To celebrate Black History Month, we have put together a list of the top 12 most-influential Black musicians of all time.  Ones who have paved the way for artists today.


Michael Jackson (1958 – 2009)

At the age of five, Michael Jackson became the lead singer of the Jackson 5, and landed his first No.1 record at 11 years old.  By 1971, Michael became a solo artist, and released his debut-solo album, Off the Wall (1979).  In 1983 during a live performance of ‘Billie Jean’ (a single off the album Thriller (1982)), Michael introduced the world to his signature move, ‘The Moonwalk.’  Michael is also known as the ‘most philanthropic pop star in history,’


The top 10 achievements that made Michael the ‘King of Pop.’

  • The Jackson 5 became the first group in pop history to have four No.1 singles.
  • His album Thriller (1982) was inducted into the GRAMMY Hall of Fame in 2008.  Thriller is Michael’s most successful album to date.  It produced seven Top 10 singles, sold 29 million copies, and is the best-selling album of all time.
  • He’s the man behind ‘The Moonwalk.’
  • Michael once won 8 Grammys in one night (1984), becoming the first artist to accomplish this.  Overall, Michael won 11 Grammys in the ’80s.
  • Michael became the first celebrity to have two stars in the same category on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
  • In 1988, Michael made a solo Grammy stage debut, marking his performance as one of the greatest Grammy performances of all time.
  • In 1993, Michael was awarded the GRAMMY Legend Award – only 15 musicians have earned this honour, Michael is the 10th.
  • Michael has been inducted twice into the Rock and Roll Fall of Fame – the first in 1997 as part of the Jackson 5, and the second in 2001 as a solo artist.
  • In 2009, the week following his tragic death, Michael became the first artist to sell more than 1 million digital tracks in a single week.
  • By 2014, Michael became the first artist in history to have a Top 10 hit on the Billboard Hot 100 in five different decades.



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Prince (1958 – 2016)

Born Prince Rogers Nelson on June 7, 1958, Prince dominated the the 80s and early 90s.  Throughout his career, Prince had ten platinum album, thirty Top 40 singles, and was known for his iconic look and bold stage presence.  Prince played the majority of his instruments, produced most of his music and because of his hands-on approach, he managed to give creative power back to artists.



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Whitney Houston (1963 – 2012)

Named the ‘most awarded female artist of all time’ by Guinness World Records, and becoming of the best-selling recording artists of all time, Whitney Houston was a force to be reckoned with.  Throughout her career, Whitney sold over 200 million records worldwide, won six Grammys, one Emmy, was the first artist to have seven consecutive No.1 hits, and became the first woman to enter the Billboard 200 chart at No.1 with her album, Whitney (1987).



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Stevie Wonder

Blinded shortly after his birth, Stevie Wonder is one of the most influential singer-songwriters of our generation.  Signed to Motown records at the age of 11, Steve has had 10 U.S. No.1 hits, 20 R&B No.1 hits, has sold over 100 million records worldwide, and is one of the top 60 best-selling music artists in the world.



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Ray Charles (1930 – 2004)

Have you ever wondered where term ‘Soul’ came from? The answer is easy – Ray Charles! In the 1950s, Ray fused the likes of gospel, country, and R&B together, and eventually formed the soul music genre.  Ray is known for hits like ‘Unchain My Heart,’ ‘Hit the Road Jack,’ and ‘Georgia on My Mind.’  At a very young age, Ray lost his eyesight, but he never allowed his blindness to slow him down.  Throughout his career, Ray won 17 Grammys, wrote dozens of songs, and was named No.10 on Rolling Stone’s ‘100Greatest Artists of All Time list’ in 2002.



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Aretha Franklin (1942 – 2018)

Aretha Franklin aka the ‘Queen of Soul.’  The singer behind ‘Respect,’ ‘Chain of Fools,’ and ‘I Say A Little Prayer,’ Aretha is known for her powerful, energetic voice.  Aretha was in the music business for nearly 60 years and to this day, remains a true icon and inspiration for many.



Louis Armstrong (1901 – 1971)

Introduced to a cornet at a very young age, Louis Armstrong grew up on the streets of New Orleans, heavily influenced by the sounds of jazz.  Louis was responsible for scat singing, and in the 1930s, became the first African-American musician to host a national radio broadcast and to tour Europe.  To this day, Louis is one of the most influential artists in jazz history.




James Brown (1933 – 2006)

James Brown, referred to as the ‘Godfather of Soul’ and the ‘Hardest-working man in show business,’ was one of the most influential entertainers in the 20th-century.  James, who was part of the music industry for over 50 years, was a singer, songwriter, dancer, musician, record producer and bandleader, and known for hits such as ‘Sex Machine’ and ‘Get Up Offa That Thing.’



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Tina Turner

Born Anna Mae Bullock, Tina Turner rose to fame in the 1960s.  By the late 1950s, she would become the lead singer of the Kings of Rhythm alongside her then-husband, Ike Turner.  Tina embarked on a solo career in the late 70s after divorcing Ike in 1978.  Her debut-solo album, Private Dancer (1984) won three Grammys and sold more than 20 million copies worldwide.  ‘What’s Love Got to Do with It’ (1984) is Tina’s signature song.



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Ella Fitzgerald (1917 – 1996)

Ella, who was often referred to as ‘First Lady of Song’ or the ‘Queen of Jazz,’ rose to fame as a jazz singer in the 1930s, and paved the way for future generations of Black singers.




Billie Holiday (1915 – 1959)

Billie Holiday was born as Eleanora Fagan, and began her singing career singing in Harlem nightclubs.  Soon after, Billie was signed a recording contract, becoming one of the most influential jazz singers, known for her technique of singing tempos and phrases.




Jimi Hendrix (1942 – 1970)

Dubbed the ‘greatest guitarist of all time,’ Jimi Hendrix’s career was short-lived, passing away at the age of 27.  He left behind a powerful legacy, one that put the electric guitar on the map and forever changed the world of music.



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Filed under: Black History Month