By LaKeshia N. Myers
“Up above my head, I hear music n the air; up above my head, I hear music in the air; I really do believe there’s a heaven somewhere.” -Sister Rosetta Tharpe
The month of June is special, not only so we celebrate fathers, pride, and Caribbean heritage, it is Black Music Month. A celebration of the many musicians and genres that have been created and improved by Blacks across the diaspora.
To know me personally is to know that I am a music fan. No matter the genre, I probably can point you in the direction of an original artist who has been sampled multiple times in your favorite song.
What you may not know is that Wisconsin has its place in the creation and distribution of early blues recordings. Paramount Records, located in Grafton, WI, pressed early recordings of Ma Rainey and Blind Lemon Jefferson.
Paramount Records was formed in 1917 by United Phonographs, a subsidiary of the Wisconsin Chair Company as a gimmick to increase the sale of phonograph cabinets. Southern blues musicians would travel to Grafton to record “race records” and have them distributed throughout the country.
This month, I salute the countless number of Black musicians (some of whom are Wisconsinites) who have contributed so much to the music landscape.
Cheers to “Speech” Thomas, Nyerere Davidson, Clyde Stubblefield, Jidenna Mobisson, Adekola & Naima Adedapo, Andre DeShields, Lala Brown, Tank, Calvin Bellamy, Ray Nitti and others who have and continue to hone their craft and never forget to represent their Wisconsin roots.
I encourage everyone to explore new genres and musicians to celebrate Black Music Month. I’m sure you will agree with Sister Rosetta Tharpe that “there’s music in the air.”