Ongoing History of New Music

The Ongoing History of New Music, episode 1006: Rock firsts by Black artists

We would not be sitting here talking about rock music if it weren’t for people of African descent. If you start in the present and begin to trace things backward to important innovations and accomplishments, nine times out of ten, you’ll end up exploring something from black culture.

And we can go way, way back, all the way to 1619 when the first slave ship arrived in North America at the British colony of Virginia carrying about 20 captives.

Over the centuries that followed, the people of Africa, consisting of many different communities, nations, tribes, and cultures, were brought to the West by force creating wounds that have yet to heal.

But more than just bodies made the trip across the Atlantic. These were human beings with identities, history, traditions—and music. These songs and rhythms helped sustain them during those brutal times.

There were work songs, protest songs, satirical songs, songs meant to be sung in the fields and streets, and songs that were games in themselves. Some had regular rhythms while others contained syncopated beats from traditional dance.

Over the centuries, the music evolved, mutated, and spread. Spirituals and gospel. Blues and boogie-woogie. Ragtime and jazz. R&B and bebop. And in the early 1950s, this music with its rich history and traditions was incorporated with country, western, hillbilly, R&B, and a few other ingredients to become what we call “rock and roll.”

Along the way, there were many musical firsts, and landmark contributions by black artists that changed everything. Without them, what we call “rock” today and so much of its culture would simply not exist.

These people and their accomplishments need to be recognized, commemorated, and celebrated. This is an episode, part of Black History Month, on rock firsts by black artists.

Songs heard on this show:

  • Living Colour, Cult of Personality
  • George W. Johnson, The Laughing Son
  • Trixie Smith, My Man Rocks Me (With One Steady Roll)
  • Jackie Brenston and his Delta Cats, Rocket 88
  • Little Richard, Tutti Fruitti
  • Chuck Berry, Johnny B. Goode
  • Rage Against the Machine, Bulls on Parade
  • Death, Keep on Knockin’
  • Bam Bam, Ground Zero

Eric Wilhite has this playlist.

The Ongoing History of New Music can be heard on the following stations:

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

Alan Cross has 37871 posts and counting. See all posts by Alan Cross

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