Celebrating Black Music: Then & Now

The black community not only has always appreciated and produced good music, but they have brought forth many good hits with various rhythms and sounds. These tracks have carried a sense of soul and tradition from our ancestors, and have created chart toppers in funk, soul, pop, motown, gospel and numerous other genres. We have many proud and loud black musicans and vocalists, many that have passed on, many that are in their prime time right now, and others emerging. Music is a way to tell stories of trial, triumph and tradition, and this is part of the reason that music has always unified black communities and still does today. Please have a listen to the following tracks I selected, and I hope you enjoy these favourites of mine as much as I do. Also, please research the artists of these songs, and check out their other music, because what I’ve listed here is a very, very small percentage of black written and/or produced music. If you haven’t heard one of these songs, or most of them, well for goodness sake, go listen, it’ll do you good! Pictured is the stunning Mary J. Blige, the 2019 recipient of BET’s Lifetime Achievement Award.


Takes Two to Tango – Ray Charles & Betty Carter

This duet is a lot of fun, though it wasn’t written by Ray or Betty, they did their own spin on it for their 1961 album, and succeeded quite well. Ray Charles has also performed this song with Aretha Franklin.



Sugar on the Floor – Etta James

I truly believe this is one of Etta James’ best songs, and it’s in the lyrics. If you listen to the words closely, it’s truly an emotional song that makes you feel. Kiki Dee is behind those lyrics and the original, but in my oppinion Etta James took those words and didn’t just perform them, she put magic to them.





Joy of the Lord – Tamela Mann (Pictured above)

This gospel song is upbeat, and one of Tamela’s best sounding tracks in my opinion. She and her husband David Mann stay closely connected in their relationship and to their faith; Tamela shows much of this through her music – ironically enough, the two play father and daughter in the hit Tyler Perry series, Meet the Browns.




Get Low – Lil Jon & The East Side Boyz

This is one of my favourite party songs to dance to! Many people probably don’t know Lil Jon came from a large family with parents both in top notch professions; his father was an engineer, and his mother was in the military. He is a self taught DJ, and he took a different path in life than probably what his family imagined, but he proved himself to be successful through releasing many top charting songs, and also being a grammy recipient. I also love the fact they used this song in a Sandra Bullock and Betty White movie (The proposal); that whole scene allowed me to adore these two brilliant actresses even more!




One Thing Right – Marshmello & Kane Brown

I write about this song to show the significant value of Kane Brown’s role to this song, from writing it, to singing it, and to marking a musical acomplishment to be able to colloborate with a DJ artist as famous as Marshmello. The Chattanooga, Tennessee born singer not only proudly represents bi-racial people like myself, but also helps in making a larger black presence in the country music industry. It’s rather apparent that the modern country music scene is not a place of music that happens to have many black artists, so this is all the more reason to appreciate artists such as Kane Brown, Darius Rucker, and many others who have decided to go that direction. Kane Brown is also strategically smart, as he is making some pop music and pop collaborations, as often at times that is where the money is and/or your voice is heard.




Little Wing – Jimi Hendrix

This is one of my most favourite songs, sung by the late master guitarist, Jimi Hendrix; though short, this song is brilliant. Jimi, believe it or not had Canadian ties; his father ‘Al’ Hendrix was born in Vancouver, British Columbia. This song also shows that Jimi had a huge interest in psychedelic rock, and was greatly influenced by many forms of American rock and blues.







Carribean Queen (No More Love on the Run) – Billy Ocean (pictured above)

Trinidadian-British artist Billy Ocean co-wrote this song, and then performed it with much gusto and funk, making this another great party song. His success in music, especially within the U.K is something the English communities of colour can most certainly be proud of.





Ladies Night – Kool & the Gang

Members of Kool & the Gang wrote this song together, and it has become one of the most popular party songs. Robert Bell is the man behind the (still existing) group, that of whom has touched on numerous musical styles throughout the years, funk, jazz, rock and pop.





My Girl – The Temptations

This all time favourite of mine was actually written by talented Smokey Robinson. He co-wrote this song with his ‘Miracles’ partner Ronald White, and then The Temptations recorded it for the Gordy Motown record label. This stunning hit was thought of, written by and performed by brilliant black men.





