Hi Readers,

Thank you for joining me again as we continue to pay tribute to Black music.

Why a tribute to the R&B divas of the 1970’s?

In today’s entertainment world, female singers so often use their bodies and sex appeal to sell their music that I truly believe there is a need to honor those true blue divas of yesterday so today’s music consumers can have an idea of true raw talent that can sell without sex.

Please don’t get me wrong; I know that there are some talented contemporary R&B singers out there.

Indie Arie

Mary J Blige

Faith Evans

Alicia Keys

Jill Scott

Erykah Badu

Toni Braxton

Forgive me if I missed a truly talented sister.

While these are some real talented ladies who continue the tradition of Black women singers of the Soul/R&B ilk, I believe that the legacy of the Black woman in music has been tainted.

Nicki Minaj, Lil Kim, Lil Mo, etc.-while contributing to Black music, represent the excessiveness and over the top spectacle that has come to represent the current(Black) music scene.

Although I am well aware that we now live in an era where visual appeal has unfortunately caused talent to take a back seat, the strength and meaning of our music has become poorer and lacking.

I distinctly remember a couple of years ago when both Indie Arie and Alicia Keys were both tied for best albums that year.

At several awards shows Alicia Keys beat out Indie Arie.

Note that I love Alicia and I think she is a force to be reckoned with.

But I was left wandering if Alicia’s Bi-racial heritage -which is more acceptable than Indie’s strong Black features-, played a role.

To some in the African American community, this was a grave injustice with the potential to really split us along lines of skin color.

But anyway readers, I digress.

In this post I want to truly honor and remember those “real” sassy powerful singers who left a legacy for our young sisters to emulate and hopefully continue.

Queen of Soul

What is it about Aretha Franklin that is still inspiring to today’s youth in spite of the overabundance of readily available raw sexuality?

Well let’s take a look at the corpus of Aretha’s work.


Aretha recorded this song in an era when dispossessed groups such as African Americans and women were asserting their value and worth to American society.

Unfortunately, these groups are still fighting on some level for bona fide respect on all levels: economic, political, beauty, history, etc.


Wow, what an impressive manifesto!!!!

MS Franklin has no problem with letting her man or any man know that she will not be a willing doormat for abuse-mental, physical or otherwise.

Natural Woman….

Another manifesto for the feminist age.

Bold and brazen.

This song imbues women with the confidence to express to men there true feelings without fear of rejection.

Chain of Fools….

I don’t know about you readers, but heaven knows that I have had my experiences of bad relationships where I have played the fool.

Props to the Queen for leading the way for me to reminisce and reflect on my foolish days!!!!

The Empress of Soul

Gladys Knight, like Aretha is timeless.

I swear Gladys still speaks to my heart and my many life experiences.

In her autobiography Between Every Line of Pain and Glory, she writes that she was hesitant to sing the hit song If I were Your Woman because it was sung from the perspective of the other Woman.

The song was a reflection of the tenor of the times-the brazen feminist.

Kudos to Gladys for highlighting the sensitivity and depths of a woman’s love.

Neither One of Us…

This is perhaps my favorite Gladys Knight song.

When I hear this song today, I am reminded of strong willed women who offered men the stability of their love.

This rings true in Gladys’s signature hit: Midnight Train to Georgia

Here is a woman who makes a promise to stand by her man through success and failure; whether in the big city or the country.

They don’t make them like that anymore….

Patti Labelle….

I have always loved and appreciated Patti’s approach to life.

She is a mixture of downhome and flamboyance.

Patti can mix it up with royalty and the average Joe!!!

Most compelling for me is her life as a survivor.

According to her autobiography Don’t Block the Blessings, Patti has survived a stunning number of personal blows.

She has lost all of her siblings to cancer in addition to being a surrogate mother to her sibling’s children.

And still, she is like a phoenix rising from the ashes to create and remake herself anew each decade for another generation.

I was too young to remember Patti in her Labelle days.

I remember hearing Patti for the first time in the 1980’s starting with her hit single If Only You Knew.

When I finally got to match the song with the artist, I was as usual pleasantly surprised to discover that she had a long and varied career.

After that initial discovery Patti has been soaring ever since…

As an avid lover of Black R&B Soul music, I am grateful for the legacies of Aretha, Gladys and Patti.

The body of music left by these three women offer a glimpse into the world at the time when they were struggling to be true to themselves and contend with a world that was bent on denying Black women their humanity.

In a recent conversation with a friend she mentioned that neither of these women were sex symbols.

If judging by today’s standards then I guess not.

Her statement was very poignant in that these women struggled to create their art in an era where Black women were assigned to a menial level in where they were tolerated.

In spite of the meanness of the times, all three rose above the negative fray on the sheer force of their talent and are enduring superstars.

If we are being honest with ourselves, the R&B singers of today with an exception of a very few, would be hard pressed to follow the examples of these three superstars.

Join me later readers when we cap our Black music series with R Kelly’s place in our musical history.

Until next time….