As the birthplace of not only great musicians, but of entire genres of music, Seattle, Washington, is full of celebrations of Seattle’s talent and places that are significant to music’s history. Music lovers may want to visit some of these iconic sites in and around Seattle.
Jackson Street Jazz
Neatly bisecting Seattle from Lake Washington westwards to the International District, Jackson Street has long been at the center of Seattle’s jazz scene. From a seedy start in the 1900s, Jackson Street began flourishing as Seattle’s African-American population grew and jazz was introduced to the city. The entire area thrived throughout the Prohibition and the Great Depression, but has always been a melting pot of culture, race, and music.
Jackson Street and the surrounding area is home to many famous clubs and has been host to a number of great artists, including Duke Ellington, Ernestine Anderson, Count Basie, and Ray Charles. The Black and Tan Club (1922-1966, 4041/2 12 Ave. S) in the Jackson area, besides being the most renowned jazz club in Seattle, was the inspiration for Duke Ellington’s Black and Tan Fantasy.
Born and raised in Seattle, Jimi Hendrix is arguably one of the most influential guitarists of modern music history. Following his death in 1970, Hendrix’s body was buried outside of Seattle in Renton, Washington and a number of monuments and tributes sprung up around Seattle itself, including a park southeast of downtown and a statue in the trendy Capitol Hill district.
Nirvana and Grunge
Nirvana, formed by Kurt Cobain and Krist Novoselic in the small town of Aberdeen, Washington on the Olympic Peninsula, brought the Seattle grunge scene to national attention following their successful release of the album Nevermind in 1990. In some ways, Seattle is still defined by grunge’s Generation-X attitudes as flannel and counterculture sensibilities live on, but many of Nirvana’s, Pearl Jam’s, and Soundgarden’s original haunts in Seattle have disappeared. That said, visiting the city while it’s raining might evoke the ennui so clearly described in many songs from grunge’s heyday.
A Sound Garden
One of Seattle’s many parks, Magnuson Park—in Sand Point on the northwest shore of Lake Washington—is home to a very unique art installation. A Sound Garden, composed of metal towers, organ pipes, and wind vanes, combines nature, music, and movement as the wind both moves the sculptures and coaxes sound from them. The rock band Soundgarden, formed in Seattle in 1984, took their name from this sculpture.
The Experience Music Project (originally intended to be a Jimi Hendrix museum) is a celebration of pop culture through music (and science fiction—in the adjoining Sci-Fi Museum). While the building itself—made of shimmering, waving metal standing proudly at the foot of the Space Needle—is unique, the exhibits within are wonderful, informative, and often interactive. The EMP’s Sky Church, a massive performance area, continuously plays music videos and concert recordings, and has hosted live performances.
While the exhibits change periodically, the EMP is a must-see for all music lovers in Seattle.
Seattle is home to literally hundreds of musicians beyond the ones mentioned here. For a more comprehensive history of Seattle’s music scene, the Office of Film and Music offers an overview and a map of some of Seattle’s most notable locations.