African-American music has influenced modern artists and songs quite heavily, but the music itself has developed immensely over the years. Every century has seen innovative genres come to life, and you’ll see that African American musicians have contributed tremendously in this. With the prevalence of slavery and the Second Great Awakening, African Americans created spirituals and work songs to ease their pains and sufferings they felt working under the control of white masters.
The music changed tremendously again after the Civil War with a lot of foreign and popular influence. Many genres and styles were developed from the lower-class occupations African-Americans were allowed to have at the time. Barbershop quartets were a popular genre that developed as African-American men worked tirelessly throughout the day in barbershops. White singers adopted this harmonious style and changed it for the public.
Jazz, ragtime, and blues become quite popular at the beginning of the 20th century. However, these genres were called “race music” by the white majority public, which led Billboard to create a separate African-American music list in 1942. Even when these songs were played for the white public, they were heavily adapted. This change to accommodate the white audiences led to swing and pop jazz.
Rock and roll was the product of rhythm and blues, but ended up getting popularized by white musicians who had commercial appeal. This genre was also adapted, which led to a country music and rock and roll mixture that people called rockabilly.
Doo Wop developed in the 1950s, which incorporated group harmonies, nonsensical syllables, simple lyrics, and barely any instruments. Unfortunately, British pop music gained so much popularity that most African-American artists were pushed off U.S. charts. There were, however, many Motown, soul, and funk artists that maintained their prosperity.
As the 1960s sprouted psychedelic music, African-American musicians followed. A lot of psychedelic soul crossovers were developed during this time. Funk really took off in the 1970s, which then led to disco. These two genres were quite melodic in nature, which was an important criteria for mainstream music at the time. Still, as a whole, African-American artists failed to truly achieve success among white audiences. Near the end of the 1970s, hip-hop arose. This led to DJs and MCs who were quite popular among young African Americans.
The end of the 20th century created a lot of awareness of African-American artists. This time period was home to Michael Jackson, Lionel Richie, Prince, Whitney Houston, Tina Turner, etc. Rap and hip-hop artists also achieved quite some fame; including Cypress Hill, LL Cool J, Salt-N-Peppa, Snoop Dogg, Dr. Dre, Wu-tang Clan, Tupac Shakur, Notorious B.I.G., etc. Many of these artists used music to bring about more social awareness among young African-Americans at the time. Other famous black musicians.
After long periods of soul, funk, hip-hop, and rap; African-American artists began reaching fame in the once white-dominated rock genre again near the end of the 1980s. These musicians included Lenny Kravitz, Ben Harper, etc.
As you can see, African-American music has always had an impact on the U.S. music industry. Much of this development has been affected by the social issues and situations of those times, but the influence the music had has always been quite impactful. Today, it’s obvious for people to see how all genres of music have been touched by African-American music. It will continue to do so, and music will keep changing and developing as a result.