For 33 years now, June has had an extra special meaning for everyone of black descent who indulges themselves in the art of making music.
June is Black Music Month (or African American Music Appreciation Month if you want to be official), celebrating the greatness that many black musicians, singers, songwriters, producers and record label owners have brought to the masses for years.
To many, music is color blind, as evidenced by the scores of White Americans who have made an impact on what are to be considered black music genres. However, the fight that Black Americans have had to endure and wage to get their music heard and respected in years past should be celebrated.
Black Music Month came about in 1979 when Kenny Gamble, the great impresario of Philadelphia International Records and Dyana Williams, a veteran radio personality (currently hosting a dynamite old school R&B/Soul program on 100.3 WRNB in Philly on Sundays) decided there should be a month to celebrate the music that Blacks had made in the past, were making in the present and we’re going to make in the future.
President Jimmy Carter agreed and made Black Music Month official on June 7, 1979 and since then, Black Music Month has been a spotlight for many involved with music to shine and enjoy the praise.
It goes without saying that people have their feelings about specialty months, especially ones that cater to Black folk, but I’m black, I enjoy them and that’s all that matters to me. Black Music Month is special to me because it reminds me of all the days I spent as a child listening to various types of music growing up.
My mom had all the great old and current soul and R&B on 105.3 WDASFM in her room. My older sister had the hip-hop and New Jack Swing blasting from Power 99 in her room. My grandma had James Brown going non stop in the kitchen. It was a great experience, no doubt shaping my musical tastes for my entire lifetime.
Black music of course has a certain (and I hate to use this word) swagger to it, but there’s something more than flashy horns, hard hitting drums, slick bass play and unique vocal styles. There’s still something deep down inside, a message in the music, similar to field hollers and such from the days when we weren’t free.
And it’s that soul, that message, that “hear-me-out” that made Black music awesome and worthy of a month. And thankfully for music lovers like me, that month is now upon us. Enjoy.