by Erika Cox
Often very overlooked, African-Americans contributed greatly to
the advent and success of rock and roll music.
Little Richard was
telling the truth when he said he is the real King of Rock and Roll, and
if it wasn’t him then it was
Chuck Berry, or
Rock and Roll music and many of its’ artists were heavily influenced by
the sounds of black blues artists, people like Muddy Walters, Howlin
Wolf, and Junior Parker to name a few.
In fact, one of the first true rock and roll songs mentioned came from
Joe Turner, black blues artists, who sang, “Shake, Rattle, and Roll.” If
one listens to this song by Joe Turner it should be very clear that this
is the, or one of the, first true rock and roll songs. It sounds like a
rock and roll song, not a blues song. The beat is up tempo and the words
and rhythm of the song depict the sounds and feelings of a true rock and
Another first rock and roll song was “Rocket 88, which was a number one
R&B song in 1951. This song was first recorded by the Ike Turner band
not Bill Haley and the Comets. “Rocket 88” and “Shake, Rattle, and Roll”
were all remade by
Bill Haley and the Comets.
However, it is obvious why
black artists and their songs were overlooked in the development and
contribution of rock and roll music.
The blatant racism that ran rampant in our society completely gave white
artists all the credit, although eventually many of these black artists
got the recognition they deserved later in their career or,
unfortunately, after their death.
The fact that there were so many cover songs recorded by white artists
of black artists’ music was also obvious and depicted the state of
America at the time. Let me explain what a cover song is and why some
people nowadays inaccurately state what a cover song is.
A cover song is
not a remake of a particular song that was recorded and credited by
another artist, usually a few years before that is what’s called a
remake. A cover song is a deliberate attempt to “cover up” the
recordings of one artist’s song to promote the recordings as someone
else’s song. In other words, it is sort of like plagiarism. It is
deliberately taking credit for someone else’s song without giving credit
to the original artist, which prevents the original artist from
receiving any deserved recognition.
Cover songs don’t happen in today’s world, at least it is not as
prevalent as it was back in the 1940’s and 1950’s. It was very prevalent
back in those days because of the abundance of racism in our society.
White music listeners and those in the recording business, except for
the artists, did not want to listen to the music sung by black artists
and they didn’t want their children listening to the music either.
music producers would hear a recording being made or done by a black
artist, find a white artist or group to record that same song, and
credit the white artist or group as the original artist(s) of that
particular song or songs, without giving any recognition or credit to
the black artist who first recorded the song. The concept of cover songs
were done by record producers to overcome the racism in society and
figure out a way to get this burgeoning, exciting music to the white
So, that is why Little Richard always makes the claim that he is the
original king of rock and roll. He and others would record songs that
were credited to white artists and they received no recognition for
their own music.
This music was disguised and promoted as someone else’s
song. The final part of what a cover song involves the fact that white
artists would not only receive recognition for black artists’ songs but
would also receive all the money, royalties, and fame from the song or
songs. Many black artists recorded a number of songs but didn’t receive
any money or royalty for their songs.
Fortunately, most of these overlooked talented black artists have now
been recognized and credited for all their recordings and many people
realize that the African-American influence in rock and roll music was
very significant and overwhelmingly. Most white artists, especially in
the 1960’s and beyond, have credited these black artists as major
influences in their music careers. If it had not been for many of these
black blues artists, rock and roll would have never came into existence.
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