20 Best Black-Created Songs that Everyone Should Listen To (Part 2)


Jordann Sadler ‘18, Perspectives Section Editor

1.     I Got you (I Feel Good)

This is a classic R&B (rhythm and blues), funky song from 1964 by the ultimate James Brown: The Godfather of Soul. From his album “Out of Sight,” this iconic song is accompanied by funky instrumentals. And as soon as the song comes on, all you hear is: WHOA! Not only was he a master at vocals but his dance moves would one day inspire many artists like Michael Jackson, Prince, and even Bruno Mars. If you can, find an old video of James Brown dancing and you’ll see why people glorify him. With songs like “Get Up Offa That Thing,” and “Papa’s Got A Brand New Bag,” he has won countless awards, including being induced into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and was ranked seventh on in the Rolling Stone’s 100 top greatest artists of all time.

2.     Feeling Good

From the 1965 album, “I Put A Spell on You,” Nina Simone yet again captures everyday feelings. It’s a simple song, yet is so strong, especially at the end when she scats as she does in many other of her songs. “Scatting” is when a person sings words or syllables to act as an instrument. When she scats it’s very powerful and holds meaning although she doesn’t say one tangible word. With other songs such as, “Four Women” (sampled by rapper Jay-Z in his song “The Story of O.J.”), “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood,” and “Sinnerman,” she is remembered for her soulful voice.

3.     R.E.S.P.E.C.T

Aretha Franklin stands today as the Queen of Soul and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. This R&B/Soul song from the 1967 album “I Never Loved A Man The Way I Love You,” was originally sung by Otis Redding in 1965, but was made famous by the Queen of Soul. She sings the iconic lyrics, “R-E-S-P-E-C-T/ Find out what it means to me/ R-E-S-P-E-C-T/ Take care, TCB” (TCB means “Taking Care of Business.”)

4.     Fox[e]y Lady

Another Jimi Hendrix song in 1967 from the album “Are You Experienced?” shows the more funkier side of the guitarist. The first cord is more like an earthquake then the song becomes a sweet, funky tune that a foxy lady surely would dance to. Hendrix and the Experience: the fierce group is an essential part of the psychedelic movement. Usually, Hendrix, Janis Joplin and John Lennon are put together when discussing the 60s-hippie movement

5.     Voodoo Child (Slight Return)

This Jimi Hendrix song 1968 appeared in the album “Live Isle of Wright ’70” and Voodoo Child (Slight Return) appeared on the album “Electric Ladyland.” Voodoo Chile and Voodoo Child (Slight Return) are different recordings/ different songs. Voodoo Chile is also longer than Voodoo Chile (Slight Return). Electric Ladyland is the third and last album of the Jimi Hendrix Experience band. I was torn to choose this over Purple Haze (1970).

6.     I Put A Spell on You

Released in 1965 by Nina Simone, she captures the listeners again with her soulful and powerful voice. Nina Simone along with other female soul, jazz and blues singer such as Etta James, Ella Fitzgerald, and Billie Holiday did not just sing, but they pour their emotions on stage.

7.     Lean on Me

Bill Withers’ 1972, classic soul hit from the album “Still Bill,” is one of those songs that everyone sings whether they know who made it or not. He was recently inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2015. “Lean on Me” is a lovely, catchy, and meaningful song.

8.     Three Little Birds

From Bob Marley’s 1977 album “Exodus,” this iconic song will leave you feeling slightly happier than before. It’s catchy and is one of Bob Marley’s top hits.

9.     One Love

Another song from the album “Exodus” created by Bob Marley including another reggae musician Peter Tosh. 

10.  Billie Jean

Also from the 1982 album “Thriller,” this next song brought light to the famous ‘Moonwalk’. Although Michael Jackson did not create the Moonwalk, he glorified it. Michael performed the moonwalk for the first time to “Billie Jean” at the 25th anniversary of Motown in 1983.  From being in the Jackson 5 since he was six years old, to his first solo album “Off The Wall,” to his death in 2009, Michael Jackson will be remembered as one of the greatest artists of all time. Usually, he is compared to Elvis and the Beatles, but in terms of advocating for African-American musicians—Michael is a very big deal. “Billie Jean” has won a Grammy Award for Best Male R&B Vocal Performance; a Grammy Award for Best R&B Song; a Juno Award for International Single of the Year; an American Music Award for Favorite Pop/Rock Single and others.

