The History Of African American Music

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 African American music has changed throughout American history, and which caused a deep meaning for the different types of music. African American music has made a huge impact in America.

African American music started with spirituals and work songs, slaves brought spirituals and work songs to America. Music was important to slaves because they use music to communicate or get a message to other slaves. Slaves use spirituals to help them get through the day. Some owners would ban the slaves from singing spirituals because “ owners believed this was a form of communication, getting the message out to other slaves about impending escapes” (Frazier). Many slaves later became christians and joined churches. Slaves used music to “make it seem like they are having a okay time as a slave” (Rosser). Ship captains forced slaves as they were being transported to sing songs and if they didn’t “they were often beaten into complying” (Blue and Naden).

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Blues started at the end of the nineteenth century in the south. Blues came from spirituals which “expressed joys, sorrows, desires, and anxieties experienced along the road” (vigna). Most blues was about “everyday true personal experiences with realistic and sometimes humorous tones” (vigna). W.C.Handy was known as “the father of the Blues” (Smithsonian). W.C. Handy inspiration for the style came from “an African American musical practice of singing away one’s sorrows to move on and up away from them” (Smithsonian). Blues as a genre is also characterized by its “lyrics, bass lines, and instrumentation” (Smithsonian). Bessie Smith was the greatest of all, she sold more than two million records.

After blues came jazz. Jazz started at the end of the nineteenth century in New Orleans. Louis Armstrong (Satchmo) was one of the greatest jazz soloist. In the 1920s jazz was being played around the country by African Americans and white bands. Jazz was influenced by a lot of things such as “pain and sorrow of slavery” (Rosser). Many jazz musicians devoted their souls to music. The typical style of New Orlean jazz is based on “polyphony- combining a number of parts” (Vigna). African American performers with white audiences “brought about a number of racial conflicts” (Smithsonian).

Rhythm & Blues is used to “describe the blues influenced form of music which has been predominantly performed by African-Americans” (Smithsonian). The word Rhythm & Blues was introduced into the American language or vocabulary in the late 1940s. In the 1950s, Rhythm & Blues music was associated with “black youth in honky-tonks and after-hours clubs” (Smithsonian). The 1970s the word Rhythm & Blues became big to become a term that included soul and funk music. Rhythm & Blues term was created to “replace the designation race music” (Smithsonian). The name origin was created for use as “musical marketing by billboard magazine. Some of R & B’s greatest artists are Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston, Stevie Wonder, Prince, Aretha Franklin, and James Brown.

Rock n’ Roll started in the early 1950s and it came from soul, R&B, gospel, and blues. Chuck Berry was considered “ the father of rock n’ roll” (Rosenblatt). 


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