Ahhh… Where would we be without Black artists? Probably nowhere. The influence Black people have had on music is immense: it is impossible to account for every little way in which they have molded this art form. Without them, the landscape of contemporary music would be very different and all of the major genres that surged in the mid to late-1800s and 1900s in the United States would not exist, be it blues, jazz, soul, rock ‘n’ roll, funk, reggae, hip-hop, house, or techno. Even country, a genre considered by many to be “white people’s music” has its roots in blues and folk music.
Further down south, in Latin America and the Caribbean, African music has shaped the most popular genres in this part of the world, including cumbia, merengue, samba, bossa nova, salsa, and bachata, not to mention the indirect influence African rhythms have had on the musical styles from the United States previously mentioned.
Despite all this, Black people have been mistreated by the music industry: labels have long exploited the talents and genius of black artists, as portrayed in the exceptional 2020 film, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, featuring outstanding performances from Viola Davis and Chadwick Boseman. During the ’60s and the ’70s, big artists appropriated the work or plagiarized the songs of black blues musicians, not properly acknowledging their outstanding music. Beyond music, systemic inequality and a lack of opportunities for black people around the world still occurs, despite all of the efforts made in the past 60 years since the Civil Rights Movement.
This is why in February, we celebrate Black History Month to recognize all of the achievements made by Black people over the years. I have decided to honour the work of the most important Black musicians of all time by creating a quite long playlist. The compilation features the artists’ best songs, both musically and lyrically; in other words, it has la crème de la crème.
From the sentimental and soothing voice of Billie Holliday, to the raw and animalistic guitar playing of Jimi Hendrix, to the musical genius of Tyler, The Creator, this collection of songs revolutionized the musical world, sometimes in subtle manners and other times in loud and emotional expressions. Listening to these artists is a chance to remember and celebrate the legacy of black artists that have shaped modern music, and to discover emerging black musicians who are bringing innovation to the table.
Click on the Spotify icon or hit play and then press “Open in Spotify”.