Stevie Wonder

9 Mind-Blowing Facts About Your Favorite Black Artists

Unlock the lesser-known stories of Jimi Hendrix, Beyoncé, Prince, and more. Explore the amazing facts that shape the legacies of iconic Black artists.


Feb. 19 2024, Published 12:23 p.m. ET

Black voices have always struggled to be heard fairly in the sea of White culture and voices. It is nothing new. According to an article written in 2020 by The New York Times "If you’re silent about your pain, they’ll kill you and say you enjoyed it,” wrote Zora Neale Hurston in her 1937 novel “Their Eyes Were Watching God.”

Throughout this country’s history, Black Americans have been reminded nearly daily that this remains true... In creative fields, for instance, from the visual arts to theater, the white gaze has long determined whose stories are told — what gets to be seen, what’s given value, and what’s deemed worthy enough to be recorded and remembered — enforcing a seemingly immovable standard by which black artists and other artists of color are nearly always cast in supporting roles to the mostly white stars of the Western canon."

Today, thankfully, many Black artists are actively resisting that idea, and letting their voices be heard. Black singers and songwriters of the past had the dream and young singers today are pushing forward to see that dream become a reality.

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The world of music is a vast and dynamic realm, and some of the most influential and beloved artists are Black musicians whose impact transcends genres and generations. Beyond the melodies and performances, there are fascinating and often mind-blowing aspects of these artists' lives that contribute to their enduring legacies. In this article, we delve into nine mind-blowing facts about your favorite Black artists, shedding light on the incredible stories behind the music.

1. Jimi Hendrix's Ambidextrous Mastery

Often hailed as one of the greatest guitarists in history, Jimi Hendrix possessed a mind-blowing talent—he played his iconic guitar upside down and was ambidextrous. His tendency to do this created a unique sound that defined the psychedelic rock era of the '60s. Hendrix is known as 'mixed-right-handed' which means he was largely right-handed but could use his left hand better than most who were right-handed. This allowed him to do things with his music that set him apart as a legend.

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2. Beyoncé's Sasha Fierce Alter Ego

Beyoncé, the reigning queen of pop, introduced the world to her alter ego, Sasha Fierce, in 2008. This persona emerged during the creation of her third studio album, "I Am... Sasha Fierce." It represents the more assertive and confident aspects of her personality and is the idea that a hidden personality, motivation, and inspiration lie just below the surface. The dual identity showcases Beyoncé's artistic complexity and the transformative power of performance.

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3. Prince's Insatiable Work Ethic

The legendary Prince was not only a musical genius but also an artist with an insatiable work ethic. It's estimated that he recorded over 39 studio albums and wrote hundreds of songs, many of which remain unreleased. Prince's relentless dedication to his craft is a testament to his passion for music and commitment to pushing creative boundaries. He was also humble and wanted to help others according to most who worked with him and saw him off the stage and in other settings.

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4. Ella Fitzgerald's Groundbreaking Scat Singing

Black culture is all about pushing the limits and breaking the molds that others try to place on the work that Black people do. Often hailed as the "First Lady of Scat," Ella Fitzgerald revolutionized vocal jazz with her groundbreaking scat singing. With performances at places like the Chick Webb Orchestra at the Harlem Opera House, Fitzgerald began to improvise some of her lyrics with scat singing. It is believed to have started during one performance to save a forgotten lyric but however it started Sact is alive and well today.

5. Stevie Wonder's Multifaceted Musical Talent

Stevie Wonder is not only a virtuoso singer and songwriter but also a multi-instrumentalist. Blind since infancy, Wonder has mastered various instruments, including the harmonica, drums, bass, and keyboards. His ability to play multiple instruments allows him to create intricate and layered arrangements, contributing to the timeless quality of his music. And given the well-known fact that Stevie Wonder is blind just makes his musical prowess all the more amazing and inspirational.

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6. Aretha Franklin's Civil Rights Activism

The Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin, was a vocal powerhouse and a passionate civil rights activist. She supported the movement in various ways, using her platform to raise awareness and provide financial assistance. Franklin's powerful rendition of "Respect" became an anthem for both the feminist and civil rights movements, solidifying her role as a cultural icon. Her early work coupled with her music makes Franklin a truly inspirational figure for the Black community even still today.

7. Kanye West's Artistic Ambitions

Kanye West, known for his boundary-pushing music and outspoken persona, has expanded his artistic endeavors beyond music. He delved into fashion with his Yeezy brand, collaborated with visual artists for album covers, and even explored the world of contemporary opera. Kanye West sees himself as an artist and compares himself to the likes of Warhol and Shakespeare for the Black people of the current generation. Love his stuff or not, there is no denying that West is making an impact as a Black Artist.

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8. Nina Simone's Classical Roots

Before releasing her album "High Priestess of Soul", Nina Simone trained as a classical pianist at the Juilliard School of Music. Her classical background infused her soulful jazz and blues performances with a unique sophistication. Simone's ability to seamlessly blend classical techniques with the raw emotion of African-American musical traditions set her apart as a groundbreaking artist. Her piano playing was amazing yet is it still something many of her fans are not aware of.

9. Bob Marley's Soccer Aspirations

Before becoming the global icon of reggae, Bob Marley dreamed of being a professional soccer player- or football as everywhere else other than America calls it. Marley was an avid soccer enthusiast and played the sport passionately during his youth in Jamaica. An unfortunate injury ultimately redirected his focus towards music, and the rest is history. As amazing as it might have been to see Marley running around on the soccer field we can thank our lucky stars that we have his music to enjoy today.

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Black Artists Lives

The lives of these Black artists are woven with extraordinary tales, showcasing the depth of their talents and their profound impact on music and culture. Beyond the surface of their public personas, these mind-blowing facts reveal the complexity, dedication, and diverse influences that shape the artistic narratives of your favorite Black musicians.

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