|Music of the United States|
The U.S. state of Washington has been home to many popular musicians and several major hotbeds of musical innovation throughout its history. The largest city in the state, Seattle, is known for being the birthplace of grunge as well as a major contributor to the evolution of punk rock, indie music, folk, and hip-hop. Nearby Tacoma and Olympia have also been centers of influence on popular music.
Several world-famous musicians have hailed from Washington. Bing Crosby, who was born in Tacoma in 1903 and raised in Spokane, had a number one hit in the U.S. in 1942 with "White Christmas". Jimi Hendrix, one of classic rock's most enduring guitar legends, was born in Seattle and buried in Renton; and folk rock singer/songwriter Kenny Loggins, who had a #1 Hot 100 hit in 1984 with "Footloose", is from Everett. Saxophonist Kenny G is from Seattle and attended the University of Washington.
In the mid-1950s, the Washington rock scene was kick-started by a Seattle group, The Frantics, led by guitarist Ron Peterson. The Frantics were the first rock group from Seattle to have songs in the national Top 40 charts. Later, several garage bands achieved regional and some national fame. Perhaps the most famous of these are The Wailers, whose regional fame was paramount for several years in the early 1960s. Their version of Richard Berry's "Louie, Louie" became the state's unofficial anthem.
An influential garage rock band called The Regents became local icons in the Tacoma area, but the original incarnation never signed to a record label. They are known for pioneering a distinct sound technology when they fed the rhythm guitar through a Leslie organ speaker during a concert at the University of Puget Sound; this gave them their original sound.
Another Tacoma band, The Sonics, also proved to be influential, and are still a cult favorite. Their name was inspired by one of Seattle's most important employers, Boeing, an aircraft manufacturer, and The Sonics' brand of aggressive guitar rock made them icons in the later development of music in and around Seattle.
Record producer Jerry Dennon of Jerdon Records was responsible for bringing The Kingsmen (of Portland, Oregon), best known for their national hit "Louie Louie", to the ears of northwest audiences. The Kingsmen soon found themselves embroiled in a rivalry with local favorite Paul Revere & the Raiders, who also released a version of "Louie, Louie". The Kingsmen's version eventually caught on nationally after a Boston radio station picked up the song and Dennon negotiated distributing rights with Wand Records out of New York City. The song's supposedly suggestive lyrics led to it being banned in some localities, including Indiana.
Notable heavy metal bands that emerged in the Seattle area in the 1980s include Metal Church, Queensrÿche, The Mentors, TKO, Prowler, Q5, Forced Entry, Sanctuary, Culprit, Bloodgood, Myth, Heir Apparent, and Fifth Angel. Metal Church had initially acquired its name while Kurdt Vanderhoof started in the San Francisco scene, but moved back home to Seattle and changed the members of the band, and was one of the most well-known metal bands from the 1980s thanks to albums like Metal Church (1984), The Dark (1986), Blessing in Disguise (1989) and The Human Factor (1991); they resurfaced in 2004 with The Weight of the World. Queensrÿche is better known for falling somewhere between the heavy metal and glam metal scene, with strong influence from progressive rock, which can be seen in their albums Operation: Mindcrime (1987) and Empire (1991). Going to the mid-end of the '80s, Seattle featured successful thrash metal bands, such as The Accüsed (a crossover thrash band), Assault & Battery, Bitter End, Coven, Forced Entry, Terrorist, NME and R.I.P.
Also of particular note are Seattle's Slaughter Haus 5, Tacoma bands Sword of Judgement, Hammer Head, Kil-D-Kor, Koz of Konfuzion, Diamond Lie (featuring Jerry Cantrell of Alice in Chains), as well as Olympia bands Cyperus and Death Squad. Two West Seattle metal bands from the 1980s were Sanctuary and Rottweiller. Sanctuary, after two albums and some years revamping, reformed with two original members (bass and vocals) and a former short-term replacement guitarist (along with some new members) and became known as Nevermore. Rottweiller was an up-and-coming band which had a multi-album contract fall through prior to signing. The lead singer then joined Iron Cross, which had a local following. Heir Apparent came out of North Seattle in the mid-1980's, signed to the independent label Black Dragon Records of Paris, France in 1985, and released what remains the highest-rated album in the 40-year history of Germany's ROCK HARD magazine in January 1986. Heir Apparent performed with Sanctuary in 2012 at the Metal Assault Festival in Wurzburg, Germany. In 2019 at the Headbangers Open Air Festival in Germany, Queensrÿche, Sanctuary, and Heir Apparent each headlined an evening of the 3-day event.
More recent underground metal bands include Himsa, Harder You Fall, Aemaeth, Blood & Thunder, Beyond Mortis, Sword of Judgement, Midnight Idols, Fallen Angels, DEATHBEAT, H.M.P, Big Business, Drown Mary, Evilsmith, Vigilance, Skelator, Ceremonial Castings, Inquisition, Hoth, Torture Box, Infester, Dead Soul Funeral, Inquinok, Pure Hatred, Riot in Rhythm, Tasty Lixxx, Deathmocracy, Blood of Kings, Wolves in the Throne Room, Countless The Dead, Esoteria, Twisted Heroes, Ashes Of Existence, Transcribing The Necronomicon, Among The Mayans, Massacre At The Opera, Bleed The Stone, Casualty Of God, Mechanism, I Am Infamy, Devilation, Beyond Theory, Eternal Sedation, Hedon, The Vatican, Violent Hallucinations, Children of Seraph, Future Disorder, Edge of Oblivion, Last Bastion, Phalgeron, Bell Witch, and Bacon Grenade (Bacon Grenade Official).
