In the Black community, music has long served as both a message and a refuge, from call-and-response spirituals to current hip-hop hits and beyond. As Black Music Month coincides with people coming together across the globe to fight racial inequality in light of the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Tony McDade, Rayshard Brooks, and many others before them, the need to uplift and amplify Black voices takes on even more importance.
Throughout Black Music Month, SiriusXM will highlight significant moments in Black music and history — from the early 1900s to now, each week featuring some of the iconic artists who paved the way for other Black musicians and fought for social justice.
Aretha Franklin’s Soulful Anthems
It’s impossible to celebrate the legacy and impact of soul music without showing some R-E-S-P-E-C-T to Aretha Franklin. Not only was Franklin deemed the “Queen of Soul” in the late ’60s and celebrated as the first woman to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987 thanks to her lasting contributions to the genre, her songs such as “Respect” and “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman” also became integral to civil rights and women’s rights movements. Franklin herself was no stranger to activism, and her work went beyond just penning and recording empowerment anthems — the Queen of Soul often donated her time, money, and voice to civil rights groups, and was a vocal supporter of legendary activist Angela Davis, a longtime friend of Martin Luther King, Jr., and performer at Barack Obama‘s 2009 presidential inauguration.
Hear music from Franklin and other soulful Black icons all month long on Soul Town (Ch. 49).
James Brown Says It Loud
With legendary hits like “I Got You (I Feel Good),” “It’s a Man’s World,” and many more, it’s safe to say that James Brown took his honorary titles as “Soul Brother No. 1” and the “Godfather of Soul” seriously. But Brown’s contributions to Black culture, overall music, and social commentary didn’t end with soul-stirring, high-powered hits — the impassioned singer-songwriter was deeply involved in activism, particularly youth education advocacy. Brown also delivered a powerful anthem to the civil rights movement with his song “Say It Loud — I’m Black and I’m Proud” in 1968, as well as later releasing further musical commentary through songs like “Get Up, Get Into It, Get Involved” and “King Heroin.” Brown’s music has been sampled by many of today’s top artists, such as Kendrick Lamar, Dr. Dre, and Tyler, The Creator; “King Heroin,” specifically, is considered by many to be a precursor to modern rap music.
Hear music from Brown and other iconic Black artists all month long on Soul Town (Ch. 49).
Bob Marley’s Call for Unity
Reggae, with its connection to Rastafarianism, has strong cultural significance and a distinct sound often paired with upbeat, positive lyrics. Bob Marley, considered one of the pioneers of reggae, often used his music to advocate for Pan-African unity, peace, and cannabis legalization, as heard in songs like “Redemption Song” and “Easy Skanking.” In terms of Marley’s propensity to speak up for peace, he and his band, The Wailers, performed at the 1978 One Love Peace Concert in hopes of bringing people together to calm political violence amid civil war. Despite his death at only 36 years old, Marley’s impact on reggae (and music as a whole) lives on, particularly through his family members who followed in his footsteps and record label, Tuff Gong.
Stay jammin’ with Marley and other Black icons all month long on The Joint (Ch. 42).