This is an annual celebration of African-American music in the United States. It was created on June 7, 1979, when President Jimmy Carter decreed that June would be the month of black music. President Obama continued the tradition. On May 31, 2017, Donald J. Trump, signed a proclamation continuing June 2017 to honor this music. We could highlight a gifted black musician every day of the month and still have many left over
Duke Ellington: 1899-1974
Duke Ellington was a significant influence on the evolution of jazz. This American composer, bandleader, and pianist led his own jazz orchestra for over 50 years. Ellington wrote more than 1,000 compositions.
In addition, he appeared in several films and scored/composed stage musicals. Ellington helped elevate jazz to its own genre.
Louis “Satchmo” Armstrong: 1901-1971
Louis Armstrong played the trumpet. He also helped bring jazz into mainstream music. He also excelled in swing, traditional pop, and Dixieland music. But, perhaps he’s best known for his rendition of “What A Wonderful World.”
Ella Fitzgerald: 1917-1996
Ella Fitzgerald is nicknamed “The First Lady Of Song.” For more than 50 years, she was the most popular female jazz singer. Over her career, she won 13 Grammy awards and sold over 40 million albums. Ms. Fitzgerald sang everything from jazz to ballads. She could also imitate every instrument in an orchestra.
Talk about having a gift!
Ray Charles: 1930 – 2004
“Brother Ray” was one of the pioneers of soul music. But, he didn’t stop there. He also sang gospel, country, and pop. Mr. Charles gradually started losing his sight as a young child and was completely blind by age 7. His parents sent him to a state-sponsored school for the deaf and the blind. There, he learned how to read, write, and arrange music in Braille.
Mr. Charles also learned how to play the piano, organ, trumpet, sax, and clarinet.
Aretha Franklin: 1942 – Present
Aretha Franklin started her singing career as a child singing in the choir at the church where her father served as minister. By age 18, she started singing soul and eventually earned the nickname, “The Queen Of Soul.” She also found success in the pop genre. Ms. Franklin has won a total of 18 Grammy Awards and is one of the best-selling musical artists of all time. She has sold more than 75 million records worldwide.
Stevie Wonder: 1950 – Present
Stevie Wonder was born Stevland Hardaway Morris. By age 11, he was recognized as a child prodigy and signed with Motown’s Tamla label. Because of him being born 6 weeks premature, the blood vessels in the back of his eyes suffered growth issues causing his retinas to detach. At the time, oxygen was also being pumped into his incubator and exacerbated the problem leaving him permanently blind.
As a young boy, he learned to play the drums, harmonica, and piano. He sung in his church choir and by age 11, sung his own composition. Through his career, he experimented with sounds and the 1980’s he hit his high. Stevie Wonder has won 25 Grammy Awards as well as a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1996.
Michael Jackson: 1958 – 2009
Michael Jackson originally found success as part of a group ensemble with his brothers, “The Jackson Five.” It wasn’t long when Mr. Jackson was recognized as “the King of Pop” and embarked on a solo career in 1971. He was a genius in singing and composition. Mr. Jackson was also a very gifted dancer, inventing many moves that others copied. He also had his own style of dress.
Michael Jackson’s Thriller album is the best-selling album of all time with sales over 66 million worldwide. He won 13 Grammy’s, the Grammy Legend Award and the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.
Alicia Keys: 1981 – Present
Alicia Keys is a gifted singer, songwriter, pianist, and television actress. She started piano lessons at age 7 and was educated by the Professional Performance Art School. Here, she majored in choir. Because she was an excellent student, she graduated at age 16. Although she was accepted to Columbia University on a full scholarship, she chose to devote herself exclusively to music. She has won 15 Grammy Awards. Currently, she is lending her expertise on The Voice.
Beyoncé: 1981 – Present
Beyoncé participated in various singing and dancing competitions while growing up. Eventually, she found fame and success as the lead singer of [Destiny’s Child]. By 2006, Destiny’s Child was a memory, and she embarked on a solo career. She has sold over 100 million records worldwide and has been awarded 22 Grammy Awards.
Drake: 1986 – Present
Aubrey Drake Graham is a Canadian actor, singer, songwriter, record producer, and entrepreneur. He first found success on the Canadian TV series, [Degrassi: The Next Generation] leaving only in 2007 after the release of his debut mixtape.
He eventually signed with Lil Wayne’s Young Money Entertainment in June 2009. He’s won 3 Grammy Awards and no less than 14 Billboard Music Awards. His specialty genres are R&B and Hip-Hop.
For those that want to catch a younger Drake, you can catch him on reruns of [Degrassi: The Next Generation] on YouTube.