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Which Black Artist Paved The Way

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After Jacko's much lamented demise this week, I became embroiled in a debate on another forum about which artist had really paved the way for other black artists to reach the great American public, .i.e. to dominate the pop charts and not just the race/r&b charts. I said that person would have have to be Sam Cooke, with Ray Charles in close second place. Admittedly, Jacko reached bigger audiences, especially with the advent of MTV and Global Media, but I think the honour goes to Sam Cooke. What do you's think?

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Guest Dave Turner

I'd go for Jackie Wilson, still got a very large fan base in the white non-soul community

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After Jacko's much lamented demise this week, I became embroiled in a debate on another forum about which artist had really paved the way for other black artists to reach the great American public, .i.e. to dominate the pop charts and not just the race/r&b charts. I said that person would have have to be Sam Cooke, with Ray Charles in close second place. Admittedly, Jacko reached bigger audiences, especially with the advent of MTV and Global Media, but I think the honour goes to Sam Cooke. What do you's think?

I'd have gone for Jelly Roll Morton, Nat King Cole, Ella Fitzgerald, Roy Hamilton, Sam Cook, Ray Charles, Clyde McPhatter and Jackie Wilson.

Kev

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After Jacko's much lamented demise this week, I became embroiled in a debate on another forum about which artist had really paved the way for other black artists to reach the great American public, .i.e. to dominate the pop charts and not just the race/r&b charts. I said that person would have have to be Sam Cooke, with Ray Charles in close second place. Admittedly, Jacko reached bigger audiences, especially with the advent of MTV and Global Media, but I think the honour goes to Sam Cooke. What do you's think?

I have to agree on Sam Cooke who had to fight opinions not only from the white audience but also the relegious black community opposed to his turning from his gospel roots to secular music.

Much as Michael Jackson was an icon his loss has severely warped peoples views of his impact in his early days. Motown was already massive before the J5 joined no matter how spectacular their impact. I'm not deminishing MJ's status just that his impact on white acceptance of black music is being somewhat overplayed.

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Guest Dave Turner

He weren't black, not unless he had the same affliction as Wacko whistling.gif

All those earlier artists who tried to cross the white/black divide certainly had some opposition

negros.jpg

Edited by Dave Turner

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laugh.gif Funny but not as daft as people may think

Elvis was as black as the ace of spades, don't forget most heard him on radio first.

He was from the wrong side of the tracks, poor white trash?

There is a very rare early recording done at Sun where Elvis and three other up and coming artists "Jammed" together and the songs they all sang where black church songs.

Elvis was the first Soulie, he was just magnificent then the money machine took him from us.

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Guest Dave Turner

Gotta agree with you there. To my mind one of the very few whites who I'd call a SOUL singer, especially his later stuff.

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It's an old (but good), question and one that will inevitably throw up many significant names. Many of the Jazz greats and the blues legends certainly spring to mind initially. But the question of

'which artist had really paved the way for other black artists to reach the great American public?'

leads to only one real answer. Up until Berry Gordy many artists were successful but most were in their own 'communities'or 'genres'. Sure, Sam Cooke was popular on both sides of America's racial divide but it was Gordy who OWNED the first businesses that transcended that divide. May seem surprising that it was as late as the late 50s before any black musical monatary muscle was finally flexed but there you have it. Mr Berry Gordy Jr. Not only a pioneer in musical terms but a beacon of an example for literally thousands of other artists both at the time and ever since. There are some fantastic people who have achieved many things in soul music but success breeds success, and competition, so without the breakthroughs made at West Grand Boulevard it would have been much harder for the people who followed. The key phrase in the question, for me anyways, wasn't so much 'who paved the way' but rather 'the great American public'. From literally nothing, to the countries biggest black owned business, in one decade. BG gets my vote.

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On November 5, 1956, The Nat King Cole Show debuted on NBC-TV.

The Cole program was the first of its kind hosted by an African-American, which created a cause celebre at the time.

The programme apparently struggled to attract advertisers.

But it certainly puts Nat Cole somewhere near the top of the tree as regards the breakdown of racial barriers.

