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Music » The 15 greatest Black rock artists of all time

The 15 greatest Black rock artists of all time

Jimi Hendrix‘s latest posthumous album, People Hell and Angels, was released this week, much to the delight of fans of the iconic guitarist. Hendrix’s legacy is well-established, but there have been numerous black rock artists over the last five decades who have helped influence the genre. While everyone should know at this point that rock & roll came from the souls of black folks, it should be recognized that, even after the genre’s birth and initial boom, there have been black voices helping to push it forward.

For too many music fans, the history of blacks in rock music is only limited to Chuck Berry, Jimi Hendrix and Prince. While those artists are legends, let’s not overlook the others who have shaped rock & roll, classic rock, punk, funk-rock, alternative and heavy metal.

So, in recognition of Jimi Hendrix’s latest release, here are the 15 greatest black rock artists of all time.

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  1. gerihewitt on February 2, 2014 at 9:50 am

    I guess Phil Lynott didn’t make your list because he wasn’t an American. He’s not in any wikipedia lists of black rock musicians either because they are all African-American lists. Whatever. Thin Lizzy were one of the most influential bands in rock history and Phil was the Main Man of Lizzy

    Black rock musicians surely do need a lot more recognition and exposure.

    I’m white and frankly I find the very concept of this list a bit sad and somewhat racist. No one would ever do a list of the 15 greatest white rock artists of all time because a) people would say it’s racist and b) there’s so many famous white rock artists you couldn’t make a list that anyone else would agree with – you probably couldn’t even agree with it yourself for more than a day or two.

    Apart from a few notable exceptions black rock musicians definitely get marginalized by the music industry, which doesn’t generally think of rock music as “black music” despite its origins. There must be a better way to promote the cause of black rock musicians than this. Most of them never get a shout. Others get a record deal but no proper promotion. Have you guys even heard of Eric Gales? Or Orange Sky (from Trinidad and Tobago)?

    • The Dude on December 20, 2015 at 3:10 pm

      Not when there is white supremacy. You just dismissed the entire struggle of black musicians in a single post. Well done.

    • SmartPatriot on May 21, 2016 at 12:28 pm

      Well there would be no need for a list of the “15 greatest white rock artists”, as every list of the whatever number greatest rock artists is almost always exclusively/inherenty “white”. Using the word as part of the prefix would be redundant. The fact that you would find fault with a list highlighting black artists who would not usually be included in the average list of “Rock ” artists as “Racist”, really says more about you than it does the list, or the concept of compiling a list of the greatest black rock artists my friend. The fact that you acknowledge that “Apart from a few notable exceptions black rock musicians definitely get marginalized by the music industry,” and then go on to complain about a list of artists getting recognition who by your own admission rarely get recognition or even acknowledgement of their very existence, is just dumb, and just bitching for the sake of bitching, aka typical of the internet. Congrats, you’re a cliche. the one thing you said which actually made any sense Phil Lynott being deserved of recognition, and I do call BS on Slash, for as good as he is, he is bi racial and has never ever SELF identified as Black.

    • dana on September 12, 2017 at 7:02 pm

      gerihewitt dumb ass !does not have a
      list of 15 greatest white rock artists of all time, because in all lists
      of 15 greatest rock artists of all time only have whites !

  2. godfacedmonster on May 18, 2014 at 6:01 pm

    Hello? Some idiot forgot to put Fishbone on this list. I was not aware that Slash was black…that would have been good to know when GN’R were crucified for the lyrics for “One in a Million”. I guess you cannot expect race baiters to pay attention to stuff like that.

    • Pablo E. Lopez on May 19, 2014 at 12:43 pm

      Wow you sound like a dumbfuck…good for you.

    • cm Talley on May 19, 2014 at 10:07 pm

      Fishbone is at bottom of list…a grave concern of mine…but they are there.

  3. godfacedmonster on May 18, 2014 at 6:06 pm

    Hello? Some idiot forgot to put Fishbone on this list. I did not know Slash was black, nobody mentioned it when GN’R were crucified in the media for the lyrics to “One in a Million”. I guess the race-baiters did not want people to know about that important nugget of information.

    • One People's Project on December 20, 2015 at 10:16 am

      I knew it, and it was still a fucked up song, especially when they gave fucked up explanations for it at the time. – DLJ

  4. rad on May 19, 2014 at 11:14 am

    who are you people? Its seems you have know idea of music history

  5. Pablo E. Lopez on May 19, 2014 at 12:42 pm

    This was great and all but Prince at #1?….c’mon man.

    • Qternocq on December 22, 2015 at 1:43 pm

      Hear Hear! What a load of… Well, I don’t know what I can say on an American website.

