Skip to main content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.
Michigan State University

African American Studies Research Guide: Music

Just for Fun

African American Music Overview by Wikipedia.

Boombox : Boombox gives you access to a wide array of Black music news stories, video premieres, and information on urban recording artists.

Michigan's Hank Ballard

A Tale With a Twist

Perhaps you’ve never heard of Detroit’s Hank Ballard, but you’ve almost certainly heard of his dance. Ballard wrote and recorded “The Twist” in 1958. Two years later, Chubby Checker had a hit with a cover of Ballard’s song.

Louis Armstrong

Louis Armstrong, jazz great, photograph originally appearing in New York World - Telegram and the Sun Newspaper, 1953. Image shared by Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

Billie Holiday

Photography of Billie Holiday from the Gottlieb Jazz Photo collection on Flickr courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Black Jazz, Blues, and A Whole Lot More from the Internet

Marian Anderson - God Bless America at the Lincoln Memorial.  After the Daughters of the American Revolution refused to allow Marian Anderson sing at Constitutional Hall, Eleanor Roosevelt persuades the Secretary of Interior Hicks to allow her to sing at the Lincoln Memorial, with over 75,000 in attendance (1939)

Marian Anderson with the Detroit Symphonic Orchestra - Deep River (1939).

Louis Armstrong  - Black and Blue, Nobody Knows the Trouble I've Seen (1962), and What a Wonderful World. Louis Armstrong was born and raised in New Orleans and was the grandson of slaves. Louis grew up in poverty in Uptown New Orleans and among other jobs would haul coal to Storyville where he got to see the likes of Joe "King" Oliver perform as a child. As Louis put it, "Every time I close my eyes blowing that trumpet of mine -- I look right in the heart of good old New Orleans...It has given me something to live for." Armstrong was criticized by black people for being too cordial in the face of extreme prejudice including being constantly degraded by white people on tour, not being allowed to use the restroom or drinking fountains at clubs he was performing at and plenty more. Louis always responded from the heart, with a smile and eyes that showed compassion for those filled with hate and ignorance. And sometimes, Louis did speak out. In 1957 the Governor of Arkansas disobeyed an order of the Supreme Court to allow black children to attend a white school in Little Rock. Our president at time, Eisenhower, refused to intervene. Louis responded to the press "The way they are treating people in the South, the government can go to hell!" and "The President has no guts" which made national news. Armstrong was also one of the major financial supporters of Martin Luther King Jr and the FBI even had a file on him. The song performed in today's video is "Black and Blue" filmed live in Ghana in 1956. Armstrong is welcomed like a king in Ghana and you can get a sense of where New Orleans gets some of that flavor. The tune itself is about being black in a white world and Louis first recorded it in 1929. The lyrics tell the story....  For more information about Louis Armstrong, visit Wikipedia.

Harry Belafonte - Day O (Banana Boat Song), Man Smart, Woman Smarter

Blind Boys of Alabama -  Amazing Grace, Wade in the water

Oscar Brown Jr. was a singer, playwright and poet who fought for racial equality through politics and Art throughout his life. Visit "Dapo Torimira performs with Oscar Brown Jr. on TavisSmile" for another tune and more about Oscar Brown's accomplishments.   Wikipedia entry for Oscar Brown Jr.

Nat King Cole Show on NBC.  In the 1950s Nat King Cole was in the mainstream of American show business and had already produced several records that had sold millions of copies each. Cole was a regular guest star on many variety shows on national television including those of Perry Como, Milton Berle, Ed Sullivan and Jackie Gleason. Nat was a natural on television he was offered his own show by NBC which premiered in 1956. Cole was nervous about being the first major black performer to host his own show on network television and at the time said "It could be a turning point, so that Negroes may be featured regularly on television.  For more information about Nat King Cole, visit Wikipedia.

Sam Cooke, This Little Light of Mine, Live at the Copa 1964.

Dorothy Dandridge - Body and Soul and  The Nearness of You

Miles Davis plays Directions, courtesy of

Willie Dixon plays Little Boy Blue courtesy of

Duke Ellington plays Satin Doll courtesy of YouTube.  For more information about Duke Ellington, visit Wikipedia.  For additional performances by Duke Ellington, visit Jazz on the Web.

Dizzie Gillespie performs "Blues After Dark" on Ralph Gleason's show Jazz Casual in 1961.  Dizzy Gillespie wanted to change the course of America so badly he actually ran for President in 1964. Information about Gillespie's Presidential race is provided below the video.  Visit Jazz on the Web for some more recordings of Dizzy Gillespie.

Herbie Hancock interview on PBS.  Visit Jazz on the Web for some recordings of Herbie Hancocik.

Billie Holiday and Louis Armstrong - The Blues are Brewin'

Billie Holiday sings What a Little Moonlight Can Do courtesy of YouTube.  Billie has received many awards posthumously including over ten Grammy Awards and the Grammy Hall of Fame, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, ASCAP Jazz Wall of Fame, Ertegun Jazz Hall of Fame and many more. Billie Holiday remains one of the most popular Jazz singers even today and her intimate and personal approach to singing along with her unique and amazing phrasing make Billie one the greatest ever in Jazz. Her style continues to influence singers in various genres and while many try and imitate her, there will never be another Billie Holiday.

Billie Holiday sings Strange Fruit courtesy of YouTube.  Recorded in 1939 and 1944 ‘Strange Fruit’ became one of Billy Holiday's signature songs. Holiday would end all her shows with the song and one of her accompanists, Bobby Tucker, said she would break down every time after singing it. In 1999, Time Magazine named ‘Strange Fruit’ the song of the century, it was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1978 and in the list Songs of the Century put together by the Recording Industry of America and the National Endowment for the Arts.  For more information about Billie Holiday, visit Wikipedia.  For additional performances by Billie Holiday, visit Jazz on the Web.

John Lee Hooker - Boom Boom, Boogie Chillin,  Hobo Blues, I'm In the Mood (with Bonnie Raitt),  One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer, and Tupelo.

Lena Horne - Stormy Weather (1943) and Moon River (1965)

Norman Hutchins - Jesus on the Mainline

Mahalia Jackson - The Queen of Gospel?  Amazing Grace, the Battle of JerichoSteal Away, and We Shall Overcome (1971).  The last link also provide a narrative story. 

Robert Johnson - Crossroad, Me and the Devil Blues, Sweet Home Chicago, all examples of Delta Music Blues. The grandfather of rock and roll?

Scott Joplin - The Entertainer (1902) and Maple Leaf Rag.

B. B. King - Blue Boys Tune, How Blue Can You Get, Lucille,  Sweet Sixteen (with T-Bone Walker at the 1967 Monterey Jazz Festival) The Thrill is Gone (with Gary Moore).  Why B. B. King's guitar is named Lucille.  For more information about B.B. King, visit Wikipedia.  For more information about T. Bone Walker, visit Wikipedia.

Eartha Kitt sings Santa Baby.  A You Tube video celebrating her life.

Leadbelly - House of the Rising Sun, Pick a Bale of Cotton (1945).

Jelly Roll Morten - Hesitation Blues and King Porter Stomp.  The first jazz musician? 

Max Roach Interview.  A fantastic hour long interview with Jazz Drum master Max Roach. Max talks about growing up in jazz, history of African culture and African-American culture today, and his own personal struggles and achievements.  Max Roach and the j.C. White Singers - Were You There (When They Crucified My Lord) (1971)

Paul Robeson - Deep River, Let My People Go, Ol' Man River.

Nina Simone sings Four Women courtesy of YouTube.  “Four Women” was first recorded by Nina Simone on her album Wild is the Wind in 1965. The song tells the story of four African-American women, each verse representing a different women’s experience in America. The first character is named Aunt Sarah who is a representative of the times of slavery and Nina focuses on her strength in the face the long term suffering endured. The second character is names Saffronia and is a woman of mixed race and identity and focuses on the experience of black Americans being at the will of white people in power. The third woman is named Sweet Thing, who is a prostitute that is able to find acceptance from both black and white people alike. Though her acceptance by white men is based on the sexual gratification she provides them. The last woman is named Peaches and most likely reflects Nina Simone herself. Peaches is a product of generations of racism and oppression and is filled with bitterness and rage.  For more information about Nina Simone, visit Wikipedia.

Nina Simone sings Mississippi Goddamn courtesy of YouTube. For more information about Nina Simone, watch this 1985 interview provided by In it she speaks specifically about "Mississippi Goddamn" and the effects the song had on her career as well as on the movement.