MB

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Louis Armstrong

Spot on, as usual. mate.

Satchmo was touring the world in the early 1930s. He headlined at the London Palladium in something like 1933. I doubt that there were many black people in attendance, besides those on the stage...

If that's not paving the way, then nothing is.

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Arthur Alexander -Big Maybelle-Big Mama Thornton-All the black guys that were signed to sun and the succesful late fifties black gospel singers that i am starting to find out about .

I love all that birth of soul stuff ! ! !

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Which Black Artist Paved the Way?

Excellent question and one that has no easy answer because I truly believe that we will never know the unknown singers and musicians of black America who inspired the first pioneers, and they where pioneers, to cut records such as Sun Records.

I don't think we can have an answer without appreciating and trying to understand black America prior to the civil rights movement that precluded black artists from the mainstream radio.

Sam Phillips of Sun Records took a great leap of faith and needed some courage to sign his new stable of Americana, and let's face it the white artists where singing black because black artists could not cross the tracks at this time.

My heroes are those nameless black musicians who adapted the music of slavery and fused with white trash church musicians to form the Blues, RnB, Gospel, Rock n Roll and Soul we love so much.

If I was pressed to say who I thought was the most inspirational black American artist then I would have to go along with the crowd and say Richard Wayne Penniman - Little Richard.

He was possibly the most courageous trail blazer ever, a real Punk Rocker of his day with out him we would not have had the Beatles, the stones, The Who, and Punk.

He was a transvestite bisexual who wore make up and lip stick on stage, his sexually charged lyrics would have seen him instantly banned if the main stream could ever guess the true meanings, Tutti Frutti was the word for anal sex! To even think of a black man singing about sex in those days would have seen a lynching.

Black musicians where pretty much the product of the studio until The Black Panther movement and I think possibly Marvin Gaye was the first really free artist? He was certainly frustrated as he wanted to change the music from the Motown recipe before Black Power. Stubborn Kind Of Fellow - Marvin Gaye 1962?

Sammy Davis was in chains and accused of being a Uncle Tom watermelon as was so many of the black artists at the time so I am going to go with

Little Richard

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WC Handy played Carnagie Hall in the late 20's (and I think was involved in Hollwood film scores during the same period) so must be included on the list ?

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You didn't say specifically Soul - so I think Paul Robeson must be somewhere near the top of the list.

MB

...absolutely.

You would also have to include Duke Ellington in any such list. Which I personally think can only consist of people who were the conduit through which everything that followed, er, followed.

There's no doubting that people who've been cited such as Sam Cooke, Jackie Wilson and Little Richard are truly fine entertainers, nor is there any doubt that they all contributed significantly in their own way to the eventual mass acceptance of African-American music in all its forms.

But not one of them paved the way for anything in the way that Robeson, Armstrong and Ellington and a few select others did.

They followed in some pretty formidable footsteps, though...

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Guest sarahleen

You didn't say specifically Soul - so I think Paul Robeson must be somewhere near the top of the list.

MB

yes and especially in this country too

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Guest Dave Turner

You're all way out.

I vote these guys -

:thumbup:

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Guest

You're all way out.

I vote these guys -

:thumbup:

Dave , you are a soft chuff : I nearly fell off me chair laughing .......

In respect of the first major female Black American singer , it has to be Bessie Smith .

Malc Burton

Edited by Malc Burton

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Guest Dave Turner

Dave , you are a soft chuff : I nearly fell off me chair laughing .......

In respect of the first major female Black American singer , it has to be Bessie Smith .

Malc Burton

Hiya Malc,

Could even be this guy and his band ----

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gb8AakNz2go

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Spot on, as usual. mate.

Satchmo was touring the world in the early 1930s. He headlined at the London Palladium in something like 1933. I doubt that there were many black people in attendance, besides those on the stage...

If that's not paving the way, then nothing is.

Absolutely - his influence was massive - not only re-invented the sound of the trumpet but singing also - it was all very 'proper' before him.

