African American Singers You Should Know
Black culture is rich and diverse, with many different tribes, customs, and traditions. The African American community is one of the largest minority groups in the United States. That’s why it should come as no surprise that there are so many successful African American singers keeping this subculture thriving and innovative. From jazz to blues to soul, there’s a wide variety of African American singers who have made an impact on the music industry through their artistry and cultural significance. These gifted men and women have cemented their names in history by not only inspiring millions with their music but also challenging society with their lyrics, ideologies, and fashion sense. So if you’re interested in exploring some talented African American artists or maybe even starting a career in singing yourself, read on for our list of 10 people you should know about:
Bessie Smith was one of the first and most influential African American singers. Growing up in the South, she was raised with blues music, which was considered taboo at the time. She was most popular in the 1930s and is credited with bringing the blues sound to mainstream audiences. Bessie was one of the first singers to perform with an integrated audience, which was uncommon at the time when racial segregation was still commonplace. She was also the first African American to be featured on the cover of Billboard magazine, which was a huge accomplishment for a woman in the 1930s when African Americans were still being discriminated against.
Aretha Franklin is one of the most successful soul singers of all time. She became an international superstar in the 1960s and ’70s, earning 14 Grammy awards and amassing a total of 41 gold and platinum albums during her extensive career. She is best known for her famous gospel hits and an incredible rendition of “Respect”. Franklin became the first woman to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987. She and Bessie Smith were also the first female African American singers to be inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.
Chuck Berry was the first person to mix R&B with rock and roll, which has become a staple in music ever since. He was one of the biggest stars of the 1950s and has written and produced over 80 hit songs. Berry is often referred to as one of the pioneers of rock and roll and has influenced many modern musicians, including Elvis Presley, The Beatles, and Jimi Hendrix. Berry’s lyrics were often risqué and full of innuendo, earning him the title of “the Shakespeare of rock ‘n roll”. He was also one of the first African American musicians to break the color barrier in white-dominated venues, playing to segregated audiences in the South and integrating the workplace by hiring black musicians to play in his band.
Born and raised in Houston, Beyoncé is one of the biggest pop and R&B stars of the 21st century. She has been a household name since the early 2000s and is considered one of the most influential artists of our time. Beyoncé has won 22 Grammy awards and is a member of the “Greatest Superstars in the World” club, according to Forbes’s annual list. She has also been honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, an MTV Video Music Award, and the Michael Jackson Vanguard Award. Her music videos and live performances have been praised as some of the best in the industry, and her fashion choices have also been iconic. By the end of her career, Beyoncé is sure to go down as one of the most successful African American singers of all time.
Dionne Warwick made her name as a soul and pop singer during the 1960s and ’70s. She has recorded more than 40 albums and has won six Grammy awards. Warwick is best known for her collaborations with other famous singers, including Elvis, the Beach Boys, and Frank Sinatra. She has also released some of the most iconic songs of the 20th century, including “Walk Away” and “Do You Know the Way to San Jose?”. At the height of her career, Warwick had achieved worldwide recognition, but she gave up her glamorous lifestyle to become an ordained Buddhist priest and pursue a less materialistic path.
Tina Turner is one of the most influential African American singers of all time. She was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2019 and has been the recipient of a Grammy award. Turner began her career as a singer in her native country of Great Britain before moving to the United States. She then became one of the biggest stars of the 1960s, performing as a member of The Ike and Tina Turner Revue and releasing hit singles like “River Deep, Mountain High” and “Proud Mary”. Turner has collaborated with many other famous singers and musicians, including British rock band The Rolling Stones, the famous American guitarist Eric Clapton, and American singer-songwriter Prince.
Lionel Richie is an R&B and pop singer and songwriter who has been referred to as one of the greatest musicians of all time. He has won six Grammy awards, nine American Music Awards, and one Brit Award. Richie’s music has been studied in universities and has been a huge inspiration to many musicians, including Michael Jackson and Justin Timberlake. Richie began his career in the 1970s with the band The Commodores, which produced several hit songs, including “Easy Like a Sunday Morning” and “Three Times a Lady”. After the band broke up, Richie released solo albums, including “Brick House”, “Endless Love”, and “Dancing on the Ceiling”. Richie has also achieved success alongside other famous singers as a songwriter and producer, collaborating with Michael Jackson and Stevie Wonder, among others.
Mariah Carey is one of the most successful pop singers of all time and has sold over 200 million records worldwide. She has won five Grammy awards, 22 American Music Awards, and one Brit Award. Mariah’s career skyrocketed in the 1990s with the release of her multi-platinum albums “Emotions”, “Music Box”, and “Daydream”, which featured some of her biggest songs, including “Someday” and “Always Be My Baby”. Carey’s music is known for its big, melodic sound and anthemic choruses. Carey has also made a name for herself as an actress. She has starred in many films, including “Precious”, “The Butler”, and “A Star Is Born”.
Stevie Wonder is one of the most prolific and influential musicians of the 20th century. He has won 24 Grammy awards and is one of only a few people, including Michael Jackson and Paul McCartney, to have won Grammys in three different decades. Wonder has been blind since birth, but his lack of sight has not stopped him from creating some of the most beautiful and inspiring music in history. He has been recognized as one of the most creative artists of all time, credited with pioneering new styles of music, genres of instruments, and the use of synthesizers. Wonder has collaborated with many famous musicians, including Michael Jackson, Paul Simon, and Stevie Nicks. He is also a great philanthropist and passionate activist for human rights and social justice.
Erykah Badu is a famous R&B and neo-soul singer who has been active in the music industry since the late ’90s. She has released five albums and won a Grammy award for her song “Honey”. Badu is notable for her unique style of dress and music, which often explores social issues and makes references to African culture. Badd has released several successful singles, including “On & On” and “Bag Lady”. She has performed at many music festivals and awards shows, including Coachella, Glastonbury, and the Grammys. She also has her own record label called Badu Records, which focuses