Special Edition: Black History Month

It’s hard to know quite where to start or who to feature for Black History Month. You could focus on any era in recorded music, and include hours of music that shaped and changed everything after it. So where to start, where to end, the iconic or the understated influences? Nothing any of us listens to now is without a debt of gratitude to black artists. What would our musical tradition be without The Supremes, Little Richard, Aretha Franklin, or Jimi Hendrix?

As someone who grew up in the a bubble of Christian music, my first breaking out of that bubble was Blues and Classic rock. I was led there by beginning to learn guitar in high school, and I was drawn to the notable guitar players. These days I find Classic Rock Radio to be one of the most intolerable things to listen to. Don’t get me wrong, I still love a lot of the music they play, but I find it to be one of the most whitewashed spaces you’re likely to encounter. Aside from a few Hendrix songs in regular rotation, you’ll not find black artists represented on Classic Rock stations. Prince will usually be ignored. Freddie King will be ignored. James Brown will be ignored. Wilson Pickett, Aretha Franklin, Chuck Berry, Muddy Waters will be ignored. They’ll acknowledge the influence, but not the actual music. It leaves you with the impression that black artists only affected the landscape of our musical tradition in an indirect way, and it drives me nuts. So, that’s my long-held rant that I needed to get off my chest.

I gathered over 6 hrs of music for this playlist before really starting to arrange things in some kind of order, and had to whittle things down. Being undecided over what criteria I was using, I tried to keep a mix of the iconic, the influential, the forgotten, the overlooked, the poignant, the past, the present. 65 songs, but it really is just skimming the surface in many ways and there is much more I could have included. Maybe you’ll find much of it familiar, and maybe you’ll discover something long-hidden. Enjoy!

Robert Johnson – Terraplane Blues
Lead Belly – Midnight Special
Muddy Waters – I Just Want to Make Love to You
Jimi Hendrix – Bold As Love
LL Cool J – Rock The Bells
Beyonce, Kendrick Lamar – Freedom
The Supremes – Where Did Our Love Go
Freddie King – Going Down
Otis Redding – (Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay
Billie Holiday – Yesterdays
Charlie Parker – April in Paris
The Meters – Cissy Strut
Nina Simone – Wild is the Wind
Mississippi John Hurt – Louis Collins
Billie Holiday – Strange Fruit
The Staple Singers – Why? (Am I Treated so Bad)
Sam Cooke – A Change is Gonna Come
Marvin Gaye – Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler)
Moses Sumney – Rank & File
Baby Huey – Hard Times
Sister Rosetta Tharpe – Steal Away
Aretha Franklin – Spirit in the Dark
Curtis Mayfield – Move On Up
Isaac Hayes – Our Day Will Come
Wu Tang Clan – C.R.E.A.M.
Bad Brains – Banned in D.C. 
Afrika Bambaataa, The Soulsonic Force – Renegades of Funk
Sly & The Family Stone – I Want to Take You Higher
Childish Gambino – Boogieman
Ray Charles – Let the Good Times Roll
Magic Sam – Sweet Home Chicago
Little Richard – Long Tall Sally
Wilson Pickett – In The Midnight Hour
Etta James – Fool That I Am
Bill Withers – Use Me
Fela Kut, Africa 70 – Zombie
Sinkane – Passenger
Funkadelic – Can You Get to That
Prince – I Wanna Be Your Lover
Ibibio Sound Machine – Just Go Forward (Ka I So)
Grace Jones – The Hunter Gets Captured By the Game
Betty Davis – They Say I’m Different
Queen Latifah – Nature of a Sista’
Public Enemy – Bring the Noise
Songhoy Blues – Voter
Kele – Between Me and My Maker
N.W.A. – Express Yourself
Albert King – Born Under a Bad Sign
Chuck Berry – Johnny B. Goode
James Brown – The Payback
Nas – N.Y. State of Mind
Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Bill Evans – Blue in Green
Duke Ellington, John Coltrane – In a Sentimental Mood
A Tribe Called Quest – Check the Rhime
Sudan Archives – Pay Attention
Junior Murvin – Police & Thieves
Bob Marley & The Wailers – Waiting In Vain
Stevie Wonder – You are the Sunshine of my Life
Ann Peebles – Run, Run, Run
Meklit, Preservation Hall Horns – You Are My Luck
Gil Scott-Heron – The Revolution Will Not Be Televised
Rapsody, Mereba – Myrlie
Kendrick Lamar, Rapsody – Complexion (A Zulu Love)
Mavis Staples – I’ll Be Rested
Elmore James – The Sky is Crying

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s