Mike

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Louis Jordan was probably one of the first post war artists that crossed over due to the mixing of black American GIs with their white counterparts , at the beginning of Rock & Roll... everything before the second world war was classed as race music...

....then again there's that black herald on the Bayeux tapestry

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Can somebody help me out here,but in The U.K or it could have been in The U.S. that at one time black artists were not allowed to be on album covers.....Or maybe l've got that completely and wrong...Tony and Pete over to you lads!!

No, you're right up to a point, although it wasn't really so much 'not allowed' but more like a precautionary measure. Record shops in the segregated American South were, of course, less likely to display, in their shop windows, any album sleeves with black faces on the cover that they would be any with something a little, shall we say, 'less dark'.

I don't think there was a hard and fast rule about it - after for example, Bobby Bland's albums all have Bobby on the cover, as do Wilson Pickett's have his image on them. And of course just about every Motown album has a pic of the artist on the cover.

But there are a significant number of albums - on Atlantic in particular - where the image of the artist is on the back and something more abstract like a drawing, or a gorgeous white woman, is shown on the front. Otis Redding's "The Soul Album", Solomon Burke's first couple of Atlantic albums and Percy Sledge's "When A Man Loves A Woman" immediately come to mind.

They can only have done this in an attempt to get more impact sales in racially sensitive areas.

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But there are a significant number of albums - on Atlantic in particular - where the image of the artist is on the back and something more abstract like a drawing, or a gorgeous white woman, is shown on the front. Otis Redding's "The Soul Album", Solomon Burke's first couple of Atlantic albums and Percy Sledge's "When A Man Loves A Woman" immediately come to mind.

Whilst there's a lot of racism involved, I think there's a wee bit of age/weightism... how were Motown to market the 'Sound of Young America' to teens, when the Isley Bros looked positively fat and middle aged... simple, stick out the "This Old Heart Of Mine" with a picture of a young couple cavorting on the beach on the cover.

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Whilst there's a lot of racism involved, I think there's a wee bit of age/weightism... how were Motown to market the 'Sound of Young America' to teens, when the Isley Bros looked positively fat and middle aged... simple, stick out the "This Old Heart Of Mine" with a picture of a young couple cavorting on the beach on the cover.

That's probably true, to some extent. But let's face it, Bobby Bland was hardly the poster boy for Weightwatchers, and he's on the cover of all his Duke albums. Maybe Don Robey just thought "well, white people in the south are not going to buy these anyway, whatever we put on the cover..."

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Can somebody help me out here,but in The U.K or it could have been in The U.S. that at one time black artists were not allowed to be on album covers.....Or maybe l've got that completely and wrong...Tony and Pete over to you lads!!

A good number of those iconic Blue Note jazz L.P.'s from the 50's and 60's had the artists portrayed on the sleeves.

So definitely not a hard and fast rule.

MB

Edited by MBarrett

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After Jacko's much lamented demise this week, I became embroiled in a debate on another forum about which artist had really paved the way for other black artists to reach the great American public, .i.e. to dominate the pop charts and not just the race/r&b charts. I said that person would have have to be Sam Cooke, with Ray Charles in close second place. Admittedly, Jacko reached bigger audiences, especially with the advent of MTV and Global Media, but I think the honour goes to Sam Cooke. What do you's think?

Al Jolson :ph34r:

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Sam cooke and Jackie Wilson sping to mind for me and The Driffters who did cross over and had lots of fans

Michael Jackson was also first black artist to feature on MTV

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Great replies chaps. My sister often tells me of an incident at our aunt's house. My mother, like many of our mums in the 60's, would mail-order stuff from Freemans. Sometimes we got to order records, so one day, my sister went up to my aunt's place to collect the Otis Redding LP mentioned by Tony. My aunt and her neighbour Ivy were having their elevenses and were cooing over the cover, with that gorgeous black lady on the front. You can imagine my sister's reaction when Ivy commented on how lovely 'that Otis chap' was... 'for one of them'. My sis' nearly wet herself laughing. Racism indeed runs deep. I doubt if old Ivy ever considered herself racist in any way. This comment is not intended to be a can of worms, by the way. :thumbsup:

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Michael Jackson was also first black artist to feature on MTV

That's only because he was at his peak when MTV first started. I doubt that he would have been the first if MTV had started 10 years earlier. Somebody always has to be the first. Doesn't make him a 'way paver' in my book.

