How Black Culture and Black Music Shaped Politics, Business, and Music
The year was 1961 and John F. Kennedy was inaugurated as the President of The United States. A gentleman approached the microphone and made a historic announcement that helped shape the perceptions of Black artists and Black music in America. “Ms. Marian Anderson will sing our national anthem Star Spangled Banner accompanied by the United States Marian band,” he said.
With a voice of a contralto which ranged from the lowest possible female voice to the high notes of a soprano, President John F. Kennedy and a host of politicians stood to their feet as the performing artist showcased her skills to the nation as a Black voice in America. “O say can you see by the dawn’s early light/ What so proudly we hailed at the twilight’s last gleaming…,” she sang. But it wasn’t the first of the last time a Black artist would be gleamed upon on the coveted stage. Beyonce would follow in her footsteps performing the National Anthem at the 2013 inauguration of President Barack Obama.
Despite the tumultuous history, Black music’s continued impact on culture has been vast and deep – from the soulful harmonies of traditional and present artists to the rise of Hip Hop. Black Music has made an undeniable impact on every facet of society from politics to business even in moments of silence when music served as the only voice for the culture.
With artists like Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston, and Stevie Wonder named among the greatest-selling artists of all time – they mastered just about every genre from Pop, Jazz, R&B, and Hip Hop. Today, artists like Chloe Bailey broke records starting as the first Black Ariel in Disney’s The Little Mermaid all while wearing her Black locks. And this year, singer Beyonce’ recently made history as the most awarded and decorated Black artist of all time.
This year, Hip Hop celebrated its 50th year of its footprints on the musical landscape. Artists like Tupac with over 75 million units sold, Jay-Z with over 125 million units sold, and Kanye West with over 140 million units sold – all lead in the top 10 best-selling Hip Hop artists of all time. Even in 2023, Hip Hop talent like Drake has over 152 million units sold. He alongside Future and Travis Scott represents a new generation of rappers that are defying odds and shattering glass ceilings.
Black Culture, Black Music, and the Academy Awards
In 2006 at the 78th Academy Awards Ceremony rap group Three 6 Mafia became the first Hip Hop act to take home an Academy Award for Best Original Song for It’s Hard Out Here For A Pimp, theme song for American drama film Hustle & Flow. Their performance at the awards show marked the first time in history that a Hip Hop song had been performed at the Oscars. But it wasn’t the first time that a Black artist was nominated for an Oscar for Best Original Song.
In 1971, Isaac Hayes became the first Black musician to win an Academy Award in a non-acting category. His song From The Shaft won the award for Best Original Song at the 1972 Oscars and bridged the gap for Black artists. Irene Cara would follow behind him winning the 1984 Academy Award for Best Original Song for the track Flashdance… What a Feeling. One year later, in 1985 Stevie Wonder took home the Oscar for Best Original Song for I Just Called To Say I Love You – a classic, and Prince also won in the category of Best Original Song for Purple Rain. Lionel Richie, Jamie Foxx, Jennifer Hudson, Common and John Legend, H.E.R., Jon Batiste, and Questlove all went on to win in this category.
Black Music and The White House
With Marian Anderson setting the bar for inaugural performances, other Black musicians and singers would have their way to the coveted stage. Anderson paved the way for other Black musicians like Jessye Norman, Denyce Graves, Aretha Franklin, and Beyonce who have all taken the stage as American Presidents were sworn into office.
Black Music and The Greatest Selling Movie Soundtrack of All Time
Whitney Houston’s The Bodyguard made history as the best-selling movie soundtrack of all time selling over 45 million copies worldwide. With massive global success, the soundtrack hit #1 in 18 countries. It became the first album verified by the Neilsen SoundScan to sell over 1 million copies within a single week. The album also became the best-selling album by a woman in music history. Prince’s Purple Rain soundtrack is also one of the most influential soundtracks of all time. Following in their footsteps, 50 Cent’s “Get Rich or Die Trying,” Hustle & Flow movie soundtrack, Shark Tale, and Jay Z’s “American Gangster “were all successful soundtracks that impacted Black Music Culture.
Black Music and The Fight against HIV/Aids
There are countless Black artists that have lent their talents, money, and support to the global initiative to irradicate HIV/Aids including The God Mother of Soul, Ms. Patti LaBelle who was honored by GLAAD in 2007 with an Excellence in Media Award for her longtime support of gay and lesbian rights and participation in the fight against HIV/AIDS.
Black Culture and Business: When Top Brands Use Black Music and Black Artists To Reach Untapped Markets
Having impacted every facet of society from popular brands to fashion and hairstyles. Always with their hands on the pulse of the culture – companies turn to Black Music and its artists for brand partnerships and endorsements. Whether it’s Beyonce or Kanye West with Adidas or McDonalds and Taco Bell partnering with the likes of Megan Thee Stallion, Travis Scott, and Doja Cat. Companies have long turned to Black Music and Black artists to reach demographics and target groups, curating diverse and inclusive campaigns that foster a love for Black culture.
As June marks the beginning of Black Music Appreciation Month, we celebrate and apprecaite Black Music year-round.