Bessie Smith - Baby Won't You Please Come Home (1923),  Empty Bed Bludes (1928),  Nobody Knows You When You're Down and Out (1929),  St. Louis Blues (1929), and  Yellowdog Blues

Billy Taylor and Nina Simone perform "I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free" via YouTube.  One of the most popular anthems of the Civil Rights Movement, written by Billy Taylor in 1954 and made famous in the 1960s by Nina Simone.  For more information about Billy Taylor, visit Wikipedia.

Koko Taylor - I'm A Woman.  Koko Taylor was born Cora Walton on September 28, 1935 in Memphis, TN. She got the nickname "Koko" because of her love of chocolate. Accurately dubbed "the Queen of Chicago blues" (and sometimes just the blues in general), Koko Taylor helped keep the tradition of big-voiced, brassy female blues belters alive, recasting the spirits of early legends like Bessie Smith, Ma Rainey, Big Mama Thornton, and Memphis Minnie for the modern age.

Sarah Vaughan - Round Midnight and Send in the Clowns

Fats Waller - Ain't Misbehavin (1941), All that Meat and No Potatoes (1941), By the Light of the Silvery Moon (1942) Honeysuckle Rose, I'm Going to Sit Down and Write Myself a Letter,  It's A Sin To Tell A Lie, Jitterbug Waltz (1943),   This Joint is Jumpin, Your Feet's Too Big (1942)

Muddy Waters - Blues and Trouble, courtesy of the

Muddy Waters - Champagne & Reefer, I'm the Hoochie Coochie Man, Rollin' Stone (1960), You Can't Lose What You Ain't Never Had

Muddy Waters Blues Band - Stormy Monday, courtesy of the

Muddy Waters, Johnny Winter, and James Cotton : I'm Ready courtesy of the

Marian Williams, Were You There When They Crucified My Lord - One of the finest voices of the 20th Century.

African American Music

African American Music. Alexander Street Press.  The first online resource to document the history of African American music in an online music listening service. The collection contains a diverse range of genres such as jazz, blues, gospel, ragtime, folk songs, and narratives, among others. This release features some 16,000 tracks of great historical recordings from Document Records. This great collection features recordings from the first half of the 20th century and includes iconic artists such as The Fisk Jubilee Singers, Memphis Minnie, Blind Willie McTell and Huddie Ledbetter.  It provides a rich source of Blues and early Jazz recordings as well as a lot of sacred music.  Access restricted to subscribers and the MSU community.  Note: Content from African American Music is now a part of American Song, including 17,000 tracks from the original interface, plus 18,000 newly released tracks.

African-American Musicians Biographies.  Internet Public Library pathfinder designed for individuals interested in finding biographical information on African-American musicians involved in all musical forms and styles. It includes print resources such as dictionaries, encyclopedias, and books, as well as databases, web sites, and related Internet Public Library resources. It is suggested that you ask the librarian at your library for assistance in finding more resources since this pathfinder contains just a sampling of resources.

African American Sheet Music, 1850-1920.   This collection consists of 1,305 pieces of African-American sheet music dating from 1850 through 1920 from the collections of Brown University. The collection includes many songs from the heyday of antebellum black face minstrelsy in the 1850s and from the abolitionist movement of the same period. Numerous titles are associated with the novel and the play Uncle Tom's Cabin. Civil War period music includes songs about African-American soldiers and the plight of the newly emancipated slave. Post-Civil War music reflects the problems of Reconstruction and the beginnings of urbanization and the northern migration of African Americans. African-American popular composers include James Bland, Ernest Hogan, Bob Cole, James Reese Europe, and Will Marion Cook. Twentieth century titles feature many photographs of African-American musical performers, often in costume. Unlike many other sorts of published works, sheet music can be produced rapidly in response to an event or public interest, and thus is a source of relatively unmediated and unrevised perspectives on quickly changing events and public attitudes. Particularly significant in this collection are the visual depictions of African Americans which provide much information about racial attitudes over the course of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.  Part of the Library of Congress American Memory Project.

AfriClassical : African Heritage in Classical Music. Here you will meet 52 composers, conductors and instrumental performers - Africans, African Americans and Afro-Europeans. 

Afrocentric Voices in "Classical Music".  Afrocentric Voices focuses on African American performers and composers and on the vocal music forms they influenced, specially opera, art songs and spiritual arrangements

American Song (Also known as Music Online : American Song).  Alexander Street Press. "American Song is a history database that will contain 50,000 tracks that allows people to hear and feel the music from America's past. The database will include songs by and about American Indians, miners, immigrants, slaves, children, pioneers, and cowboys. Included in the database are the songs of Civil Rights, political campaigns, Prohibition, the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, anti-war protests and more."  Access restricted to subscribers and the MSU community. 

Archives of African American Music and CultureEstablished in 1991, the Archives of African American Music and Culture (AAAMC) is a repository of materials covering a range of African American musical idioms and cultural expressions from the post-World War II era.  The collections highlight popular, religious, and classical music, with genres ranging from blues and gospel to R&B and contemporary hip hop.  The AAAMC also houses extensive materials related to the documentation of black radio.  Courtesy of Indiana University.

Biography.Com Collection of Notable African American Musicians.

Columbia College Chicago Center for Black Music Research.  The CBMR offers a variety of online resources for researchers, Associates Members, teachers, students, and authors, including definitions and information on styles and genres, bibliographies and music lists, a discography of music of black composers, resources for teachers, the CBMR Style Guide, and a list of current jobs in the field.

Detroit Public Library, E. Azalia Hackley Collection : The E. Azalia Hackley Collection was created in 1943 by a gift of material to the Detroit Public Library from the Detroit Musicians Association, a branch of the National Association of Negro Musicians. The Hackley was the first archive to document the contributions of Blacks to the performing arts. This collection of sheet music from the Hackley consists of over 600 pieces of 19th and 20th century sheet music published between 1799 and 1922. Song themes cover early 19th century plantation life in the American South, the Civil War period, including abolitionism, emancipation and Reconstruction, early 20th century popular music, and the stereotypical themes associated with black face minstrelsy. The minstrel songs of Detroit born composer Harry Von Tilzer are largely represented, as well as the songs of African American and Detroit based composers Fred Stone and Harry P. Guy. Other African American composers include: James Bland, Ernest Hogan, Cecil Mack, Shelton Brooks, Will Marion Cook, Bob Cole, James Reese Europe, Creamer & Layton, Williams & Walker, and W.C. Handy. Piano music of marches, quadrilles and other dances are also included.

Heart and Soul : A Celebration of African American Music.  African Americans have played a tremendous role in American music. Almost all popular music contains elements of African American rhythms and culture. Black spirituals are one of the best known and earliest forms of American music. These religious songs eventually gave birth to the blues. Jazz, which began in the late 1800's, grew out of black folk blues and ballads. And musicians in the mid-1900's combined spirituals, blues, and jazz styles to develop rock and roll. In the late 1900's, a new American musical form called rap emerged. World Book editors have assembled a look at some of the most famous African American musicians and the impact they have made on different forms of music. The articles in this feature were taken from World Book. There are also numerous links to Web sites that provide more information on influential African American musicians and compositions.  Still available thanks to the Internet Archive.

International Association of African American MusicInternational Association of African American Music provides information on Black musicians. 



The Blues Archive at the University of Mississippi Libraries.  The Blues Archive at the University of Mississippiacquires and preserves blues and blues-related materials in a variety of formats for scholars of the blues, African American studies, and southern culture.  With over 60,000 sound recordings, in most audio formats; over 20,000 photographs; more than 1,000 videos; over 6,000 books, periodicals and newsletters; and numerous manuscripts and ephemera, the Blues Archive houses one of the largest collections of blues recordings, publications, and memorabilia in the world.  Important collections include B. B. King's personal record collection, the Jim O'Neal and Amy van Singel / Living Blues Collection, the Trumpet Records Collection, the Sheldon Harris Collection, the John Richbourg Collection, and the Percy Mayfield collection.  Also provides web links to other Blues resources.

The Blue Highway. The Blue Highway presents an interactive history of blues music. Includes sound clips of radio broadcasts.

Thought.Co's Rhythm and Blues News.


Gospel and Spirituals:

Shall We Gather at the River.  A collection of African American sacred music  made available for public use by the State Archives of Florida.  This disc highlights Florida’s African American religious music traditions. The collection features both nationally recognized acts and previously unknown local artists, including the Dixie Hummingbirds, the Georgia Sea Island, the Versiteers, and the Amigo Male Singers.  Download the disc as an MP3 file. Contact the State Archives of Florida to request a complimentary CD.

