Music

A glossary of important Black (African) American individuals from the past and present. A knowledgeable resource for all, brought to you with an artistic touch.

Aaliyah

Aaliyah

Aaliyah was an American singer, actress, and model. Billboard lists her as the tenth most successful female R&B artist of the past 25 years, and the 27th most successful in history.

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Louis Armstrong

Louis Armstrong

Louis Armstrong, nicknamed Satchmo, Satch, and Pops, was an American trumpeter, composer, vocalist and occasional actor who was one of the most influential figures in jazz. His career spanned five decades, from the 1920s to the 1960s, and different eras in the history of jazz.

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Babyface

Babyface

Kenneth Brian Edmonds, known professionally as Babyface, is an American singer, songwriter and record producer. He has written and produced over 26 number-one R&B hits throughout his career, and has won 11 Grammy Awards.

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Josephine Baker

Josephine Baker

Josephine Baker was an American-born French entertainer, activist, and French Resistance agent. Her career was centered primarily in Europe, mostly in her adopted France.

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Afrika Bambaataa

Afrika Bambaataa

Afrika Bambaataa is an American disc jockey, rapper, songwriter and producer from the South Bronx, New York. He is notable for releasing a series of genre-defining electro tracks in the 1980s that influenced the development of hip hop culture.

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Count Basie

Count Basie

“Count” Basie was an American jazz pianist, organist, bandleader, and composer. In 1935, Basie formed his own jazz orchestra, the Count Basie Orchestra, and in 1936 took them to Chicago for a long engagement and their first recording.

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Harry Belafonte

Harry Belafonte

Harry Belafonte is an American singer, songwriter, activist, and actor. One of the most successful Jamaican-American pop stars in history, he was dubbed the “King of Calypso” for popularizing the Caribbean musical style with an international audience in the 1950s.

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Chuck Berry

Chuck Berry

Charles Berry was an American singer and songwriter, and one of the pioneers of rock and roll music. With songs such as “Maybellene” and “Johnny B. Goode”, Berry refined and developed rhythm and blues into the major elements that made rock and roll distinctive.

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James Brown

James Brown

James Joseph Brown was an American singer, songwriter, dancer, musician, record producer and bandleader. A progenitor of funk music and a major figure of 20th-century music and dance, he is often referred to as the “Godfather of Soul”.

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Diahann Carroll

Diahann Carroll

Diahann Carroll is an American actress, singer and model. She rose to stardom in performances in some of the earliest major studio films to feature black casts, including Carmen Jones and Porgy and Bess.

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Grandmaster Caz

Grandmaster Caz

Curtis Brown, better known by his stage name Casanova Fly a.k.a Grandmaster Caz, is an American rapper, songwriter and DJ. He currently works as a celebrity tour guide for Hush Hip Hop Tours, a hip-hop cultural sightseeing tour company in New York City.

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Ray Charles

Ray Charles

Ray Charles was an American singer, songwriter, musician, and composer. Among friends and fellow musicians he preferred being called “Brother Ray”. He was often referred to as “The Genius”. Charles started losing his vision at the age of 5, and by 7 he was blind.

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George Clinton

George Clinton

George Clinton is an American singer, songwriter, bandleader, and record producer. His Parliament-Funkadelic collective developed an influential and eclectic form of funk music during the 1970s that drew on science fiction, outlandish fashion, psychedelic culture, and surreal humor.

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Nat King Cole

Nat King Cole

Nathaniel Adams Coles, known professionally as Nat King Cole, was an American jazz pianist and vocalist. He recorded over one hundred songs that became hits on the pop charts. His trio was the model for small jazz ensembles that followed.

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John Coltrane

John Coltrane

John Coltrane was an American jazz saxophonist and composer. Working in the bebop and hard bop idioms early in his career, Coltrane helped pioneer the use of modes and was at the forefront of free jazz.

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Sam Cooke

Sam Cooke

Samuel Cook, known professionally as Sam Cooke, was an American singer, songwriter, civil-rights activist, and entrepreneur. Influential as both a singer and composer, he is commonly known as the King of Soul for his distinctive vocals and importance within popular music.

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Dorothy Jean Dandridge

Dorothy Jean Dandridge

Dorothy Jean Dandridge was an American film and theatre actress, singer, and dancer. She is perhaps one of the most famous black actresses to have a successful Hollywood career and the first to be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress in the film Carmen Jones.

