SmoothJazzTimes.com features student writers and musicians who would like to express their love for music education. The following is a commentary written by Mary Greene from Grambling State University. Greene writes about African American Music on American Culture:
With black history month coming to an end and the recent loss of Whitney Houston still heavy on my heart, I cannot help but think of the impact that African American music has on American culture. Music in the African American community is as much a part of daily life as talking. We listen to music at work, in the gym and in social settings; amongst other things. Music is used as an outlet; a way to tell stories, expresses creativity, comforts and heals. African American music encompasses several genres such as jazz, blues, gospel, R&B and hip hop just to name a few. This music has impacted American society socially and culturally. Although African American music has evolved over the years and new genres of music were created, the power of the rhythm and melodies in the music has never wavered.
The rich legacy and deep roots of African American music began back during the days of slavery. Slaves used music in times of joy, sorrow communication and even to show resistance against oppression they were facing. Negro spirituals, hymns and gospel music were. As people began moving north to bigger cities, music became urbanized. It was during this time in the 1920’s that jazz and blues emerged. Artists such as Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday really were some of the first African American artists to infiltrate and influence mainstream music. The 1960’s bought with it the Motown era. The Motown era was one of true showmanship, style and good music with a purpose. During this time blacks were actively engaging in the civil rights movement. Music during this time brought a sense of awareness to the situation and made it known that it was time for a change. Artists such as James Brown, Aretha Franklin and Ray Charles not only made music that was socially conscious but music that was enjoyable and made you proud to be black. The 70’s and 80’s saw the birth of genres such as disco, funk and R&B.
These eras and genres of music laid the foundation for us to enjoy the music we love and enjoy today. The impact of the music is undeniable and its influence is seen all through American culture. African American music transcends from generation to generation and the messages of hope, faith love continue to influence people all over the world.
Mary Greene is an intern for SmoothJazzTimes.com/Premier Multimedia Group. She is a Mass Communications major at Grambling State University.