight away when he first arrived there.
Charles often agreed that Seattle is where he first got his start.
Seattle is where Charles made his first-ever recording.
When he traveled in the 1950s and 1960s, Charles frequently faced the same segregation that he experienced growing up during his time in the South.
In his early years as an African American, he stayed in rooming houses rather than in hotels like the Hilton and the Sheraton and was required to ensure that his band stopped in a fuel station that had restrooms marked “colored.”
At restaurants, he was often required to walk around to the back to grab a sandwich instead of using the dining room. He later said that racism impacted him just like anyone else of color at the time.
Charles became a renowned celebrity with the 1959 release of the song “What’d I Say?”
The cultural and musical impact resulting from Ray Charles is extraordinary and is a part of the history of American popular music.
His contributions to music included helping to craft Gospel music into its secularized form – which became “soul” – and bringing a broader audience to country music, the first genre that he loved and played before his involvement with blues, jazz, R&B, and soul.
Ray Charles’ achievements are many, and apart from an amazing 18 Grammy Awards, Charles also won the Kennedy Center Honors, the Lifetime Grammy Achievement Award, the National Medal of Arts, and the Polar Music Award.
Charles has had 10 of his songs inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.
In the 2021 class of inductees to the Country Music Hall of Fame, Ray Charles is finally getting his spot as a member of the Veterans Era category.
On June 10, 2004, at his residence in Beverly Hills, California, Charles passed away of liver disease. He was 73.
His last album, titled “Genius Loves Company,” was released on August 31, 2004, and cleaned up at the 2005 Grammys. Of the eight awards it won, “Album of the Year” was perhaps the most poignant and fitting memorial to Ray Charles.
Psychedelic rock/hard rock/rock, R&B, and blues.
Jimi Hendrix was one of the greatest electric guitarists ever and a rock music legend. Hendrix was born on November 27, 1942.
His parents, Lucille Jeter and James Allen Ross Hendrix named the boy Johnny Allen Hendrix.
Hendrix’s parents had a tense relationship, and Jimi and his siblings were raised under challenging circumstances.
He was often in the care of family members and friends as his parents shirked their responsibilities.
His breakthrough occurred in 1966 when he was introduced to Chas Chandler, a member of a popular rock group known as the Animals. Chandler was hired as Hendrix’s manager, who subsequently advised Hendrix to relocate to London.
Taking his manager’s advice, Hendrix moved to London. There, he met Mitch Mitchell and Noel Redding, and together they formed the band dubbed The Jimi Hendrix Experience.
Hendrix achieved fame in the UK and was a household name with the most popular and successful musicians, like The Beatles, The Who, The Rolling Stones, and Eric Clapton.
“Hey Joe,” the band’s debut single from their breakout album “Are You Experienced?” became a huge hit. Other hits like “The Wind Cried Mary,” and “Purple Haze” soon followed.
The Jimi Hendrix Experience began touring to market their new album. Hendrix’s charisma on stage and his fantastic guitar playing have earned him fans in the millions.
Hendrix’s most famous performance came in June 1967 at his appearance at the Monterey Pop Festival. At the close of which, Hendrix ignited his guitar and set it ablaze.
The group’s second album was entitled “Axis: Bold as Love” and was released in 1968 to great acclaim. The third album, “Electric Ladyland,” was released in 1968.
It included “All Along the Watchtower,” a massive hit composed by Bob Dylan.
Even though his main career spanned a mere four years, Hendrix is often regarded as one of popular music’s greatest and most influential electric guitarists and among the most celebrated performers of the 20th century.
For all his success, a look at Jimi’s career without rose-colored glasses throws up the almost incomprehensible fact that he should be considered a one-hit-wonder, since “All Along the Watchtower” was his only US top forty hit.
Hendrix passed away in London of drug-related complications on September 18, 1970, aged 27. He left a lasting impression on the world of rock music and is still a favorite to this day.
One journalist wrote in The Berkeley Tribe,
“Jimi Hendrix could get more out of an electric guitar than anyone else. He was the ultimate guitar player.”