Arts & Entertainment

Musical giants from Black History

Let’s honor these iconic musicians for their contributions to music & culture.

Black musicians have given iconic performances and displayed innovative music techniques. This Black History month, let’s remember their important, entertaining and dynamic contributions to the music landscape.

Music speaks to everyone, no matter the identity of an individual. Those with different racial identities have invented and defined genres of music to appeal to future generations. February is Black History Month, and it is appropriate to reflect on some of the many African-American individuals and acts who changed music for the better.

Jimi Hendrix-

Dubbed by Rolling Stone Magazine and the Rock Hall of Fame as “the greatest instrumentalist of all time”, Hendrix not only changed the way that the guitar was played but he set a standard that will likely never be surpassed. He transcended the norm, with on stage acts of playing the guitar with his teeth and playing behind his back. In the sixties he led the Jimi Hendrix Experience to becoming the most popular act at a star-studded Woodstock and all three of his albums have placed in the top one hundred of the Rolling Stones 500 Greatest Albums List.

Michael Jackson-

It is hard to imagine pop music without the “king of pop” himself. He went from a child star in the Jackson Five to popularizing new genres and new dance moves such as the Moonwalk. Throughout his career, he won over eight hundred awards which is a record for an artist. Jackson released the famous album Thriller in 1982, which is still the best-selling album of all time. He also had a strong sense of justice with regards to socioeconomic inequality and racial tensions, as expressed in his songs “Man in the Mirror” and “Black and White”.

Muddy Waters-

He may be the least known person on this list, but his influence on music is ever present. The Blues is a genre that was invented by African Americans and decades after the genre was born, he added an electric guitar to the music. This was seen as an early transition into the Rock and Roll genre and his style of music ultimately led him to six Grammy awards. Rock bands with blues roots such as The Rolling Stones and Cream have credited him with being a major influence on their work and he is inducted into the Rock Hall of Fame as an “early influencer”.

Aretha Franklin-

She is deserving of “Respect” for having over one hundred songs on the Billboard 100 throughout her lifetime and being named “The Greatest Singer of All Time” by Rolling Stone Magazine. She may have earned the nickname “The Queen of Soul” from her days singing in a Church in Detroit, but she was versatile with her genres. She had hit songs that were R&B, Pop, and Soul throughout her career. Most importantly though, she embraced being a black woman in an era of segregation and she was an avid Civil Rights voice.

N.W.A.-

N.W.A. was a hip-hop act in the late 1980’s that was formed in Los Angeles. Some of their notable members were Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, and Arabian Prince. While they were controversial at the time for their lyrics, they opened up the doors to freedom of expression within songwriting as their songs had political messages and brought to light major social justice issues.

N.W.A. also topped the Billboard 200 Albums chart with their second album, making them the first act of their genre to do so. A good majority of the prominent rappers today attribute them as leaving a foundation within the rap and hi-hop genres for other artists t

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