Artists Who Were Born There: Kurt Cobain, Bing Crosby, Jake One, Jimi Hendrix, Macklemore, Sir Mix-a-Lot
Bands Formed There: Alice in Chains, Bikini Kill, Fleet Foxes, Foo Fighters, Green River, Heart, Mad Season, Melvins, Modest Mouse, Mother Love Bone, Mudhoney, Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Queensryche, Screaming Trees, Shabbaz Palaces, Sleater-Kinney, The Sonics, Soundgarden, Sunn O))), Swollen Members, Tad, Temple of the Dog, The Fartz
Two left-handed singing guitarists—Jimi Hendrix and Kurt Cobain—are all we need to put Washington on the musical map, but they're really just the tip of the iceberg. Hendrix found international fame in the late '60s via psychedelic blues-based rock that excellently framed his spectacular guitar playing. He is the greatest guitarist in the history of the world, and he died young, which was to become a pattern among musicians from the Evergreen State.
Meanwhile, a surprisingly active soul and funk scene developed in Seattle; this was captured on Light In The Attic Records' 2004 compilation Wheedle's Groove: Seattle's Finest In Funk & Soul 1965-75, which spawned a documentary with the same title narrated by Sir Mix-A-Lot. In the '70s, Seattle nurtured female classic rockers Heart and in the early '80s it blasted out the Fartz, a hardcore group featuring future Guns N' Roses bassist Duff McKagan on drums.
Then, within a couple years, grunge began to take shape. The rock subgenre is always referred to as a uniform sound but is actually fairly diverse; Melvins don’t sound anything like Mother Love Bone, yet both are considered grunge. Spearheaded by Cobain's power trio Nirvana, grunge rock swept the nation in the early '90s, with Washington-based bands Alice in Chains, Pearl Jam, and Soundgarden becoming some of the biggest acts in the world, bringing deserving friends like Mudhoney, Screaming Trees, and Tad along for the ride. All of this spawned a sea of imitators; suddenly bands all over the globe sounded like some rough approximation of grunge. It also left a lot of bodies in its wake; Alice in Chains's Layne Staley, Mother Love Bone's Andrew Wood, and Hole's Kristen Pfaff all died of heroin overdoses, while Cobain shot himself in the head.
Washington hip-hop has been bubbling in recent years, with local talent like Jake One and Shabbaz Palaces making a name for themselves nationally. The past twelve months, though, have seen major-league level excitement here, as Seattle's Maclemore has become the state's first true rap star since the early '90s, when Mix-A-Lot let it be known that when it comes to ladies, Cosmo doesn't have anything to do with his selection.