The month of June is Black Music Month. African-American Music Appreciation Month, as it is also called, is an annual celebration of African-American music in the United States. It was initiated as Black Music Month by President Jimmy Carter who, on June 7, 1979, decreed that June would be the month of black music. Similar presidential proclamations have been made annually since then.
In 2009, the commemoration was given its current name by President Barack Obama. In his 2016 proclamation, Obama noted that African-American music and musicians have helped the country "to dance, to express our faith through song, to march against injustice, and to defend our country's enduring promise of freedom and opportunity for all." (Wikipedia)
I grew up listening to a variety of music. I’ve always had a deep appreciation for music, and I love to dance. Black music, in particular, has been an important part of my life. My memories are filled with the sounds of R&B/Soul, disco, jazz, and gospel.
Rhythm and Blues has roots in blues music. It is sensual and soulful music. Stevie Wonder, Otis Redding, Donny Hathaway, Aretha Franklin, Nina Simone, and Marvin Gaye are all big names in this genre. Their music has made us laugh, cry, think, and love. They used their voices and their words to move their listeners.
Disco music is made for dancing. I’ve always loved to dance “The Hustle” and “The Electric Slide.” Whenever those songs are played, the whole crowd will get up and dance. Disco music always played in my house when I was cleaning up. Dancing around the house while cleaning seemed to make this chore go by a lot faster. I also remember getting up early on Saturday morning to watch Soul Train on WGN, so I could learn the latest dance moves.
Jazz is a small word for a very large and complex genre of music. Though it originated in New Orleans, it is now a global form of musical expression. Louis Armstong, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Billie Holiday, Sarah Vaughn, and Ella Fitzgerald were all titans in the genre. Although many jazz musicians are primarily instrumentalists and not vocalists, the feelings and beliefs that they emote resonate through their music.
I’ve always sought gospel music as a solace during tough times. There is something about a chorus of voices that is both soothing and comforting. The words that they sing are just as important as the way they sing them.
I am very happy that we live in a time where the efforts of others are celebrated. Music is an important part of so many of our lives, so it only makes sense that we recognize those artists who have created music that makes us think, that makes us dance, and helps us love.
Note: This blog appeared as an article in the 6/8/17 edition of the Kinney County Post.