So who are several of the most influential powerful and iconic black musicians of all time then and now? Travel through our list to determine (in case your favorite artist makes the cut). Keep in mind that this list is not exhaustive nor is it in any order of preference. This is simply an acknowledgement of some of the artists who altered the history of music who we have to thank for some of the biggest artists today.

Muddy Waters

McKinley Morganfield – known professionally as Muddy Waters  was a vital figure in the blues scene. The American blues singer-songwriter, who grew up on Stovall Plantation in Clarksdale Mississippi, began playing the guitar and Harmonica by the age of 17.  He was initially recorded inthe Library of Congress in 1941. After moving to Chicago to be a full-time musician, he recorded his first records for Columbia and Aristocrat Records in 1946.

Travelling to England in 1958, he laid the foundations for the resurgence of blues in the country and was a crucial impact on many of the legendary British bands we know and simply adore today. The Rolling Stones named themselves after his 1950 song Rolling Stone. Led Zeppelin’s Whole Lotta Love is based mostly on the Muddy Waters hit You Need Love. Hoochie Coochie Man has had numerous covers to point out and anyone from Eric Clapton to Jimi Hendrix cite him as influences.


Bob Marley

Robert Nesta Marley (most known as Bob Marley) deemed to be one of the forerunners of reggae music. The Jamaican star – who fused components of the genre with Ska and Rocksteady stood out due to his mixture of the musical styles in addition to distinctive vocals and lyrics, that brought Jamaican music and culture  to the masses.

Starting his professional career in 1963 after forming The Wailers and Bob Marley, they went on to release their debut album The Wailing Wailers in 1965, featured the single One Love/People Get Ready. Other than being responsible of the enduring hits No Woman No Cry, Buffalo Soldier, Get Up Stand Up and The Sheriff was Shot by me.

In 1977, Marley was diagnosed with cancer and unfortunately died as a direct result of it in 1981, at the age of just 36. Nonetheless, he left a massive legacy behind – influencing a plethora of artists from across the musical spectrum.

Aretha Franklin

Aretha Franklin’s effect on the music industry can’t be comprehended. The Tennessee born and Detroit-Raised star who started off singing in the church choir, brought her special brand of soul to the masses. By the late 60s, songs including Respect, (You Make Me Feel Like) A natural Woman, Chain of Fools, Think and I Say a little Prayer secured her status as one of the most prominent singers in US history and earned her the distinction of the Queen of Soul. But she didn’t stop there.

Aretha used her voice and status and for activism and she went on to record and release critically acclaimed albums such as Young Gifted and Black (1972) and Amazing Grace  while becoming known worldwide for her breathtaking performances and collaborations. Aretha’s influence on soul and R&B singers can’t be matched and everyone from Beyonce, Amy Winehouse, to Adele whose Rolling in The Deep song she herself covered was greatly influenced by the icon.

If it wasn’t sufficient to have left such indelible mark on culture, Aretha lived through several of the most memorable moments in US history and also performed at both the inaugurations of President Bill Clinton and President Barack Obama. Her passing on August 16th, 2018 prompted a tidal wave of tributes from all over the globe culminated in one of the most fascinating funerals in music history.


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