Too close to heaven [videorecording] : the story of gospel music / a presentation of Films for the Humanities & Sciences ; an IBT/CTVC production for Channel 4 in association with Jerusalem Productions ; producer, Leo St. Clair ; director, Alan Lewens.  Princeton, NJ : Films for the Humanities & Sciences, 2003, c1997.  3 videodiscs (51 min. each) : sd., col. with b&w sequences ; 4 3/4 in.  MSU Main Library Digital and Multimedia Center ML3187 .T66 2003 VideoDVD  discs 1-3 : Using narration and performance footage, this film traces the 200 year history of gospel music from black churches, to the civil rights movement, to its influence on modern jazz, blues, and rock and roll.

Negro Spirituals.  Covers general history, singers, songs, and composers.


Hip Hop:

Davey D's Hip Hop Daily News.  History and commentary from hip hop journalist and scholar Davey D.

The Hiphop Archive at Harvard University.  The Hiphop Archive was officially established in 2002 under the direction of Marcyliena Morgan. Since the early 1970s, Hiphop has become the most influential artistic, educational and social movement for youth and young adults. From The Hiphop Archive's inception, students, faculty, artists, staff and other participants in Hiphop culture have been committed to supporting and establishing a new type of research and scholarship devoted to the knowledge, art, culture, materials, organizations, movements and institutions developed by those who support and follow Hiphop. In response to this movement The Hiphop Archive organizes and develops collections, initiates and participates in research activities, sponsors events and acquires material culture associated with Hiphop in the U.S. and throughout the world.

Hip Hop Users Guide.  Nearly all the books mentioned in the Research Guide by the Cornell University Library are also available at the Michigan State University Main Library.

The Original Hip-Hop (Rap) Lyrics Archive.

Thought.Co's Rap/Hip Hop News.



Thought.Co's Jazz News

All About Jazz. The web's premier resource for jazz music since 1995. Access daily jazz reviews, interviews, news, forums, videos, downloads, photos, a regional calendar and much more.

America's Jazz Heritage.  A ten-year initiative to research, preserve, and present the history of jazz through exhibitions, performances, recordings, radio, publications, and educational programs at the Smithsonian and across the nation.

Chicago Jazz Archive.  Operated by the University of Chicago, presents online exhibits, research material, and educational material for children.

Jazz Music Library (part of Alexander Street Press's Music Online).  The largest and most comprehensive collection of streaming jazz available online — with thousands of jazz artists, ensembles, albums, and genres.  Access restricted to subscribers and the MSU community.

Jazz on the Screen This searchable filmography by David Meeker at the Library of Congress documents the work of some 1,000 major jazz and blues figures in over 18,000 cinema, television and video productions.

Jazz on the Tube.  Before the advent of the Internet and online video the only reliable way to SEE jazz was to go to a live show.  This is still the best way to see the music, but if you want to see the many great musicians who are no longer with us (and the living ones who aren't playing tonight in your town), we've created Jazz on the Tube as the Internet's search engine for jazz videos. You can find videos two ways: 1) use the directory or 2) use the site's search engine.

PBS Jazz Biographies.  This web site from PBS, the Public Broadcasting Service, contains almost 100 African-American biographies mainly on jazz from the New Grove Dictionary of Jazz.   

Red Hot Jazz ArchiveRed Hot Jazz Archive features biographies, photos, sound clips, and discographies of jazz musicians.

The Official Web Site of the Jazz Legend Duke Ellington.

New York Times Feature Article on Duke Ellington.

'Princess' Nina Simone: The Voice Of A Movement.  excerpt from Princess Noire courtesy of NPR.



The Golden Age of Motown Sound.   Article by Vivian M. Baulch, The Detroit News, March 1, 2000.

Motown Historical Museum (Detroit).

Sampling Motown, February 26, 2010.  Harry Weinger, vice president of A&R for Universal Music Enterprises and a 30-year veteran of the entertainment industry, is the guest speaker at this Sampling Motown class at Duke University.



RagtimePresents sheet music, essays, and video and sound clips related to ragtime. This distinctly American music appeared (in its published form) during the mid-1890s mainly in the South and Midwest, spread across the U.S. and to Europe, and influenced early jazz styles. Learn about Scott Joplin, one of the best known ragtime players. Hear segments of his classic "Maple Leaf Rag," which helped spread the ragtime craze. See more than 100 pieces of sheet music.

One Hundred Years of the Maple Leaf Rag



Deep Soul The Up Rising of Motown - Part 1Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, and Part 6. : The Barry Gordy Story by Mark Anthony.

Deep Soul The Up Rising of Otis Redding - Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6,

Deep Soul the Up Rising of Sam Cooke - Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4Part 5, and Part 6

Sampling Soul, March 17, 2010.  Duke University class discussion of Nas' Illmatic. Guests include: 9th Wonder and James Peterson. Faculty host is Mark Anthony Neal

ThoughtCo.Com's R&B and Soul Music News.

Jazz Icons DVDs

Art Blakey & the Jazz Messengers. Live in '58  : Live in '58[United States] : Reelin' in the Years Productions, c2006.  1 DVD videodisc : sd., b&w ; 4 3/4 in. + 1 booklet. Fine Arts Library Music DVDs/Videos : DVD 1958 : One of the finest lineups in the history of jazz - Bobby Timmons, Jymie Merritt, Benny Golson, and the legendary trumpet player, Lee Morgan. This historic concert, filmed in Belgium in 1958, is the only known visual of this influential band.  Jazz icons series.

Buddy Rich. Live in '78 [United States] : Reelin' in the Years Productions, c2006.  1 DVD videodisc : sd., col. ; 4 3/4 in.  Fine Arts Library Music DVDs/Videos : DVD 1978 : This concert, taped in Holland in 1978, showcases one of the tightest big bands in history, featuring Buddy's group Killer Force. Standout performances include Grand Concourse and Channel One Suite, featuring Buddy's signature drum solo.  Jazz icon series : Buddy Rich and Killer Force.

Charles Mingus  : Live in '64 / Reelin' in the Years Productions ; producers, David Peck, Philip Galloway and Tom Gulotta.  [San Diego, CA] : Reelin' in the Years Productions ; [S.l.] : Naxos, 2007. 1 DVD videodisc : sd., b&w ; 4 3/4 in. Fine Arts Library Music DVDs/Videos  DVD 19006 : Filmed: in Belgium, April 19, 1964; in Norway, April 13, 1964; in Sweden, April 13, 1964. Jazz icon series : Charles Mingus, bass ; Eric Dolphy, alto sax, flute, bass clarinet ; Clifford Jordan, tenor sax ; Johnny Coles, trumpet (in the Norway and Sweden concerts) ; Jaki Byard, piano ; Dannie Richmond, drums.

Count Basie  : live in '62 / Reelin' In The Years ; producers, David Peck & Philiop Galloway.  [United States] : Reelin' in the years productions, [2006], c1962.  1 DVD videodisc : sd., b&w ; 4 3/4 in. Fine Arts Library, Music DVDs DVD 1962 : Features one of the greatest big band orchestras captured at the height of their considerable powers. This recently discovered concert is the earliest known complete concert of Count Basie and his orchestra released on DVD.

Duke Ellington  : live in '58 / Reelin' in the Years Productions ; producers, David Peck, Philip Galloway and Tom Gulotta.  [San Diego, CA] : Reelin' in the Years Productions ; [S.l.] : Naxos, 2007.  1 videodisc : sd., b&w ; 4 3/4 in.  Fine Arts Library, Music DVDs DVD 19001 : Presents the earliest-known filmed full-length concert by the Duke Ellington Orchestra, filmed at Amsterdam's Concertgebouw on November 2, 1958.

Ella Fitzgerald  : Live in '57 & '63 / Reelin' in the Years ; producers, David Peck & Philiop Galloway.  [San Diego, CA] : Reelin' in the Yars Productions, c2006.  1 videodisc : sd., b&w ; 4 3/4 in.   Fine Arts Library Music DVDs/Videos  DVD 1957 A : Filmed in Belgium in 1957 and Sweden in 1963, these sets feature many of Ella's greatest songs.

