By Angela Greene
It is June in the U.S.A., which is especially significant for those in radio, particularly Black radio because it is Black Music Month. Exactly 43 years ago, President Jimmy Carter issued a decree on June 7, 1979, to honor the contributions of Black musicians. The now defunct Black Music Association, which was led by Kenny Gamble, Ed Wright, and Dyana Williams worked to get the first Black music event at the White House in 1979.
As reported in Essence Magazine, Dyana Williams who is affectionately referred to as the “The Godmother of Black Music Month” also approached the Clinton Administration to request the same honor from his administration. The Clinton administration challenged her to get legislation behind her effort,
which with a lot of arduous work, she did!
Some may not remember President Carter’s 1979 White House celebration on the lawn where an untold number of Black artists converged for Black Music month, but more most likely remember President Clinton’s inauguration, which featured several Black entertainers including: Michael Jackson, Chuck Berry, and Little Richard, and that President Clinton was jokingly referred to as the first Black president before President Obama’s election. President Clinton recognized the power of Black Music and Black Entertainers.
In 2009 and 2016, the nation’s true first Black President, Barack Obama proclaimed June as African American Music Appreciation Month. In 2020 President Trump also proclaimed the same.
Clearly over the last 4 decades in the United States, Black Music has been celebrated by leaders in the music industry as well as presidents of the United States. The recognition and celebration of Black Music Month is intended to continue to “preserve, protect, and perpetuate Black music.”
According to Maxx Myrick, an award-winning air personality, radio programmer, content expert, and musicologist, “Black music is revolutionary. Starting as a form of self-expression, it is the foundation of all popular American music from the blues to jazz, to rock n roll, hip hop, and everything in between. Black music has brought people together and changed the world. As the great Willie Dixon once said, Blues is the root and everything else is the fruit.”
Speaking of fruit, many Black artist are seeing the fruits of their labor materialize again as some stations like Audacy are highlighting Black Music Month in their feature: How This Became That, which highlights old songs that have been reinvented by new and younger artist. Other radio stations like Sirius are paying tributes to Black Music Month by spotlighting popular artist who are no longer with us, but whose music is still very much alive like Whitney Houston, Biggie, Tupac etc.
“Black music is 75% of the music streamed,” said Music Executive and Founder of Black American Music (BAM), Michael Mauldin. Mauldin along with his partner with BAM, Demmette Guidry have worked with many popular Black artist including, Beyonce, Mariah Carey, Alicia Keys, NAS, 50 Cent, The Fugees and more.
Myrick said, “Without the influence of Black music radio would be pretty boring and bland and it was until Black radio began.” He adds, in his opinion, “Over the last 30 years such artist as Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston, and LL Cool J have influenced Black music the most.” With such powerful artists these and others, it is no wonder we need a whole month to celebrate Black Music now and forever.