There’s a quote we all know, an overused citation attributed to Isaac Newton, which is one of my favorites: “If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.”
If this truism applies anywhere, it’s in the contributions of black Americans to the world of music. Because let’s be real: black folks practically—if not literally—created popular Western music out of whole cloth. Blues, Jazz, Rock n’ Roll, Hip-Hop and Rap… That sounds like an overstatement until you actually start cataloging what you may want on a playlist of black artists. Because when you think you’ve finished is when you remember every five to ten minutes folks you left out.
“Wait, how could I forget Little Richard? Wait, George Clinton! Missy Elliot! Mariah Carey! What about Wu-Tang or Snoop?! Etta James! And B.B. King and Ronnie Spector and Jimi fucking Hendrix!”
And on and on and on…
So bearing all that and Black History Month in mind, here is our first of three meek attempts at appreciation for a body of people who are so often under-appreciated and marginalized and disregarded, despite having given the rest of us more than we deserve.