What Is Black Music Month?
June is Black Music Month—now officially called African American Music Appreciation Month.
Created by President Jimmy Carter in 1979, Black Music Month celebrates the extraordinary contributions of African American composers, singers, and musicians, and their essential role in shaping the cultural heritage of the United States.
From gospel to rock and roll to hip hop, Black Americans have created and influenced music across the spectrum. Their creativity and perseverance have shaped music as we know it and inspired countless musicians and artists around the world.
Listen to Who Was Prince?, an eight-episode podcast series about the music legend, hosted by Touré.
The history of Black music in America goes back centuries. It began with spirituals, the earliest form of Black musical expression in the United States. Spirituals blended Christian hymns with African rhythms and secular music.
They described the experiences and hardships of slavery and encompassed the “sing songs,” work songs, and plantation songs that eventually evolved into modern-day gospel music—an integral feature of Black worship services today.
Since those early days, African Americans have pioneered dozens of genres and musical sounds that are now staples of contemporary American music.
Blues music, for example, has its roots in African American culture, emerging in the Deep South in the 1860s. In the early days, “country blues” reflected the sociocultural aspects of life and varied from region to region. Twentieth-century blues evolved to reflect the Black urban experience, encapsulated by artists like Muddy Waters and B.B. King.
Almost every genre of popular music today has been influenced in some way by blues. Jazz, R&B, rock and roll, and country music all borrowed heavily from the style and chord progressions developed by early blues artists.
The 20th century saw an explosion of popular Black music, starting with New Orleans jazz, which rapidly gained nationwide popularity in the 1920s.
In the coming decades, Black musicians would spearhead many styles, including soul and rhythm and blues, the “Motown sound,” and funk, to name a few.
Hip-hop, one of the most influential genres in the world today, originated in the Bronx in the 1970s. It took off in the 1980s and 90s, spreading across the country and diversifying.
Rap music—which falls under the hip-hop umbrella—has served as an essential medium for artists to express their thoughts about society, politics, inequality, police brutality, and more. It’s one of the most popular genres in the world.
Today, Black artists like Lil Wayne, Beyoncé, and John Legend are global sensations, carrying on a centuries-long legacy of Black musical excellence in America.
The genres we’ve referenced here barely scratch the surface of the extraordinary contribution of Black artists over the centuries. It’s safe to say American music would sound quite different today if not for the creativity, brilliance, and integrity of Black musicians.
Here are three ways to celebrate African American Music Appreciation Month.
1: Research African American music history.
Understanding the roots of the music you love can only lead to greater appreciation. Read up on Black music history or watch one of the many documentaries available on African American musicians.
2: Explore the music of up-and-coming African American artists.
Streaming apps like Spotify and Apple Music are a great way to discover new artists.
3: Listen to the Who Was Prince? podcast.
Speaking of iconic musical artists, DCP Entertainment’s latest podcast highlights the life and career of His Excellency, Mr. Prince Rogers Nelson. Listeners will get an inside look into Prince’s life from the perspective of those who played in his bands, managed his career, engineered his music, and dated him. Hosted by music journalist Touré, you won’t want to miss it.