The Hunt For Black ROCKTober

  In the late 40’s and early 50’s, A new genre of music was being formed. The days of Jazz and Doo-Wop began to grow shorter as architects such as Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Fats Domino, Lloyd Price, Big Joe Turner, Louis Jordan, Chuck Berry and Bo Diddley began to fuse powerhouse gospel vocals and equally heavy instrumentation. It was this fusion that formed the genre that would become known as “Rock and Roll”.

Mainly seen as another offshoot of “black music”, it went largely unnoticed by the mainstream media of the time. All of this began to change when a prominent DJ  named Alan Freed began to play those records on his radio show and subsequently coining the term “Rock and Roll” which was actually a slang term for sexual relations. Rock as a genre was in full swing by the time artists like Elvis Presley became “influenced” by and began recording his own versions of Black rock songs like, “Lawdy Miss Clawdy” by Lloyd Price and “Hound Dog” by Big Mama Thorton.

By 1955, Rock music was a legitimate force in pop culture as it was the leading sound of choice by teenagers across America. The number one record in the country at the time was “Tweedle Dee” by Laverne Baker with Ray Charles and Bo Diddley coming in at numbers 3 and 6 respectively. Elvis, The “King of Rock” was number 10. To his credit, he never explicitly stated that he invented the genre but was influenced by the originators, as evidenced by his numerous covers.

     Once Rolling Stone Magazine came to prominence in the mid 60’s, they took it upon themselves to rewrite history and began to whitewash the entire genre. Much of the publication’s early rise  was due to the visual component. Purposely placing White Rock artists on the cover and throughout the magazine sowed the seeds that would further push Rock’s rightful creators to the back while their white counterparts received the lion’s share of the credit. As recently as 2004, Rolling Stone, in conjunction with Miller Beer came under heavy scrutiny for a promotion that commemorated the 50th anniversary of Rock and Roll. The promotion included 8 “Icons” of Rock without a single mention of the Black Originators.

     In my hunt for a “Black Rocktober” I decided to curate a list of the modern day rock scene. Although long gone are the days of mainstream Rock dominance, the face of the genre is still seen as white. Every song featured on this list are from bands that are predominantly black, or have black lead singers that are male or female. I was deliberate in my approach as I wanted to encompass the different subgenres that are now considered Rock. My message is also deliberate….Rock and Roll is Still Black Music and this playlist is the aural testament of that fact……..Rock On.           

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