Re: the blog post and playlist I made on Juneteenth last year, this is (chronologically) the first in the series. I’ll be focusing on modern legends from the 90s to today next week.

The artists I’m featuring here are just a few major artists that have gone on to profoundly shape music as we know it today and I just want to share some insights I’ve found regarding their impact.

I came to know a lot of these songs when I listened to the oldies and classic rock stations in high school. I remember feeling confused as to why it seemed that Black artists only really got the recognition when Motown became big. In learning more about the history of entertainment in America, it’s become crystal clear that no genre of music would exist without the artistry of Black artists. Heartbreakingly, it’s also become crystal clear that there is a historical pattern in entertainment culture where Black artists innovate and non-Black artists get the recognition. Whether it was Elvis Presley popularizing Big Mama Thornton’s Hound Dog, the Beatles covering Chuck Berry, new wave group Soft Cell popularizing Gloria Jones’s “Tainted Love,” or every male pop star since Michael Jackson calling on his influence, I think it’s time we give the recognition to who these talents are as The Founders of American Music. I know their influence extends worldwide and across cultures but they’re responsible for making the world pay attention to America in the first place.

Compiling this playlist was a walk down memory lane for me as I recalled all the straight up bangers I remember finding when I was in high school. I have so many fond memories about being up late at night writing essays for my AP English classes while grooving to Motown classics. I love learning about how artists in the past shaped music today and am constantly looking for documentaries and books to satiate my curious mind. Let this playlist inspire you and keep you curious as it does for me about the stories of these incredible artists and how they broke barriers throughout their careers. I’m sure there’s so many other phenomenal Black artists from the past I’ve yet to discover, so if I’ve missed anyone, let me know and I will definitely be adding them to this playlist.

Enjoy!

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