All Articles Tagged "black music"

120-Year-Old Recordings Of Black Singing Quartet Auctioned

November 25th, 2013 - By Ann Brown
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Early 1900's phonograph cylinders like the ones that would've housed this early recording. via Terence Mendoza /

Early 1900’s phonograph cylinders like the ones that would’ve housed this early recording. via Terence Mendoza /

In 1893 the Unique Quartet recorded a song called “Mama’s Black Baby Boy.” This pre-dated vinyl and was recorded on a wax-covered cylinder using technology invented by Thomas Edison. The 120-year-old recording, along with a second Unique Quartet song, “Who Broke the Lock (on the Henhouse Door)?” from 1896, are copies of the oldest known recording of a black vocal group in the U.S. And they were auctioned on Saturday for $1,100 and $1,900 respectively.  There are only two copies left of “Mama’s Black Baby Boy,” a recording so rare and delicate that the auctioneer doesn’t dare try to play it, reports the Associated Press (via The Grio).

The recordings can only be played on a special cylinder player that was a predecessor to phonographs, said Troy Thibodeau, manager of Saco River Auction Co. Not only are cylinder recordings becoming rare,  recordings of black artists are even rarer. One appraiser had estimated they’d go for $25,000 or more — apiece.

“They’re in fantastic shape,” Thibodeau said pre-auction. “All it takes is a little bit of heat or a little bit of cold, and these things are junk. So, for more than 100 years, someone really took care of these things and treasured them.”

The recordings were up for auction along with a number of other items, including a shirt owned by General Custer, the captain who famously died at Little Bighorn in 1876.

Finding rare music by black groups is extremely hard. “All pre-digital black sacred music is at risk. The cylinders are made from pressed, hardened wax and grow brittle and chipped with age. Vinyl 78s, 45s, and LPs were melted down and recycled as part of the war effort during World War II,” said Robert Darden, who’s a professor at Baylor University in Texas and working to save the music by digitizing existing vinyl recordings through the Black Music Restoration Project. He estimates that 75 percent of gospel music recorded on vinyl from 1940 to 1970 has disappeared.

Listen to the song “Mama’s Black Boy” below.

Songs That Make Us Say Loud, “I’m Black And I’m Proud!”

June 7th, 2013 - By Lauren R.D. Fox
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From BlackVoices

There’s no doubt that music is a form of self-expression. And many artists not only use the recording booth as a hit-making platform, but also as a medium to impact social change and connect with their fans across the globe.

In celebration of Black Music Month we decided to highlight a few songs that have made an impact on Black culture throughout history.

From James Brown’s 1968 classic, “I’m Black and I’m Proud” and Queen Latifah’s tribute to sisters, to Kanye West praising Jesus, each song’s message has gone on to resonate with legions of listeners.

Read, See and Listen more at 

June is Black Music Month: How Did It Come To Be?

June 4th, 2013 - By Kimberly Gedeon
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For most of us, Black Music Month is every month as we often swoon to the sounds of our favorite African-American musicians on our iPods. But have you ever wondered how June became the designed month for Black music? An interview conducted by The Root illuminates just how songwriter and producer Kenneth Gamble campaigned for Black Music Month in 1979.

When asked what motivated him along with broadcasters Ed Wright and Dyana Williams to lobby for Black Music Month, Gamble explained that the history of African-American music had been dulled by the merciless music industry; artists have had their songs and lyrics stolen.

With the emergence of Black Music Month, the music industry benefits in the “additional marketing dollars.” June is used as platform to promote artists and albums to advertise and sell black music in a decimating music economy.

“It’s still working,” Gamble says, “because right now we’re talking about something that stared 34 years ago.”

At the time, Jimmy Carter was in office and Gamble was part of the Black Music Association, which was an organization that helped educate young musical artists.

Gamble says he was able to convince Carter to jump-start Black Music Month because of a Black Music night at the White House. “It was a beautiful night on the White House lawn,” Gamble reminisces. He remembered legends such as Little Richard performed, as well as Billy Eckstine. “When you talk about jazz, the blues, and rhythm and blues, this is what America produced, and it has influenced many other types of music.”

Black Music Month isn’t just an African-American cultural commemoration, Gamble says, but an institution needed to promote great artists like Miles Davis or Bessie Smith. He does not want us forget the many great contributions Black talented artists have added to American music.

Swap Meet, JT’s Return, & Best And Worst Dressed: 15 Memorable Grammy Moments

February 11th, 2013 - By Veronica Wells
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Source: AP Images

Source: AP Images

I usually never watch the Grammys and honestly wasn’t planning on doing so last night. But when my friend asked me if I was going to participate in the festivities at brunch, I decided since I was avoiding the cold, to check it out. The show itself had high and low moments. It wasn’t fabulous but it certainly wasn’t the most boring thing I’ve seen. So, whether you missed it or want to relive it, check out the most memorable moments. The asterisks represent high points of the night.

