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Ella Fitzgerald was the first Black artist to win a Grammy in 1958.
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During the inhumane times of slavery, enslaved people were forbidden to speak their native languages, as owners feared they would plan and share escape routes or seek revenge and rebel. So to communicate their feelings, whether it was sorrow or hope, they began singing and creating songs that were passed down to many generations. These songs were referred to as spirituals. There were songs of freedom and survival, influenced by African and religious traditions. Many say that Gospel music is a genre that comes from Spirituals.
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In the 1860s, a musical genre took life in the south by storm: Blues. African-Americans created this new form of sound, taking inspiration from both work songs and spirituals. Blues rapidly spread across the United States, becoming the genre characterized by call and response patterns, a specific 12-bar chord progression, etc. It's the originator of the groove pattern and has many sub-genres such as the Chicago Blues, Country, Delta, West Coast, Electric, and more.
Although many songs were created before his birth, George Washington Johnson was the first African-American to record his music commercially. As a child, he learned how to read and write, which contributed to his musical abilities, although it was illegal for Black children to learn in Virginia during this time. After moving to New York City in his twenties, it wasn't long before Johnson made a living through his passion. He connected with phonograph distributors between January and May 1890 who recorded his whistling on cylinders. He went on to record songs like "The Laughing Song," "Listen To The Mocking Bird," and "Carving the Duck."
Since blues music was the first genre created post-slavery, its influences can be found in jazz. Ragtime also heavily influenced this genre. Although Ragtime music was still around, it began to faint during this time as blues and jazz were in rotation a lot. Jazz music is said to have first started in New Orleans communities, which is why New Orleans jazz is one of the most popular styles in the genre. It became popular music, and many other cultures began to add their twist to the sound.
With so much fantastic talent, and songs by Black artists flowing into the music industry, Tommy Edwards made history as the first African-American artist to hit number one on Billboard's Hot 100 list with "It's All In The Game." The song is his most famous and can still be heard worldwide today. He recorded it in 1958, selling over 3.5 million copies worldwide, and it topped the charts in the United Kingdom.
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Known as the "First Lady of Song," Ella Fitzgerald was an American jazz singer whose rendition of "A- Tisket, A-Tisket" made her a global star. She was the first Black artist to win a Grammy in the first year of the Grammy Awards, and her band leader, Count Basie, also won an award. Fitzgerald went on to win several more Grammys and other mentions of honor.
Before My Kind of Blue, jazz music followed specific scales, ones that made being creative a bit difficult. Known for being innovative, Davis wanted to challenge this norm and focus on modes instead of scales. He enlisted Bill Evans, a well-known pianist, to push boundaries and create modal jazz. The response to this new style was incredible as My Kind of Blue is referenced as the greatest jazz album in history. It also influenced the styles of many genres and artists to come.
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After expressing themselves through blues, jazz, and ragtime, more genres of music began to emerge. In the late 1950s, genres like pop and rock and roll began to hit radio airwaves. More genres like reggae, house, hip-hop, and RB started to take off, making Black music diverse and making it easier for artists to express themselves through sounds that connected with them and their fans.
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Although some people can hear hip-hop styles in doo-wop music (1940–1950), structure-wise, the genre started in New York City's Bronx neighborhood. It gave Black people in poor communities a voice, a way to be heard, as prior, many felt like their cries for better conditions were unheard. Jamaican DJ, DJ Kool Herc, is one of the earliest hip-hop DJs and artists. Artists like Tupac also became the people's voice through his music and informational interviews.
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New musical genres like trap, originating in Atlanta, and drill, created in Chicago (but influenced by British grime), are heard worldwide. There are also sub-RB, soul, and pop genres on the rise.
Which genre or Black artist impacted your life the most? I'd love to know!