February is Black History Month, dedicated to celebrating the successes and contributions made by African-Americans.
Throughout the month, Weekend Express will be sharing some important milestones and fun facts about influential black figures, inventors and barrier breakers! This week, we're getting in the groove ahead of the Grammys and taking a look at some pretty impressive performers who paved the way for other artists.
Did you know, that without the milestones made by the musicians below, Beyonce wouldn’t have been able to rock out the Super Bowl and no one would jam to Usher?
- In 1890, former slave George W. Johnson became the first African-American to record commercially.
- In 1920, Mamie Smith was the first black artist to record a blues song on Okeh Records.
- Count Basie of the Count Basie Orchestra was the title of first male African-American winner of a Grammy Award in 1958.
- Louis Armstrong was not only a talented musician (he taught himself to play the coronet in a group home at age 7); he also helped transform the art of jazz.
- The legendary voice behind "Dream a Little Dream of Me," Ella Fitzgerald was the first female African-American winner in 1958 for best individual jazz performance.
- Stevie Wonder has won an impressive 25 Grammy awards, including wins for best producer of the year and album of the year.
- Maya Angelou-- a trailblazer in poetry, film and education-- was also San Francisco’s first African-American female cable car conductor AND first black woman to recite a poem at an inauguration.
- Often called the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin has 18 Grammy awards under her belt-- including best female R&B vocal performance for the classic hit, "Respect." She was also the first black woman inducted into the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame in 1986.
- Female MC/rappers like Lady B paved the way for popular lady rappers like Queen Latifah and Nicki Minaj with beats like "To the Beat, Ya'll."
- Producer Quincy Jones holds the most Grammy nods (79) and wins (27) for an African-American.
Check out more fun facts and inventions that were made possible by African-Americans here!