For Black History Month, Let Me Honor Some of the Blacks Who Have Rocked the World

Happy Valentine’s Day to you all! I thought about writing about romantic songs, but that’s such a cliche. So, I decided to turn my back on the Valentine’s Day theme altogether and turn to an important Black History Month topic. I wanted to pay respect to all of the great music that African-Americans and blacks from the rest of the world have given us. During the late 70s and early 80s much was done through radio playlists to separate black and white artists. Simply put, white artists played rock, and black artists played R&B, which was complete bunk.

Most of us all know the importance that black musicians have played in the development of early rock & roll, in addition to the music’s move toward rock music and beyond. Many of us continue to hold Ray Charles, James Brown, Fats Domino, Little Richard and Chuck Betty as some of the important pioneers of 50s rock & roll. We should acknowledge all of the great blues artists whose influence became more apparent as the 60s progressed. Motown songs were the cover songs of choice for many of the white English bands to cut their teeth on. On the early Beatles album, you will find that the Fab Four covered many Motown songs. And, on the other hand, The Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton/Jeff Beck/Jimmy Page looked for records to American Blues artists, who were black, on which to base their modern sounds.

Today, I would like to pay tribute to some of my favorite, and I hate to write it this way, all-black rock bands, as well as my favorite integrated bands. Personally, I never really thought of these bands and artists as black, white, red, brown, purple or yellow. Yet to say that I am racially blind is false. But, to say that I only see people who happen to be different colors is true. I will NEVER know or understand the struggles of my non-white friends, but I was given the gift of empathy, which means to me that I must treat everyone with equal respect.

Okay, enough of my effort to help race relations. Allow me to naively list my favorite black artists who play rock music.

  1. Bad Brains – This highly influential 80s punk/hardcore was recently nominated for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. One day, I hope…
  2. Ben Harper
  3. Benjamin Booker – The latest guitar god.
  4. Bo Diddley
  5. Bob Marley & the Wailers
  6. Body Count – Ice-T’s controversial hardcore band.
  7. Curtis Mayfield – NO ONE SHOULD EVER FORGET THIS SOUL MAN OF THE 60s AND 70s. Can you hear me now?
  8. Death – Most of us recognize these guys’ Detroit proto-punk brethren: The Stooges and MC5. So how, this all black punk band was buried by time but recently rediscovered.
  9. Don Letts – This London native did more to put punk rock on the map than nearly anyone else. Plus, his 80s dreads were nearly as big as his body, which makes him cool in my back.
  10. Fishbone – This all-black band came up at the same time as the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Both bands fused funk, rock, blues and pop into a great exciting sound. The difference was that Fishbone never broke through, which I always felt was a racist thing because they are awesome.
  11. Funkadelic – This band started as George Clinton’s acid rock persona of his Parliament band, though by the end of the 70s you could hear very little difference between the two.
  12. Garland Jeffreys – This guy was compared to Bruce Springsteen when he first arrived on the scene.
  13. Gary Clark, Jr. – The Stevie Ray Vaughn of the millennials.
  14. Gnarls Barkley
  15. Howlin’ Wolf
  16. Ike & Tina Turner
  17. Joan Armatrading – In the late 70s and early 80s, it was so unusual to hear a black man playing rock music, let alone a black woman. She was part of the first wave of strong women who preferred to rock out.
  18. John Lee Hooker
  19. Labelle – This trio of strong female personalities was much more than their “Lady Marmalade” hit song., though
  20. Lenny Kravitz
  21. Living Colour – Guitarist Vernon Reid was bringing back visions of Hendrix to fans in the 80s and 90s.
  22. Mykki Blanco – This black woman is new on the corner of Rock & Roll.
  23. N.E.R.D. – Anyone remember Pharrell Williams’ funk/rock band from the early part of the 21st century. Too bad he has.
  24. Pure Hell – Pure Black metal in the new century though it’s NOT black metal that they play.
  25. Richie Havens
  26. Robert Johnson
  27. The Isley Brothers
  28. Thundercat – The Stanley Clark jazz bassist of the new century never backs away from musical challenges, like playing rock on his latest solo album or rap music on Kendrick Lamar’s two most recent releases.
  29. Tracy Chapman
  30. WZRD – If Pharrell could do it, then so could Kid Cudi. Or at least Cudi thought he could.

Now, how ’bout a taste of my favorite interracial bands. The list is MUCH longer!

