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The List: Honoring Black History Month with music

Published: Thursday, Feb. 13, 2014 1:37 a.m. CST

Morgan Freeman once criticized the concept of Black History Month, saying “I don’t want a Black History Month ... black history is American history,” in a television interview.

It’s with that quote in mind that I hesitated releasing this list.

I thought it would be a nice way to honor Black History Month by sharing my favorite black musicians with you, the readers.

But, I worried, does anyone care what a 26-year-old white male has to say about some of the greatest musicians, black or white, in music history?

Is Freeman right? Is creating this list an unnecessary separation?

Why does it take February being Black History Month for me to think of a list like this?

I’m not sure I have a great answer to any of those questions. Like Freeman, I wish we lived in a world where a person was never even described, categorized, discriminated or separated by the color of their skin.

Yet, I still believe celebrating Black History is important. You see, Freeman’s right; it should just be part of American History.

But if there’s a month that will continue to be dedicated to celebrating Black history, I think it’d be severely unfortunate for us to not do just that.

The more lists I share, the more readers will realize how important music is in my life.

So, what better way for myself to celebrate Black History Month than by sharing some my favorite black musicians?

Stevie Wonder

The wealth of talent this man has is breathtaking. Great song, after great song, after great song. I think it sometimes gets lost just how incredible it is that a blind man can play the piano, and other instruments, that well. Further proof that anything is possible.

Favorite songs: “For Once In My Life,” “Living For The City,” and “You Haven’t Done Nothin’”

Prince

Prince Rogers Nelson, or “Prince” for short, is one of my favorite songwriters on the planet. He’s a great performer, musician, entertainer and singer. Beyond his career as an artist, he’s an accomplished producer. His music is severely undervalued as great dance material at weddings. Prince is the type of artist that aspiring musicians dream to be. He’s unique. He’s eccentric. He’s a legend.

Favorite songs: “When Doves Cry,” “Let’s Go Crazy,” and “1999”

TLC

These three women dominated the airwaves in the 1990s and early 2000s. The band, featuring Tionne “T-Boz” Watkins, the late Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes and Rozonda “Chilli” Thomas, won many awards, scored 10 top-10 singles, and four multi-platinum albums. They are the best-selling American female group of all time. I look fondly back at the time in my life when everyone my age was trying to recite the entire rap from TLC’s biggest hit, “Waterfalls,” because it was just that awesome.

Favorite songs: “Waterfall,” “Creep,” and “No Scrubs”

Boyz II Men

I’ve spent the overwhelming majority of my life wishing I could sing as well as any of the members of this group. They broke a record set by Elvis Presley, when their 1992 song “End of The Road” stayed at the top spot of the Billboard 100 for 13 consecutive weeks. And then they proceeded to break that record again ... and again, with “I’ll Make Love To You,” and “One Sweet Day” with Mariah Carey. They are also one of the only artists to replace themselves at the top of the charts. The other two? The Beatles and Elvis Presley. Yeah, I know. Impressive.

Favorite songs: “Thank You,” “A Song For Mama,” and “Water Runs Dry.”

Jimi Hendrix

He burned beautifully, fast and bright. His mainstream career lasted less than 5 years, yet he is regarded as one of the best guitarists in the history of rock music. He is iconic. He’s part of small group of musicians who truly changed the music landscape. There’s the way great guitarists play guitar, and then on a level 100 miles up in the clouds, there’s the way Hendrix plays guitar.

Favorite songs: “Fire,” “Hey Joe,” and “Purple Haze”

Michael Jackson

He’s the King of Pop. Undisputed. One of the greatest performers of the 20th century. Often times overshadowed by legal and personal issues, the downright brilliance of his music gets lost sometimes. Judging on music and showmanship alone, he’s possibly the best ever. From the days of Jackson 5 to “Black or White,” I love it all.

Favorite songs: “Human Nature,” “The Way You Make Me Feel,” “P.Y.T.”

The list could go on and on. There’s so many more I would have loved to included.

These musicians are some of my favorite of all time, of any race. Ones that I make sure are heard and enjoyed all year, not just February.

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