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Pete has definitely got it right - Louis Armstrong was the first black artist who really became popular with the white audience (something which was unheard of in 1920s America). He developed a unique style of cornet playing and 'invented' scat singing when he forgot the words to the song he was singing.

Paul Robeson was from around the same period and took the 'negro spiritual' to the white audience. Bessie Smith was certainly one of the first to popularise the Blues but neither of them had the same universal appeal as Armstrong.

Although not an influential artist that the question poses, Berry Gordy's importance as a black businessman is immense. Without him it is doubtful whether black music would have reached such a wide audience creating a sound that had universal popular appeal. Just about everyone has heard of Motown but how many have heard of the smaller labels?

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With reference to Al Jolson,

I grew up listening to him my dad was a Jolson fanatic,Still have a few Jolson albums left by my dad,

Dad said to me years ago that Al blacked up to let the mass audience listen to black music,As it was not the norm for this type of music to be heard in the mainly white oriented white,clubs / radio stations of that era,

So not a coloured artist,I believe he was a promoter of music from a black origin,

Maybe wrong,But only my personal opinion.

Grant

ps If my dad said it then so it is

Rip dad

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Mention should also be made in this thread of Scott Joplin whose 'ragtime' music was probably the first example of a black musician's work crossing over to a mass white audience (and getting ripped off royally into the bargain).

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Pete has definitely got it right - Louis Armstrong was the first black artist who really became popular with the white audience (something which was unheard of in 1920s America). He developed a unique style of cornet playing and 'invented' scat singing when he forgot the words to the song he was singing.

Paul Robeson was from around the same period and took the 'negro spiritual' to the white audience. Bessie Smith was certainly one of the first to popularise the Blues but neither of them had the same universal appeal as Armstrong.

Although not an influential artist that the question poses, Berry Gordy's importance as a black businessman is immense. Without him it is doubtful whether black music would have reached such a wide audience creating a sound that had universal popular appeal. Just about everyone has heard of Motown but how many have heard of the smaller labels?

Nat King Cole also was very popular in his day

Steve A.

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Robeson was hugely unpopular and had to leave the U.S. and toured Europe, I've always been fond of the Inkspots they were succesful but not sure they were grounbreaking.My vote would go to Berry Gordy.

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He weren't black, not unless he had the same affliction as Wacko whistling

All those earlier artists who tried to cross the white/black divide certainly had some opposition

negros.jpg

Frightenning :ohmy:

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First black faced man i related to music was Casey Jones.....whistling.gif a steamin and a rollin casey jones.....hurtlin down the trackwhistling.gif Does that count!mellow.gif

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BERT WILLIAMS.....I AIN'T DONE NOTHING TO NOBODY.... I AIN'T DONE NOTHING TO HURT NOBODY NO TIME, ABSOLUTE CLASSIC.

BRI PINCH.

CROFTON COMMUNITY CENTRE, 24TH JULY,

SUNDAY CHILLOUT, 16TH AUGUST, HORSE AND GROOM PUB, EAST LAITH GATE, DONCASTER.

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Arthur Alexander -Big Maybelle-Big Mama Thornton-All the black guys that were signed to sun and the succesful late fifties black gospel singers that i am starting to find out about .

I love all that birth of soul stuff ! ! !

Me too Mate, Here's a couple from YouTube, Just in case you haven't seen them.

Big Mamma Thornton - Hound Dog

Down Home Shakedown

http://www.youtube.c...h?v=JhyjFfZTGHk

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I suppose Jimi Hendrix had the way paved for him by those already mentioned but was he not a 'way paver' himself in that he become massive and acceptable in a style of music that was 'white orientated'.

Personlly I can't stand that type of music, never could, but I suspect he deserves a mention in this thread.

KTF.

Drew.

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