The quietest sound of the Pike Place Sect Market

Pike Place Market is notorious for strict controls on street musicians, from required permits to how 15 locations, marked with red musical notes on the sidewalks, are allowed to park.

Just as famous, Janetown was in a league of her own.

“Her favorite was her favorite spot in front of the delicious misho, where no ramblers are allowed, but what would anyone do–push the blind woman in a soft voice away?” One of Towne’s many market friends, said Rhonda Gilford, a jeweler who has been working at daily stalls there for the past 38 years.

“She can set up and play anywhere she wants,” echoed Artis the Spoonman, another bass, who continued to play with rockers worldwide during the grunge heyday. Town was called a “legend”.

Guilford said Towne, who played 12-string guitar and later autoharp on the streets of Seattle for more than 40 years starting in the 1970s, died Jan. 1 of complications from cancer. Records show that she was 72 years old.

Generations of market-goers may remember a small-framed blind woman with an ethereal voice, softly singing folk poems, melodies, and songs by artists like Joni Mitchell. Old musicians say that she stood out in the tense atmosphere of the market precisely because she did not demand loud attention, but did so nonetheless.

“She was like a bird,” says Artis the Spoonman. “You practically had to hold your ear up to her harp to hear it, but you did. There was no one like Jane. At 73, I listened to a Much of music, and it was very rare.”

Jack Straub, who worked on market stalls, was called: “Energy (in the market) is strongly influenced by who the business owner is, and its presence has always cleared the top from the bumps.”

Friends say Town lived off its business, doing so almost daily until the coronavirus first closed the market in 2020. Guilford said Town had been asking to be paid to play there recently a few weeks ago, but he’s been very weak. He goes.

For many years, Towne also wrote stories for Pike Place Market News, chronicling the merchant community with eclectic articles such as “What is Kosher Anyway?” and “Can algae be delicious?”

Her friends say she emphasized that blindness should not define her. This was difficult because for decades she was known as the “blind market harpsichordist”, and was promoted in this way through some market books and brochures.

“You’ll often be treated to a string quartet or a folk song sung by blind street performer Jane Town,” said a 1992 market cookbook.

She wrote a letter to the Seattle Times in the 1980s explaining that she felt “underestimated” by the city because passersby assumed her young son was driving her while she was cruising, not the other way around.

She wrote, “My proud independent nature fluctuates, and I have to contend with the compelling urge to dispose of my fervent sermons on my abilities to the well-meaning person, who knows no better than the way things appear to be.” “Avoiding obstacles and public navigation is my responsibility, not his.”

Title of the message: “Blind Street Musician: My Son’s Son, Not My Guide.”

However, she agreed to appear as the inspiration for a local comic in the 1990s, “Adventures of a Sightless Streetsinger”.

“She was good at everything,” Guilford says. But she also had a difficult life. Busking is tough enough… and no one helped her get around town or take the bus with her machines from Ballard every day. She lived for it even though it became her identity.”

Here are Towne’s own words on the matter, from another letter to an editor who sought to explain to Seattle residents how it was possible that an invisible stumbler on the sidewalks had not been homeless, out of luck, or really disadvantaged in any way.

“I feel that quelling the noise of the city, raining down the gloom of the people, and igniting some hope and joy is as beneficial and challenging any profession as any,” she wrote. “And my sickness is much more than trying to occupy myself at home at a desk.”

Pike Place Market can be a cacophony, the clashing urban racket is a major part of the old-school, offline allure. It wouldn’t sound the same now that his quietest voice fell silent.

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