Be Without You – Mary J. Blige (title featured photo)

Mary J. Blige has been an inspiration to not just females of colour, but to all women, especially those facing barriers, pursuing arts, and those facing similar trials Mary J. went through within her life. Her life story is quite remarkable and one to look up for sure. And it is her faith, and strength that has brought her to where she is now, and her resilience is what makes her inspiring. And that is what landed her the BET Lifetime achievement award in 2019; this is a remarkably incredible acomplishment. This song of hers is one of my favourites, and is co-written by Mary J. herself. It is also black produced, by Bryan Michael Cox, a Black American record producer who has also made a large name for himself.





Stomp – Kirk Franklin (pictured above)

I absolutley love this song, and it never fails to get me moving, ‘makes me clap my hands, makes me want to dance’! Kirk Franklin truly has been a motivational icon in the gospel music industry/community. It was a very pleasant surprise to see his collaboration with Tori Kelly and For King & Country on the Global Goal Concert. There is also a remix version of this song, I enjoy both equally.






If I were Your Woman – Gladys Knight & The pips

It’s a hard toss up between this song and Midnight Train to Georgia when determining my favourite song by Gladys Knight & The Pips. I somehow decided to choose this 1970’s hit with lyrics so many women can relate to. One of the composers of this song is black artist and United Kingdom famed Gloria Jones.








Can’t Feel My Face – The Weeknd (pictured above)

While I really enjoy the 80’s vibe to the song Blinding Lights, this was the song I chose as it was rather life changing per say, for Abel Tesfaye, better known as his stage name, The Weeknd. This song went BIG, impacting what would be a large musical career ahead of him, allowing him to create more top hits, and also, collaborations with notable artists. Funny thing is, he has now become the ‘notable artist’ that others would dream of working with. He’s not only a young and successful black artist, he is an artist that has made the Ethiopian-Canadian community very proud.






Girl on Fire – Alicia Keys

I couldn’t make this list without my girl Alicia, but seriously, do you know how hard it was to choose one Alicia song of so many great ones? Well, this particular song feels very woman-empowering to me, and to me this is one of the many traits I love about Alicia, she empowers and lifts up other women, and is a role model for young girls and women. She speaks up and out for communities of colour and is proud to be black and proud to be of mixed heritage. She is proud to be from New York, and carries confidence into all her many musical talents.





These Arms Of Mine – Otis Redding

Otis redding is one of the many greats of his time, with too many enjoyable songs to name, whether they are covers, Christmas covers, or original songs by him. This orginal R&B hit of his was recorded and released in 1962.







Sit This One Out – Solomon Burke (pictured above)

I love this song, along with Solomon’s more known hit Cry To Me. The difference is Cry To Me is a 1962 song, and this soul song was released in 2002. This song was released just eight years prior to the death of this very motivational preacher and singer, that of whom had a large impact on the music of soul and R&B, especially throughout the 1960’s.






Will You Be There? – Michael Jackson

This has to be one of the most beautiful and emotionally capturing songs sung by the legendary late Michael Jackson. Many may associate this song with the film Free Willy, however, Michael did release this as a single in 1993, and he wrote the song himself. That said, it became not only a part of the Free Willy film, but the main theme song. And Free Willy being such an emotional, powerful film surrounding controversial subjects to begin with allowed this song to piece all those emotions together into one beautiful masterpiece. Of Michael’s work, it is the longest – and most certainly one of the best!






WTF (Where They From) – Missy Elliott

Missy Elliott has always been creative in delivering a strong hip-hop presence, many moons ago and still today! This 2015 track of hers has a bit of a old-school hip-hop vibe, along with a strong ‘Missy’ personality presence, and that’s what I love about it. It’s a great dancing song, and super catchy, perhaps this is why it was featured on the pilot episode of the hit series Council of Dads!






Queen Of The Night – Whitney Houston (pictured below)

Here I am saving one of the greatest artists of all time for last, the late Whitney Houston. We all know Whitney, and it may be apparent this is not one of her most vocally strong or famously sung songs. That said, this song is a Whitney original, and was co-written by her with an incredible line-up of other black composers, consisting of: Babyface, Daryl Simmons and L.A Reid. This black produced AND performed song hit many points of achievement through peaking at it’s time when it released on American radio in 1993, and through being released as a part of the Bodyguard film soundtrack. Whitney Houston’s journey is for sure another life story to know if you don’t already.





Remember, these are just some of the many amazing songs and artists of the black music world, start your research as there are so many more greats!

Published by Leah Finlay

Poet, Child Advocate, T.V Watching Bookworm, Nature Loving Foodie, Travel Loving, Horse & Dog Enthusiast, Canadian Creative Writer

2 thoughts on “Celebrating Black Music: Then & Now

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: