Black Music Lives: A salute to the artists you love best

Black Music Month, or African American Music Appreciation Month, has been around in some capacity since 1979.

But truth be told, we weren’t waiting around for someone else to give us permission to love and appreciate our own, and the musical masterpieces and genres we created and/or gave new life to. Just as we’ve been at the vanguard of creating music, the “soundtrack of our lives,” we too have been at the forefront of celebrating Black music.

From blues to jazz to R&B to rock & roll and hip-hop, and everything in between (all Motherland-infused, by the way), we’ve shown our love for those songs and the ones who created them in countless ways over the decades. And the Defender continues this time-honored tradition by sharing some of the musician favorites shared with us by you, our faithful and beloved readers.

Here are the past and present musicians that you said hold a special place in your hearts.

“Marvin Gaye. His music is social activism in the artistic form of R&R music. It spoke truth to power then and now. It’s timeless. Sadly, it’s becoming more relevant each day as our rights [are] going in reverse.” (Jolanda Jones, Texas state rep.)

“Billy Preston. At the tail-end of his career, I remember seeing him on Arsenio performing “Will it Go Round in Circles.” That performance was legendary. (Claudell Cannady, scout leader, DJ, all-around cool guy)

“Bob Marley. I’ve traveled to more than 40 countries around the world and EVERYWHERE I’ve been I’ve heard his music being played in public. One love!” (Reginal Charles Adams, renowned visual artist)

“Public Enemy. My social awareness wings were born outta PE. In the ’90s they reached ALOT of white male hard rockers, like myself, with their collaborative efforts with bands like Anthrax. From there, the PE catalog lay in front of me and it was a great education.” (Travis Martin, teacher)

“Prince, because he is funky. When it comes to funk, he is the chunky. He knows from riches, he knows from sin. He’s got two sides and they’re both friends. If you try to clock’em, they’re much too fast. If you try to stop’em they’ll kick that a–.” (Sen Olushola, chef)

“Anita Baker. Felt like someone from your family was teaching you about love.” (Kam Thomas, teacher)

“John P. Kee. His music reminds me of childhood and all the fun I had singing in choirs. His music is upbeat, joyful and encouraging.” (Vannessa Wade, PR maven & entrepreneur)

“Stevie Wonder. Reminds me of the all the good days I had with my mom.” (Tumi Thomas, college student)

“The Isley Brothers. They’ve got moods.” (Kimberly Tennile, cultured wild woman)

“Smokey Robinson and all the Motown artists. It would be early Saturday morning and my dad seemed to have a whole playlist and we knew we were cleaning! Greatest memory was going to a Smokey Robinson concert in Detroit with my dad and we are both singing ‘Cruisin’ and ‘Tracks of My Tears.’ I would give anything to go back to that moment.” (Maria Carlos, educator

“Earth Wind & Fire. The beautiful melodies, the passion, the funky costumes and Afros, the familial unit with the White brothers and childhood friends, the musical mastery of live instruments and a FULL HORN SECTION, and a plethora of songs that touch every emotion imaginable! EWF reminds me of childhood, church, HBCU band material, and ‘Soul Train’ all wrapped in one!” (PW Way, HR director)

Curtis Mayfield and Marvin Gaye. Their music spoke directly to the times and offered a message to our people. (Abaynesta Loretta Hubbard-Green, minister)

“Prince was and is amazing. His music transcends genres and defies classification.” (Eddie Lee Glasper Jr., military man)

“Gerald Levert/Luther Vandross.” (Ingrid Traylor Williams, entrepreneur)

“Marvin Gaye. He spoke/sang to a worldwide audience.” (Perry Banks, IT professional)

“Prince. From the first time I heard ‘Soft & Wet’ in 1978 to his transition…he has been the very definition of an artist…the most prolific artist of our time and it’s not even close…a man who created at least one song every day for decades…Miles Davis said that he’s the baddest MF he’s ever seen…and with the amount of music that is still being released from his vault of sound he will continue to resonate with us for years to come.’ (Seyoum Osaze, digital radio show host & connoisseur of chili sauce)

“The Temptations’ ‘My Everything.’ Eddie Kendricks and David Ruffin did their thing as always!” (Roderick Garner, chief deputy, Ft. Bend County Constable Precinct No. 2)

“Doug Carn. Because of his jazz organ, his wife Jean Carn’s voice and his revolutionary message!” (Brian Kefing Moore, entrepreneur)

“Isley BrothersEarth, Wind & Fire and Maze! Such a huge list from my youth! Too many, but 3 band’s music will always be the soundtrack makers to my life and always send me back like it was yesterday! (Mike Meade, professional musician)

“Queen Ida. Why? Because she is THE ‘Queen of Zydeco’ and I love her music…anytime, anywhere…the end. Period. (Angela CeZar, entrepreneur, financial advisor)

“Stevie Wonder. His song ‘As’ reminds me of my parents’ true love for one another. ‘Isn’t she lovely’ takes me back to when my children were babies and the feeling you have as a new parent looking at the gift from God, your child, and how miraculous it is. ‘Happy Birthday.’ I remember the vote and time when Dr. Martin L. King’s [birthday] was not a holiday and it passed. And basically, standing between the driver’s seat and passenger seat as a child (when seat belts weren’t mandatory) driving down the coast with my parents bobbing my head to his now classics.” (Demethra Orion, entrepreneur)