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Sharing music is a ‘gift’ for Bellingham singer-songwriter

Linda Allen has released 13 CDs over a 50-year music career

Guitar in hand
Guitar in hand (Hailey Hoffman/Cascadia Daily News)
By Margaret Bikman CDN Contributor

At 77 years old, longtime Bellingham musician Linda Allen said the songs she’s collected and the songs she has written come out of her love for the Pacific Northwest and its many stories.

“Writing has followed my journey through life as a musician, mother, daughter, wife,” she said. “At their best, songs are both deeply personal and deeply connected to anyone whose experience can be found in these writings. I am likely to be inspired by a news story, a history book, a Facebook posting, a talk with a patient in hospice or a walk around our little lake.”

Although she grew up in the Northwest, Allen’s father was in the military, so they moved around a lot before settling in Olympia. After graduating from Pacific Lutheran University, she spent time in Minnesota and the San Francisco Bay Area before moving back to Olympia and marrying her first husband, Jim Zito. Allen and her family — her daughters, Jen and Kristin Allen-Zito, are both musicians — moved to Bellingham in 1976.

photo  Jen, left, and Kristin Allen-Zito joined their mother during a 2013 performance at Holden Village. (Photo courtesy of Linda Allen)  

As a way to plant her roots deeply in the city, Allen said she chose a project which helped her get to know more about the community she’d moved to. She worked with Whatcom Museum staff to create her first published work, “The Rainy Day Songbook,” with an accompanying cassette. 

Her current CD, her 13th of original songs — and, she said, her last — is “Emergence.”

The album includes songs about the pandemic, aging, children at the southern border, war, women’s choices about their bodies, homelessness and, she said, “a few hell-raising songs about unions” and “good trouble.”

Three of the 22 songs on the CD are performed by other musicians, and all of the contributors are from the Pacific Northwest. They are people she’s worked with in the past, good friends and some new friends. Participants include Julian Smedley, Dianne Bochsler, Tara Caldwell, Louis Ledford, Cary Black, Bob Paltrow, Jeff Willson, Laura Smith, Geof Morgan, Janet Stecher, Susan Lewis, Robert Blake, Devin Champlin, Tracy Spring, Karen Reitz, and both of Allen’s daughters. 

Allen’s musical history runs deep. She is the founder of projects such as the Applejam Folk Center in Olympia and The Sunny Side in Centralia, and has been involved with the Bellingham Threshold Singers and the sacred singing circle, Women with Wings. She also founded a spiritual center, Roots, and led it for a year. 

photo  Linda Allen, left, sang with iconic musician and activist Joan Baez at a church during the Sanctuary movement in Berkeley in the early 1970s. (Photo courtesy of Linda Allen)  

Her other projects have included the Washington Women’s Heritage Project, Washington Songs and Lore for Washington’s centennial, and the Washington Resident Songwriter Project, which resulted in the CD “Washington Notebook.” She was also part of the Grange Music Heritage Project (a radio show), and celebrated women’s history and spirituality with the multimedia programs “Here’s to the Women!” and “Daughters of Lilith.”

Along the way, Allen attended the University of Creation Spirituality and obtained her Doctor of Ministry degree. She’s now a hospice therapeutic musician in Whatcom and Skagit counties. 

“At this time of my life,” she said, “I have so much living to draw from, and my perspective has changed a great deal. Death is no longer far in the future. That changes everything. And with my work, death holds a reality for me that may be somewhat unique. Comfort songs have now become an important part of my repertoire, and two of my recent recordings are songs for the bedside.”

Allen has found the melding of her personal, spiritual and political beliefs in her music to be very natural. She said she truly loves her hospice work and is inspired by her patients and families, and she recognizes that sometimes her bedside singing is not just for the dying person, but also for their relatives.

She’s traveled a lot on what she considers pilgrimages, resulting in multimedia programs “Pilgrimage: Journey to the Heart of Israel and Palestine” and “Mountain Voices: A Story of Holden Village.” 

photo  Linda Allen, right, sits with her husband, Scott Slaba, at their home in Bellingham. (Hailey Hoffman/Cascadia Daily News)  

Allen and her second husband, Scott Slaba, spent three years at Holden Village on Lake Chelan. She said he’s her chief roadie and tech person.

In her decades of making music in Bellingham and beyond, Allen has come to see that what she does is a form of giving to those who come to hear her perform. 

“For me, songs are a gift, and I offer them as gifts,” she said. “Having the privilege to record my songs and send them out into the world has truly been a highlight. Songwriting is my gift to the community I have embraced and which has supported me.”

For more on Allen, go to

Hear all about it 

WHAT: Allen will be a featured guest for Vox Pacifica’s “Vox & Friends: Uncorked” performances
WHEN: 7 p.m. Friday, Feb. 24; 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 25
WHERE: FireHouse Arts and Events Center, 1314 Harris Ave.
COST: $35; includes a beverage of your choice

WHAT: Allen will be the musical guest for the Chuckanut Radio Hour, which this month features Jess Walter, author of “The Cold Millions.” The event is part of Whatcom READS.
WHEN: 7 p.m. Thursday, March 2
WHERE: Crystal Ballroom at Hotel Leo, 1224 Cornwall Ave.
COST: $5; advance registration is required

WHAT: Attend a CD release celebration for Allen’s latest — and likely last — album, “Emergence.” Joining her onstage will be Bob Paltrow, Cabin Fever NW, Geof Morgan, Julian Smedley, Laura Smith, Louis Ledford, Phil Heaven and Robert Sarazin Blake.
WHEN: 6:30 p.m. Saturday, March 4
WHERE: FireHouse, 1314 Harris Ave.
COST: Tickets are $20. A portion of the proceeds will benefit Bellingham Food Bank. Masks are required for attendees.

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