Tune into Black History with 80 Years of Musical Monarchs (page 2)

Tune into Black History with 80 Years of Musical Monarchs

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Updated on Jan 5, 2010

Don’t miss: “Respect” (1967)

Jimi Hendrix, King of the Guitar Riff

By the time of Hendrix’s untimely death in 1970, he was already a rock legend. He began recording in the mid-60s and found commercial success with hits like “Hey Joe,” “Purple Haze” and “The Wind Cries Mary”. His characteristic sound is best exemplified by what is called the “Hendrix chord” (the dominant 7#9 chord) among guitarists. There’s a certain unmatched rawness attached to Hendrix especially apparent in his “Star Spangled Banner” improv at Woodstock in 1969.

Don’t miss: “All Along the Watchtower” (1968)

Michael Jackson, King of Pop

The little boy who wowed the world as the youngest member of the Jackson 5 went solo to great acclaim in the 1970s. His 1982 Thriller still stands as the best-selling album in U.S. history—but Jackson proved he was even bigger than that. A gifted performer, he elevated pop music to a new level with his charisma and signature dance moves. Though dogged by financial, legal and personal problems through the latter part of his career, Jackson never stopped performing; his legacy is evident in the 31.1 million people who watched his televised 2009 memorial.

Don’t miss: “Beat It” (1982)

Suggested activities:

  • (Younger children) Play musical chairs using the music on this list. Add a twist to the game by allowing kids who are “out” to challenge a seated player for a chair: if the seated player can’t name the performer of the song (or the song title, year recorded, etc.), he or she is now out and the player who was originally out reclaims a chair!
  • (Middle grades) Look at music in context. Aretha Franklin’s signature song, “Respect,” was written originally by Otis Redding, an African-American soul singer who wrote it as a plea of respect, presumably to a woman—but some people have seen a larger agenda at work. What does it mean that the song was written by a black man during the Civil Rights Movement? And what does it mean that the Queen of Soul turned it into a sort of feminist anthem, empowering black and white women alike?
  • (Older kids) Have older kids compile a list of their favorite contemporary African-American musicians. Look for influences from past greats from this list on today’s chart-toppers—how does the past affect the present in music?

This list barely skims the surface of what African-American performers have contributed to music. Do some exploring of your own and discover a rich musical tradition that transcends racial barriers.

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