A report on African-American music

The Banjo Lesson by Henry Ossawa Tanner, 1893
Congo Square African Drum 1819 Latrobe
Slave dance to banjo, 1780s
William Sidney Mount painted scenes of black and white American musicians. This 1856 painting depicts an African-American banjo player.
The Slayton Jubilee Singers entertain employees of the Old Trusty Incubator Factory, Clay Center, about 1910
Marilyn Horne and Henry Lewis in 1961, photo by Carl Van Vechten
Sister Rosetta Tharpe performing at Cafe Zanzibar
Lil Wayne is one of the top selling black American musicians in modern history. In 2008, his album sold one million in its first week.
Edward Ray at Capitol Records
50 Cent in 2006. 50 Cent was one of the most popular African-American rappers of the 2000s.
Beyoncé

Umbrella term covering a diverse range of music and musical genres largely developed by African Americans.

- African-American music
The Banjo Lesson by Henry Ossawa Tanner, 1893

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American blues singer Ma Rainey (1886–1939), the "Mother of the Blues"

Blues

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Music genre and musical form which originated in the Deep South of the United States around the 1860s by African-Americans from roots in African-American work songs and spirituals.

Music genre and musical form which originated in the Deep South of the United States around the 1860s by African-Americans from roots in African-American work songs and spirituals.

American blues singer Ma Rainey (1886–1939), the "Mother of the Blues"
A minor pentatonic scale;
Musicologist John Lomax (left) shaking hands with musician "Uncle" Rich Brown in Sumterville, Alabama
Sheet music from "Saint Louis Blues" (1914)
Bessie Smith, an early blues singer, known for her powerful voice
A typical boogie-woogie bass line
John Lee Hooker
Blues legend B.B. King with his guitar, "Lucille"
Texas blues guitarist Stevie Ray Vaughan, 1983
Italian singer Zucchero is credited as the "Father of Italian Blues", and is among the few European blues artists who still enjoy international success.
Eric Clapton performing at Hyde Park, London, in June 2008
Duke Ellington straddled the big band and bebop genres. Ellington extensively used the blues form.
The music of Taj Mahal for the 1972 movie Sounder marked a revival of interest in acoustic blues.

Though the use of the phrase in African-American music may be older, it has been attested to in print since 1912, when Hart Wand's "Dallas Blues" became the first copyrighted blues composition.

American jazz composer, lyricist, and pianist Eubie Blake made an early contribution to the genre's etymology

Jazz

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Music genre that originated in the African-American communities of New Orleans, Louisiana in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, with its roots in blues and ragtime.

Music genre that originated in the African-American communities of New Orleans, Louisiana in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, with its roots in blues and ragtime.

American jazz composer, lyricist, and pianist Eubie Blake made an early contribution to the genre's etymology
Albert Gleizes, 1915, Composition for "Jazz" from the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York
Ethel Waters sang "Stormy Weather" at the Cotton Club.
Al Jolson in 1929
Dance in Congo Square in the late 1700s, artist's conception by E. W. Kemble from a century later
In the late 18th-century painting The Old Plantation, African-Americans dance to banjo and percussion.
The blackface Virginia Minstrels in 1843, featuring tambourine, fiddle, banjo and bones
Scott Joplin in 1903
W. C. Handy at 19, 1892
The Bolden Band around 1905
Jelly Roll Morton, in Los Angeles, California, c. 1917 or 1918
The King & Carter Jazzing Orchestra photographed in Houston, Texas, January 1921
Louis Armstrong began his career in New Orleans and became one of jazz's most recognizable performers.
Benny Goodman (1943)
Duke Ellington at the Hurricane Club (1943)
The "classic quintet": Charlie Parker, Tommy Potter, Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, and Max Roach performing at Three Deuces in New York City. Photograph by William P. Gottlieb (August 1947), Library of Congress.
Machito (maracas) and his sister Graciella Grillo (claves)
Dizzy Gillespie, 1955
Mongo Santamaria (1969)
Art Blakey (1973)
John Coltrane, 1963
Peter Brötzmann is a key figure in European free jazz.
Naná Vasconcelos playing the Afro-Brazilian Berimbau
Randy Weston
C pentatonic scale beginning on the I (C pentatonic), IV (F pentatonic), and V (G pentatonic) steps of the scale.
V pentatonic scale over II–V–I chord progression
Fusion trumpeter Miles Davis in 1989
Wynton Marsalis
David Sanborn, 2008
John Zorn performing in 2006
Steve Coleman in Paris, July 2004

African-American music began incorporating Afro-Cuban rhythmic motifs in the 19th century when the habanera (Cuban contradanza) gained international popularity.

