In honor of Black History Month, we’re featuring 10 of the most influential Black artists and producers who shaped the sound of popular music over the last hundred years. Limiting the list to just 10 was not an easy task, but we think you’ll agree that these people deserve special recognition for the profound impact they’ve had.
Scott Joplin (1867 – 1917): A pioneer of ragtime music in the late 19th and early 20th century, Joplin’s music laid the foundations for what would become Stride, Jazz, and Big Band Swing music.
Robert Johnson (1911 – 1938): Known as the “King of the Delta Blues,” Johnson’s music influenced and was covered by a who’s who of Rock artists including the Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton, and Bob Dylan, to name just a few.
Miles Davis (1926 – 1991): Davis revolutionized the world of Jazz throughout his five-decade long career. From So What to Bitches Brew to Time After Time, Davis continually reinvented himself, always choosing to look forward, and rarely back.
James Brown (1933 – 2006): The “Godfather of Soul,” Brown funked up the music world throughout his six-decade long career.
Lee Scratch Perry (b. 1936): One of the most influential and enigmatic producers in the world of Reggae, Perry instilled his own unique vibe and vision into albums by some of Reggae’s most iconic artists including Bob Marley, The Congos, Max Romeo, and Junior Murvin.
Jimi Hendrix (1942 – 1970): One of the most influential guitarists of all time, Hendrix took Rock music, and the guitar, to where to where they’d never been before.
Aretha Franklin (b. 1942): The “Queen Of Soul,” Franklin is one of the most iconic female artists of all time.
Niles Rogers (b. 1952): Rodgers is a guitarist, co-founder of the band Chic, a prolific songwriter, and producer of a who’s who of artists including David Bowie, Duran Duran, Madonna, Daft Punk, and many more.
Michael Jackson (1958 – 2009): The “King of Pop,” Jackson revolutionized the world of Pop & R&B, and has the top-selling record of all time, Thriller.
Run-D.M.C (1981 – 2002): These three guys from Hollis, Queens – Joseph Simmons, Darryl McDaniels and Jason Mizell – revolutionized the world of Hip Hop and brought it to the masses in the mid-1980s.