John Coltrane  : Live in '60, '61 & '65 / Reelin' in the Years Productions ; producers, David Peck, Philip Galloway and Tom Gulotta.  [San Diego, CA] : Reelin' in the Years Productions ; [S.l.] : Naxos, c2007.  1 DVD videodisc : sd., b&w ; 4 3/4 in.   Fine Arts Library Music DVDs/Videos : DVD 19007 :  Three concerts, filmed in Germany in 1960 and 1961, and Belgium in 1965.  Jazz icons series : John Coltrane, saxophone ; with his quartet (Elvin Jones, drums, Jimmy Garrison, bass ; McCoy Tyner, piano) ; and with Stan Getz, Eric Dolphy, and Oscar Peterson.

Louis Armstrong : live in '59[United States] : Reelin' in the Years Productions, c2006.  1 videodisc : sd., b&w ; 4 3/4 in.  Fine Arts Library Music DVDs/Videos DVD 1959 : Filmed in Belgium in 1959, this set features many of Satchmo's greatest songs.

Quincy Jones  : Live in '60.  [San Diego, CA] : Reelin' in the Years Productions, c2006.  1 DVD videodisc : sd., b&w ; 4 3/4 in.  Fine Arts Library Music DVDs/Videos DVD 1960 : Two concerts, filmed in Belgium and Switzerland in 1960, spotlight a young "Q" conducting his "dream band" are some of the finest examples of big band jazz.  Jazz icons series.

Thelonious Monk : live in '66   [United States] : Reelin' In the Years, c2006.  1 videodisc : sd., b&w ; 4 3/4 in.  Fine Arts Library Music DVDs/Videos  DVD 1966 : Thelonious Monk revolutionized jazz with his innovative musical approach and these performances, filmed in Norway and Denmark in 1966, allow viewers the rare opportunity to experience Monk's genius up close.

African American Singers and Musicians in Films and Documentaries

Biggie and Tupac (2001) / producer, Michele D'Acosta ; director, Nick Broomfield ; a Lafayette film produced for Channel 4.  [Santa Monica, CA] : Lafayette Films ; New York, NY : Distributed by Razor & Tie Direct, c2002.  1 DVD videodisc (106 min.) : sd., col. with b&w sequences ; 4 3/4 in.  ML394 .B54 2002 VideoDVD : Documentary on the deaths of tupac shakur and biggie smalls and the east coast/west coast hip-hop/rap rivalry that culminated in late 1996 and early 1997.  It would be an exaggeration to say that Nick Broomfield solved the murders of Biggie and Tupac. Nonetheless, he makes a convincing case as to who the perpetrators were and why they weren't brought to justice. Broomfield (Kurt and Courtney), who narrates and appears on camera, comes across like a scruffy Robin Leach, but he's done his homework and sniffs out the clues with the tenacity of a bloodhound. Time and again, he refuses to be intimidated--even when his life appears to be at stake. Fortunately, he was able to convince Voletta Wallace, beloved mother of Biggie Smalls (a.k.a. the Notorious B.I.G.), to cooperate, and that opened many doors. Unfortunately, Afeni Shakur, Tupac's mother, refused to participate or to allow access to his music. She had nothing to fear. Broomfield is fair to both rappers, although the soundtrack is all-Biggie. Easily one of the most fascinating documentaries of 2002.

Black by Popular Demand. Black and Blue : Black Women in Jazz and Blues Music / British Film Institute presents. BFI, [1990?] 1 VHS videocassette (90 min.) VHS, PAL format, not compatible with American VCR players. ML82 .B528 1990 PAL Videocassette : Features two American films that highlight black women's contribution to the blues and jazz. Tiny & Ruby, Hell Divin' Women (1988) reconstructs, through interviews, animation and home movies the lives of trumpeter Ernestine 'Tiny' Davis and pianist, bass player and drummer Ruby Lucas. Wild Women Don't Have the Blues (1988) shows rare footage of many blues women including Ma Rainey, Bessie Smith, Ethel Waters and other talking about the history of their contribution to American culture.

Blacking Up : Hip-Hop's Remix of Race and Identity / California Newsreel presents ; Corporation for Public Broadcasting ; a film by Robert A. Clift ; producer/director/videographer/editor, Robert A. Clift ; production of Robert A. Clift, Limbic Productions, Inc., in association with WTIU and the Independent Television Service (ITVS). San Francisco, CA : California Newsreel, [2010] San Francisco, CA : California Newsreel, [2010] 1 DVD videodisc (57 min.) : sd., col. with b&w sequences ; 4 3/4 in. ML3918.R37 B53 2010 VideoDVD : Hip-Hop was created by urban youth of color more than 30 years ago amid racial oppression and economic marginalization. It has moved beyond that specific community and been embraced by young people worldwide, elevating it to a global youth culture. The documentary looks at the popularity of hip-hop among America's white youth. It asks whether white identification is rooted in admiration and a desire to transcend race or if it is merely a new chapter in the long continuum of stereotyping, mimicry and cultural appropriation? Does it reflect a new face of racial understanding in white America or does it reinforce an ugly history.

Blacking Up: Hip-Hop's Remix of Race and Identity by Robert A Clift, directed by Robert A. Clift (California Newsreel, 2010) 56:55 mins. : streaming video from Black Studies in Video.

Cab Callaway’s Jitterbug Party (1935) (7:32minutes) Streaming video via Matinee Classics : A Paramount Picture. In the film, Cab Calloway and his Orchestra perform Hotcha Razz-Ma-Tazz and 'Long About Midnight at the Cotton Club in Harlem, New York before going to a house party and performing Jitter Bug. In the final sequence, a young Lena Horne can be seen dancing.

Cab Callaway : Sketches available as streaming video during 2013 courtesy of PBS. In the context of the Harlem Renaissance and segregationist America, Cab Calloway: Sketches explores the jazz legend’s beginnings and musical milestones, using archival footage, animation based on caricatures, and interviews. Delve into the life of this pioneering musical legend that charmed fans and audiences with his showmanship, charisma, and talent. A singer, dancer and bandleader, Cab Calloway led one of the most popular African-American big bands during the jazz and swing eras of the 1930s-40s, with Harlem’s famous Cotton Club as his home stage. He influenced countless performers, including Michael and Janet Jackson, and many of today’s contemporary artists.

Cadillac Records (2008)   / Sony Music Film and Parkwood Pictures present a Sony Music Film production ; produced by Andrew Lack, Sofia Sondervan ; written and directed by Darnell Martin.  Culver City, Calif. : Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, [2009]  1 Blu-ray DVD videodisc (ca. 108 min.) : sd., col. ; 4 3/4 in.  PN1995.9.M86 C33 2009 Blu-ray VideoDVD : Chess Records was located on the south side of Chicago. In 1947, it began recording blues music with Muddy Waters and Little Walter. This eventually gave birth to rock and roll in 1955 with Chuck Berry. Record producer, Leonard Chess has an ear for this different type of music and believes he can cash in by signing up new talent such as songwriter, Willie Dixon, Howlin' Wolf, and Etta James. Chess makes all of his artist part of his family and takes care of them. This is not easy since they spend a small fortune on booze, drugs, and the high life. When Chuck Berry goes to jail, Leonard is able to find another talented performer, Etta James, to take his place. In the late sixties, as their music goes out of favor, Leonard Chess gets out of the record business.  Cast : Adrien Brody, Jeffrey Wright, Gabrielle Union, Columbus Short, Cedric the Entertainer, Emmanuelle Chriqui, Eamonn Walker, Mos Def, Beyoncé Knowles.  Want more info?  Try Movie Review Query Engine.

Dreamgirls (2006) / DreamWorks Pictures and Paramount Pictures present a Laurence Mark production, a Bill Condon film ; produced by Laurence Mark ; written for the screen and directed by Bill Condon.  Universal City, Calif. : DreamWorks Home Entertainment, [2007]  1 DVD videodisc (ca. 130 min.) : sd., col. ; 4 3/4 in.  PN1995.9.M86 D75 2007 VideoDVD : Three young women, Deena Jones, Effie White and Lorrell Robinson desire to become pop stars. They get their wish when they are picked to be backup singers for the legendary James "Thunder" Early. When they are set free for leads, Curtis Taylor and Effie's brother C.C. decide that Deena should be the lead singer, which upsets Effie. The girls discover exactly what it takes to be in the music business and what they must give up to realize their dreams.  Cast : Jamie Foxx, Beyoncé Knowles, Eddie Murphy, Danny Glover, Anika Noni Rose, Keith Robinson, Jennifer Hudson.  Want more info?  Try Movie Review Query Engine.

