It was President Jimmy Carter who declared June to be Black Music Month in 1979. For the past 32 years, presidents have suggested we continue to celebrate it.
It would be easy to consider celebrating soul, R&B and rap music for the month of June, but in celebrating black music, we nearly celebrate all forms of music. Whether it be Jazz, Blues, Rock and Roll, Gospel, reggae or the before mentioned, they were all started by black people.
Blacks in this country have always struggled and experienced turbulent times. Our people have always been able to take our troubles away and put them in a song to make us and others feel better. It's the spirit of blues, gospel, rock and roll and rap. At the same time, we’ve always been able to take music and hold up a mirror for society to see its own ills. From legendary artists like Marvin Gaye with "What's Going On" to Sam Cooke with,"Change Gonna Come" to Harold Melvin and the Bluenotes with "Wake Up Everybody" to tons of early rap records like Grand Master Flash's "The Message," the message was always there.
We've also often used music to motivate or simply uplift with songs like James Brown's "Say it Loud, I'm Black and I'm Proud" or Public Enemy's "Fight the Power." Nowadays the messages have strayed from that and have been mostly about self-glamorization and sex, but every now and then, we'll get an artist like John Legend that will bring it back.
June is a month where we reflect on all of it, good or bad, spoken, sang or played. One can never forget the gifted musicians like Miles Davis, John Coltrane or Thelonious Monk. Those artists that could play smooth melodies that could soothe the savage beast. You can also not ever forget the pioneers of Rock and Roll, some of which are still living today like Chuck Berry in St Louis, MO, or Little Richard from Macon, GA. Another Rock and Roll pioneer who have left us but also left huge imprints in our souls is Ike Turner who can never be forgotten even if he is mostly remembered now for beating Tina.
Many of our legendary black artists have been troubled souls. From Ike Turner to Marvin Gaye, Michael Jackson, R Kelly, Billie Holiday, and tons of others. Many times the weight of being a celebrity and in the public eye at all times was a little much for them.
But in this month, we celebrate them all. Their musical genius, creativity and gifts they shed on us will burn in our souls forever.
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