15 Black Artists Who Influenced the History of Music

05th June, 2020

Throughout history, blacks have helped transform many industries in the country. Join us as we look at 15 black artists who reshaped music forever.

15 Black Artists Who Influenced the History of Music Shutterstock

Inclusivity breeds success. American history has countless examples of such progressive thought yielding revolutionary results and helping inspire millions of people. Martin Luther King Jr., Maya Angelou, Oprah Winfrey, and Michael Jordon, for instance, are immortal black personalities who not just earned fame, but were leaders of change. Today, we’re looking at 15 black musicians who had a similar impact, especially in the music industry. Their songs redefined our perception of the art form and wooed us unlike ever before. Some of these magnetic stars became global icons and continue to stimulate fans even to this day.

1. Michael Jackson

History says MJ was “King of Pop,” but in reality, he was much more: Jackson explored and excelled in every genre. After the release of his 1982 album Thriller, he shot to fame, and the world could never get enough of him. He united dance and music and showcased something revolutionary on the day this picture was taken.

2. Nat King Cole

Like other musicians of his time, Nat King Cole didn’t just create phenomenal music, but he also inspired future generations to look beyond contemporary music. The 1957 album Just One of Those Things is easily his best work and helped revolutionize jazz piano.

3. Jimi Hendrix

This post is proof that no one understood guitar quite like the Seattle-born performer. He pushed the instrument to its limits, unearthing its immense capabilities, and showing the way for future guitarists. Champion of rock and roll, Jimi’s 1967 album Are You Experienced ranks among the best in the history of rock music.

4. Ella Fitzgerald

Like this post proves, even Marilyn Monroe was a fan of Ella’s sensational jazz singing. The First Lady of Song drew many people closer to jazz and popular music with her 1956 album Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Cole Porter Song Book.

5. Miles Davis

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A post shared by Miles Davis (@milesdavis) on Oct 24, 2019 at 1:22pm PDT

Although he stuck to jazz, Miles Davis was the driving force behind the stylistic developments in the genre, including his very own “cool jazz.” In his own words, he “changed music five or six times.” The 1959 studio album Kind of Blue is testimony to the sheer talent of this legend. Any guesses which trumpet he’s playing here?

6. Aretha Franklin

Notice the sheer delight and admiration on the two faces watching the Queen of Soul up close on stage in this post. Their expressions say everything about the artist: her stunning vocals, the ability to blend genres, and her electrifying stage presence. Amazing Grace is arguably her best work.

7. Ray Charles

Frank Sinatra once said, “Ray Charles is the only genius in the business.” And boy, was he right! Despite losing his vision at seven, Charles carved out a revolutionary music career, mastering soul music. The Birth of Soul is his best work, and @official.raycharles shows what an absolute delight it was to watch him perform.

8. Stevie Wonder

With 25 GRAMMYs, one Golden Globe, and an Oscar, the former child prodigy has definitely come a long way. Wonder set the basis for modern soul music and advocated blending technology with music. This post, meanwhile, sheds light on his exceptional mentality, and we now know why the world continues to be enraptured by his music.

9. Tupac Shakur

Hip hop fans universally agree that Tupac, one of the best-known rappers, changed their perception of the genre and had a massive impact on the artists that followed. In just 25 years, he achieved everything a musician could’ve dreamt of and maybe even more. This @2pac video proves why he still holds a special place in everyone’s hearts.

10. Quincy Jones

11. Whitney Houston

The fact that the pop icon’s debut—we repeat, debut—album Whitney Houston is listed on the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time by Rolling Stone, says everything about the golden girl. This @whitneyhouston post glimpses at her riveting live performance.

12. Louis Armstrong

How do you fit two legends in a frame? Watch this @judyandsinatra post! Armstrong and Sinatra often worked together and were quite fond of each other’s work. Armstrong was a masterful trumpeter and is widely regarded as the first jazz soloist. His songs will always hold us close and hold us fast.

13. Prince

Not many can boast that their movie, album, and single all topped the charts at the same time. But then, not everyone is Prince! Like this @patricia.adores.prince image proves, the artist was unapologetically himself, inspiring many to embrace their authentic self. What can we say? He was our prince charming.

14. James Brown

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A post shared by NostaljicMusic (@nostalgicmusicfm) on Jun 3, 2020 at 12:24pm PDT

Ranked seventh on Rolling Stone’s 100 Greatest Artists of All Time, Brown was a central figure of the 20th century music period and was called “Godfather of Soul.” Funk music was invented by Brown, who also happens to be the most sampled artist of all time. Sex Machine is probably his greatest album.

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