Tom Morello, Jimi Hendrix, Slash, Lenny Kravitz, Chuck Berry

USA Today / SIPA USA

20 Incredible Black Artists in Rock and Roll

By: Anthony Capobianco

February 20, 2018

We all know that the rock music we love originated from the blues. Of course that genre, like many other musical genres, also came from the heart and souls of African Americans.

For most music fans, Jimi Hendrix, Prince, and Chuck Berry are synonymous with rock music and African American rock pioneers. But, in honor of Black History Month, we wanted to shine a light on 17 other black rockers, both past and present, whose musical impact continues to shape rock and roll as we know it today. *In no particular order*

 

1. Jimi Hendrix

As far as fans, fellow musicians, and even his contemporaries are concerned, Hendrix is and always shall be the GOAT of rock guitarists. With songs like "Purple Haze," "Hey Joe," and "Foxy Lady," as well as playing the "Star Spangled Banner" at Woodstock, and even setting his own guitar on fire, Hendrix undoubtedly cemented himself as one of the first rock icons - black, white, or other.

 

2. Chuck Berry

Hailed by many as the true father of rock and roll, Chuck Berry's musical contributions started as ripples before turning into waves. He would go on to be a major inspiration for hundreds of artists, including both the Beatles and Elvis Presley.

 

3. Slash

The giant top hat, oversized sunglasses, hair covering his eyes, and a sound uniquely his own ...  a true guitar hero. Slash's playing style is one that helped forge the iconic sound of Guns N' Roses: hot and fiery like a blazing pistol, yet beautiful and melodic with just a little sting to it.

 

4. Prince

As if being a cultural icon who could move seamlessly through genres like rock, pop and R&B wasn't hard enough, try doing it all in high-heeled platform shoes! Prince's musical catalog is so enormous that it is believed that his vault contains hundreds of hours of still unreleased music.

 

5. Fats Domino

Throughout the 1950s and early '60s, Domino would dominate the R&B and pop charts, topping it approximately 122 times. In fact, he sold more records than Buddy HollyChuck Berry, and Little Richard put together. The only other artist to outsell Domino at the time was Elvis Presley, who held Domino in high regard by calling him the "real king of rock and roll."

 

6. Little Richard

Known for his high-energy and charismatic showmanship, Little Richard was another major influence for future rock and rollers. Aside from rock, he was also an inspiration to many R&B and hip-hop artists. He was officially inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1986.

 

7. Lenny Kravitz

The seemingly ageless Lenny Kravtiz continues to forge a path made from his own unique style of rock, funk, R&B, soul, and reggae. Plus, he can hold his own on the guitar next to Prince!

 

8. Gary Clark Jr.

He's one of the greatest guitarists of this generation and proved it with his cover of "Come Together" by the Beatles for the Justice League film. Gary Clark Jr. first caught the world's attention with his 2012 song "Bright Lights," and has been more recently spotted sharing the stage with musical greats such as Eric Clapton.

 

9. RUN-DMC

Besides being the face of hip-hop in the 1980s, Darryl McDaniels, Reverend Run and Jam Master Jay fused rock  music into many of their songs, including on "King Of Rock," "Rock Box," and "It's Tricky." They also made a name for themselves in the rock world with their role as one half of one of the greatest rock duets of all time alongside Aerosmith on the iconic "Walk This Way."

 

10. Tina Turner

Widely regarded as the "Queen of Rock and Roll," Tina Turner's solo career skyrocketed after separating from Ike Turner. She continued to find great success with songs like "What's Love Got to Do with It," "Proud Mary," "The Best," and "Private Dancer."

 

11. Lajon Witherspoon

Lead singer of the alt-metal group Sevendust, Lajon has been recognized as one of the top 100 rock vocalists of all time by Hit Parader. One part soul, one part wrath-filled fury, Witherspoon's voice helped fuel the band's success from the late '90s on.

 

12. Bad Brains

They were loud, wild, and volatile. An unforgettable voice in the DC hardcore punk scene that put on equally unforgettable live shows. It's no wonder they became a major influence for Foo Fighters frontman Dave Grohl.

 

13. Bo Diddley

You can place Bo Diddley next to Chuck Berry as one of the early innovators in rock. Besides making his name with songs "Hey Bo Diddley," "Who Do You Love," and "I'm A Man," Diddley was also known for playing a signature rectangle-shaped guitar that he built himself!

 

14. William DuVall 

Following the death of Alice In Chains frontman Layne Staley, DuVall was recruited to be the band's new co-vocalist and guitarist in 2006. Since reforming, the band has released a ton of new music including songs like "Your Decision," "Black Gives Way To Blue" and "Check My Brain" with DuVall at the helm.

 

15. Tommy Vext

Tommy Vext first emerged into the mainstream after serving as Five Finger Death Punch's touring vocalist when frontman Ivan Moody briefly left to enter rehab. Vext currently serves as the lead vocalist for the hard rock/metal supergroup Bad Wolves, who recently released a cover of "Zombie" by The Cranberries that was planned to feature the vocals of Dolores O'Riordan before her untimely death.

 

16. Body Count

One part rap. One part metal. All parts loud and badass. Fronted by rapper/actor Ice T, Body Count has been rocking stages since the early '90s and much of the band's lyrical content serves as a commentary on modern day social issues.

 

17. Living Colour

Known worldwide for their hit song "Cult of Personality," the members of Living Colour have never shied away from biting their tongues on taboo topics in the news, all while throwing incredible live shows with their own unique blend of alternative metal, funk, rock, punk. and jazz. Although the band faded from the public eye in the '90s, they reformed in 2000 and continue to tour the country to this day.

 

18. Phil Lynott

The Thin Lizzy frontman often regarded Jimi Hendrix as a major musical inspiration and even wrote "Song For Jimi" on the 10th anniversary of the icon's death. Thin Lizzy also remains one of the largest snubs in the history of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

 

19. Tom Morello 

The son of an Italian/Irish mother and a Kenyan father, Morello founded Rage Against The Machine with frontman Zach de la Rocha in 1991. The talented guitarist and passionate political activist has also played in a pair of Supergroups: both Audioslave with the late Chris Cornell and currently with the rap-rock collective Prophets of Rage.

 

20. Fishbone

Much like their funk/rock counterparts Red Hot Chili Peppers and Jane's Addiction, Fishbone rose to success in Los Angeles with their satisfying mixture of punk, ska and reggae and songs like "Everyday Sunshine" and "Ma & Pa."