AKA Popular Black Music - It ain't just gospel and hip-hop.
I was originally going to name the previous post Cult of Personality, but upon looking it up, I learned that the term actually applies specifically to political figures. Shows how much I know. But it did inspire me to post about Living Colour, one of the greatest rock bands of the late 20th century, and sadly a band that burned up quickly and fell into obscurity. One of the rare all-black punk/rock bands, they successfully and brilliantly fused rock, punk, rap, funk and soul music into a wondrous mixture. Their first album, Vivid, was a shock to the system of music fans everywhere at a time when popular black music meant Bobby Brown or, God forbid these days, Whitney Houston. But Living Colour was the real deal - talented instrumentalists (Vernon Reid, Muzz Skillings, Will Calhoun), intelligent songwriters, and Corey Glover's amazing singing talents all combined to truly, for the first time in a long time, create something that was brand new. Their second album, Time's Up, was a bit more experimental, and didn't garner quite the same popularity as Vivid. Sadly, by the time their third album, Stain, came out, they were on their way out. All three albums are good for different reasons, but I will always remember Vivid as the one that opened people's eyes. Here's Love Rears It's Ugly Head, from Time's Up. Enjoy.
Since we're on the subject, next up is Bad Brains.
Now this was something truly innovative, though not even remotely mainstream. Bad Brains, out of Washington DC, blew the doors off my world when I was 13 (though they'd been around since 1982), and I've never looked back. Long before Living Colour, there was Bad Brains, the first (and possibly only) all black reggae/hardcore punk band. They were loud, fast, serious Rastafarians, incredibly political and intelligent, almost incoherent at times, but poetic in their lyrics and amazingly talented in their music. Gathered together by Dr. Know, the guitarist, they were most well known for H.R., their tumultuous lead singer (who once recorded the vocals for a track from a prison pay phone). Sadly, after numerous independently released albums and a couple of major label ones, they disbanded. They went through the motions in the late 90's, trying new lead singers, but could never recapture the magic. This is one of their more accessible songs, I Against I, off of the album of the same name. I'd recommend that, Rock For Light, Banned In DC or Quickness. Do me a favor and really listen, and let me know your thoughts.