This isn't a new phenomenon. Since the beginnings of the recording industry, black entrepreneurs launched many successful labels which in turn launched the careers of many artists who otherwise may not have found an audience.
The Music Collection has CDs and information about many of these labels.
1921: Black Swan Records was founded in Harlem by Harry Pace. It was the first black-owned record label that produced music by and for black Americans. Pace recorded ground-breaking artists such as Fletcher Henderson and his Orchestra, one of the first great dance bands, and songstress Ethel Waters. Composer William Grant Still was one of the regular accompanying instrumentalists. The label was short-lived but its impact continues to this day.
During the 1930s and 1940s, black artists recorded for white-owned labels, many making a lot of money and becoming superstars of their time. Records marketed to black audiences were called "race records." Okey, Columbia, Paramount and Decca made millions from this market.
In the 1950s artists and the recording industry rebelled against the polished pop sounds of the post-war era. In jazz, small bebop combos recalled the earliest days of jazz, when improvisation within small groups gave artists such as Louis Armstrong creative freedom. There was also a folk music revival, which brought rural sounds to the fore. White artists such as Pete Seeger and The Weavers popularized white folk music, the blues of rural black America experienced a renaissance that eventually resulted in the new genre of rock 'n' roll. The Library of Congress's folklore programs brought both black and white folk music to urban consciousness through its records (Most now available on the Smithsonian-Folkways label)
Power to the Motown People" is a compilation of songs from 1968-1975 that expressed the varied feelings of artists during turbulent times. The label continues to produce African-American artists' work.
Selected CDs in the Music Collection:
- Commodores: The Ultimate Collection Compact Disc 15342
- Marvin Gaye Gold Compact Disc 19685
- Jackson 5: The Ultimate Collection Compact Disc 22039
- Gladys Knight (& The Pips): The Ultimate Collection: Compact Disc 10267
- Smokey Robinson: The Solo Anthology Compact Disc 16806
- The Supremes Gold Compact Disc 22129
- The Temptations
- Stevie Wonder
A Cellarful of Motown: The Rarest Detroit Grooves
- Volume 1: Compact Disc 22405
- Volume 2: Compact Disc 22407
- Volume 3: Compact Disc 22413
- Volume 4: Compact Disc 22485
Read more about the African-American recording industry in The Encyclopedia of African-American Culture and History (log in required from off campus)