February was Black History Month, and we released four new songs by incredible Black artists. Take a look at what we added below, and as always you can see what songs are available here.
Get Down On It – Kool & the Gang
Initially a ‘60s jazz and soul group, Kool & The Gang amped up their roots with eclectic and earthy instrumentation to create their signature sound: street funk. This new genre took rhythm to the next level in the ‘70s: big, bold basslines pumped alongside complex drum rhythms with guitars and keyboards filling in the harmonies.
From there, the multi-instrumentalists broke into R&B, releasing new music into the 2000s. Countless awards and honors later, Kool & the Gang’s musical legacy can still be heard in the rhythms of many modern songs.
The ever-so-smooth street funk classic Get Down On It is a perfect example of Kool & the Gang’s collective genius.
Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag – James Brown
He’s the “Godfather of Soul,” “Mr. Dynamite,” the “Hardest Working Man in Show Business,” and “Soul Brother Number One.” He’s James Brown, and he’s the reason we all have a little more funk in our step.
First trained as a gospel singer, James Brown took the ‘60s soul style and made it his own by adding African-influenced poly rhythms to his fiery vocals via punchy horns, drums, and bass. The wildly irresistible result was a brand new genre: funk.
On stage, James Brown was equally innovative: full-leg splits, complex dance steps, and dramatic dance moves were his MO years before extravagant antics became a norm in the music world. And we have him to thank for countless aspects of many contemporary genres, from rap to hip hop to techno.
Home Again – Michael Kiwanuka
Some artists seem sent from another era; the timelessly classic Michael Kiwanuka is one of them.
Born in London to Ugandan parents, the soulful British singer-songwriter skyrocketed to fame in 2012 with the release of his stunning debut album, Home Again. Part soul, part folk, part R&B, it’s a powerful masterpiece filled with endless warmth and emotional depth.
The title track from Home Again starts with a simple acoustic guitar riff before escalating into an impassioned cello-and-piano-backed ballad. It’s the perfect introduction to Michael Kiwanuka if you’re new to this up-and-coming artist, whose song Cold Little Heart became a hit with the help of HBO’s show Big Little Lies.
Hot Stuff – Donna Summer
Clear the dance floor, because the Queen of Disco is here: Donna Summer!
Born in Boston, Massachusetts, Donna Summer’s powerhouse vocals first landed her gigs in NYC before taking her across the Atlantic to Europe. There, she struck a record deal, and the rest is history: She produced hit after hit (32 to be exact), and her flawless, iconic voice soon became a trademark of the ‘70s disco era.
Listeners around the world couldn’t get enough of Donna Summer’s rock-embellished disco songs. In the decades to follow, she continued to experiment, innovate, and create new sounds that influenced the pop, techno and R&B music of future generations.
The insanely catchy (and Grammy-winning!) song Hot Stuff is one of her most famous and beloved songs.
Image credits: Anna Hanks licensed under CC BY 2.0 / Andreas Lawen, Fotandi is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0