Crossover: 10 Songs White Folks Grabbed And Won’t Let Go

January 23rd, 2013 - By Renay Alize
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I’m sure black musicians get into the game wishing and hoping for that crossover money. It’s one thing to have a hit in the black community, but when your songs go mainstream, that’s a wider audience and even more money. Whether these artists wrote these songs knowing they would go over well with all audiences, we can’t tell. What we do know though, is that after a while, this songs became just as, if not even more popular with white folk. Now you’re more likely to hear these songs at your company Christmas party than in the…more racially homogenous clubs some black people frequent.

No Diggity- Blackstreet

For a while I was surprised when I’d hear white people sing all the lyrics to this song, considering much of Blackstreet’s fan base was primarily black. But back in the ’90’s black groups had the pop radio stations on lock. And this song was in heavy rotation. It’s no wonder it became something of an anthem, a karaoke classic. The song is still popular with white folk, as I just recently heard it the the new movie, Pitch Perfect.

MN Jam Of The Day: “Santa Baby”- Eartha Kitt

December 26th, 2012 - By Veronica Wells
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Christmas was just yesterday and hopefully Santa has already visited your house; but we’re still in the mood for Christmas music, so we chose Eartha Kitt’s slightly sultry, definitely demanding wish list for Mr. Claus. It’s one of our favorites. Is this your song too?

MN Jam Of The Day: “Kiss For Christmas” By Luther Vandross

December 24th, 2012 - By Veronica Wells
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Every Christmas folks are running around like chickens with their heads cut off looking for that perfect gift to buy their loved ones. But on his Christmas album, which is everything, Luther told his lover, his boo thang that spending money won’t be necessary, he just wants a kiss for Christmas. Very sweet. If you’re not familiar with this one, check it out, you won’t be disappointed.

MN Year In Review: The Best Love Songs Of 2012

December 21st, 2012 - By Veronica Wells
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Though love songs these days don’t quite sound like they used to, it doesn’t mean the genre has died altogether. In fact, 2012 was a good year for love songs; check out some of our favorites and let us know if you agree.

You & I

Avant & KeKe Wyatt

The Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell duo for the millennium reunited for their first collaboration since “Nothing In This World,” which was released and “Six Questions,” a song from 2006 which appeared on one of KeKe’s shelved albums. And though both KeKe and Avant have gotten older, it’s clear that they’ve still got it. This duet, despite the lackluster video, is exactly what the game has been missing, since they stopped singing together.

Say Dat! 10 Black Words That Went Mainstream

November 20th, 2012 - By Veronica Wells
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A couple of months ago, I was watching an interview with Michaela Angela Davis. In it, she discussed the images of black women and how black women specifically, but black people in general advance the culture–as in pop culture. When you look at the history of American music, you need look no further than Jazz and then Hip Hop to see that this is true. But aside from music, blacks have contributed to the national lexicon as well. If you don’t believe me, check out the following words.




This word, referring to the way light hits flashy, often gaudy, jewelry, was first made popular in 1999 when BG and the Cash Money Millionaires  released a song by the name of “Bling Bling.” When you think about it, that’s pretty clever. This ideophone, a word or sound(s) that describes a complete idea, undoubtedly led to the word’s popularity and staying power. Before you knew it every other rapper was using the phrase and then it really took off when mainstream artists started saying it. Eventually it was added to the  Shorter Oxford English Dictionary in 2002 and the Merriam Webster dictionary in 2006. Politician and two-time presidential hopeful, Mitt Romney even used it in 2008, at a campaign event.

In researching this story, I actually forgot how great “Bling Bling” was, so just in case you need a refresher course as well, here’s the video that started it all.

Run That Back!:10 Albums That Shaped Me

February 27th, 2012 - By Veronica Wells
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It doesn’t happen often, but every once in a while you’ll play the first chords of a record and you know immediately that this piece of art is going to become a part of you. Not just something you listen to as background music, not something you dance, absentmindedly in the club, but something you internalize. You find yourself recalling the lyrics to songs and applying them to the real life situations you face. We all have these gems. So let’s dig in with the masterpieces that I carry with me.

The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill – Lauryn Hill

No need to beat around the bush. Quite a few black people born after 1970 would include this national treasure on their list. Lauryn was preaching in her first solo album. The Miseducation is the perfect combination of righteous and real. It always amazes me how perspective-changing art makes it’s way into our lives. A friend of my mother’s gifted me with this album for a random occasion and for months it never left my discman. I was only a fifth grader when this album hit the streets but even as a youngster I knew it was profound. I can’t tell you how many hours I sat, in my room, in my back yard, on the school bus, absorbing the knowledge Lauryn was dropping. The album made me laugh, cry, dance and think. It was perfection.