Are R&B and Hip-Hop the only genres of music sisters sing?

By: Taren Vaughan

If it’s not Beyonce’ telling all the single ladies to put their hands up or Keri having all the pretty girls rockin’, nowadays it appears as though Black female artists’ music has fallen into two main categories: R&B and Hip-Hop. Granted, Beyonce’ has upped her cross over appeal, dippin’ into the Pop world, shortly followed by the red head Rihanna, who has become quite comfortable over in Pop land, traveling back to the R&B side of things every once in awhile. Either way you look at it for some reason R&B and Hip-Hop seem to be the only two genres that we get real recognition for. Little do some know that when it comes to music, us sisters have a wide range. Take the great Ella Fitzgerald for example.

Known as “First Lady of Song”, Ella Fitzgerald was one of the most notable jazz singers of her time. As her vocal range was unmatched, this woman brought “scatting” to the forefront, something that I’m sure many of these young folks know nothing about. Let’s take it back a moment with a dose of “Lady Ella” doing what she did best, scat:

Ella Fitzgerald 1969

During her 59 year reign in the music industry, she won a total of 13 Grammy Awards and received a series of medals, including the National Medal of Art by Ronald Reagan and the Presidential Medal of Freedom by George H. W. Bush. A 59 year singing career…Some artists nowadays can barely last a good year let alone almost 60.

Songstress Billie Holiday, nicknamed “Lady Day”, was yet another “jazzy” one that stole the hearts of many with her vocal talents and chart topping hits like “Strange Fruit”, a song that she often steered away from performing because it reminded her of her father’s passing and “God Bless The Child”. Aside from her incredible singing ability, Billie Holiday’s overall life story was one for the ages.

Remember “Lady Sings the Blues”? Not the song but the 1972 classic film that starred another legendary female entertainer, Diana Ross, who portrayed Holiday, taking viewing audiences on the journey of her life through all of its ups and downs as a musician, some downs so severe that landed her in prison. Despite her troubles, this jazz sensation rightfully took her place as one of the best to ever do it.

Billie Holiday not only changed her name. But she changed the face of jazz music for years to come.

Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday were both equally as influential as far as the jazz department goes. But what about an area that is a little more left field for us? Let’s say one like country music.

Linda Martell made our presence officially known in this genre now as she is one of the most recognized African American female country singers. And trust me she didn’t just do this for snaps. In fact, her song “Color Him Father” was a top-25 hit in 1969. And she became the first Black woman to perform at the Grand Ole Opry, a popular country music stage concert held in Nashville, Tennessee. And if you know anything about the Grand Ole Opry, not too many brown faces are in their line-ups.

Is it true that Black women are at the top of the list when it comes to R&B and Hip-Hop music? Absolutely it is. Both African American men and women alike are highly credited for being the innovators when it comes to these types of music. But does that mean that sisters don’t know how to bellow out anything other than a raunchy lyric? Clearly not. The myth has been busted completely.

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