African American Pioneers of Rock 'N Roll

Generations have been rocking and rolling for decades now and I would like to acknowledge some of the individuals who helped mold that rock ‘n roll sound we know and love. They have been loved and will continue to be loved through the eyes of many and here are some facts that you may or may not have known about a select number of rock ‘n roll pioneers. 

Jimi Hendrix, an entirely self-taught guitarist, singer, and songwriter is the epitome of rock and roll. He paved the way for several musicians that followed him and he will continue to pave the way for upcoming artists. He was originally born John Allen Hendrix but when his father returned from the army his name was shortly changed to James Marshall Hendrix. 

Due to the fact that he was left-handed, he played his guitar(s) upside down to accommodate. Jimi Hendrix has composed hit songs such as “Purple Haze”, “Fire”, and “The Wind Cries Mary."  Artists such as The Beastie Boys, Cypress Hill, Joey Bada$$, Rick Ross, Lupe Fiasco, and Curtis Knight have not only sampled Hendrix original songs but some have even credited Jimi Hendrix for the inspiration behind their electric experimental approach. 

Sadly, Jimi Hendrix died in 1970 at the age of 27 after choking on his own vomit. Some say there was alcohol and possibly pills involved, but nonetheless, it is safe to say it was still too soon. Jimi Hendrix lived breathed and slept rock and roll and the genre would be extremely different if he hadn’t made his mark on it. 

 

Chuck Berry stands as a huge influence in rock and roll and the music industry as a whole. His childhood was centered around racial segregation to the point where his first time seeing a caucasian individual was at the age of three. Throughout his career, he broke barriers and played the music that catered to everyone in the crowd no matter what the color of your skin was. 

Some credit his first hit single “Maybelline” to be the first true rock ‘n roll. You may have also heard other hit songs of Barry’s such as “Johnny B. Goode”, “Sweet Little Sixteen”, and “No Particular Place to go." After working as a janitor, training to be a hairdresser, freelancing as a photographer, and assisting his father in the field of carpentry he still managed to fit music into his agenda. 

He is as eclectic as they come and artists such as The Beatles, Elvis Presley, The Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, and the legendary Bruce Springstein all covered chuck berry songs in prolific points in their career. Heavily influenced by his wording and rhythmic inventiveness it is safe to say their sound would be a little different if Chuck Berry was not in the picture.

 

 

Prince was an individual that broke barriers amongst all things musical. After curating hundreds of personal songs he has also managed to composed music for names such as Chala Khan, the Bangles, and Sinéad O'Connor. Prince wrote his first song at seven years of age and also served as a Jehovahs witness. 

This may come as a shock to some but Prince is no stage name. He was born Prince Rogers Nelson. He died of an accidental fentanyl overdose and things have not been the same since. In honor of Prince shortly after his death global color authority Pantone created a royal purple commemorating prince. The name of the color is Love Symbol #2 which paid hommage to Prince’s legendary symbol.

From charging 12.50 for concert tickets to amassing a fortune estimated at 300 million dollars Prince has made his permanent mark on the world and his influence will continue to grow as life advances.

 

 

Lenny Kravitz, who was formerly known as Romeo Blue in the early stages of his career, has been an inspiration to many. He is living proof that simple things can go a long way. All he wants to embody in everything he does is love and peace. A simple message that he has used in his music to touch the lives of so many throughout the world. 

His mother was Roxie Roker who some may recognize from the tv show The Jeffersons. He went to high school in the 90210 area and his classmates consisted of names such as Nicholas Cage, Gina Gershon, and Slash. He now has a beautiful daughter, Zoe Kravitz, with Lisa Bonet that many know as Denise Huxtable from The Cosby Show. 

He has earned four Grammys all for best male vocal performance for songs such as “Dig in”, “Again” “American Woman”, and “Fly Away”. He has also made several appearances in movies like, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire" (2013), "Lee Daniels' The Butler", (2013) "The Hunger Games" (2012), and "Precious" (2009). 

Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, Jimi Hendrix, Led Zepplin, Nina Simone, Prince, The Beatles. It is astounding when you get to a point in your career when you can inspire others just as the ones before you inspire you. 

 

 

Tina Turner, born Anna Mae Bullock, is often referred to as the queen of rock ‘n roll. Some of her best hit songs include, “What’s Love Got to Do with It”, “Private Dancer,” “Typical Male”, “The Best,” “I Don’t Wanna Fight”, and “GoldenEye.” 

She got married in 1962 to Ike Turner and decided to get a divorce in 1976. The physical, mental, and verbal abuse that transpired during that relationship is no secret to the public eye. Even afterwards she was forced to live off food stamps while playing small gigs from club to club and living with her friends in an attempt to pay off her debt. She had two children, named Ronnie and Craig. Craig, unfortunately, committed suicide last year and Tina Turner has been opening up about it ever since. 

In her solo career, she won 12 Grammys. She stands as the only female artist to cumulate simultaneous Grammy nominations for Pop, Rock, and R&B. She is ranked number 63 on Rolling Stones 100 greatest artists of all time and this just goes to show no matter how hard the journey is the road keeps going on and so should you. 

 

 

These are pioneers that have had an extreme influence overall on music today and music to come. From fashion to vocals, to instrumental superiority, to their message to the world and all that comes with it, these people are heroes of Rock ‘N Roll. Constantly saving the day despite the ups and downs they were constantly experiencing. You can not talk about Rock without bringing up at least one of their names if not all. It is beautiful to shed a light on how we got to where we are today, and it is important to continue paying homage to these greats.