ASCAP Celebrates Black History Month | Week 1: Black Music Pioneers

The Black music community has had an outsize impact on nearly every genre imaginable. We dedicate our first week of Black History Month coverage to ASCAP members who helped develop their genres, and opened doors for others to follow in their footsteps.
Eubie Blake & Noble Sissle

Eubie Blake & Noble Sissle

Eubie Blake & Noble Sissle wrote Shuffle Along, one of the 1st Broadway musicals written & directed by African-Americans. Their song "I'm Just Wild About Harry" broke a taboo against depictions of love between Black people - and was later used in Harry Truman's presidential campaign!

 
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Sister Rosetta Tharpe

Sister Rosetta Tharpe

With her hard-charging electric guitar style and unforgettable voice, Sister Rosetta Tharpe brought gospel music to the mainstream in the ‘30s and ‘40s, and laid the groundwork for rock ‘n roll. Legends from Aretha to Elvis to Johnny Cash have cited her as a huge influence.


 
Duke Ellington

Duke Ellington

Composer, pianist and bandleader extraordinaire Duke Ellington brought big band jazz to new levels of sophistication. Original tunes like “Take the A Train” & “It Don't Mean a Thing (If It Ain't Got That Swing)” have become cornerstones of American music, regardless of genre.

 
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Quincy Jones

Quincy Jones

Groundbreaking film composer. Jazz icon. Producer of Thriller, the best-selling album of all time. More Grammys (28!) than any living person. Quincy Jones has been making music history for 60+ years. His influence on all corners of the music world cannot be overstated.

 
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Charley Pride

Charley Pride

Charley Pride was one of country music’s all-time greats, both for his remarkable voice and his pioneering role as one of the genre's few Black superstars. When he died this past December, he left us 30 #1 hits, and a story that continues to inspire generations of music creators.

 
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Florence Price

Florence Price

When the Chicago Symphony Orchestra premiered her Symphony No. 1 in 1933, Florence Price became the first Black woman to have her music performed by a major orchestra. Her fusion of African-American melodies and European classical tradition still sounds fresh today.

Portrait of Florence Price Looking to the Side by G. Nelidoff in Chicago, Illinois. Florence Price Papers MC 988, Box 1, Folder 12, Item 1. Special Collections, University of Arkansas Libraries, Fayetteville.

 
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Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five

Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five

Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five, best known for their 1982 epic “The Message,” brought creative turntablism and conscious lyrics to hip-hop at a time when the genre was just emerging as a commercial force. They’re set to earn a Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2021 Grammys.

 

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