The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess  / by George Gershwin, DuBose and Dorothy Heyward, and Ira Gershwin ; a Primetime/BBC and Homevale/Greg Smith production in association with American Playhouse ... [et al.] ; directed by Trevor Nunn ; produced by Greg Smith and Stephany Marks.  [London?] : EMI Classics, c2001.  1 videodisc (ca. 184 min.) : sd., col. ; 4 3/4 in.  Fine Arts Library, DVD Collection DVD 65027 : The Gershwins' musical masterpiece Porgy and Bess is one of America's greatest works. This production was adapted for the screen by Trevor Nunn and Yves Baigneres. It was directed by Trevor Nunn and is based on the highly successful staging of the original Glyndebourne Festival Opera production in 1986-87, which was remounted at Covent Garden in the autumn of 1992 with most of the original cast. Immediately after that performance the production was moved to the giant stage at Shepperton Studios, with much expanded sets and lighting. It was then recorded using EMI's original award-winning soundtrack....First performed in 1935 and based on the play Porgy by DuBose and Dorothy K. Heyward, Porgy and Bess has achieved worldwide renown through such memorable songs as "Summertime," "It Ain't Necessarily So," "I Got Plenty o' Nuttin'," "Oh Lawd, I'm on My Way," and many more, set to Gershwin's moving symphonic score. 184 minutes.

A Great Day in Harlem  / Castle Hill Productions ; a Jean Bach production ; written by Jean Bach, Susan Peehl, Matthew Seig. The spitball story / a film by Jean Bach.  Salt Lake City, Utah : BWE Video, c1998.  1 VHS videocassette (83 min.) : sd., col. ; 1/2 in.  ML3508.8.N5 G73 1998 Videocassette : (A great day in Harlem) A documentary about a photograph taken in 1958 by Art Kane of the jazz greats of the period. Includes home movie footage of that day of the musicians arriving and greeting each other the morning of the shoot. Also includes conversations with musicians and archival performance footage (62 min.). (The spitball story) A short film about Dizzy Gillespie's antics as a performer in Cab Calloway's band. Includes interviews with Milt Hinton, Dizzy Gillespie, and Jonah Jones, as well as archival performance footage (21 min.).

Harlem Renaissance : the Music & Rhythms That Started a Cultural Revolution / [presented by] Northshore Entertainment ; written and directed by Marino Amoruso. West Long Branch, NJ : Kultur Video, c2004. 1 DVD videodisc (75 min.) : sd., col. with b&w sequences ; 4 3/4 in. NX512.3.N5 H375 2004 VideoDVD : A fabulous look at Harlem and its greatest musicians of the 20s, 30s and 40s: with extraordinary archival, full song performances by Fats Waller (This Joint Is Jumpin', Ain't Misbehaving, Your Feets Too Big), Bill "Bojangles" Robinson (Let's Scuffle), Dorothy Dandridge (Easy Street), Cab Calloway (We The Cats Will Hep You), Mills Brothers (Caravan, Cielito Lindo), Tiny Grimes (Romance Without Finance), Duke Ellington (Cottontail, Satin Doll) , Count Basie (The Start of Something Big, Take Me Back Baby)), Dizzy Gillespie (Salt Peanuts), Sidney Bechet (Nobody Knows The Trouble I've Seen), Nat King Cole (Frim Fram Sauce, I'm A Shy Guy, That's My Girl, Calypso Blues), Louis Armstrong (Swingin' On Nothin') and others. Featuring commentary by distinguished historians and the performers themselves, this program traces the roots of the music of the Harlem Renaissance, its social impact on society and its eventual acceptance in mainstream culture.

Hip Hop : Beyond Beats and Rhymes (2006) / a film by Byron Hurt ; produced, directed and written by Byron Hurt ; co-produced by Sabrina Schmidt Gordon ; a co-production of God Bless The Child Productions, Inc. and the Independent Television Service (ITVS). Northampton, MA : Media Education Foundation, [2006]. 1 DVD videodisc (61 min.) : sd., col. with b&w sequences ; 4 3/4 in. ML3531 .H57 2006 VideoDVD : Take a fearless look at manhood, sexism, and homophobia in today's hip-hop culture. Conceived as a "loving critique" of disturbing trends in rap music, this acclaimed documentary pays tribute to hip-hop while challenging the rap music industry for glamorizing destructive stereotypes. Features revealing interviews with rappers such as Mos Def and Busta Rhymes, hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons, and cultural commentator Michael Eric Dyson. Cover

I Am the Blues : America's Living Legends of the Blues.   Film Movement Exclusives, 2014.  107 minutes.  Streaming video via Kanopy.  This musical documentary visits blues musicians rooted in the genre's heyday, many in their 80s, still living in the American deep south and touring the Chitlin' Circuit. Bobby Rush, Barbara Lynn, Henry Gray, Carol Fran, Little Freddie King, Lazy Lester, Bilbo Walker, Jimmy "Duck" Holmes, RL Boyce, LC Ulmer, Lil' Buck Sinegal and their friends will awaken the blues in all of us.

Introducing Dorothy Dandridge (1999) / HBO Pictures presents an Esparza/Katz production in association with Berry/Cirrincione ; a Martha Coolidge film.  [New York, NY] : HBO Home Video, c1999.  1 DVD videodisc (115 min.) : sd., col. ; 4 3/4 in.  PN2287.D256 I67 1999 VideoDVD : Dorothy Dandridge was a singer, nightclub entertainer, and actress who became the first African-American woman to receive an Academy award nomination as Best Actress (for her standout performance in 1954's Carmen Jones; she lost to Grace Kelly). However, despite her striking beauty and obvious talent, Dandridge was a sexy, glamorous black femme fatale at a time when Hollywood pin-up queens were supposed to be giggly blondes. The film industry didn't know what to do with her, and while her nightclub act was a bit too smooth for the Southern roadhouse circuit, as a black performer she wasn't allowed to stay in many of the hotels and resorts where she performed. Dandridge also had a sad personal life, filled with tragedy and romantic disappointment, and she died of an overdose of pills in 1965, at the age of 41. This made-for-cable biographical drama stars Halle Berry as Dorothy Dandridge, supported by Brent Spiner, Obba Babatunde, and Klaus Maria Brandauer.  Want more info?  Try Movie Review Query Engine.

Jivin’ in Be-Bop (1946) (59 minutes)  Streaming video via Matinee Classics : Directed by Leonard Anderson and Spencer Williams. Cast: Dizzy Gillespie, Freddy Carter and Milt Jackson. A well-crafted hour full of solid entertainment. Singers, instrumentalists, dancers both male and female, even comedy. Add to that getting to see such performers as Milt Jackson, Ray Brown, Benny Carter and Gillespie himself, along with many more, in what amounts to a front-row seat for a very cool variety show, photographed intelligently and orchestrated to please.

The Josephine Baker Story   / HBO Pictures presents in association with RHI Entertainment, Inc. and Anglia Television Ltd. ; a John Kemeny production ; a Brain Gibson film ; produced by John Kemeny ; teleplay by Ron Hutchinson ; directed by Brian Gibson.  New York?] : HBO Video, [2001]  1 DVD videodisc (131 min.) : sd., col. ; 4 3/4 in. GV1785.B3 J685 2001 VideoDVD : Brian Gibson's made-for-cable biography of the famed singer Josephine Baker stars Lynn Whitfield as the black American who found stardom and scandal as the toast of the Paris night-life during the 1920s and '30s. Cast : Lynn Whitfield, Rubén Blades, David Dukes, Craig T. Nelson. Try Movie Review Query Engine.

The Ladies Sing the Blues / the Minnesota Studio ; producer, Tom Jenz ; script, Leigh Kamman. New York, N.Y. : View Video, 2001. 1 DVD videodisc (ca. 60 min.) : sd., col. ; 4 3/4 in. ML400 .L335 2001 VideoDVD : Historic filmed performances of women blues singers from 1929 through the 1950's. Singers are Bessie Smith, Ethel Waters, Billie Holiday, Ida Cole, Sister Rosetta Tharp, Connee Boswell, Dinah Washington, Ruth Brown, Lena Horne, Sarah Vaughn, Helen Humes and Peggy Lee. Includes background information on the singers as well as the performances.