Sign commemorating the role of Alan Freed and Cleveland, Ohio, in the origins of rock and roll

Rock and roll

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Genre of popular music that evolved in the United States during the late 1940s and early 1950s.

Genre of popular music that evolved in the United States during the late 1940s and early 1950s.

Sign commemorating the role of Alan Freed and Cleveland, Ohio, in the origins of rock and roll
Chuck Berry in 1957
Bill Haley and his Comets performing in the 1954 Universal International film Round Up of Rhythm
Elvis Presley in a promotion shot for Jailhouse Rock in 1957
Little Richard in 1957
Buddy Holly and his band, the Crickets.
Tommy Steele, one of the first British rock and rollers, performing in Stockholm in 1957
"There's No Romance in Rock and Roll" made the cover of True Life Romance in 1956

It originated from African-American music such as jazz, rhythm and blues, boogie woogie, gospel, as well as country music.

Afrika Bambaataa with DJ Yutaka of Universal Zulu Nation in 2004

Hip hop music

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Genre of popular music developed in the United States by inner-city African Americans, Caribbean Americans and Latino Americans in the Bronx borough of New York City in the 1970s.

Genre of popular music developed in the United States by inner-city African Americans, Caribbean Americans and Latino Americans in the Bronx borough of New York City in the 1970s.

Afrika Bambaataa with DJ Yutaka of Universal Zulu Nation in 2004
DJ Kool Herc, a Jamaican DJ, is recognized as one of the earliest hip hop DJs and artists. Some credit him with officially originating hip hop music through his 1973 "Back to School Jam".
1520 Sedgwick Avenue, the Bronx, a venue used by Kool Herc that is often considered the birthplace of hip hop on August 11, 1973.
Two hip hop DJs creating new music by mixing tracks from multiple record players. Pictured are DJ Hypnotize (left) and Baby Cee (right).
The Sugarhill Gang used disco band Chic's "Good Times" as the source of beats for their 1979 hip hop hit "Rapper's Delight". Pictured is the Sugarhill Gang at a 2016 concert.
DJ Jazzy Jeff, who is also a record producer, manipulating a record turntable in England in 2005.
The Roland TR-808 Rhythm Composer, a staple sound of hip hop
DJ Marley Marl.
Grandmaster Flash performing in 1999.
Run-DMC, from left to right: Joseph "Run" Simmons, Jason "Jam Master Jay" Mizell, and Darryl "D.M.C." McDaniels.
KRS-One and his Boogie Down Productions were key performers in golden age hip hop.
Flavor Flav of Public Enemy performing in 1991.
Wu-Tang Clan at the Virgin Festival in 2007.
Dr. Dre performing with Snoop Dogg, 2012
Rapper Scarface from the southern U.S. group Geto Boys.
Birdman performing in 2010
Eminem performing in Munich, Germany in 1999.
50 Cent performing in 2012.
The Glitch Mob performing in the Netherlands in 2010
Producer Lil Jon is one of crunk's most prominent figures
Soulja Boy in an interview with Bandai Namco Entertainment at E3 2018.
While hip hop music sales dropped a great deal in the mid-late 2000s, rappers like Flo Rida were successful online and with singles, despite low album sales.
Kanye West performing in 2008
In 2009, Time magazine placed M.I.A. in the Time 100 list of "World's Most Influential People"
Migos performing in August 2017
Lil Nas X was one of the rappers to emerge in the 2010s. He garnered mainstream success in 2019. He is also the first successful openly gay rapper.
Doja Cat was the most streamed rapper of 2021 on Spotify.
The most streamed hip hop album of all time on Spotify is XXXTentacion's second album, ? (2018).
Pete Rock performing at Razel and Friends – Brooklyn Bowl, 2016
De La Soul at the Gorillaz tour, Demon Days Live in 2005
The annual Blockfest in Tampere, Finland is the largest hip hop music event in the Nordic countries and also one of the best-selling festivals in advance. Picture of Blockfest in 2017.
The German rapper Fler caused significant controversy with his music.
Cupcakke in 2018

This spoken style was influenced by the African American style of "capping", a performance where men tried to outdo each other in originality of their language and tried to gain the favor of the listeners.

Louis Jordan in New York City, c. undefined July 1946

Rhythm and blues

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Genre of popular music that originated in African-American communities in the 1940s.

Genre of popular music that originated in African-American communities in the 1940s.

