Duke Ellington, Sam Cooke, Bob Marley, Ella Fitzgerald, Nat King Cole, John Coltrane, and Nina Simone are just some of the great Black musicians who have graced the world with their presence. This post will be have books paired with musical selections for you to sample. If you’re curious about the brilliant minds that created the music, my goal was to find the closest biographies that captured their actual words through interviews or autobiographical works where available.
Book List of Black Musicians
Charisma, charm, and magnetism are sweetly evident in this ladies' hearthrob. Entranced by all in earshot of his voice and hypnotized upon looking into his seductive eyes. It’s why I joke with my friends that he was my husband. He was on top of the music game and able to mesmerize his audience with his captivating and endearing gaze and smooth as silk voice. His great nephew, Erik Greene did a book signing at Afriware Books, Co in 2005 when the book his family wrote, “Our Uncle Sam: The Life of Sam Cooke,” was just released. It was a touching signing because some of his family members were there and wept during the presentation though 42 years had passed since Cooke was murdered. Though his book is no longer available through the website set up to sell it, consider, “Dream Boogie: The Triumph of Sam Cooke” by Peter Guralnick.
I was so excited to find the book “The Best of Earth, Wind & Fire” written in 1989 by the great Earth Wind & Fire themselves. I’m so happy it is still available. Their music is timeless and came back into focus after the passing of Maurice White the lead singer in 2016. They are truly the soundtrack of our lives with such earth shattering prophetic tunes as, "That's the Way of the World." All of their tunes iinger in the heart and mind far beyond the notes are actually heard. They had over 50 top hit records.
Duke Ellington hand-picked my father’s choral group, the Irving Bunton Singers’ in 1963 to participate in a production of the musical revue “My People.” It was a celebration of the Centennial of the issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation by President Abraham Lincoln. The title was inspired by Langston Hughes’ poem “My People,” which is still available. I highly recommend the combination book, and CD. I was in my twenties when I remember finding out about this historic moment along with my siblings. When I’ve shared this with friends they wondered why this wasn’t the first thing out of my dad’s mouth when he met anyone. We are forever proud of my father, Irving Bunton to have worked with The Duke! When researching the books available on “The Duke,” I was surprised to find a stage play called, “Lest We Forget” with contributions by Nina Simone and Howard Thurman.
Whenever I hear Alice Coltrane I’m instantly transported to a different galaxy. The ”Journey in Satchidana” is a favorite mixing harp, oboe and cello in the most mysterious and ever-flowing soundscape. A delight for the ears. Coltrane didn’t write any books herself, but a book is available called, “Monument Eternal: The Music of Alice Coltrane by Franya Berkman. Her husband John Coltrane was a force to be reckoned with and caused an earthquake in the Jazz.
Sun Ra and his Intergalactic Solar Arestra’s “Space is the Place” (https://youtu.be/7iAQCPmpSUI) was an out of this world electronic meltdown on steroids. Unpredictable radionic thrills were a mainstay mixed with titanic Ancient Egyptian soul. Check out his “Lanquidity” https://youtu.be/nm9TDy20Lxo, for a sample or purchase it here. Sun Ra should be studied and analyzed as he seems literally light years ahead of all of us. It’s far from “easy to dance to and has a nice beat” which used to be repeated on Dick Clark’s Band Stand. There’s a book that came out in 2020 that specifically focuses on Chicago called, “Sun Ra's Chicago: Afrofuturism and the City.” We have an entire blog post dedicated to him called, "Books by or about Sun Ra."
When I first started listening to his music it perplexed me. It didn’t seem to have any rhyme or reason. It abandoned all formalities and staff lines and musical rules it seemed. I always asked myself what was the point? Much later after the music settled into my spirit, I deduced that this was precisely the point. Music should be free to express itself in whatever form or beat, and his music epitomized that.
My classical musical background helps me to understand the importance of the arts. In a world determined to undermine Black people, it is important to find a retreat to lay your burdens down. Retooling and refreshing are normal part of exressing your humanity.
This post will evolve over time. It would be impossible to make an exhaustive post on our repertoire of Black music; the list would be endless. I invite you to delve deeper into the lives of these musicians and read the books on their lives to find out their inspiration. If you are interested in purchasing any of the books, I hope you will consider getting it from Afriware Books, Co. Thank you as always for reading. If you can not find the titles mentioned on our website, please emaail us, and we'll add them based on availability at: email@example.com
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