June is known as Black Music Month, put into effect by President Jimmy Carter in 1979. President Barack Obama now recognizes it as African-American Music Appreciation Month. You may see a few icons’ faces before your news goes to commercial, or you may hear some songs you haven’t heard for years come on the radio. I didn’t learn about Black Music Month until I got to high school, when our Black Student Union held dances to celebrate it. It’s not as recognized as, say, Black History Month.
I may only be 21 but I’m an old soul, especially when it comes to music. I was lucky enough to grow up on legends like the Isley Brothers, Al Green, Marvin Gaye, Chaka Khan, Aretha Franklin, Frankie Beverly & Maze, and the list can go on. I once bet my dad that I could tell him when The Commodores came out with their song Zoom and I won. I often feel like I was born in the wrong era because I appreciate “oldies” more than today’s “music”.
I hear a lot of people say that this generation of kids are doomed musically. We’re in a music world without Michael Jackson and Luther Vandross. Who do they have to really listen to? Trey Songz? Rihanna? Mindless Behavior? I love Beyonce just as much as the next person, and there’s no doubt Jennifer Hudson has some chops on her, but we’ve already proved that nobody can sang like Whitney.
Here’s some ways you can celebrate Black Music Month with your kids:
- Switch iPods for a day: If you and your child have an iPod, switch for a day and explore each others’ musical taste. Keep an open mind; there may be some good songs on there. The other night, my mom played some Prince songs I had never heard of, and I hipped her to a few of my favorite Anthony Hamilton tracks.
- Watch old Soul Train videos: We lost Don Cornelious in Black History Month. What better way to celebrate his memory than watching old Soul Train videos? Sure, the kids may laugh at the fashion and certainly the dances, but it was a huge part of black music culture. I watched with my mom and we found one of her classmates!
- Go to a concert: Some of the legends are still going strong and performing live in concert. You can find some great seats for great prices, and hip your kids to what real music sounds like with a band instead of just a DJ and some speakers.
- Guess that sample: I’ll never forget when Snoop Dogg’s song Thrills came on, and my mom recited “looking at the ladies, all of them fly, I don’t know which one I want, I can’t make up my mind.” I asked her how she knew that because the song was new. She laughed and schooled me on the Gap Band’s version. Play some “new” songs that your kids would recognize and then play them the song the artist sampled. Kanye’s always a good place to start.
- Watch Unsung: What I love about the docuseries Unsung is that it profiles artists from the 70s, 80s, and 90s. This year, they profiled Sheila E., Atlantic Starr and Bobby Womack to name a few. You can really blow their hair back with The O’Jays or see how much they really know about Big Daddy Kane.
These are just a few ideas. Black music is part of our culture, and it’s so much more than R&B, soul, and hip-hop. Have your kids research other music genres like jazz and gospel. Encourage them to learn an instrument. Keep black music alive by passing it along to your kids.
BMWK family, what are top 5 songs of all time?