Seattle's punk rock scene was always limited, but is important for its influence on the development of grunge as a distinct genre. In the 1970s, Ze Whiz Kidz made a unique and bizarre variety of confrontational music and helped launch a hardcore punk scene that included ZEKE, The Mentors, RPA, The Rejectors, The Lewd, Violent World w/ Electra Blue The Refuzors, Crunchbird, Pod Six, The Enemy and, most influentially, Solger and The Fartz, as well as new wave bands like The Heats, The Cowboys, The Meyce, The Telepaths, Visible Targets, Chinas Comidas, X-15 (band) and UC5. Hardcore skinhead bands like Extreme Hate, The Boot Boys and Firing Squad also gained a following. Green River, a punk rock band that splintered into Mudhoney and Mother Love Bone, was one of the first grunge bands. Also drawing on the punk rock scene were Melvins, Soundgarden, Nirvana, Fitz of Depression of Olympia and Vitimin C of Centralia. Musician Duff McKagan made his entry into the global rock scene in the punk rock scene of his hometown of Seattle. On the other side of the state, Spokane also contained an insular but vibrant punk and new wave scene in the 1980s, as chronicled in the documentary film SpokAnarchy!
In the early 2000s, Washington proved to be the breeding ground of a prominent experimental punk rock scene, with bands such as Botch, Pretty Girls Make Graves, These Arms Are Snakes, The Fall of Troy, Jaguar Love, and The Blood Brothers achieving dedicated cult followings.
Grunge began as a mixture of heavy metal, punk rock and indie rock in the 1980s and gained mainstream prominence in the early 1990s. The earliest bands included Green River, Skin Yard, Screaming Trees ("Nearly Lost You"), and Soundgarden, among others, with most signed to legendary indie rock label Sub Pop. By the late 1980s, several future stars had begun performing, including Nirvana, Alice in Chains, and Mudhoney, while the death of Andrew Wood (d.1990, buried in Bremerton, WA) of Mother Love Bone led to that band's disintegration and subsequent reformation as Pearl Jam. In 1991 (see 1991 in music), Nirvana's Nevermind, along with Soundgarden's Badmotorfinger, Pearl Jam's Ten and Alice in Chains' Dirt, quickly brought the grunge scene to international attention and its music to the top of the national charts, where it stayed for many years and influenced a number of popular spin-off acts and subgenres across the world. Pearl Jam has recorded five #1 albums featured on the Billboard Top 200 between 1993 and 2013, including Vs. (1993), and also had a #2 Hot 100 hit with their cover of "Last Kiss" in 1999. Nirvana (Kurt Cobain died in 1994) had four #1 albums, Alice in Chains (Layne Staley died in 2002) had two, including Jar of Flies (1994), and Soundgarden (Chris Cornell died in 2017. Guitarist Kim Thayil graduated from the University of Washington in Seattle) had one, Superunknown (1994). Later successful grunge acts include Foo Fighters, which had a #1 album with Wasting Light (2011). Seattle is also home to newer alt-grunge-rock acts such as SixTwoSeven.
Riot grrrl is a form of punk rock which arose in Olympia in the 1990s and was led by all-female acts like Bikini Kill, known for their militant feminism and raw, uncompromising sound. The genre never achieved mainstream success due to their mission of creating an on-going media blackout along with their harsh criticism of society and grating musical tone and eventually died out, though stalwarts Sleater-Kinney did stick together and found themselves approaching mainstream audiences after the turn of the millennium. The movement did still spew a fairly long list of local bands, concentrated in the Olympia area such as Bratmobile, Heavens to Betsy, and Excuse-17, among others.
A new wave of the riot grrl movement began around 2010 with bands like NighTrain, The Gossip, The Black Tones and Thee Emergency, which feature soulful vocals, heavy drums, a driving, intense rhythm and blistering guitar. This revitalization of interest in the AfroPunk and girl group-inspired soul music was received well outside American borders, leading to the departure of some of these groups to European countries.
In the late 1980s, a form of alternative rock called twee pop was popular in the United Kingdom. A small cult following around bands like The Orchids and Heavenly formed in the U.S., centered on Olympia's K Records and the band Beat Happening.
Arguably the most famous hip-hop star to come out of the state of Washington has been Sir Mix-a-Lot, best known for his songs "Posse On Broadway" and "Baby Got Back", an early nineties novelty hit. Also prominent in the Seattle rap scene at this time was Kid Sensation (Steve Spence), who got his start on Sir Mix-a-Lot's first album, Swass (1988). Later regional acts include Source of Labor, Oldominion and Blue Scholars. Underground hip-hop acts the Boom Bap Project, Thirstin Howl III, and Seaclipse also hail from Seattle. The Guinness World Records holder for Fastest Rap MC is the Seattle-based No Clue (Ricky Brown), breaking the record previously held by Chicago rapper Rebel XD. Brown rapped 723 syllables in 51.27 seconds on his track "No Clue" at B&G Studios, Seattle, on January 15, 2005. More recently, local indie rapper/DJ duo Macklemore and Ryan Lewis have achieved worldwide fame with The Heist (2012), scoring two #1 Hot 100 hits with "Thrift Shop" and "Can't Hold Us" in 2013. Also, teenage Rapper Lil Mosey has grown in popularity since his song "Pull Up," but most notably "Noticed" in 2018, and "Blueberry Faygo" in 2020.