Lady Sings the Blues (1992) / Paramount Pictures and Berry Gordy present ; produced by Jay Weston and James S. White ; screenplay by Terence McCloy and Chris Clark and Suzanne de Passe ; directed by Sidney J. Furie.  Hollywood, Calif. : Paramount Home Entertainment, [2005]. 1 DVD videodisc (143 min.) : sd., col. ; 4 3/4 in.  ML420.H58 L33 2005 VideoDVD  : Diana Ross plays the magnificent, tragic song stylist Billie Holiday, who while writhing in a strait jacket in a prison cell, awaiting sentencing on drug charges, reflects on her turbulent life. Raped in her youth by a drunk (Adolph Caesar), then compelled to work as a domestic in a Harlem whorehouse, Holliday is encouraged to try for a singing career by the bordello's pianist (Richard Pryor). She rises as high as it is possible to go in the white-dominated show business world of the 1930s, but can't handle the pressure and turns to narcotics. The film takes several liberties with the 44-year existence of "Lady Day." Among the Billie Holiday standards performed by Ross are "My Man," "I Cried for You," "Lover Man," "Them There Eyes," and the title song.  Want more info?  Try Movie Review Query Engine.

Leadbelly (1976) available via YouTube: The life of Blues and folk singer Huddie Leadbetter, nicknamed Leadbelly is recounted. Covering the good times and bad from his 20s to 40s. Much of that time was spent on chain gangs in the south. Even in prison he became well known for the songs he had composed and sung during and before the time he spent there.

Making Michael Jackson's ThrillerStamford, CT : Vestron Video, c1983.  Stamford, CT : Vestron Video, c1983.  1 VHS videocassette (VHS) (60 min.) : sd., col. ; 1/2 in.  M1630.18.M235 M3 1983 Videocassette : Features Michael Jackson's Thriller; his performance of "Billy Jean" from the "Motown 25" special; excerpts from "Beat it!" and "Can you feel it?"; and a behind-the-scenes look at Michael Jackson, director John Landis, make-up artist Rick Baker, and the rest of the creators of "Thriller."

Miles Davis Story (YouTube) 2:03 : Trumpeter-bandleader Miles Davis (1926-91) was a catalyst for the major innovations in post-bop, cool jazz, hard-bop, and jazz-fusion, and his wispy and emotional trumpet tones were some of the most evocative sounds ever heard. He was also one of the most identifiable and misunderstood pop icons of the 20th century. This engrossing British documentary shows the complex layers of this magnificent and mercurial artist. Through rare footage and interviews, we learn of Davis's middle-class upbringing and his early days with bop legends Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker. The documentary bluntly deals with Davis's narcotic nadir and his rise from the depths to become a bona fide jazz icon in the mid-'50s to late '60s. But the most penetrating and poignant portraits of Davis come from musicians who played with and were influenced by him, including Shirley Horn, Herbie Hancock, Joe Zawinul, and Keith Jarrett....Outstanding musical selections include modal masterpieces "So What" and "Blue in Green," the haunting soundtrack to the 1957 French film Ascenseur pour l'échafaud, his romantic rendition of Cyndi Lauper's "Time After Time," and his collaborations with arranger Gil Evans. The most surprising aspects of Davis's personality that emerge from this film are his shyness, vulnerability, and, yes, humility. As he said himself, "Don't call me a legend. Call me Miles Davis." --Eugene Holley Jr.

Nina Simone : The Legend, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6 (YouTube)

Notorious (2008) / Bystorm Films ; Voletta Wallace Films ; State Street Pictures ; Bad Boy Films ; Fox Searchlight Pictures ; produced by Voletta Wallace... [et. al.] ; written by Reggie Rock Bythewood and Cheo Hodari Coker ; directed by George Tillman, Jr.  Beverly Hills, California : 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, 2008.  1 videodisc (123 min.) : sd., col. ; 4 3/4 in.  ML420.N76 N76 2009 VideoDVD : Chronicling the extraordinary life of Christopher 'The Notorious B.I.G.' Wallace. Through raw talent and sheer determination, Biggie transforms himself from a Brooklyn street hustler (once selling crack to a pregnant woman) to superstardom. He has to juggle the increasing demands of fatherhood, marriage, and a music career that is strife with chaos and controversy. On March 8, 1997, in Los Angeles, a black Chevy Impala pulls up along Biggie's car and fires several shots at Biggie, killing him. He had become one of the greatest rappers of all time....In music terms, Brooklyn ’s Christopher "Biggie Smalls" Wallace was a hip-hop superstar to rival Oakland ’s Tupac Shakur. In movie terms, however, 2Pac has long overshadowed B.I.G. with the films he made as an actor and the documentaries that followed in the wake of his similarly-unsolved murder. George Tillman Jr. aims to correct that imbalance with Notorious, the authorized biography of the larger-than-life New York rapper. Produced by his mother, Voletta Wallace (played by Angela Bassett), and record producer Sean "Puffy" Combs (Derek Luke), Tillman presents Biggie as a bright child who grew up to be a drug dealer before finding his true calling on stage, only to be cut down in the prime of life. In his feature-film debut, Jamal "Gravy" Woolard captures Biggie's complexity--the loyalty to his crew, the disloyalty to his ladies (including Lil' Kim and Faith Evans)--but struggles to make him as sympathetic as the figure that emerges in Nick Broomfield's Biggie & Tupac, simply because the script relies too heavily on the usual musical-bio clichés. Fortunately, several bright spots elevate the scenario, such as Anthony Mackie as Pac, Christopher Wallace Jr. as young Biggie, and Woolard's rapping, which segues seamlessly into B.I.G.'s (the soundtrack mixes original tracks with remakes). If Notorious isn't a failure, it isn't a triumph either, but Tillman has crafted it with love and respect, and only a stone could remain unmoved by the real-life funeral footage at the end.

Paris Blues (1961) (YouTube)  94 minutes : The music of Duke Ellington is given a film treatment by Martin Ritt with Paul Newman (of all people) as the trombone playing composer, Sidney Poitier as his best friend/sax player, Joanne Woodward as Newman's love interest, Dianne Carroll as the conscious black chick for Poitier and (thank heavens) Louis Armstrong as himself. There are also a couple of good supporting performances from Barbara Laage (as Marie Séoul) and André Luguet (as René Bernard).

Ray (2004) / directed by Taylor Hackford ; story by Taylor Hackford and James L. White ; screenplay by James L. White.  Universal City, Calif. : Universal, 2005. 1 DVD videodisc (153 min.) : sd., col. ; 4 3/4 in.  ML420.C459 R49 2005 VideoDVD : One of America’s best-loved musicians, the late Ray Charles deserved a big-screen biography that did justice to his incredible life and career -- and he got it, thanks to director Taylor Hackford and star Jamie Foxx. There’s rarely been a biopic that’s done a better job of capturing its subject’s essence, which is why Ray can be forgiven its occasional departures from the historical record. The film doesn’t simply present the hit songs and other professional triumphs, although those are extremely well represented; it delves into the psyche of Ray Charles Robinson, whose destiny was shaped by back-to-back childhood traumas: his brother’s accidental death by drowning, which Ray witnessed; and his sudden descent into blindness a few years later. Driven by his poor but proud mother to succeed despite his handicap, the boy gets an education and becomes a talented musician who eventually carves out an amazing career. Hackford faithfully illuminates scripter James L. White’s biographical narrative, which posits that Ray’s subsequent excesses, including heroin addiction and marital infidelity, sprang from the tremendous guilt he felt for not saving his brother’s life. The film also depicts the difficulty a black musician had in playing white towns during the latter days of the Jim Crow era, which Charles helped end by flexing his increasing cultural muscle. Hackford does not skimp, though, on depicting the spectacular successes that elevated Charles to iconic status, first as a rhythm-and-blues star and then as an innovator who fused R&B and gospel music into soul. The film ends in 1966, but it features many of the songs for which Charles was best known, including “What’d I Say” and “Georgia on My Mind.” Although he’s lip-syncing to the Charles vocal tracks, Foxx perfectly replicates the musician’s stage manner and body language: You’ll swear you’re watching the genuine article in action. Very nearly as good are Kerry Washington as Ray’s long-suffering wife, Della Bea; Regina King as his backup singer and lover Margie Hendricks; Clifton Powell as close friend and business associate Jeff Brown; Curtis Armstrong as record producer Ahmet Ertegun; and Larenz Tate as the young Quincy Jones. The movie doesn’t spare Ray by glossing over his most egregious failings, but it reaches an uplifting climax by showing his recovery from heroin addiction and, more important, his unburdening of the guilt he had long shouldered over his brother’s death. Extraordinarily moving and ultimately inspiring, Ray is among the very best films of this type Hollywood has ever turned out.  Want more info?  Try Movie Review Query Engine.

