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Entertainment

Celebrate Black Music Month

June 22, 2022

In honor of Black Music Appreciation Month, a guide to how Black musicians and African-American artists influenced five genres, from the blues to rock 'n roll to hip-hop.

 

June is Black Music Appreciation Month, celebrating African American musicians that have made a profound impact on American culture. In 1979, President Jimmy Carter first proclaimed June to be African American Music Appreciation Month. His successors have reaffirmed the event every year.
 
Black musicians have created or contributed to many music genres. As noted by journalist Sidney Madden, co-host of NPR's podcast "Louder Than a Riot," “Every genre that is born from America has Black roots associated with it, from rock 'n' roll to blues to disco."
 
Here is a guide to five major genres that have been influenced by Black music. You can say "Black Music Month," in your Contour Voice Remote to discover featured content from BET, Music Choice, Vevo, Stingray and Starz.
 
Blues
The blues emerged in the Deep South around the 1860s, evolving from African-American work songs and spiritual tunes. The blues form is marked by a call and response pattern, syncopation and specific chord progressions. The genre started to gain more notice at the dawn of the 20th century. Mamie Smith, Ma Rainey and W.C. Handy were among early pioneers in recording blues. After World War II, the electric blues became popular in cities thanks to artists like Muddy Waters. The blues have influenced many genres, including jazz, rhythm and blues (R&B), soul, country and rock 'n' roll.
 
Jazz
In the late 19th century, jazz arose from Black communities in New Orleans. Brass bands would improvise music for parades, parties and other gatherings. Jazz has roots in ragtime and the blues, and is characterized by upbeat, polyrhythmic tunes. The 1920s and 1930s are famously known as the Jazz Age, when the genre achieved nationwide popularity. Big bands ruled this period, led by virtuoso Black musicians such as Count Basie, Duke Ellington and Louis Armstrong. To this day, jazz's influence is heard in modern music, including rock, rap and techno.
 
Rhythm & Blues
The 1920s and '30s witnessed the mass migration of Black Americans from the South to cities in the North. This population shift increased demand for so-called “race music" incorporating jazz, blues, soul and gospel. After World War II, the offensive term was replaced by rhythm and blues, or R&B. In the early days, most bands included piano, guitars, bass, drums, horns and background vocalists. Lyrics focused on a longing for freedom and joy. The genre directly contributed to the rise of rock 'n' roll. Notable R&B musicians include James Brown, Marvin Gaye, Aretha Franklin and Stevie Wonder. The genre has evolved into contemporary R&B through contributions by artists like Beyoncé and The Weeknd.
 
Rock & Roll
The King of Rock 'n' Roll, Elvis Presley, may have been white, but the genre's inspiration lies in Black music, specifically R&B. The first rock recording may be Black singer Sister Rosetta Tharpe's “Strange Things Happening Every Day" in 1944. She was a significant influence on early rock musicians such as Presley, Chuck Berry, Little Richard and Jerry Lee Lewis. Their primary audience was young people, who embraced rock as an act of rebellion against their parents. The genre morphed into rock in the 1950s, which brought forth the primarily-white British Invasion bands like The Beatles and Rolling Stones. In later years, rock spawned grunge, punk and heavy metal.
 
Hip-Hop
Hip-hop originated in block parties held by the Black, Caribbean and Latino communities of the Bronx in the 1970s. Today, it's one of the most popular and widespread genres of music in the world. Hip-hop music is characterized by a strong, rhythmic beat and rapping vocal track. It is part of a subculture with four main elements: rapping/MCing, DJing with turntables, break dancing, and graffiti art.
 
Early trailblazers include Grandmaster Flash and DJ Cool Herc. In 1979, Sugarhill Gang released “Rapper's Delight," considered to be the first hip-hop record. The genre exploded in the '80s and '90s thanks to artists like Dr. Dre, Run-DMC, LL Cool J, Public Enemy, Tupac Shakur, The Notorious B.I.G. and Snoop Dogg. Since then, hip-hop has yielded superstars such as Jay-Z, Kanye West, Drake, Kendrick Lamar, Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion. In 2017, according to Nielsen Music, hip-hop surpassed rock as the biggest music genre in the United States.
 
More Black Music Genres
Black musicians have influenced many more genres than the five listed above. They have created, produced or inspired many styles of music around the world, including disco, techno, house music, ska, reggae, country music, dubstep, funk, Afrobeat and K-pop.

 

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