By Darlene Donloe
June is Black Music Month and what better time to celebrate its rich history.
For centuries, Black musicians, singers, writers and producers have made incredible contributions to the music industry.
This is the month set aside to pay homage to all those individuals who, through their music, have made us smile, laugh, cry, dance, tap our feet, clap our hands and swivel our hips.
President Jimmy Carter officially designated the month of celebration on June 7, 1979. It was during a reception at The White House, which featured performances by Chuck Berry, Billy Eckstine, Little Richard and Andre Crouch.
On May 31, Obama declared the month of June 2016 “African-American Music Appreciation Month” in a presidential proclamation. Although June was first deemed “Black Music Month” by Jimmy Carter and campaigned for by songwriter and producer Kenneth Gamble back in 1979, as the nation’s first Black President, POTUS felt strongly that an official proclamation was more appropriate.
The proclamation calls Black music “among the most innovative and powerful art the world has ever known.” President Obama also calls upon “public officials, educators, and people of the United States to observe this month with appropriate activities and programs that raise awareness and foster appreciation of music that is composed, arranged, or performed by African Americans.”
In 2009, POTUS released the following statement.
“The legacy of African-American composers, singers, songwriters, and musicians is an indelible piece of our Nation's culture,” said President Obama. “Generations of African-Americans have carried forward the musical traditions of their forebears, blending old styles with innovative rhythms and sounds. They have enriched American music and captured the diversity of our nation. During African-American Music Appreciation Month, we honor this rich heritage. This legacy tells a story of ingenuity and faith. Amidst the injustice of slavery, African-Americans lifted their voices to the heavens through spirituals. This religious music united African-Americans and helped sustain them through one of the darkest periods in our nation's history. Years later, spirituals contributed to the advent of a new form of music: gospel. Both styles incorporated elements of African music and were rooted in faith.”
I caught up with some celebrities and asked them the following: Name an entire CD you can play without skipping a song.
NICK CANNON (America’s Got Talent) – There are several CDs. I’m a huge gospel fan, so definitely The Clark Sisters. Almost everything by Mariah Carey. I’m still her biggest fan in the world. Jay Z’s Reasonable Doubt. Also stuff by Tupac and Biggie.
MAYA RUDOLPH – Oh, man! There are too many to even think about. Yes, anything by my mother (Minnie Riperton)
BLAIR UNDERWOOD – Anything by Michael Jackson.
MARGARET AVERY – (Being Mary Jane) Anything by Aretha Franklin. I exercise to her. She makes me keep tone. I have fond memories when I listen to her.
EDDIE LEVERT (The O’Jays) - Songs in The Key of Life (Stevie Wonder) and not skip one song. James Brown Live at the Apollo and not skip one song, Etta James, the one with At Last and not skip one song. There are more.
JASON GEORGE – (Grey’s Anatomy) – Black Radio by Robert Glasper, Vol. 1 & 11
COREY HARDRICT (Destined) Usher – The 8701.
ROBERT BAILEY JR. (The Night Shift) Keane’s Hope and Fears; Michael Jackson’s Thriller and Off The Wall.
MARTIN SHORT – Blue by Joni Mitchell
RICHARD LAWSON – (Saints & Sinners) What’s Going On (Marvin Gaye) or anything by Sly and the Family Stone
ELOISE LAWS – Anything by Nancy Wilson
MOYA ANGELA – Broadway actress (Dreamgirls) - Toni Braxton’s Secrets.
BARRY SHABAKA HENLEY – John Coletrane (Love Supreme), Miles Davis (Sketches of Spain) and anything from Louis Armstrong, Alice Coletrane, Chick Corea and Charles Mingus.
TAMMI MAC – (actress and KJLH radio personality) Off the Wall by Michael Jackson.