Black Music Month Artist Insights

BMMdraft In putting together this week’s radio show, I had the chance to not only listen to a ton of truly fantastic music that, on a normal week of listening, I might not have dove into. Mostly this is because the focus of the show wasn’t specifically new releases or indie and unsigned artists. The focus was on showcasing some of the most influential and amazing artists of the African American community over the years to showcase in the Black Music Month radio special. Hear the show in its 2 Hour fullness here.

The experience for me was much more than a musical one. I did listen to many tracks from the artists featured, and spent a good amount of time experiencing their albums before making the individual track selections. In the first hour, you’ll note that we stick to the 2 songs per artist to gain a better experience of the overall songwriting of the album and the artist. The 2nd hour is more about the individual artist contributions, and features some fan favorite album cuts or B-sides that largely went unknown by the mainstream.

I want to share some of these Black Music Month artist insights with you because knowing more about the artist adds to the listening experience. And in the end, with The Appetizer Radio Show, it’s about not just showcasing great music talent, but also having a more fulfilling listening experience.

When it comes to great songwriters, I had to go back to a few true legends like Jimi Hendrix, Odetta, B.B. King, and Sam Cooke. Each of those names have a royalty in the musical world, but Cooke is the King of Soul. His incredible voice and for being the foundation builder for legends like Al Green, Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin and others. Even 50 years after his prime time, his music still has a powerful presence and could be just as appealing now as it was then, if not more because of that incredible voice that was naturally amazing, not manufactured like many pop stars of our day.

I’ve long been a fan of indie music performer Ruthie Foster, but finding out that she is the daughter to a family of gospel singers, music flows through Foster’s veins. She made her debut ironically enough while serving in the Navy and would eventually become the Contemporary Blues Female Artist of the Year in 2010, the first of many awards. Recently I saw her live and it was one of the most moving musical experiences I’ve seen. If you get a chance to see her (or any of the artists featured in this radio special) live, take it.

Though I tend to stray away from a lot of pop, I couldn’t pass up the chance to put 2 Barry White songs on this week’s program. Come on, the dude was the man! Greatness is defined in many ways but for Barry White it was just obvious. 106 gold albums, among them 41 platinum albums and the sound that combined soul, funk, and disco made him a star. Though his interest in music began while serving a jail sentence for stealing tires, he went on to do A&R work for a record label before finding his own success.

Speaking of Pop, in a modern context Lenny Kravitz could end up on par with Barry White for his commercial success. I’ve always appreciated Kravitz’ guitar skills, but didn’t realize how truly talented the man is. He’s a multi-instrumentalist who did his own guitar, bass, keyboard, drums, and percussion on his own records. The Multi-award winning musician has infused funk, jazz, rock, R&B, pop and other genres into his sound. Add to that the presence of coolness that he evokes in his live shows and his movie roles.

These are just a few of the insights gathered while doing research for the Black Music Month special. If you have stories or insights you’d like to share with me, please do. Thanks!

DGrantSmith

Host of the syndicated radio program The Appetizer heard on public radio across Texas and online from our Listen Now link; enjoys conversations, music, food, art, storytelling, and people. Connect with me. Would love to hear from you.

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