      Anyway: I agree with you. Prince is a good artist (especially with his guitar or other instruments, and in my opinion not so much with his voice), but he shouldn’t even be in the list…

  6. Robin Caldwell on May 19, 2014 at 2:44 pm

    The Chambers Bros, Nona Hendryx, Tamar, Ernie Isley, Buddy Myles, Billy Cobham… (sigh) Youth. No research. Not good.

    • cm Talley on May 19, 2014 at 10:09 pm

      Well it’s only 15. CLEARLY we can get to 50 or 100

    • Bluezplayer on February 22, 2015 at 8:32 pm

      I thought of Buddy Miles, Billy Cobham ( and Stanley Clarke ) as well. Maybe Cobham and Clarke are too far into the Jazz Fusion genre to be considered rockers, but I personally would not argue against it had they been included on this list.

  7. Lee Curtis on May 19, 2014 at 5:55 pm

    I never figured out how in the cases of Kravitz, Slash and arguably Prince, you can become a ” black rocker”, despite having white parents. For them, it’s just as likely that they got their rock sensibility from their white side. But I guess that when these ” black” lists need to be beefed up, you always have to throw in some biracials to make it look cool.

    • cm Talley on May 19, 2014 at 10:11 pm

      If there’s anybody of mixed race in the band it qualifies as Black rock. **smiles**

      • Lee Curtis on May 19, 2014 at 11:14 pm

        I’m just saying biracial rock is coming from a different experience than white or black rock. It’s that sound of not fitting in.

        • cm Talley on May 20, 2014 at 2:44 pm

          Which might explain the disconnect from Kravitz and Harper and Lynott? Those guys get left off the typical Black rock discussion when are some the top grossing rock artists around. They don’t identify with a funk sound nor are they hiphop (blessings).

    • Jeremy Avalon on May 19, 2014 at 11:01 pm

      Prince isnt mixed FYI

      • Lee Curtis on May 19, 2014 at 11:16 pm

        I know he’s not purely black white mixed, but let’s face it, if he was purely black, he wouldn’t have had the cross over success and video airtime that he did in the eighties.

        • Bill on June 16, 2014 at 11:43 am

          Very few African Americans whose families have been in the US since Transatlantic Slavery are “purely” black. Also, I don’t think you much of an understanding of ethnicity and genetics.

          • donalda on January 30, 2015 at 8:22 pm

            The average black American is somewhere between 20 – 30% white and 70% – 80% black. Most of us are of Irish ancestry. My great, great grandfather was a Scotch-Irish landowner.

        • Lunga simelane on December 7, 2014 at 8:14 am

          Lee fuck you, you stupid bitch. you are purely racist like who gives a fuck if they weren’t “pure whites”. Oh and slash was highly influenced by Jimi which means he was influenced by his black side 😉 and if Phil from Thin Lizzy was on this list I would say the exacts same thing. As a biracial 16 year old who’s in a band I can tell you growing up I’ve been accepted by black people and have been considered “white” even though I’m biracial 😉 so fuck you and your stupid opinion.

          • Lee Curtis on December 7, 2014 at 11:59 am

            Oooooh you’re sixteen! I’m scared!!! You’re opinion is based on the two years of life experience you’ve earned since your mommy started letting you ride the bus alone.
            I’m telling you as a fact, there are 3 distinct experiences for black, biracial and white people, and that effects the music they make. White people will not hesitate to make racists comments in front of biracial people who look white. The same white people will pretend not to be racist in front of people that look more black.

          • donalda on January 30, 2015 at 8:25 pm

            I would say that biracial people who look white have a different experience than those who look more black in general, and of course it matters if they were raised in the black community or not. But you can believe on the whole, most biracial people experience the same discriminatory and racist situations that “pure” blacks do.

    • donalda on January 30, 2015 at 8:20 pm

      If you have two white parents, you aren’t black. Kravitz and Slash only have one white parent so they’re half black. Prince does not have a white parent.

    • on May 21, 2016 at 5:24 am

      Both of Prince’s parents were black.

      • Lee Curtis on May 21, 2016 at 9:05 am

        Only according to the “one drop rule”, and the one drop rule was only invented to erase history of white ancestry and preserve segregation. Are we still segregating? Prince and his sister are light skinned with light eyes, and an ancestry test probably would’ve confirmed that Prince and his parents were less than 50% black.
        “Two black parents” will produce an African.

  8. Sirjuggs on May 19, 2014 at 8:51 pm

    Lord, I LOVE Prince, but Jimi will always be at the helm…

  9. cm Talley on May 19, 2014 at 9:57 pm

    The list is ok. We can quibble about things but I’d like to take it out to 50 or 100. Thanks.