Louis Jordan in New York City, c. undefined July 1946
The habanera rhythm shown as tresillo (lower notes) with the backbeat (upper note)
Fats Domino in 1956
Piano excerpt from the rumba boogie "Mardi Gras in New Orleans" (1949) by Professor Longhair. 2–3 claves are written above for rhythmic reference.
3–2 clave written in two measures in cut-time
Tresillo answered by the backbeat, the essence of clave in African American music
Bo Diddley's "Bo Diddley beat" is a clave-based motif.
Ray Charles in 1971
Ruth Brown was known as the "Queen of R&B"
Della Reese
Sam Cooke
Eric Burdon & the Animals (1964)

It replaced the term "race music", which originally came from within the black community, but was deemed offensive in the postwar world.

African Americans

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Ethnic group consisting of Americans with partial or total ancestry from sub-Saharan Africa.

Ethnic group consisting of Americans with partial or total ancestry from sub-Saharan Africa.

Slaves processing tobacco in 17th-century Virginia, illustration from 1670
The first slave auction at New Amsterdam in 1655, illustration from 1895 by Howard Pyle
Reproduction of a handbill advertising a slave auction in Charleston, South Carolina, in 1769
Crispus Attucks, the first "martyr" of the American Revolution. He was of Native American and African-American descent.
Frederick Douglass, ca 1850
Slaves Waiting for Sale: Richmond, Virginia, 1853. Note the new clothes. The domestic slave trade broke up many families, and individuals lost their connection to families and clans.
Harriet Tubman, around 1869
A group of White men pose for a 1919 photograph as they stand over the Black victim Will Brown who had been lynched and had his body mutilated and burned during the Omaha race riot of 1919 in Omaha, Nebraska. Postcards and photographs of lynchings were popular souvenirs in the U.S.
Rosa Parks being fingerprinted after being arrested for not giving up her seat on a bus to a White person
March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, August 28, 1963, shows civil rights leaders and union leaders
Black Lives Matter protest in response to the fatal shooting of Philando Castile in July 2016
Proportion of African Americans in each U.S. state, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico as of the 2020 United States Census
U.S. Census map indicating U.S. counties with fewer than 25 Black or African-American inhabitants
Graph showing the percentage of the African-American population living in the American South, 1790–2010. Note the major declines between 1910 and 1940 and 1940–1970, and the reverse trend post-1970. Nonetheless, the absolute majority of the African-American population has always lived in the American South.
Former slave reading, 1870
Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson is director of New York City's Hayden Planetarium
The US homeownership rate according to race
This graph shows the real median US household income by race: 1967 to 2011, in 2011 dollars.
"Lift Every Voice and Sing" being sung by the family of Barack Obama, Smokey Robinson and others in the White House in 2014
Genetic clustering of 128 African Americans, by Zakharaia et al. (2009). Each vertical bar represents an individual. The color scheme of the bar plot matches that in the PCA plot.
Al Sharpton led the Commitment March: Get Your Knee Off Our Necks protest on August 28, 2020.
Although the ban on interracial marriage ended in California in 1948, entertainer Sammy Davis Jr. faced a backlash for his involvement with a White woman in 1957
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. remains the most prominent political leader in the American civil rights movement and perhaps the most influential African-American political figure in general.
BET founder Robert L. Johnson with former U.S. President George W. Bush
A traditional soul food dinner consisting of fried chicken with macaroni and cheese, collard greens, breaded fried okra and cornbread
Mount Zion United Methodist Church is the oldest African-American congregation in Washington, D.C.
Masjid Malcolm Shabazz in Harlem, New York City
This parade float displayed the word "Afro-Americans" in 1911.
Michelle Obama was the First Lady of the United States; she and her husband, President Barack Obama, are the first African Americans to hold these positions.
Racially segregated Negro section of keypunch operators at the US Census Bureau

African-American culture had a significant influence on worldwide culture, making numerous contributions to visual arts, literature, the English language, philosophy, politics, cuisine, sports and music.

Vernon Dalhart was the first country star to have a major hit record

Country music

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Genre of popular music that originated with blues, church music such as Southern gospel and spirituals, old-time, and American folk music forms including Appalachian, Cajun, Creole, and the cowboy Western music styles of New Mexico, Red Dirt, Tejano, and Texas country.

Genre of popular music that originated with blues, church music such as Southern gospel and spirituals, old-time, and American folk music forms including Appalachian, Cajun, Creole, and the cowboy Western music styles of New Mexico, Red Dirt, Tejano, and Texas country.