  1. 24-7 Spyz – An English punk band from the 70s and 80s.
  2. 3rd Bass – This Hip Hop band was popular in the late 80s.
  3. Alabama Shakes
  4. Alice in Chains (current line-up)
  5. Apollonia 6
  6. Bloc Party – One of my favorite Gang of Four-influenced bands to pop up in the 2000s.
  7. Bob Seger & the Silver Bullet Band
  8. Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band
  9. Culture Club
  10. Cypress Hill
  11. Dave Matthews Band
  12. dc talk
  13. Dead Kennedys
  14. Doobie Brothers
  15. Fine Young Cannibals
  16. Fitz & the Tantrums
  17. Foo Fighters
  18. Funboy Three – Three former members of the ska band The Specials broke away to write an enduring pop ditty called “Our Lips Are Sealed”. Unfortunately, that song broke The Go-Go’s to the world and not Fun Boy Three.
  19. General Public – The English Beat broke into two bands in the mid-80s: the more successful Fine Young Cannibals and this brilliant pop/rock band.
  20. Germs – One of the original members of the LA hardcore scene.
  21. Guns N’ Roses – Slash, baby!
  22. Haircut 100 – Anyone remember this new wave band from the early 80s?
  23. Hootie & the Blowfish
  24. Hot Chocolate – This English pop/rock outfit had a couple of hits in the 70s, most famously “You Sexy Thing”.
  25. Jimi Hendrix Band of Gypsy – Jimi’s short-lived second line-up.
  26. Jimi Hendrix Experience
  27. KC & the Sunshine Band – After Chic, they are my next favorite disco band.
  28. King’s X – These guys were kind of a cross between Rush, Triumph and Kansas, but I’m not sure what that tells you?
  29. Little Feat – This 70s jam band has been forgotten to time, otherwise they’d be in the RRHOF.
  30. Love – They took off where with folk rock where the Byrds had left off when that band started leaning toward country rock.
  31. Massive Attack – Remember Trip Hop that originated in the UK in the 90s? No? Then, check out this duo.
  32. Nirvana – Became interracial when the trio added guitarist Pat Smear for their last album and tour.
  33. Paul Butterfield Blues Band
  34. Prince & the New Power Generation
  35. Prince & the Revolution
  36. Prince & Third Eye Girl
  37. Rage Against the Machine – Tom Morrello is a guitar god!
  38. Robert Randolph & the Family Band – If Stevie Wonder fronted a R&B-based jam band while playing a steel pedal guitar, for a touch of gospel, you would nearly get this band.
  39. Rufus
  40. Run the Jewels – My newest rap group obsession is an interracial duo consisting of rap stars Killer Mike and El-P.
  41. Santana
  42. Sepultura – South American metal gods.
  43. Sevendust – Part of that alternative-based goth metal groups from around the turn of the century.
  44. Sly & the Family Stone
  45. Suicidal Tendencies – 80s alternative metal gods.
  46. The Allman Brothers
  47. The Average White Band
  48. The Busboys – These guys played music similar in sound to the J. Geils Band. You can hear them in the first Ghostbusters movie (“The Boys Are Back in Town”). I still have their great debut album.
  49. The Chambers Brothers – Another 60s band that you might remember some of their songs that have been used in commercials.
  50. The Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy – A political rap group that gave us Michael Franti.
  51. The Electric Flag – This was the original hard rock/jazz/big band band, predating Blood, Sweat & Tears and Chicago.
  52. The English Beat – The great UK ska band from the original 70/80s Two Tone wave.
  53. The Family – Prince’s post-Time protege band.
  54. The Funk Brothers – I am not kidding you when I tell you that Motown’s session band was an interracial group.
  55. The Rolling Stones (current line-up)
  56. The Selecter – Another Two Tone ska band.
  57. The Specials – The most popular of the Two Tone groups until they imploded two years later.
  58. The Spin Doctors – “Little Miss Can’t Be Wrong”
  59. The Time
  60. The Wrecking Crew – These West Coast session hot shots played on all kinds of
  61. Thin Lizzy – I LOVE THIS BAND! PLEASE BUY THEIR MUSIC!
  62. Thompson Twins
  63. Tom Tom Club
  64. Tower of Power
  65. TV on the Radio – I have heard them referred to as America’s Radiohead. Personally, I prefer TV on the Radio, but that’s just me.
  66. UB40
  67. Vanity 6
  68. Village People
  69. War
  70. X-Ray Spex  – Only during the 70s punk era in the UK could a band be fronted by a young black female. Then again, only one band could write tough songs from a female’s perspective.

Yes, this list is a bit daunting. Still, it is conversation starter. One last thing: this topic was to shed light on blacks in rock music, not to patronize my black friends. I hope you found it interesting, if nothing else. Peace to you all!

Author: ifmyalbumscouldtalk

I am just a long-time music fan who used to be a high school science teacher and a varsity coach of several high school athletic teams. Before that, I worked as a medical technologist at three hospitals in their labs, mainly as a microbiologist. I am retired/disabled (Failed Back Surgery Syndrome), and this is my attempt to remain a human. Additionally, I am a serious vinyl aficionado, with a CD addiction and a love of reading about rock history. Finally, I am a fan of Prince, Cheap Trick, Tom Petty, R.E.M., Hall & Oates, Springsteen, Paul Weller & his bands and Power Pop music.

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