Tuesday, June 8, 2010
Black Music Month #5: Black Rock
Many people know that the African-American Blues musicians had a major influence on Rock and Roll. However, few know that some of the first Rock and Roll stars were African-American, too. Musicians, like Big Joe Turner ("Shake,Rattle and Roll," which was later covered by Bill Haley and the Comets), Fats Domino (Song "I'm Walking" was covered by Ricky Nelson and other songs were covered by other artists), Bo Diddley (famous for his Bo Diddley Beat), were popular in the early fifties. Chuck Berry, who later was named the Godfather of Rock and Roll, influenced the genre with his mixing of Country music and the Blues. Little Richard, who has gone of record saying that he is the true king of Rock and Roll (and he has a point, no matter how arrogant he may sound), is also known as the Architect of Rock n Roll. Without Little Richard, the whole idea of the androgynous and flamboyant male rock star would not exist (he wore Pancake #31 make-up!). Also, he had later stars, like James Brown and Jimi Hendrix, perform in his band. However, without Louis Jordan, LIttle Richard would not exist. Although he was labeled as R&B, his songs, like Caledonia, had that Rock and Roll flavor to it. Even the woman were in on it. Sister Rosetta Tharpe has been influential on many musicians, such as Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Johnny Cash because of her guitar skills and singing, and she has even had songs written about her, from the Noisettes to Robert Plant and Alison Krauss. By the way, if you were wondering what song was considered the first Rock and Roll song? Before, he was known for his relationship with Tina Turner, Ike Turner had a song called "Rocket 88."
In 1955, the face of Rock n Roll changed. Sam Phillips said "If I could find a white man who had the Negro sound and the Negro feel, I could make a billion dollars." He didn't make a billion per se, but he did make millions with Elvis Presley at Sun Records. After Presley came on the scene, it seemed as if the black face of rock would disappear. It did not, it just changed form a little. In the 1960s, Jimi Hendrix led the pack of black rock musicians and became legendary. Still, he would become part of what is the token black rocker, which later included Prince and Lenny Kravitz. Other Black rockers persisted even with less of the spotlight, like the Chamber Brothers, Black Merda and Rotary Connection (with future "Loving You" singer MInnie Riperton). Other artists, like Tina Turner and Solomon Burke, mixed the genres to create sub-genres of Rock and Soul, while others labeled themselves as Soul artists (ex. Wilson Pickett and Otis Redding). By the 1970s, it was not marketable for black musicians to be in the Rock genre. For example, Rick James used to be in a group with Neil Young called Mynah Birds. The group was signed to Motown, however, the army found out that James had gone AWOL and put him in prison for a year. When he came out, James could no longer get signed as a rock artists, so he decided to do funk. Several other musicians followed that path and labeled themselves as Funk artists, such as Bar-Kays (performed with Otis Redding), Parliament Funk, Sly and the Family Stone, and Earth, Wind and Fire, because it was marketable as a sub-genre of R&B. Some stayed in the Rock genre, such as Mother's Finest.
By the 1980s, Prince was leading the pack, but other black artists were trying to fight back at the music industry's indifference towards black rock musicians. Bands like Living Colour, Fishbone and Bad Brains, who later had an influence on today's rock, gained some mass appeal. Vernon Reid, guitarist in the band Living Colour, started the Black Rock Coalition in 1985, which supports black rock musicians through resources and exposure. The 90s open up more for black artists doing rock, but it was still in the alternative rock section. Lenny Kravitz was obviously the most known, still, Meshell N'degeocello, Tracey Chapman, Ben Harper and Imani Coppola, gained some notirety as well as bands like Faith and 24-7 Spyz. In the 2000s, major events have happened to give black rock musicians more exposure. Afro-punk, which started in 2002, has become an official movement for alternative black musicians and has included bands that I previously mentioned and new acts, like Janelle Monae, Saul Williams, P.O.S., Blk Jks, Bad Rabbits, and more. In addition to Afro-punk, Rob Fields, a marketing expert, started Bold as Love, named after Jimi Hendrix's album, which also supports musicians, such as Res, Ebony Bones, Shelley Nicole's Blakbushe, Cody Chestnutt and Martin Luther. The future seems bright for black rock musicians as more and more doors are broken down; let's continue until these artists can to the level where black rock musicians are no longer the alternative, but the norm.
Electric Purgatory Trailer I
EP Trailer II
Afro-punk Documentary Trailer
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