Rhythm & Blues Revue  (YouTube) 1955.  71 minutes. : Musical variety show filmed at the Apollo Theatre in Harlem, New York City, featuring a cast of popular African-American performers: Willie Bryant, Freddie Robinson, Lionel Hampton, Faye Adams, Bill Bailey, Herb Jeffries, Freddy & Flo, Amos Milburn, The Larks, Sarah Vaughan, Count Basie, Joe Turner, Delta Rhythm Boys, Martha Davis, Little Buck, Nat King Cole, Mantan Moreland & Nipsy Russell, Cab Calloway, Ruth Brown, Paul Williams Band. Bill Bailey appears at 11:22. He was the first person to be recorded doing the Moonwalk (at 12:53), although he referred to it as the "Backslide", in the film Cabin In the Sky (1943)

Satchmo : Louis Armstrong / written by Gary Giddins ; produced by Toby Byron ; directed by Gary Giddins with Kendrick Simmons ; edited by Kendrick Simmons. New York, NY : CMV Enterprises, c1989. 1 videocassette (86 min., 35 sec.) : sd., col. with b&w sequences ; 1/2 in. ML419.A75 G53 1989 Videocassette: With over a dozen of his classic performamces ranging from 1932 to the late sixties, Satchmo includes excerpts from Pennies from heaven, Betty Boop cartoon, Going places, Jam session, New Orleans with Billie Holiday, High society with Bing Crosby, and Hello Dolly with Barbra Streisand. Also included are live concerts with Dizzy Gillespie, and Jack Teagarden and the All Stars. The film also presents on-camera interviews with Arvell Shaw, Tony Bennett, Wynton Marsalis, Dave Brubeck and other musicians.

Showtime at the Apollo (1954) (80 minutes)   Streaming video via Matinee Classics : The best and the greatest black singers, comedians and bands perform live on the stage of the Apollo Theater in New York City. Cast: Nipsey Russell, Willie Bryant, Duke Ellington, The Clovers, Larry Darnell, Herb Jeffries, Dinah Washington, Amos Millborne, Count Basie, Big Joe Turner, Mantan Moreland, Lionel Hampton, Martha Davis, Nat King Cole and Bill Bailey.

St. Louis Blues (1929)  (16 mins.) Streaming video via Matinee Classics : Directed by Dudley Murphy. Cast: Bessie Smith.  In this all-black cast short, legendary blues singer Bessie Smith finds her gambler lover Jimmy messin' with a pretty, younger woman; he leaves and she sings the blues, with chorus and dancers.  Ownly known footage of Bessie Smith.

Standing in the Shadows of Motown  / Artisan Entertainment presents an Elliott Scott/Rimshot production of a Paul Justman film ; produced by Sandy Passman, Allan Slutsky and Paul Justman ; narration written by Walter Dallas and Ntozake Shange ; directed by Paul Justman.  [United States] : Artisan Home Entertainment, [2003], c2002.  2 DVD videodiscs (107 min.) : sd., col. ; 4 3/4 in. PN1995.9.M86 S73 2003 VideoDVD : The story of the Funk Brothers, the group of musicians that played on every single hit Motown record from the label's beginnings to 1972.  Cast : The Funk Brothers: Richard "Pistol" Allen, Jack "Black Jack" Ashford, Bob Babbitt, Johnny Griffith, Joe Hunter, Uriel Jones, Joe Messina, Eddie "Chank" Willis, and, in spirit: Benny "Papa Zita" Benjamin, Eddie "Bongo" Brown, James "Igor" Jamerson, Earl "Chunk of Funk" Van Dyke, Robert White; with, Joan Osborne, Gerald Levert, Meshell Ndegeocello, Bootsy Collins, Ben Harper, Chaka Khan.

That's Black Entertainment : African-American contributions in film and music, 1903-1944 / produced by Barbara L. Kaye. North Hollywood, CA : produced and distributed by OnDeck Home Entertainment, c1997. 2 vhs videocassettes (ca. 106 min.) PN1995.9.N4 T47 1997 Videocassette : Vol. 1 covers the history of Black filmmaking from its earliest days through the twenties, focusing on the movies that were made and the production companies that produced them and includes three short films. Vol. 2 compiles a vintage video collection of three-minute music videos called "soundies" that were originally screened on a visual jukebox called Panorams during the 1940s. Contents - v. 1, Race movies : the early history of Black cinema with three original short films. St. Louis blues (starring Bessie Smith) -- Hi-de-ho (starring Cab Calloway) -- Boogie-woogie dream (starring Lena Horne). v. 2, The soundies era : Black music video's from the 1940's. Hey lawdy mama (June Richmond with Roy Milton and his band) -- Take me back, baby (Count Basie Orchestra) -- Some of these days (Maxine Sullivan) -- Beat me, daddy (Maurice Rocco) -- Is you is, or is you ain't my baby? (King Cole Trio and Ida James) -- Baby won't you please come home (Herb Jeffries) -- Keep waitin' (George Washington Brown) -- Toot that trumpet (Deep River Boys) -- Keep smiling (Four Ginger Snaps) -- Babbling Bess (Chanticleers) -- Dispossessed blues (Lynn Albritton and the Four Knobs) -- Lovin' up a solid breeze (Chanticleers) -- Block party revels (Billy and Ann, Lynn Albritton, Four Knobs, the Harlem Cuties) -- Minnie the moocher (Cab Calloway and his orchestra) -- I call it love (King Cole Trio) -- King of the vibes (Lionel Hampton).

Too Close to Heaven : the Story of Gospel Music / a presentation of Films for the Humanities & Sciences ; an IBT/CTVC production for Channel 4 in association with Jerusalem Productions ; producer, Leo St. Clair ; director, Alan Lewens. Princeton, NJ : Films for the Humanities & Sciences, 2003, c1997. 3 videodiscs (51 min. each) : sd., col. with b&w sequences ; 4 3/4 in. MSU Main Library Digital and Multimedia Center ML3187 .T66 2003 VideoDVD discs 1-3 : Using narration and performance footage, this film traces the 200 year history of gospel music from black churches, to the civil rights movement, to its influence on modern jazz, blues, and rock and roll.

Twenty Feet From Stardom / Radius TWC ; a Gil Friesen production ; a Morgan Neville film ; executive producers, Art Bilger, George Conrades, Joel S. Ehrenkranz, Peter Morton ; produced by Caitrin Rogers ; produced by Gil Friesen ; directed by Morgan Neville ; Tremolo Productions ; Project B.S. LLC.  Beverly Hills, CA : Anchor Bay Entertainment, [2014]  1 DVD videodisc (91 min.) : sound, color ; 4 3/4 in.   MSU Main Library Digital and Multimedia Center  ML400 .T84 2014 VideoDVD  (Also available in the ROVI Movie Collection) : They are the voices behind the greatest rock, pop and R&B hits of all time, but no one knows their names. Now, in this award-winning documentary, director Morgan Neville shines the spotlight on the untold stories of such legendary background (backup) singers as Darlene Love, Merry Clayton, Lisa Fischer, Judith Hill, and more. Includes behind-the-scenes footage, vintage live performances, and interviews with Bruce Springsteen, Sting, Mick Jagger, Stevie Wonder, and Bette Midler.

Wattstax  (1973) / a Stax Films/Wolper Pictures production ; directed by Mel Stuart ; produced by Larry Shaw, Mel Stuart.  Burbank, CA : Distributed by Warner Home Video, c2004.  1 DVD videodisc (103 min.) : sd., col. ; 4 3/4 in.  M1670 .W37 2004 VideoDVD : On Aug. 20, 1972, more than 100,000 people attended a concert that came to be known as 'the Black Woodstock.' Staged in Los Angeles, Calif., it was in part a response to Watts Riot of 1965. Wattstax documents this historic event and includes the once-lost original ending.

We Shall Overcome / producers, Jim Brown ... [et al.] ; director, Jim Brown. San Francisco, CA : California Newsreel, c1988. 1 VHS videocassette (58 min.) : sd., col. ; 3/4 in. M1977.C47 W47 1988 Videocassette : We Shall Overcome was produced for PBS by Ginger Group Film Productions. This film chronicled the history of the song that was originally an old slave spiritual and became the anthem of the civil rights movement both nationally and internationally. Includes footage and interviews with Harry Belafonte, Pete Seeger, Joan Baez, Taj Mahal, Peter, Paul & Mary, and the Freedom Singers.