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Miles Davis

Miles Davis

Miles Davis was an American jazz trumpeter, bandleader, and composer. Among the most influential and acclaimed figures in the history of jazz and 20th century music.

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Sammy Davis, Jr.

Sammy Davis, Jr.

Samuel Davis Jr. was an American singer, musician, dancer, actor, vaudevillian, comedian and activist known for his impressions of actors, musicians and other celebrities. In 2017, he was inducted into the Rhythm & Blues Hall of Fame for being one of the Greatest Entertainers in the World.

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Death

Death

Death is an American rock band formed in Detroit, Michigan in 1971 by brothers Bobby (bass, vocals), David (guitar), and Dannis (drums) Hackney. The trio started out as a funk band but switched to rock after seeing a concert by The Who. Seeing Alice Cooper play was also an inspiration.

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Earth, Wind & Fire

Earth, Wind & Fire

Earth, Wind & Fire (abbreviated as EW&F or simply EWF) is an American band that has spanned the musical genres of R&B, soul, funk, jazz, disco, pop, rock, dance, Latin, and Afro pop. They have been described as one of the most innovative and commercially successful acts of all time.

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'Duke' Ellington

“Duke” Ellington

“Duke” Ellington was an American composer, pianist, and leader of a jazz orchestra, which he led from 1923 until his death over a career spanning more than six decades. Ellington was noted for his inventive use of the orchestra, or big band, and for his eloquence and charisma.

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Ella Fitzgerald

Ella Fitzgerald

Ella Fitzgerald was an American jazz singer sometimes referred to as the First Lady of Song, Queen of Jazz, and Lady Ella. She was noted for her purity of tone, impeccable diction, phrasing, intonation, and a “horn-like” improvisational ability, particularly in her scat singing.

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DJ Grandmaster Flash

DJ Grandmaster Flash

Joseph Saddler, better known by his stage name Grandmaster Flash is an American hip hop recording artist and DJ. He is considered to be one of the pioneers of hip-hop DJing, cutting, scratching and mixing.

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Aretha Franklin

Aretha Franklin

Aretha Franklin was an American singer, songwriter, pianist, and civil rights activist. By the end of the 1960s, Aretha Franklin had come to be known as “The Queen of Soul”.

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Marvin Gaye

Marvin Gaye

Marvin Gaye was an American singer, songwriter, and record producer. He helped to shape the sound of Motown in the 1960s, first as an in-house session player and later as a solo artist with a string of hits, earning him the nicknames “Prince of Motown” and “Prince of Soul”.

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Berry Gordy

Berry Gordy

Berry Gordy III is an American record executive, record producer, songwriter, film producer and television producer. He is best known as the founder of the Motown record label and its subsidiaries, which was the highest-earning African-American business for decades.

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Issac Hayes

Issac Hayes

Isaac Hayes was an American singer, songwriter, actor, and producer. Hayes was one of the creative forces behind the Southern soul music label Stax Records, where he served both as an in-house songwriter and as a session musician and record producer.

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'Jimi' Hendrix

“Jimi“ Hendrix

“Jimi“ Hendrix was an American rock guitarist, singer, and songwriter. His mainstream career lasted only four years, but he is widely regarded as one of the most influential guitarists in history and one of the most celebrated musicians of the 20th century.

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Nona Hendryx

Nona Hendryx

Nona Hendryx, is an American vocalist, record producer, songwriter, musician, author, and actress. Hendryx is known for her work as a solo artist as well as for being one-third of the trio Labelle, who had a hit with “Lady Marmalade.”

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Billie Holiday

Billie Holiday

Eleanora Fagan, better known as Billie Holiday, was an African American jazz singer with a career spanning nearly thirty years. Nicknamed “Lady Day” by her friend and music partner Lester Young, Holiday had a seminal influence on jazz music and pop singing.

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Lena Horne

Lena Horne

Lena Horne was an American singer, dancer, actress, and civil rights activist. Horne's career spanned over 70 years appearing in film, television, and theater. Horne joined the chorus of the Cotton Club at the age of 16 and became a nightclub performer before moving to Hollywood.

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Whitney Houston

Whitney Houston

Whitney Houston was an American singer and actress. She was cited as the most awarded female artist of all time by Guinness World Records and remains one of the best-selling music artists of all time with 200 million records sold worldwide.

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The Isley Brothers

The Isley Brothers

The Isley Brothers are an American musical group that started as a vocal trio consisting of brothers O’Kelly Isley Jr., Rudolph Isley, and Ronald Isley. The group has been cited as having enjoyed one of the “longest, most influential, and most diverse careers in the pantheon of popular music”.

