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Black music month

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During the month of June, we will be playing Music from the 70’s 80’s, 90’s and 00’s to celebrate Black in the Day; a celebration of Black Music Month

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The Origins of Black Music Month

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As we reflect on the unsung heroes of music, we celebrate little known facts about how some of the musical genres came into existence and the influences that created some of the most beloved styles of music. Music breaks barriers and moves people. It inspires generation after generation of artists and music lovers.

In 1978, the hitmaking Philadelphia soul producer Kenny Gamble started the Black Music Association, quickly building a network of high-level supporters including Stevie Wonder, Motown Records founder Berry Gordy, and Rev. Jesse Jackson. In less than a year, Gamble—along with media strategist Dyana Williams, and radio DJ Ed Wright—founded Black Music Month. On June 7, 1979, President Jimmy Carter held the first-ever Black Music Month celebration, where scores of Black celebrities congregated on the White House lawn. The roots of pop, jazz, soul, R&B, hip-hop, gospel, house, folk and disco music can all be traced to Black musicians. So many of today’s most popular genres, trends and artists just wouldn’t exist without the work of the most influential Black musicians of the 20th century, all of whom helped lay the groundwork for music as we know and love today. Everything from rock to hip-hop to bluegrass has been influenced by traditional African music styles and the music created by African slaves in America. Music labels and artists alike have built their empires on black creators in more ways than we’re willing to acknowledge. Despite the roadblocks, limitations and inequities that Black musicians faced due to Jim Crow laws and other prejudices, they were able to make major contributions to music across the globe.

In the month of June, KJLH will celebrate the talent and amazing contributions that African American Music artists have made to the world of music. Listeners will hear the music of and the stories about the well known and unsung musicians that have shaped various music genres. The music that has soothed our souls, inspired us and caused us to sing, dance and love. Each week on air, KJLH will spotlight a different decade of black music,with music and stories from the 70’s, 80’s, 90’s, and 2000’s.


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Artist Spotlights

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Marvin Gaye

Marvin Gaye is one of the true icons of R&B. His classic 1973 album, Let’s Get It On, is filled with soulful rhythms, while 1971’s What’s Going On is an incredible work that continues to speak to political injustice. This song is one of the most enduring war protest songs from the 1970’s. Marvin Gaye was a top selling musical artist from the 1960’s with hits like “I heard it Through the Grapevine” He remained a strong voice in 70’s  black music with hits like this one. The song comes from the album of the same name, which was one of the first concept albums ever made. This track is from the point of view of a soldier returning home from the Vietnam War. This song and it’s album regularly appear on lists of the best albums of all time. ‘What’s Going On’ highlighted the injustice and racism that was rampant at the time of its release. In the summer of 1970, Motown Records founder Berry Gordy refused to release ‘What’s Going On’ because he thought it was too political. After several months, Marvin convinced Berry that the track was worth putting out and it went on to be one of Marvin’s most popular songs of all time.

Berry spoke to TMZ several years ago and mentioned that Marvin was “determined” to put the song out.

“I was extremely happy that I released it because it was the biggest record at that time,” Berry explained. “But Marvin was so determined, and such a beautiful person was Marvin. And he fought everything that he thought was injustice and he wanted to speak about — he had a brother in Vietnam — and he convinced me that we should try it. But I didn’t think it was going to work.” He continued: “But it did and it was very successful. He was a very true artist and I miss him a lot.”

Stevie Wonder

Stevie Wonder is a one-of-a-kind musician. Despite losing his eyesight at a young age, by 13 he would become the youngest artist to top the Billboard charts and became the first Black artist to win the Grammy Award for Album of the Year. In 1973 came Innervisions, which of all Stevie Wonder’s albums, was the heir to What’s Going On and would earn Wonder his first album of the year Grammy. It was a project perhaps best described as a public open-heart surgery. “Too High,” the LP’s intro, is a fierce examination of drug usage. On the same album came “Visions” and the reality of life in the slums on “Living For The City.” Wonder’s “Higher Ground” nearly became prophetic as the singer was involved in a near fatal car accident just three days after the album’s release.

Over five years, Wonder unleashed five albums of both musical excellence and social conscience. It started with Music of My Mind and Talking Book in 1972, Innervisions in 1973, and climaxed with Fulfillingness’ First Finale in 1974 and Songs in the Key of Life in 1976. The 26-year-old Wonder’s magnum opus Songs in the Key of Life, his third and final album of the year was one of the most lauded albums ever recorded.

