Whitney Houston

10 Jaw-Dropping Moments in Black Music History

From Aretha to Tupac, dive into 10 monumental moments in Black music history that have left an unforgettable mark on the musical landscape.


Dec. 4 2023, Published 7:56 p.m. ET

Black music history is a treasure trove of creativity, charisma, and cultural impact. From Motown's soulful beats to the genius of artists like Prince and Michael Jackson, the last five decades saw iconic musical milestones. Celebrating the wonders and success of Black Music is key to understanding the impacts it has had on the music world at large.

A comprehensive list of Black Music History highlights would be impossible but this top 10 review offers some of the most memorable and jaw-dropping moments that celebrate Black Musicians and their music!

History-Making Black Music Style

  • Aretha Franklin's Queen of Soul: Aretha Franklin, the Queen of Soul, revolutionized gospel, R&B, and soul music with her unmatched vocals and fiery passion for all that life had to offer. Hits like "Respect," “Ain’t No Way,” and “A Natural Woman” not only topped charts but also solidified her enduring legacy as a symbol of empowerment and musical prowess.
  • Bob Marley's Reggae Revolution: Bob Marley, the reggae legend, brought Jamaican music to global prominence. His socially conscious lyrics and infectious rhythms in songs like "One Love" and “No Woman, No Cry” transcended borders. This has gone a long way in helping him to become a symbol of unity and resistance for the Black Community.
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  • Donna Summer's Disco Diva: Donna Summer, the undisputed Queen of Disco, dominated the late '70s dance scene with her unique flare and style. With hits like "Hot Stuff," "Last Dance," “MacArthur Park,” and “She Works Hard for the Money” her voice captivated people everywhere. She shaped the disco era and influenced pop as well as electronic music.
  • James Brown's Godfather of Soul: The Godfather of Soul, James Brown earned that nickname for sure. His work defined funk and soul in the 1960s and '70s. His electrifying stage presence and hits like "I Got You (I Feel Good)," “It’s a Man’s World,” and “Say It Loud (I’m Black and I’m Proud),” marked him as a pioneer influencing countless artists across genres.
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  • Michael Jackson's ‘Thriller’: In 1982, Michael Jackson dropped "Thriller," a game-changing music masterpiece that snagged the best-selling title. The videos, especially the title track? Pure gold. He followed up with hits like “Bad,” “Smooth Criminal,” and “Black or White.” Jackson's career skyrocketed with him forever changing how the world listened to music.
  • Motown's Enduring Legacy: Back in 1959, Motown Records shook up the music world. Black artists like Stevie Wonder, The Supremes, Marvin Gaye, Smokey Robinson, The Jackson 5, Gladys Knight & the Pips, The Temptations, Lionel Ritchie, and many more called it home. Motown artists hit the mainstream, crushing racial walls, and boom! Timeless classics were born.
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  • Patti Labelle's Timeless Elegance: Patti Labelle's career spans over six decades, marked by her powerful vocals and dynamic stage presence. Her influence in R&B and soul, with hits like "Lady Marmalade," "Somebody Loves You, Baby," and her iconic cover of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" solidifies her status as a musical icon.
  • Prince's Purple Reign: In the 1980s, Prince emerged as a musical prodigy, blending genres with unparalleled artistry with hit albums like “Controversy” and “1999”. His "Purple Rain" album and film catapulted him to superstardom, redefining the boundaries of funk, rock, and R&B with impacts that are still felt and heard even today.
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  • Tupac Shakur's Poetry in Rhyme: Tupac Shakur, a lyrical poet and rap icon, left an indelible mark in the 1990s. His socially charged lyrics and raw storytelling in albums like "All Eyez on Me" made him an enduring voice for the marginalized. His legacy lives on and even those not keen on the rap scene recognize and know the name.
  • Whitney Houston's Voice of an Angel: Whitney Houston ruled the '80s and '90s with her powerful voice and catchy hit songs like “I Wanna Dance with Somebody,” “I’m Your Baby Tonight,” and "I Will Always Love You" from The Bodyguard. With a string of massive hits, she is cherished as one of the best female vocalists ever.

The Impact of Black Fashion on the Red Carpet

These 10 moments only scratch the surface of black music history. Each artist and each song packs a unique punch that has shaped the industry and connected with billions of people. These moments endure, proving that Black music is a force that keeps inspiring, lifting, and reshaping the entire musical game. As we remember these milestones, let us shout out the countless other legends who have woven their threads into the ever-evolving tapestry of black music.

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