Vernon Dalhart was the first country star to have a major hit record
The Carter Family, are a dynasty of country music and began with (left to right) A.P. Carter, wife Sara Carter and Maybelle Carter
Roy Acuff
Publicity photo of Roy Rogers and Gail Davis, 1948
Bill and Charlie Monroe (1936). Bill Monroe (1911–1996) and the Blue Grass Boys created the bluegrass by the end of World War II.
Hank Williams
Johnny Cash
Willie Nelson (2009)
John Denver (1975)
Dolly Parton
A reunited Eagles in 2008
George Strait, a pioneer of the neotraditionalist movement and dubbed the "King of Country," Strait is one of the best selling musicians of all-time.
Garth Brooks
Shania Twain performing during her Up! Tour in 2004
Steve Earle performing in Ireland in 2007
Carrie Underwood at the 2019 American Music Awards
Miranda Lambert in 2019
Taylor Swift at the 2019 American Music Awards
Florida Georgia Line whose hit song "Cruise" drew attention to the bro-country genre
Emmylou Harris in 2008
Kacey Musgraves became one of the most controversial figures in contemporary country music.
Olivia Newton-John singing in Sydney in 2008
Keith Urban in 2007
Shania Twain in 2011
Lorenzo Antonio
Engelbert Humperdinck had hits with country songs
Vanha Isäntä, a Finnish country rock band, performing at the Helsinki Festival's open-air concert in Kaivopuisto in 1974. Seppo Sillanpää (violin) on the left and Olli Haavisto (guitar) on the right.
Example of cowboy hat and cowboy boots, two prominent components of country music fashion
Western wear shirt design, with snap fasteners
Painting of a cowboy singing by Thomas Eakins (1890)
Freddy Fender performing Tejano music after The Johnny Cash Show in Nashville, Tennessee (1977)
Bob Childers performing Red dirt in Okemah, Oklahoma (2001)
Al Hurricane and Al Hurricane Jr. performing New Mexico music at a fiesta in Old Town Albuquerque (2014)
Willie Nelson (2009)

It has historical roots in the indigenous music of North America, Celtic music, early music of the British Isles, jota, Irish traditional music, singing cowboys, corrido, ranchera, norteño, French folk music, African-American music, and other traditional folk music traditions.

Red Hot Chili Peppers in 2006, showing a quartet lineup for a rock band (from left to right: bassist, lead vocalist, drummer, and guitarist)

Rock music

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Broad genre of popular music that originated as "rock and roll" in the United States in the late 1940s and early 1950s, developing into a range of different styles in the mid-1960s and later, particularly in the United States and the United Kingdom.

Broad genre of popular music that originated as "rock and roll" in the United States in the late 1940s and early 1950s, developing into a range of different styles in the mid-1960s and later, particularly in the United States and the United Kingdom.

Red Hot Chili Peppers in 2006, showing a quartet lineup for a rock band (from left to right: bassist, lead vocalist, drummer, and guitarist)
A simple drum pattern common in rock music
Chuck Berry in a 1958 publicity photo
Elvis Presley in a promotion shot for Jailhouse Rock in 1957
The Everly Brothers in 2006
James Brown performing in 1969
The Beach Boys performing in 1964
The Beatles arriving in New York at the start of the British Invasion, January 1964
The D-Men (later the Fifth Estate) in 1964
Eric Clapton performing in Barcelona in 1974
Joan Baez and Bob Dylan in 1963
The Jimi Hendrix Experience in 1968
Prog rock band Yes performing in concert in Indianapolis in 1977
Jaco Pastorius of Weather Report in 1980
The Eagles during their 2008–2009 Long Road out of Eden Tour
David Bowie during the Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders Tour in 1972
Carlos Santana, New Year's Eve 1976 at the Cow Palace in San Francisco
Led Zeppelin live at Chicago Stadium in January 1975
Bruce Springsteen in East Berlin in 1988
Patti Smith, performing in 1976
Vocalist Johnny Rotten and guitarist Steve Jones of the Sex Pistols
Deborah Harry from the band Blondie, performing at Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto in 1977
U2 performing on the Joshua Tree Tour 2017
R.E.M. was a successful alternative rock band in the 1980s/90s
Nirvana performing in 1992
Oasis performing in 2005
Foo Fighters performing an acoustic show in 2007
Green Day performing in 2013
Lo-fi indie rock band Pavement
Linkin Park performing at 2009 Sonisphere Festival in Pori, Finland
Travis in 2007
The Strokes performing in 2006
The 1969 Woodstock Festival was seen as a celebration of the countercultural lifestyle.
Suzi Quatro is a singer, bassist and bandleader. When she launched her career in 1973, she was one of the few prominent women instrumentalists and bandleaders.