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'Freddie' Jackson

“Freddie” Jackson

“Freddie” Jackson is an American Grammy-nominated singer. Originally from New York, Jackson began his professional music career in the late 1970s with the California funk band Mystic Merlin.

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Janet Jackson

Janet Jackson

Janet Jackson is an American singer, songwriter, actress, and dancer. A prominent figure in popular culture, she is known for sonically innovative, socially conscious and sexually provocative records, and elaborate stage shows.

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Michael Jackson

Michael Jackson

Michael Jackson was an American singer, songwriter, and dancer. Dubbed the “King of Pop”, he is regarded as one of the most significant cultural figures of the 20th century and one of the greatest entertainers.

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Grace Jones

Grace Jones

Grace Jones is a Jamaican-American model, singer, songwriter, record producer, and actress. In 2016, Billboard magazine ranked her as the 40th greatest dance club artist of all time.

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Quincy Jones

Quincy Jones

Quincy Jones is an American record producer, multi-instrumentalist, singer, composer, arranger, and film and television producer. His career spans over 60 years in the entertainment industry with a record 80 Grammy Award nominations, 28 Grammys, and a Grammy Legend Award.

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Big Daddy Kane

Big Daddy Kane

Antonio Hardy, better known by his stage name Big Daddy Kane, is a Grammy Award-winning American rapper and actor who started his career in 1986 as a member of the rap collective the Juice Crew. He is widely considered to be one of the most influential and skilled MCs in hip hop.

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Chaka Khan

Chaka Khan

Yvette Marie Stevens, better known by her stage name Chaka Khan, is an American singer, songwriter and musician. Her career has spanned nearly five decades, beginning in the 1970s as the lead vocalist of the funk band Rufus.

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Kid ’n Play

Kid ’n Play

Kid ’n Play is a hip-hop duo from New York City that was popular in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Besides their successful musical careers, they are also notable for branching out into acting.

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Gladys Knight & The Pips

Gladys Knight & The Pips

Gladys Knight & the Pips were an R&B/soul family musical act from Atlanta, Georgia that remained active on the music charts and performing circuit for three decades.

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Fela Kuti

Fela Kuti

Fela Kuti, or simply Fela, was a Nigerian multi-instrumentalist, musician, composer, pioneer of the Afrobeat music genre and human rights activist. At the height of his popularity, he was referred to as one of Africa's most “challenging and charismatic music performers.”

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Queen Latifah

Queen Latifah

Dana Elaine Owens, known professionally as Queen Latifah, is an American rapper, singer, songwriter, actress, and producer. She has long been considered one of hip-hop's pioneer feminists.

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MC Lyte

MC Lyte

Lana Michelle Moorer, known professionally as MC Lyte, is an American rapper who first gained fame in the late 1980s, becoming the first solo female rapper to release a full album with 1988's critically acclaimed Lyte as a Rock. She has long been considered one of hip-hop's pioneer feminists.

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Miriam Makeba

Miriam Makeba

Zenzile Miriam Makeba, nicknamed Mama Africa, was a South African singer, songwriter, actress, United Nations goodwill ambassador, and civil rights activist. Associated with various musical genres, she was an advocate against apartheid and white-minority government in South Africa.

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Bob Marley

Bob Marley

Robert Nesta Marley, OM was a Jamaican singer and songwriter. Considered one of the pioneers of reggae, his musical career was marked by blending elements of reggae, ska, and rocksteady, as well as forging a smooth and distinctive vocal and songwriting style.

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Wynton Marsalis

Wynton Marsalis

Wynton Marsalis is an American virtuoso trumpeter, composer, teacher, and artistic director of Jazz at Lincoln Center. He has promoted classical and jazz music, often to young audiences.

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Curtis Mayfield

Curtis Mayfield

Curtis Mayfield was an American singer-songwriter, guitarist, and record producer, and one of the most influential musicians behind soul and politically conscious African-American music.

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The Miracles

The Miracles

The Miracles were an American rhythm and blues vocal group that was the first successful recording act for Berry Gordy's Motown Records, and one of the most important and influential groups in pop, rock and roll, and R&B music history.

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Thelonious Monk

Thelonious Monk

Thelonious Monk was an American jazz pianist and composer. Monk is the second-most-recorded jazz composer after Duke Ellington, which is particularly remarkable as Ellington composed more than a thousand pieces, whereas Monk wrote about 70.

