President Jimmy Carter proclaimed that June would be the month of Black music. For the past 28 years we celebrated June as Black Music Month. In 2011, President Barack Obama announced the observance under a new title, African-American Music Appreciation Month. June is the month set aside to enjoy some African-American inspired music, or perhaps, read about it. You can find tons of Black music by searching the SJCPL catalog. You’ll find a collection of CDs, books and DVDs. Read, Representing Black Music Culture, by William C. Barfield, and find out about the rich history of African-American music. There are many genres of African-American music, beginning with slave music; it was used to communicate secret messages to each other about escaping by way of the Underground Railroad. In fact, African American music genres are highly influential across socio-economic and racial groups, even on a global level.
The music eras that I enjoyed the most were in the 1960s and 1970s. I love those periods because singers had beautiful sounding voices, singers like Aretha Franklin, and Gladys Knight, to name a few. Their voices and lyrics were so moving. Recently, I checked out the CD, The Essential Sly & the Family Stone at SJCPL I wanted to listen to one of my favorite’s of all times, “Everyday People”, the words in that song talks about “the inclusion of people.” The words are so powerful! In the 60’s, African- American music evolved from an extension of rhythm and blues into a genre called rock and roll. It was an exciting and innovating time for Black music. Motown Records rocked the charts with tons of soulful sounds. If you want to listen to some Motown music, check out the CD, Now That’s What I Call Motown, you’ll find it in the SJCPL music collection. Artists like The Miracles, Martha and the Vandellas, Marvin Gaye, The Temptations, The Supremes and more are on it. Believe me, you will hear some great soulful sounds. By the end of the decade, Funk originated. James Brown, “The Godfather of Soul” was instrumental in bringing funk to the forefront; his music genres also included, rhythm & blues, soul and rock & roll. Funk evolved, George Clinton and P-Funk, along with Bootsy Collins were putting out funk tunes, using the heavy sounds of electric bass, electric guitar and synthesizers. Rappers are still using Funk samples.
Stevie Wonder is one of my favorite artists; I listen to his albums (not CDs) and get lost in the words. Particularly the track “Living For The City” has lyrics that are beautiful, serious and poetic. You cannot contain yourself; I always sing along with him. During the 60s and 70s, many of the artists’ lyrics had social and political overtones. The music of that time echoed what was going on. In retrospect, African-American artists were still using music to communicate social problems and concerns, much like slave times. Songs like “War” (what is it good for?) by Edwin Starr, “Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler)” and “What’s Going On”, by Marvin Gaye, and “Superfly”, by Curtis Mayfield, he also wrote one the best songs of all time, “People Get Ready.”
SJCPL have a range of African- American music: blues, gospel, rhythm & blues, jazz, rap and funk. Enjoy, and Dance to the Music!