Do You Know These Black Musicians? Let’s Talk About It

Singer Ella Fitzgerald during her performance at the Bal Pare in the Hotel Bayerischer Hof, Munich, Germany. (Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images/TNS)

Singer Ella Fitzgerald during her performance in Germany. Photo/ Getty Images/ TNS

By: Michael Thomas, Videographer

The origins of pop-jazz, R&B, hip-hop, soul, gospel and more have been traced back to many famous African American musicians and artists over the years. Certain genres of popular music today wouldn’t exist without the many black influencers.

From legendary musicians like Ella Fitzgerald, “the Queen of Jazz,” to Chuck Berry, who’s songs have been stolen by the Beatles, David Bowie and Elvis Presley, each had a lasting legacy that changed music.

Ella Jane Fitzgerald was famously known as the “First Lady of Song,” “Queen of Jazz” and “Lady Ella.’’ She was an American jazz singer whose voice had a rare, unique sweetness and flexibility that blended with every instrument during her performance. Her beautiful voice drove her to international stardom spanning six decades. Over her long career, Fitzgerald contributed genres such as swing and bebop, which have over 100 albums credited to her. Some songs were created to help with the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s. Ultimately, Fitzgerald’s impact on music open the door for future generations of African American performers.

Charles “Chuck“ Berry, nicknamed the “Father of Rock and Roll,” was a songwriter and guitarist who pioneered rock and roll. He combined unique guitar styles, dance rhythms, pinpoint diction, spectacular stage performances and music characteristics from country-western and blues. Berry’s recording and creativity in music allowed future legendary rock groups to break into the music industry. The Beatles and The Rolling Stones were some of the bands that stole Berry’s music.

James Brown, “The Godfather of the Soul” and the originator of funk music, created it by using rhythmic stylings had influence from reggae to afrobeat, moving from the conventional soul and R&B styles popular in the ‘40s-’60s. Brown’s development of funk music became one of the foundation’s stones in the product for hip hop. James’ high octane energy, dance moves and showmanship inspired a generation of dancers known as breakdancers or b-boys to rise in popularity in the ’70s and ’80s. Brown’s revolutionary sound and personal legacy left a lasting impact on Black and music history.

Richard Penniman, known commonly by his stage name “Little Richard,” has been called “the Architect of Rock and Roll,” leaving a lasting impact on the lives of musicians with his unique sound. Richard introduced the rhythm and beats that would become the foundation for rock and roll. Penniman’s legendary facial hair and outrageous hairstyle influenced future music stars like Michael Jackson and Prince and helped them create their trademark identities. Penniman’s most lasting impact was breaking barriers for black artists as well as being one of the original inductees in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

Everybody listens to the same artists today, from Drake to Rihanna and other famous musicians from different genres. However, some songs that I’d recommend listening to during free time include Brown’s electric performance hit single “Payback”; you’ll see similarities from current high-level dance songs that will get you moving to the beat. Fitzgerald’s “ It Don’t Mean A Thing” is a song that’s perfect for just relaxing around the house or drinking after a long day’s work. Finally, Penniman’s classic “Tutti Frutti,” is an all-time favorite that will get everybody singing and dancing.

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