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

June 4, 2013  |  

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.

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