Jimi Hendrix

Black people were part of the Psychedelia and early Heavy Metal trends, particularly by way of the wide-ranging Beatles’ influence and the electric guitar innovations of Jimi Hendrix, who was one of the best guitarist of all times. Hendrix was among the first guitarists to use audio feedback, fuzz, and other effects pedals such as the wah wah pedal to create a unique guitar solo sound. Even more popular among Black people, and with more crossover appeal, was album-oriented soul in the late 1960s and early 1970s, which revolutionized African-American music.

King Floyd

How did this phrase become popular? Uh, aw, sookie sookie now! “Ah sookie sookie” was popularized by King Floyd in his 1971 hit R&B song “Groove Me.”

Minnie Riperton

Richard Rudolph began composing “Lovin’ You” in 1971. His wife, Minnie Riperton was offered a contract with Epic Records a few years later, and the couple moved to Los Angeles to record the album Perfect Angel. When Epic asked Riperton whom she wanted to produce the album, she named Stevie Wonder. Wonder, by then one of the biggest names in American popular music, was a fan of Riperton’s work, and agreed to the collaboration. However, Wonder was signed to Motown Records; so in order to avoid contract conflicts he was credited under the pseudonym “El Toro Negro”, Spanish for “Black Bull”, as Wonder’s astrological sign is Taurus. For the same reason, Wonder only agreed to be a producer for the project as co-producer along with Rudolph, resulting in the production company Scorbu Productions being created specifically for the project

The Isley Brothers

The Isley Brothers, “For the Love of You” was released in September 1975, after the success of its predecessor, “Fight the Power“. The song’s success was contributed to the album’s sequencing in which the harder, funk and rock-oriented first three tracks were placed on side one, while the more melodic, sensual soul ballads were placed on side two. As a result of the success of “For the Love of You”, R&B radio began playing the album’s other two ballads regularly – the O’Kelly Isley-led ballad “Sensuality” and the Ronald swan song, “Make Me Say It Again, Girl”. Since then, all three of the songs from the album’s second side continued to get play on quiet storm radio playlists.

The Temptations

“Just My Imagination” became the third Temptations song to reach number 1 on the US Billboard Hot 100. It features on the group’s 1971 album, Sky’s the Limit   Today, “Just My Imagination” is considered one of the Temptations’ signature songs and is notable for recalling the sound of the group’s 1960s recordings. It is also the final Temptations single to feature founding members Eddie Kendricks and Paul Williams.

New Birth

Artists like New Birth released 3 hits in the 70’s. “Wildflower”, “It’s Been a Long Time”, “Dream Merchant.”


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Pioneers of African American Music Genre’s

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It is the time to recognize figures like the godmother of rock ‘n’ roll, Big Mama Thornton who was the first to record Leiber and Stroller’s “Hound Dog”, in 1952, on the Billboard R&B chart in 1953 and selling almost two million copies but Hound Dog was made popular when recorded later by Elvis Presley, with ten million copies sold. And it was not until Janis Joplin covered Thornton’s “Ball ‘n’ Chain” that it became a hit. Even though, she was eventually inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame, due to racial barriers, she was still underappreciated for her influence on the blues, rock & roll and soul music.

Classical Music was made better in the 1930’s and beyond, by the arrangements of William Grant Still Jr., the first American composer to have an opera produced by the New York City Opera. Still was the first African-American to conduct a major American symphony orchestra, the first to have a symphony performed by a leading orchestra, the first to have an opera performed by a major opera company, and the first to have an opera performed on national television.

Ella Fitzgerald was the first African American female to win a GRAMMY Award. She has won a total of 13 GRAMMYs. In 1972, Fitzgerald, along with Carol Channing, became the first celebrity singer at the Super Bowl. Fitzgerald had one huge advantage as a singer: her perfect pitch. Fitzgerald could distinguish and replicate notes so precisely that her band tuned their instruments to her voice.

In 1958, Lena Horne became the first African-American woman to be nominated for a Tony Award for “Best Actress in a Musical“. Lena Horne had to navigate stardom during Jim Crow. she refused to perform “for segregated audiences or for groups in which German POWs were seated in front of Black servicemen.

Aretha Franklin won 18 Grammys, had 112 singles on the Billboard charts, and sold over 75 million records worldwide. She was the first female performer inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and remains the most charted female artist in history. without her, our music today would not be as rich, and society would be even less open and free.


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