African American Music History Timeline


1700s Slave trade brings West African rhythms, chants and song structures to America, which leads to the advent of blues, jazz and negro spirituals.
1831 Popular circus clown Dan Rice blackens his face to perform “negro songs” for a variety show in New York’s Bowery district and sets off the minstrelsy craze.
1851 Stephen Foster writes Old Folks At Home, based on an Ethiopian melody.
1877 First practical phonograph invented.
1896 Scott Joplin, James Scott and Joseph Lamb bring West Indian rhythms to European progressions to create a uniquely American popular music form called ragtime.
1897 Buddy Bolden organizes first band in New Orleans to play instrumental blues.
1900 The Spanish, French, blues and ragtime music all the rage on Mississippi river boats moves into New Orleans brothels and honkytonk bars, where it later becomes known as jazz.
1902 Teenaged sporting house pianist Jelly Roll Morton claims to be the first to play this so-called jazz music.
1912 Bandleader and composer William Christopher Handy writes and publishes Memphis Blues, giving rise to the classic blues era.
1916 Charles Albert Tindley becomes the first published black gospel composer with the release of New Songs Of Paradise, a songbook of 37 gospel hymns.
1917 The era of jazz recording is launched in New York with Livery Stable Blues, by the Original Dixieland Jazz Band.
1919 New Orleans trumpeter Louis Armstrong and Jelly Roll Morton make Chicago the new capital of jazz music.
1920 Prohibition. Jazz and blues music flourishes in speakeasys everywhere.

Marnie Smith’s recording of Crazy Blues becomes the first “race” record to sell over 250,000 copies.

1922 Jazz pianist/composer Duke Ellington forms the Duke Ellington Orchestra in New York.
1923 Bessie Smith’s first song, Down Hearted Blues, is an instant hit, and Smith becomes “Queen of the Blues.”
1924 George Gershwin composes symphonic jazz piece Rhapsody In Blue, leading jazz out of the clubs and into concert halls for the first time.
1925 WSM Barn Dance begins Saturday radio broadcasts of country and western music. Program becomes known as Grand Ole Opry. Lovesick Blues recorded by minstrel singer Emmett Miller, inspiring Hank Williams, Jimmie Rodgers and Merle Haggard. The 78 rpm record becomes the industry standard.
1927 LOUIS ARMSTRONG brings new relevance to the role of the soloist in jazz with his Hot Fives and Sevens.
1928 Victor label holds first recording session in Nashville, featuring black Opry star DeFord Bailey, but only half of his songs are released and he’s short-changed on royalties.
1929 Stock market crash brings on the Great Depression.
1930 First commercially available “long-playing” records are introduced by Victor but don’t catch on due to lack of affordable playback units. Columbia has more success with its microgroove LPs in 1948.
1931 The dramatic improvement in ROBERT JOHNSON’s guitar playing is attributed by fellow Mississippi bluesmen to a deal with the devil.
1932 Duke Ellington’s It Don�t Mean A Thing If It Ain�t Got That Swing kicks off the swing era.

Blues pianist/composer Thomas A. Dorsey writes Take My Hand, Precious Lord and embarks on a new career as the “father of gospel music.”

1933 Columbia Records impresario John Hammond discovers BILLIE HOLIDAY at Monette�s in New York.
1936 Electric guitars debut.
1938 Sister Rosetta Tharpe takes gospel out of the church and brings the spirit to secular music venues like New York’s Cotton Club and Cafe Society. Saxophonist Louis Jordan leaves Chick Webb’s orchestra to start his own jump band, the Tympany Five, whose sound is a precursor of rock ‘n’ roll.
1939 Saxophonist Charlie Parker, while jamming on Cherokee, hits on a new method of soloing by building on the chords’ extended intervals, starting the bebop movement.

Charlie Christian brings the electric guitar to new prominence while sitting in with Benny Goodman.

Oscar Peterson wins CBC amateur contest at 14 and gets a regular 15-minute gig playing live on the air.

