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The Oarsman

Student Run News Site of Venice High School

The Oarsman

Student Run News Site of Venice High School

The Oarsman

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Legendary Black Musicians Everyone Should R-E-S-P-E-C-T

Rockin’ Rowers: a music column
Reading Time: 3 minutes

Black artists and their contributions to music at large have been diminished and underappreciated for about as long as Black artists have been making music. Even as recently as September 2023, Rolling Stone founder Jann Wenner made comments disparaging Black artists.

Without Black musicians, modern music would be completely different, and a lot more boring. Rock, jazz, punk, soul, hip-hop, pop, blues, reggae, and so many more were all solidified by the music and traditions of Black artists. These are just a few of the most important Black artists to contribute to the history.

James Brown—“I Got You (I Feel Good)” (1966)

James Brown oozes the Little Richard influence on this song. His signature yelps add a boost of life to the track every time they grace your ears. The saxophone solo evokes the glory days of Rock N’ Roll, and Brown’s energy strings you up like a puppet master controlling a marionette.

Miles Davis—“So What” (1955)

Kind of Blue is the greatest jazz album of all time. It revolutionized the genre and popularized a new style of jazz, modal jazz. The album kicks off with “So What,” a driving track that puts Davis’s trumpet skills on full display. When the song was played live, Davis and his band would kick it into hyperspace, speeding the song up so much that it became an entirely different beast.

Aretha Franklin—“Respect” (1967)

“Respect” is Rolling Stone Magazine’s #1 song of all time, and for good reason. This cover of Otis Redding’s 1965 song took the plain soul song and transformed it into a civil rights and feminist anthem. “Respect” preaches a simple but powerful message: everyone wants some respect. The song’s signature feature (“R-E-S-P-E-C-T! Find out what it means to me!”) was
made to be screamed by crowds of thousands.

Funkadelic / Eddie Hazel—“Maggot Brain” (1971)

“Play like your mother just died.” That’s what bandleader George Clinton said to guitarist Eddie Hazel in a recording session, and Hazel complied. “Maggot Brain” makes you feel like you’re floating out in space, untethered to any foolish mortal problem.

Jimi Hendrix—“All Along The Watchtower” (1969)

Jimi Hendrix shook up the guitar world in a way nobody had before him, and nobody has since. His cover of Bob Dylan’s “All Along The Watchtower” took a simple, two-and-a-half minute, acoustic guitar based folk song, and turned it into a fire-breathing dragon. Hendrix poured his entire being into his playing on this track, and it shows.

Fela Kuti—“Zombie” (1976)

Fela was a political activist, Pan-Africanist, and an incredible musician. He is regarded as the King of Afrobeat (a Nigerian genre that combines jazz and funk), and although his music may not sound like it, he was about as punk as they come.

“Zombie” is a criticism of the Nigerian military.

It infuriated the government so much that they raided and burned down his home, destroyed his instruments and the master tapes to his music, and threw his mother out of a window.

Kuti responded by delivering his mother’s coffin to General Olusegun Obasanjo’s home. Totally punk.

Bob Marley and The Wailers—“One Love/People Get Ready” (1977)

Interpolated from Curtis Mayfield’s “People Get Ready,” “One Love” was recorded by The Wailers all the way back in 1965.

It was then reworked from the original ska version to a reggae one in 1970 and finally given release in its most famous incarnation on 1977’s Exodus. “One Love” is one of Marley’s most popular songs, and for good reason.

You just can’t help but get up and dance to the feel-good reggae energy and lyrics that preach unity and peace. (Note: Rest in peace to Aston “Family Man” Barrett, original bassist of The Wailers, who passed away February 3rd, 2024.)

Little Richard—“Lucille” (1958)

Little Richard is the Godfather of Rock N’ Roll, ask any big rocker and that’s what you’ll hear. His over-the-top showmanship and powerful screaming vocals paved the way for generations of musicians to come.

“Lucille” is perhaps the best example of Richard’s style. An infectious riff, wild vocals, and a ripping sax solo make for an excellent Rock N’ Roll blueprint.

Nina Simone—“The Other Woman” (1959)

Nina Simone is a legend. “The Other Woman,” a classic tale of being cheated on and wondering what the “other woman” has that you don’t, has been covered by artists like Jeff Buckley and Lana Del Rey.

Its low-energy feel creates an atmosphere that can be best enjoyed crying in a dark room with many candles lit.

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