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N.W.A

N.W.A

N.W.A (Niggaz Wit Attitudes) was an American hip-hop group. They were among the earliest and most significant popularizers and controversial figures of the gangsta rap subgenre, and are widely considered one of the greatest and most influential groups in the history of hip-hop music.

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Naughty By Nature

Naughty By Nature

Naughty by Nature is an American hip hop trio from East Orange, New Jersey consisting of Treach (Anthony Criss), Vin Rock (Vincent Brown), and DJ Kay Gee (Keir Lamont Gist).

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Nichelle Nichols

Nichelle Nichols

Nichelle Nichols is an American actress, singer, and voice artist. She sang with Duke Ellington and Lionel Hampton before turning to acting. Nichols played Nyota Uhura aboard the USS Enterprise in the Star Trek television series, as well as the succeeding motion pictures.

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The Notorious B.I.G.

The Notorious B.I.G.

Christopher Wallace, known professionally as The Notorious B.I.G., Biggie Smalls, or Biggie, was an American rapper. Widely considered to be one of the greatest rappers of all time. He was noted for his “loose, easy flow”; dark, semi-autobiographical lyrics; and storytelling abilities.

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Prince

Prince

Prince was an American singer, songwriter, musician, record producer, dancer, actor, and filmmaker. With a career spanning four decades, Prince was known for his eclectic work and flamboyant stage appearances. He was also a multi-instrumentalist and regarded as a guitar virtuoso.

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Public Enemy

Public Enemy

Public Enemy is an American hip hop group known for their politically charged music and criticism of the American media, with an active interest in the frustrations and concerns of the African American community.

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Rakim

Rakim

William Michael Griffin Jr., better known by his stage name Rakim, is an American rapper. One half of golden age hip hop duo Eric B. & Rakim, he is widely regarded as one of the most influential and most skilled MCs of all time.

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Diana Ross

Diana Ross

Diana Ross is an American singer, actress, and record producer. Ross rose to fame as the lead singer of the Supremes, becoming Motown's most successful act, and are the best charting girl group in U.S. history, as well as one of the world's best-selling girl groups of all time.

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Run-D.M.C.

Run-D.M.C.

Run-D.M.C. was an American hip hop group, founded in 1983 by Joseph Simmons, Darryl McDaniels, and Jason Mizell. Run-DMC is widely acknowledged as one of the most influential acts in the history of hip hop culture and one of the most famous hip hop acts of the 1980s.

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Sade

Sade

Helen Folasade Adu, CBE, known professionally as Sade Adu or simply Sade, is a British Nigerian singer, songwriter, and actress, known as the lead singer of her eponymous band.

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Tupac Shakur

Tupac Shakur

Tupac Amaru Shakur, known professionally as 2Pac and Makaveli, was an American rapper and actor. Much of Shakur's work has been noted for addressing contemporary social issues that plagued inner cities, and he is considered a symbol of resistance and activism against inequality.

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Bessie Smith

Bessie Smith

Bessie Smith was an American blues singer. Nicknamed the Empress of the Blues, she was the most popular female blues singer of the 1920s and 1930s. She is often regarded as one of the greatest singers of her era and was a major influence on fellow blues singers, as well as jazz vocalists.

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Peter Tosh

Peter Tosh

Peter Tosh, OM was a Jamaican reggae musician. Along with Bob Marley and Bunny Wailer, he was one of the core members of the band the Wailers, after which he established himself as a successful solo artist and a promoter of Rastafari.

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Tina Turner

Tina Turner

Tina Turner is a retired singer, songwriter, and actress who is internationally recognized. One of the best-selling recording artists of all time, she has been referred to as The Queen of Rock ‘n’ Roll and has sold more than 200 million records worldwide.

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Barry White

Barry White

Barry Carter, known as Barry White, was an American singer-songwriter, musician, record producer and composer. A three-time Grammy Award–winner known for his distinctive bass-baritone voice and romantic image, his greatest success came in the 1970s as a solo singer.

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Bobby Womack

Bobby Womack

Robert Womack was an American singer, songwriter, musician, and record producer. Starting as the lead singer of his family musical group the Valentinos and as Sam Cooke's backing guitarist, his career spanned more than 60 years and multiple styles, including R&B and soul.

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Stevie Wonder

Stevie Wonder

Stevland Hardaway Morris, better known by his stage name Stevie Wonder, is an American singer, songwriter, musician and record producer. A prominent figure in popular music, he is one of the most successful musicians of the 20th century.

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