11.  Rhythm Nation

Rebbie, Jackie, Tito, Jermaine, LaToya, Marlon, Michael, Randy, and finally Janet. Janet Jackson has had many hit songs in her life “The Pleasure Principle,” “Escapade,” “Miss You Much,” “Control,” and many others. She recently came out with a new album “Unbreakable” (2015) which was a hit for old and new fans. In the 1989 album “Rhythm Nation 1814,” Janet Jackson sings this song to unite everyone. In the music video, she and her group dances exceptional choreography.

12.  I Will Always Love You

Originally by Dolly Parton in 1974, this iconic love song was sung by the R&B artist Whitney Houston from the soundtrack “The Bodyguard” (1992). Winning many awards and being a focal point of romance songs of the 90s, “I Will Always Love You” deserves a spot on this list.

13.  Maggot Brain

From the 1971 album “Maggot Brain” by the funk band Funkadelic, this song is a psychedelic, mystical, tear-jerking journey. Funk artist and producer of the album, George Clinton, supposedly told Eddie Hazel before the recording of “Maggot Brain” to play “like your momma had just died.” The ten-minute extended guitar solo by Eddie Hazel is mind-melting and mesmerizing, condensing the 60s and early 70s into ten-minutes of a crying guitar.

14.  They Don’t Really Care About Us

From Michael Jackson’s 1995 album, “HIStory: Past, Present and Future, Book I,” the song “They Don’t Really Care About Us” calls out injustice and hypocrisy, especially against people of color. The lyrics start: “Skin head, dead head/ Everybody gone bad/ Situation, aggravation/ Everybody allegation/ In the suite, on the news/ Everybody dog food/ Bang bang, shot dead/ Everybody’s gone mad”. 

15.  History

Also from the 1995 album “HIStory: Past, Present, Future, Book I,” is one of Michael’s lesser known, less appreciated songs: “History.” Similar to “They Don’t Really Care About Us,” Michael Jackson calls out injustice and says to everyone on the planet to make their history every day. The song contains quotes, speeches, and dates, from the song’s long 1 minute intro to the 1 minute 30 second outro, ending with Neil Armstrong’s famous quote “One step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”

16.  Fight the Power

From the 1990 album “Fear of a Black Planet” by Public Enemy, Chuck D, yet again, fights for African-American rights. With conscious rap, Public Enemy encourages people to “Fight the Power” and rise together. He begins the song with a quote from a 1967 speech by civil rights activist Thomas Todd.

17.  Changes

The second to last song on this list: “Changes” from Tu Pac’s “Greatest Hits” (recorded in 1992 and released in 1998, two years after Tu Pac’s death). This song featured the rapper Talent and referenced the war on drugs, police brutality against the black community, poverty, and difficulties in ‘the ghetto’.

18.  What About Your Friends

TLC: Tionne “T-Boz” Watkins, Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes and Rozonda “Chilli” Thomas. They are known for many hits including “Creep,” “Waterfalls,” “No Scrubs,” and “Unpretty.” They were very strong feminists often singing and rapping about female-empowerment. The group strongly believed in safe sex. They often wrapped condoms on their clothing: Lisa “Left Eye” wore a condom over her left eye in a pair of glasses. In their 1992 album “Ooooooohhh…On the TLC Tip” the contemporary R&B song “What About Your Friends” questioned what it meant to be famous.

19.  Purple Rain

Prince, also known as the Artist. It’s hard to put Prince in one single genre: Rock, R&B, Pop, Funk, New Wave, Psychedelia, and more. The world was struck when Prince died in April of 2016, but his music will never be forgotten. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. From the 1984 soundtrack “Purple Rain,” Prince and the Revolution sing this iconic, ballad-like song. Purple was Prince’s signature color, symbolizing royalty. On April 21, the sky bled purple.

20.  Children’s Story

From the 1988 album “The Great Adventures of Slick Rick,” the hip-hop/rap artist Slick Rick made “Children’s Story” to show what happens when a young person goes down the wrong path. He tells the story of the life of a young boy who made the wrong decisions.