1941 Travelling folkloricist Alan Lomax records MUDDY WATERS on Stovall’s Plantation in Mississippi.

Saxophonist Lester Young gives beat generation writer Jack Kerouac his first joint.

1949 First 45 rpm 7-inch singles appear in the U.S.
1951 Cleveland disc jockey Alan Freed uses the term “rock ‘n’ roll� to help sell the black rhythm and blues music he’s playing for a white audience. Ike Turner’s Kings of Rhythm cut Rocket 88, generally considered the first rock ‘n’ roll record.

Bill Haley records a cover of Rocket 88 three months later.

Richard cops Turner’s piano intro to Rocket 88 note for note for his own Good Golly Miss Molly.

1952 Phil and Leonard Chess lets recent signee Muddy Waters go into the studio with his own band and they create an electrifying new urban blues sound.
1954 Bill Haley and the Comets start scoring million selling hits by whitening up already popular R&B tunes like Big Joe Turner’s Shake, Rattle And Roll. Pat Boone takes note.

Elvis Presley records a version of Arthur “Big Boy” Crudup’s That’s All Right Mama as his debut single for Sun Records. The style of rhythmically propulsive hillbilly holler catches on quickly with the kids.

1955 Chuck Berry secures a recording deal with Chess by performing a cover of Bob Wills�s western swing classic Ida Red, which he soon transforms into the number-one chart hit Maybellene.

Sun Ra and Cecil Taylor make their first recordings as bandleaders.

1957 Entrepreneurial R&B crooner Sam Cooke lays the foundation for the 60s soul boom by using the proceeds of his hit song You Send Me to start his own label, publishing imprint and management firm.

CHARLES MINGUS records The Clown and East Coasting. Norman Mailer publishes The White Negro.

1958 Modern amplified rhythm and blues is introduced to England by Chuck Berry on a UK tour. A teenaged Keith Richards is listening.
1959 Former Detroit assembly line worker Berry Gordy Jr. founds the Motown label and begins mass-marketing black popular music with help from the Miracles, Mabel John, Andre Williams and Marvin Gaye.

Ornette Coleman records Tomorrow Is The Question, Change Of The Century and the presciently titled The Shape Of Jazz To Come, setting the stage for the era of free jazz.

1960 Tired of playing sideman, John Coltrane forms a quartet of his own and touches off the new thing movement.
1963 The Beatles and the Rolling Stones take over the UK charts by playing in the style of their favourite American R&B and blues artists.
1966 ARETHA FRANKLIN can’t buy a hit until Jerry Wexler records her accompanying herself on piano.
1967 Jimi Hendrix Experience blows minds of musicians on both sides of the Atlantic with Are You Experienced?
1970 The Last Poets release their self-titled debut, featuring a confrontational mix of shouted poetry and jazz drumming that presaged rap music. Black Spades gang leader Kahyan Aasim, aka Afrika Bambaataa, begins to DJ parties mixing a wide assortment of musical styles.

David Mancuso begins “invitation only” parties in New York, later known as The Loft. Creates concept of DJ record pool laying groundwork for disco boom.

1971 Isaac Hayes composes, arranges, produces and records the symphonic soul soundtrack to Shaft, which becomes number-one pop album and wins him an Oscar.

Marvin Gaye’s socially conscious concept album What’s Going On proves a huge seller despite Berry Gordy Jr.’s doubts.

1972 Not to be outdone, Curtis Mayfield creates the Superfly soundtrack, a number-one pop and R&B chart smash.
1973 Jamaican �migr� Clive “Kool Herc” Campbell applies his knowledge of Kingston soundsystems to rock block parties in the South Bronx, using two turntables to extend the length of beat-heavy “break” sections of soul and funk records.
1974 Inspired by Jamaican toasting, the concept of emceeing begins with shouts of “to the beat, y’all!”
1975 Coke La Rock and Clark Kent form the first emcee duo, giving Run and DMC an alternative to pizza delivery.
1976 Disco flourishes. Larry Levan starts spinning at New York’s Paradise Garage bringing new prominence to the DJ as artist.
1977 Frankie Knuckles gives up textile design studies to take DJ gig at Chicago’s Warehouse club. Thumping drum machine-based music he plays becomes known as house.
1979 The Sugar Hill Gang’s Rapper’s Delight becomes the first commercial rap hit. The Fatback Band’s release of the rap song King Tim III creates controversy over the “first rap record” for decades to come.
1980 Blondie releases Rapture, which despite Debbie Harry’s corny rhymes, introduces rap to a whole new audience.
1981 Arrival of MTV music video station puts new emphasis on the visual presentation of music.

