American music impressively includes a multitude of genres—rock, blues, country, gospel, rhythm and blues, and rap, just to name a few. Similarly, there are a multitude of great moments in African American music history—too many to name here. Still, I will give you a few that are especially significant:
- Mamie Smith's February 14, 1920 recording of "The Thing Called Love" is the first known recording of an African American female vocalist. In celebration of the 100th anniversary, you can read about it in Chicago Whispers, or see an excerpt of the book online.
- Over 80 years ago, Marian Anderson sang "My Country, 'Tis of Thee" at the Lincoln Memorial. (For more, see "Denied a Stage, She Sang for a Nation.")
- More than 50 years ago, Jimi Hendrix, the world's highest-paid rock musician, performed an iconic rendition of "The Star-Spangled Banner" at Woodstock, captured on Jimi Hendrix: Live at Woodstock.
- I still remember being mesmerized as a kid more than 35 years ago watching Michael Jackson perform the moonwalk for the first time at Motown 25, Yesterday, Today, Forever.
- Finally, who can forget Beyonce's groundbreaking performance at Coachella 2018 that included a stirring rendition of the Black National Anthem, "Lift Every Voice and Sing"?
Want to find out more about the history of African American music? Check out one of these books.
From Swing to Soul: Learn about some of the groundbreaking artists of jazz, blues, rock 'n' roll and soul in this pictorial history.
Lift Every Voice examines the history of African American music from enslavement in West Africa to modern times in America.
The Story of African American Music explores how African American music has shaped many of the musical genres that we listen to today.
What's your favorite moment in African American music history? Let me know in the comments.