"There would be no American history without Black people in it. The fabric of what American society is socially, economically, industrially—it wouldn't be what it is without Black people. And you can see that especially when it comes to music."
That's how music journalist and NPR podcast Louder Than a Riot co-host Sidney Madden described the impact of the Black community on the entirety of American music to NBC News in February.
As she explained, "Every genre that is born from America has Black roots associated with it, from rock and roll to blues to disco. The fingerprints of Black creators are all over what makes American music so unique."
It's an undeniable facet of the history of music in this country, and yet one that largely goes unspoken among even the most diehard music fans. Nearly everything you love about popular music today takes its cues from something a Black innovator breathed into life decades ago.
With that in mind, join us as we kick off Black Music Appreciation Month with an introduction to the Black musicians who history has largely forgotten, but without whom American music would sound very different. Our hope is that this list, though hardly comprehensive, will serve as merely a jumping-off point for music lovers' continued exploration of the industry's aural ancestors. It's time to give credit where credit's due.
(Originally published Feb. 26, 2021, at 11:32 a.m. PST.)