  10. cm Talley on May 19, 2014 at 10:06 pm

    Ahh don’t sweat the racial politics, but if you really look at it all rock started with black rock as it progressed from the blues. White rock artists are not starving for acclaim, but the Black rock bands are always struggling to find their base. They don’t exclude and many of us dig the same artists you do. We just want to focus on the overlooked Black bands.

    And yes Phil Lynott and Thin Lizzy should be on that list. 15 is too damn tight!

  11. Audrey on May 20, 2014 at 9:49 am

    It’s just Rock N Roll folks. Black folks have been rocking since it started back in the day.

  12. Jim Goulding on May 21, 2014 at 6:12 pm

    Chuck Berry has to be number 1… the man invented rock and roll… and where is Fats Domino, and Tricky, and (his personal demons aside) Ike Turner?

  13. BPower on September 21, 2014 at 11:36 pm

    Where in the Hell is Arthur Lee!!! (From Love) And what about Charlie Allen the vocalist from Pacific Gas & Electric? And it’s either Hendrix at number One or there is no credibility to this list.

  14. D90HEXPL on October 11, 2014 at 5:39 am

    Prince #1.. ??????

  15. Bluezplayer on February 22, 2015 at 8:27 pm

    Prince is great, but for me Jimi has to be on top of this list. While maybe not as popular as some of the other artists, I have to put Tom Morello and William Duvall somewhere in the mix simply because they are “pure” rockers, and some of the others on this list are not. Not a big “Slash” guy, but I think he has to be higher on the list too…

  16. gerrick on May 25, 2015 at 6:02 pm

    Obviously you guys should check out:
    The Black Rockstar

    He’s a rock/hip-hop artist out of the twin cities.

    Check out his project titled:
    My Brain Bleeds Bright Colors

    He’s definitely worthy of the list!!!

  17. zOmbie sPace pIlot on June 16, 2015 at 4:06 am

    No offense but this list is a serious hot mess 🙁
    So So Soooooooo…many more influential AA when it comes to R&R..Plus I agree with another poster, Chuck Berry Really needs to be at #1 BY DEFACTO…I mean if it wasn’t for him then this conversation would literally not even be happening. Picking prince really seems more like a Generational choice but hey to each their own. Oh BTW I am a black Rock and Roll musician so this was really a let down to read I was looking for something a bit more informative or at least somewhat entertaining.

    • RON Armstead on June 21, 2015 at 6:43 am

      I’m Black, I’m 55 years old I love Rock Music and now I find out “MY WHOLE LIFE IS A LIE” Guess I have a lot of music to catch up on

  18. FrankQu58 on October 13, 2015 at 6:12 pm

    This is not a good order! Jimi Hendrix is doubt the best that I ever heard. Better than Prince!

  19. on October 31, 2015 at 5:06 pm

    Unforgiving sin of not having Jimi at #1 throws this whole list in the garbage. Putting Prince at #1 just to be different is a major FAIL!!!

  20. Mytch on December 20, 2015 at 2:08 am

    Jimi Should’ve been Number One since he changed Music’s Sound and Production Standards, not to mention he is Prince’s BIGGEST GUITAR influence.

  21. Ddre on December 22, 2015 at 8:29 am

    Where’s Sister Rosetta Tharpe?!! She created the blueprint for rock and roll….

  22. parentk on December 22, 2015 at 10:16 am

    Prince is a prolific writer, a complete showman on stage, an accomplished musician and recognized the need to manage his own career and empire. I can see how he’s been ranked #1 over Hendrix who was just showing us what his potential was going to be.

    Extend the list and put Sly and the Family Stone, Sister Tharpe and even more artists that the Stones, Beatles and Zep worshipped.

    Could Clarence Clemons fit in although not a guitarist or vocalist?

  23. Melvin on December 22, 2015 at 8:09 pm


  24. Christopher Wilson on December 28, 2015 at 8:48 pm

    Prince is a great musician no doubt,but he should not have been rated the greatest black rock artist. For one Prince do not consider himself black. Jimi Hendrix should hold that title instead.

  25. Rock 50 on February 6, 2016 at 9:00 pm

    Chuck Berry should be 2 Jimmi Hendrix song weren’t even really rock it was a lot like pop music on an electric gutair! Oh my god

  26. Rock 50 on February 6, 2016 at 9:06 pm

    If you don’t believe me listen to Johnie B. Goode then one of Jimmi Hendrix songs and you will totally agree?

  27. mk ultra on April 28, 2016 at 10:58 am

    Isn`t Hendrix playing right handed in that photo ? Edit I forgot he reversed the strings and was ambidextrous.

  28. frankyburns on January 24, 2017 at 1:11 pm

    Trump just signed an executive order stating that lists of black singers need to be expunged.

  29. Nomis on July 27, 2017 at 1:12 pm

    I love prince music (my favorite musician)…but Jimi should’ve been number 1.