What's Love Got To Do With It (1993)  / Touchstone Pictures.   [United States] : Touchstone Home Video ; [Burbank, Calif.] : Distributed by Buena Vista Home Video, [1994]  1 laserdisc videodisc (118 min.) : sd., col. ; 12 in.  ML420.T95 W47 1994 Video (12 inch) disc : The turbulent relationship of Ike and Tina Turner eventually forces Tina to leave and find the courage to believe in herself.  Cast : Angela Bassett, Laurence Fishburne.  Want more info?  Try Movie Review Search Engine.

Wild Women Don't Have the Blues The Women, the Music, The Legacy / California Newsreel, 1989) by Burrows, Vinie, Dall, Christine & Taylor, Koko, directed by Dall, Christine.   58:09 mins.    Streaming video from California Newsreel : Wild Women is everything its title implies, reaching back into history to profile the legendary black singers of the 20s and 30s... The story of Ma Rainey, Ethel Waters, Bessie Smith, Alberta Hunter, Ida Cox, and other pioneering blues women from early in the century are brought to life in Wild Women Don't have the Blues. We learn of their vision and their struggle, their pain and their humor, their unflagging spirit, and most of all, their legendary music. The film compiles for the first time dozens of rare, classic renditions of the early blues to commentary by 'Queen of the Blues' Koko Taylor.

Subject Guide

Erik Ponder's picture
Erik Ponder
African Studies Librarian
MSU Libraries
366 W. Circle Dr. (E 224B)
East Lansing, MI 48824

Ask a Librarian

Black Popular Music Including R. & B., Soul, Etc.

Kathleen Battle - He's Got the Whole World in His Hands (with Jessye Norman), Swing Low, Sweet Chariot (with the Boys Choir of Harlem)

George Benson - Breezin', On BroadwayTake Five, and This Masquerade

Chuck Berry - Johnny B Goode, Maybellene, My Ding-a-Ling, and Roll Over Beethoven

Mary J. Blige -I Am,  Take Me As I Am, You Make Me Feel Like A Natural Woman

Blind Boys of Alabama - Amazing Grace,  Go Tell It On the Mountain

Booker T and the MGs - Green Onions and Hip Hug Her courtesy of

James Brown - I Feel Good (1995) and  Say it Loud I'm Black and I'm Proud

Peabo Bryson - All My Love, Beauty and the Beast (with Celine Dion), and Can You Stop the Rain

Tracy Chapman - Fast Car, Give Me One Reason, Talking About a Revolution (1988)

Ray Charles - Georgia on my MindHit the road Jack!, Living for the City (with Stevie Wonder), and more recordings available via Jazz on the Web

Chi Lites - (For God Sake) Give More Power to the People and listen to Huey P. Newton talk about how U.S. Imperialism sold our own music  back to us and to the world.

Sam Cooke - Chain Gang,  A Change is Gonna Come, Cupid, This Little Light of MineNobody Knows the Trouble I've Seen,  Wonderful World

Coolio Featuring L.V. - "Gangsta's Paradise"  : a rap song by Coolio featuring L.V. from the movie Dangerous Minds (1995) (starring Michelle Pfeiffer). The song was later released on the albums Gangsta's Paradise and Dangerous Minds soundtrack in 1995. Coolio was awarded a Grammy for the song/album. The song was voted as the best single of the year in The Village Voice Pazz & Jop critics poll.

Bo Diddley - I'm a Man, "In His Prime"

Earth, Wind, and Fire - Boogie Wonderland (1979),  Evil, and  September.

Four Tops -  Baby I Need Your Lovin' (1965), I Can't Help Myself, and Sugar Pie Honey Bunch.

Roberta Flack - Killing Me Softly With His Song and The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face

Aretha Franklin - Don't Play That Song for Me,  I Say A Little Prayer (1970), Respect, You Make Me Feel Like a Natural Woman.

Marvin Gaye - Heard It Through the Grapevine,  Mercy, Mercy Me, and  Sexual Healing

Marvin Gaye Sings "What's Going On / What's Happening Brother"An excerpt from the recently released DVD of some of Marvin's greatest live performances on TV and film, "Real Thing: In Performance 1964-1981," This live performance comes from the long out-of-circulation 1973 film, "Save The Children" with James Jamerson on bass.   Another version of What's Going On (original 36-minute Detroit mix).

Al Green - Ain't No Sunshine, People Get Ready (with Linda Jones and Wanda Neal)

Jimi Hendrix - All Along the Watchtower, And the Wind Cries Mary, Castles Made of Sand, Foxey LadyHey Joe, Little Wing,  Purple Haze, and  Voodoo Child 

Gil Scott Heron - Message to the Messengers (4:56), The Revolution Will Not Be Televised

Whitney Houston - The Greatest Love of All, I Have Nothing,  I Will Always Love You, Run to You,  Saving All My Love for You, and Where Do Broken Hearts Go. 

James Ingram - 100 Ways, I Don't Have the Heart,  How Do You Keep the Music Playing (with Tamia), Just Once,  Somewhere Out There (with Linda Ronstadt),  Yah Mo B There (with Michael McDonald)

Jackson 5 - ABC,  I'll Be There

Michael Jackson - Bad, Billie Jean, Black or White,  Man in the Mirror, Remember the Time, Rock With YouThriller, The Way You Make Me Feel.  

Etta James - All I Could Do Was Cry, At LastI'd Rather Go Blind, and Rock and Roll Music (with Chuck Berry)

Rick James - SuperFreak.

Al Jarreau - Mornin', My Old Friend, and Your Song

Alicia Keys - Doesn't Mean Anything, Fallin', No One,  Superwoman, A Woman's Worth

Patti LaBelle - On My Own (with Michael McDonald), Somebody Loves You (You Know Who It Is),  When You Talk About Love

Curtis Mayfield - Superfly Album (1972)

Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes - Don't Leave Me This Way,  Wake Up Everybody

Johnny Nash - I Can See Clearly Now

Aaron Neville - Amazing Grace,  Don't Know Much (with Linda Ronstadt),  For Your Precious Love, The Grand Tour,  When a Man Loves a Woman

O'jays - Back Stabbers, Love Train,  Used Ta Be My Girl

Pilgrim Travelers - The Life You Save May Be Your Own, The Old Rugged Cross

The Pointer Sisters - He's So Shy I'm So Excited Jump (For My Love), Slow Hand,  You Got Me Hummin

Prince - 1999,  Little Red Corvette, Purple Rain, Baltimore via NPR (2015).

Lou Rawls - Lady Love, You'll Never Find Another Love Like Mine, Stormy Monday (with Stanley Turrentine)

Otis Redding - Love Man, These Arms of Mine,  Try a Little Tenderness, Sitting on the Dock of the Bay 

Little Richard - Good Golly Miss Molly, Long Tall Sally (1956), Tutti Frutti (1995)

Lionel Ritchie - All Night Long, Dancing on the Ceiling, Hello, Penny Lover, Say You Say Me, Stuck on You, Three Times a Lady.

Smokey Robinson and the Miracles - Ooh Baby Baby The Tears of a Clown, The Tracks of My Tears (1965).

Diana Ross & the Supremes - Baby Love. Someday We'll Be TogetherStop in the Name of Love (1965), Where Did Our Love Go, and You Keep Me Hangin' On.

Darius Rucker - Let Her Cry

Percy Sledge - When a Man Loves a Woman

The Temptations sing Ain't Too Proud to Beg (1966), Just My Imagination,  My Girl (1965), and Papa Was a Rolling Stone (1972).

Tina Turner - Private Dancer, Proud MaryRollin' on the River, and Simply the BestShort bio courtesy of Wikipedia.

Luther Vandross - Always And ForeverDance With My Father, Endless Love (with Mariah Carey), and Power of Love (Love Power)

Lil Wayne - Prom Queen

Barry White - Can't Get Enough of Your Love and Let the Music Play

Jackie Wilson - Lonely Teardrops,  Your Love Is Lifting Me Higher

Nancy Wilson - The Very Thought of You

Bill Withers - Ain't No Sunshine Grandma's Hands Lean on Me Lovely Day, and Use Me

Howlin' Wolf - How Many More Years and  Smokestack Lightning (1964)

Stevie Wonder - Cherie Amour, For Once in My Life, I Just Called to Say I Love You, Isn't She Lovely, Living for the City (1974),  Signed, Sealed, Delivered, I'm Yours, Superstition, and You Are the Sunshine of My Life (1974)

Michigan State University