It has its roots in 1940s and 1950s rock and roll, a style that drew directly from the blues and rhythm and blues genres of African-American music and from country music.

James Brown, a pioneer of funk, in 1973

Funk

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Music genre that originated in African American communities in the mid-1960s when musicians created a rhythmic, danceable new form of music through a mixture of soul, jazz and rhythm and blues .

Music genre that originated in African American communities in the mid-1960s when musicians created a rhythmic, danceable new form of music through a mixture of soul, jazz and rhythm and blues .

James Brown, a pioneer of funk, in 1973
The rhythm section of a funk band—the electric bass, drums, electric guitar and keyboards--is the heartbeat of the funk sound. Pictured here is the Meters.
Simple kick and snare funk motif. The kick first sounds two onbeats, which are then answered by two offbeats. The snare sounds the backbeat.
A thirteenth chord (E 13, which also contains a flat 7th and a 9th)
Bootsy Collins performing in 1996 with a star-shaped bass
The drum groove from "Cissy Strut"
Guitarist Nile Rodgers is best known for his performances with Chic.
Isaac Hayes playing keyboards in 1973
Singer Charlie Wilson
Funk horn sections typically include saxophones and trumpets. Larger horn sections often add a second instrument for one of the saxes or trumpets, and a trombone or bari sax may also be used. Pictured is the Earth, Wind and Fire horn section.
James Brown, a progenitor of funk music
George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic in 2006
The Original Family Stone live, 2006. Jerry Martini, Rose Stone, and Cynthia Robinson
Prince was an influential multi-instrumentalist, bandleader, singer and songwriter.
Me'shell Ndegeocello playing electric bass
Talking Heads combined funk with elements of art rock.
Dr. Dre (pictured in 2011) was one of the influential creators of G-funk.
Chaka Khan (born 1953) has been called the "Queen of Funk".
Janelle Monáe (born 1985) is part of a new wave of female funk artists.

The distinctive characteristics of African-American musical expression are rooted in sub-Saharan African music traditions, and find their earliest expression in spirituals, work chants/songs, praise shouts, gospel, blues, and "body rhythms" (hambone, patting juba, and ring shout clapping and stomping patterns).

Presley in a publicity photograph for the 1957 film Jailhouse Rock

Elvis Presley

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American singer and actor.

American singer and actor.

Presley in a publicity photograph for the 1957 film Jailhouse Rock
Presley's birthplace in Tupelo, Mississippi
A photo of Elvis's parents at the Historic Blue Moon Museum in Verona, Mississippi
Presley in a Sun Records promotional photograph, 1954
The "iconic cover" of Presley's 1956 debut album, an image crucial in codifying the guitar as the defining instrument of rock and roll
Presley signing autographs in Minneapolis in 1956
Ed Sullivan and Presley during rehearsals for his second appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show, October 26, 1956
Presley performing live at the Mississippi-Alabama Fairgrounds in Tupelo, September 26, 1956
Presley and costar Judy Tyler in the trailer for Jailhouse Rock, released October 1957
Presley being sworn into the U.S. Army at Fort Chaffee, Arkansas, March 24, 1958
Presley with Juliet Prowse in G.I. Blues
The '68 Comeback Special produced "one of the most famous images" of Presley. Taken on June 29, 1968, it was adapted for the cover of Rolling Stone in July 1969.
Presley meets U.S. President Richard Nixon in the White House Oval Office, December 21, 1970
Presley with friends Bill Porter and Paul Anka backstage at the Las Vegas Hilton on August 5, 1972
Presley came up with his outfit's eagle motif, as "something that would say 'America' to the world"
Presley's gravestone at Graceland
Presley with his longtime vocal backup group, the Jordanaires, March 1957
Publicity photo for the CBS program Stage Show, January 16, 1956
Poster for the film Girls! Girls! Girls! (1962), visualizing Presley's sex symbol image
Presley and Colonel Tom Parker, 1969
A group of Elvis impersonators in 2005
Presley's star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6777 Hollywood Blvd
Presley meets U.S. President Richard Nixon in the White House Oval Office, December 21, 1970

His music career began there in 1954, recording at Sun Records with producer Sam Phillips, who wanted to bring the sound of African-American music to a wider audience.