Dean College

  • Black History Month: Music

    Ella Fitzgerald 2018

    Each week in February, we'll celebrate the historical achievements and impacts that prominent African-American figures have made in a variety of industries.

    Read on for this week's feature on the music industry!

    Ella Fitzgerald, also known as “The First Lady of Song,” was the most popular female jazz singer in the United States due to her purity of tone, flexible, wide-ranging voice, and improvisational ability. Ella attracted a wide variety of an audience that included all races, religions and nationalities. During her lifetime, Ella was the first African-American to win a Grammy, went on to win a total of 13 Grammy awards and sold over 40 million albums. Ms. Fitzgerald was also the recipient of the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1967 and in 1987 was awarded the National Medal of Arts by President Ronald Reagan.

    Stevie Wonder is one of the most talented and creative singer-songwriters of the late 20th century. With hit songs such as Isn’t She Lovely, Superstition, and I Just Called to Say I Love You, Stevie Wonder has won many awards in his lifetime including 25 Grammys, 3 of which are for the highest honor, Album of the Year. Additionally, the Grammys has honored Wonder with a Lifetime Achievement Award. Wonder has also been acknowledged for Best Song at the Oscars, Best Original Song at the Golden Globes, and was even nominated for an Emmy. Wonder has made more than just musical achievements. After putting his music career on hold for 3 years, Wonder successfully led rallies and lobbied to make Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s birthday a national holiday. In 2014, President Barack Obama presented Wonder with the highest honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom Award.

    Beyoncé Knowles-Carter is one of the most popular singers in modern pop history. Rising to fame in the 1990s as the lead singer of Destiny’s Child, Beyoncé eventually pursued a solo career in the early 2000s. She was immediately successful with her debut album, Dangerously in Love, which sold millions of copies and won five Grammy awards. From there, Beyoncé only continued to thrive by releasing award winning albums that all debuted as No.1 on the Billboard Top 200 list, making her the first artist ever to top the list with her first six albums. But Beyoncé has done much more than just break records with her music, she’s created powerful anthems that advocate for female empowerment and black rights with songs such as Run the World (Girls), ***Flawless, If I Were a Boy, Formation, and Freedom.

    Michael Jackson or also known as “The King of Pop,” is one of the most well-known singer-songwriters of all time. Jackson started off his career at the young age of 5 as the lead singer of the popular Motown group, Jackson 5. During his time with the Jackson 5, Michael and his siblings broke numerous records including the first group to debut with four consecutive number one hits on the Hot 100. In 1970, Michael launched his solo career where he quickly found worldwide success with hit songs such as Billie Jean, Thriller, Beat It, Man in the Mirror, and Smooth Criminal. Jackson became a global icon and broke many records during his career. Jackson was the first African-American global pop icon, and the first black artist to be played on MTV which paved the way for the next generation of black musicians such as Ne-Yo and Kanye West.

    Check back on the Dean College Blog webpage for more stories!

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