FORUM

  • Vivian Phillips

PUT THE NEEDLE ON THE RECORD

June is Black Music Month and while we certainly don't need a special month to drop vinyl onto a turntable and feel the groove, we do take this time to shine a light on Black music innovators and Black deejays who keep the needles moving forward.


The thing about Black music is that its roots have influenced every musical genre throughout American history, and modern forms of musical innovation can be traced to Black deejays as well.


Here are just a few points of note that illustrate how Black music has impacted our American culture:

  • In the late 19th-century, the popularity of New Orleans brass bands included improvised music for parades and gatherings. This music would evolve with increased melodic tempos of the blues and become what we know as Jazz.

  • Beginning in the early 20th-century, minstrel shows featured white musicians appropriating Black music in black face. Just why?

  • Country music, with roots in the American South, is built on the banjo instrument, a descendant of the West African lute.

  • Rock 'n roll evolved from rhythm and blues music of the 1940s and the stylings of Sister Rosetta Thorpe, Chuck Berry, and Little Richard. How did Elvis Presley become the King?????

  • House music - Chicago and Frankie Knuckles. Nuff said.

  • Techno music - Detroit, DJ Robert Hood.

It doesn't take much to recognize how important Black music has been to the forming of American culture. However, taught history has a way of omitting important truths. Last year, the Audio Network posted a short 12-minute video documenting A History of Black Music. The video is a visual timeline that begins with 10th-century African instruments and moves to 2020 noting various musical innovations and ground breaking music-makers.


The next time you pop on your favorite streamed playlist, listen closely and see what musical influences you might identify that may have gone overlooked before.