Juan Atkins releases electronic dance single Alleys Of Your Mind under the name Cybertron copped from Alvin Toffler’s Future Shock. He uses another Toffler term to describe the music: techno.

1982 Michael Jackson’s Thriller is released and sells 25 million copies, making it the top-selling album in history.

First star of the Grand Ole Opry, DeFord Bailey, dies penniless, never inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.

Afrika Bambaataa and the Soul Sonic Force’s Planet Rock uses samples of Kraftwerk’s Trans Europe Express to become first global electro hit.

1983 Compact discs are introduced and soon become the industry standard. Herbie Hancock cuts Rockit, which becomes the first jazz/hiphop crossover hit.

AFRIKA BAMBAATAA’s Looking For The Perfect Beat ushers in the sampling era.

1986 Eric B and Rakim’s game-changing Eric B Is President forces all aspiring rappers to raise their skills. Run DMC’s reconstruction of Aerosmith’s Walk This Way puts rap on the pop charts and MTV.
1987 The term “world music” is coined by the music biz to market African and Latin music to the masses.
1988 The sample-rich sound 0f PUBLIC ENEMY’s It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back�s sets a new production standard. NWA’s Straight Outta Compton goes gold, signalling the arrival of gangsta rap.
1989 Maestro Fresh Wes’s Let Your Backbone Slide becomes the top-selling Canadian hiphop single ever.

Toronto’s K-Cut and Sir Scratch join Queens pals Large Professor and Mikey D as Main Source to record Think single.

1991 Dream Warriors put Canadian hiphop on the map with And Now The Legacy Begins.

Main Source release their classic Breaking Atoms album.

1993 New York’s Hot 97 switches from dance format to hiphop, launching the career of Funkmaster Flex.
1996 Rapper TUPAC SHAKUR is shot four times while leaving the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. Dies six days later in hospital.

Scribble Jam begins showcasing unknown underground rappers like Sage Francis and Eminem.

1997 Notorious B.I.G. is shot to death in his car after the Soul Train Awards. Miraculously, Suge Knight survives the attack.

Memorex, Maxell and TDK introduce blank recordable CDs.

2000 The Internet transforms the way music is diseminated and heard.

Invisible Scratch Picklz break up, putting the final nail in the coffin of turntablism.

2001 FLOW 93.5 becomes Canada’s first urban radio station.
2002 Hiphop dominates the mainstream: Eminem’s The Eminem Show and Nelly’s Nellyville rank as two top-selling albums of the year, far outperforming releases by Celine Dion, Pink and the Dixie Chicks.
2003 Othar Turner, perhaps the last living original fife-and-drum musician, dies at 94 in Mississippi.
2004 Ray Charles dies of liver disease at the age of 73.

With the release of Confessions, Usher becomes the first R&B singer to sell in excess of 1.1 million discs in first week.

Jay-Z’s unlikely collabo with Linkin Park on Collision Course debuts at number one and becomes the biggest-selling CD/DVD package of the year.

2005 Destiny’s Child announce breakup.

50 Cent’s The Massacre edges out Eminem’s Encore as the top-selling album of the year.

2006 Three 6 Mafia become the first hiphop group to win an Oscar for their contribution to the Hustle & Flow soundtrack.

Jodeci, X-Clan and Bone Thugs-n-Harmony reunite.

2007 Canadian jazz great Oscar Peterson dies of kidney failure at the age of 82.

Rock ‘n’ roll architect Ike Turner dies at 76.

 

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