All Articles Tagged "black music"

Meet The Grandmother of Rock And Roll: Sister Rosetta Tharpe, A Black Woman

February 2nd, 2015 - By Veronica Wells
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Black History Month is here y’all! And I know I’m excited. As much as our history is hidden, twisted or completely disregarded, I always take great pleasure in learning something new and wonderful about our people. And being that this is a Black women’s site, we’ll be featuring Black women who’ve changed the world in one way or another but somehow failed to get the recognition they deserved.

And today, that lady is Sister Rosetta Tharpe.

While the mainstream would have you believe that Rock and Roll was created by an Elvis Presley type, the truth of the matter is, the fundamentals of the genre were started by Black people. The genre was propelled by people like Little Richard, (He jokes about not getting his just due, but he’s telling the truth.) and Chuck Berry. But guess who Little Richard and Chuck Berry list as one of their favorite singers and greatest influence: Sister Rosetta Tharpe.

So who is this woman?

Tharpe was born Rosetta Nubin in Cotton Plant, Arkansas on March 20, 1915. And like the name of her town suggests, her parents, Katie Bell Nubin and Willis Atkins, were cotton pickers. Though little is known about her father, both of her parents had a musical background. Her mother Katie, was a musician, singer as well as a preacher in the COGIC denomination. COGIC was different from other Christian sects at that time because it encouraged rhythmic music and allowed women to preach in church. Rosetta, following in her parents’ footsteps, started singing and playing the guitar at four and was labeled a musical prodigy. By six,  she and her mother were traveling throughout the south on an evangelical tour.

In the mid 1920’s, Tharpe and her mother relocated to Chicago, Illinois where they continued to perform religious concerts, occasionally performing at conventions throughout  the country.

It wasn’t long before Rosetta had created a name for herself, particularly since there weren’t that many Black, female guitarists during the time. At 19, Rosetta married a COGIC preacher named Thomas Tharpe and he began traveling with her and her mother. The two weren’t married long; and Rosetta would eventually remarry (twice), but she kept the last name and called herself Sister Rosetta Tharpe when she took the stage.

In 1938, at 23, Tharpe moved to New York City where she recorded her first album with Decca Records. She recorded four songs, “Rock Me,” “That’s All,” “The Man and I” and “The Lonesome Road.” All of the songs became hits and Tharpe became the country’s first gospel artist to enjoy commercial success.

In December of that same year, she performed in Carnegie Hall. The performance was unique in that she performed her gospel music in front of a secular audience. And then there was the style of music. Her guitar playing, which blended blues and folk songs with a swing sound, had all the makings of the early Rock and Roll sound.

The audience responded favorably and Tharpe continued to gain more fame. She became a regular a Cab Calloway’s famous Cotton Club in Harlem.

Her songs called “Shout Sister Shout” and “I Want A Tall Skinny Papa” featured Tharpe playing the electric guitar for the first time. This specifically, was the sound that would turn up in Chuck Berry and Elvis Presley’s music.

In 1944, Tharpe recorded “Strange Things Happening Every Day.” The record showcased her clever lyrics, delivery and guitar skills. The song ended up being the first gospel song to make Billboard’s Harlem Hit Parade (later known as Race Records and finally, R&B). She would go on to do this several more times in her career. But the 1944 record has been credited as the “First rock and roll record.”

The next year, Little Richard was at the same venue as one of her concerts and Tharpe happened to hear him sing. Afterward, she invited him on the stage with her. It was his first public performance outside of church. Little Richard would later say that performance inspired him to pursue music as a career.

In the 1950’s Tharpe and her singing partner Marie Knight recorded several blues songs. The fact that she was doing secular music didn’t sit well with her gospel fans. And though she wanted to remain the in the church, her core audience had turned their backs on her. On the outs with some of her American fans, Tharpe booked a month-long tour in Europe.

In 1970, while still in Europe and on tour with Muddy Waters, she suddenly got sick and was rushed back to the United States. When she arrived, she suffered from a stroke and had to have her leg amputated as a side effect from diabetes complications. Despite the setback, Tharpe continued to perform.

In 1973, the day before she was scheduled to go to the studio to record, she had another stroke and passed away three days later on October 9, 1973. She was 58 years old.

Over 20 years after her death, in 1998, the United States Postal Service honored Tharpe with a commemorative stamp. And in 2007, she was inducted, posthumously into the Blues Hall of Fame.

Source: USPS

Source: USPS

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 / Shutterstock.com

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

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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Screenshot

Screenshot

 

 

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 BlackVoices.com 

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

June 4th, 2013 - By Kimberly Gedeon
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Source: Thinkstock.com

Source: Thinkstock.com

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.

Source: Youtube.com

 

Bling

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.