Black History Month Musical Enrichment

In recognition of Black History Month, a look at a group of inspiring African-American artists who have mined GRAMMY gold
  • Photo: Kevin Mazur/WireImage.com
    Whitney Houston
  • Photo: Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic.com
    Buddy Guy
  • Photo: Kevin Mazur/WireImage.com
    Beyoncé
  • Photo: Kevin Mazur/WireImage.com
    Kanye West
  • Photo: Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic.com
    Quincy Jones
  • Photo: Michael Caulfield/WireImage.com
    Usher
  • Photo: Jason Merritt/WireImage.com
    Alicia Keys
February 23, 2012 -- 11:05 am PST
GRAMMY.com

Black History Month is celebrated throughout the month of February in the United States in a collective effort to promote, preserve and research black history and culture year-round.

Of course, music is and has always been an indelible part of American culture. And whether it's jazz, blues, R&B or hip-hop, African-American musicians, singers and producers have made immense contributions to our nation's musical history.

To help celebrate Black History Month, we take a look back at memorable albums and snapshots from the careers of a select group of talented African-American artists who have not only won plenty of GRAMMYs, but have enriched our culture and inspired legions of listeners along the way.


Quincy Jones, Back On The Block (iTunes>)
GRAMMY wins: 27
Memorable GRAMMY gold: "Q" holds the record for most GRAMMY nominations with 79 and in 1990 the esteemed producer picked up six GRAMMYs, including Producer Of The Year, Non-Classical and Album Of The Year for Back On The Block.


Stevie Wonder, Songs In The Key Of Life (iTunes>)
GRAMMY wins: 25
Memorable GRAMMY gold: Fresh off winning five GRAMMY Awards in both 1973 and 1974, the legendary Wonder rolled another five in 1976, including wins for Best Producer Of The Year and Album Of The Year for Songs In The Key Of Life.


Aretha Franklin, I Never Loved A Man The Way I Love You (iTunes>)
GRAMMY wins: 18
Memorable GRAMMY gold: The Queen of Soul commanded respect from her peers in picking up a pair of GRAMMYs in 1967 for Best Rhythm & Blues Recording and Best Rhythm & Blues Solo Vocal Performance, Female for, you guessed it, "Respect." The Queen was honored at the 53rd Annual GRAMMY Awards in 2011 with a special tribute performance by Yolanda Adams, Christina Aguilera, Jennifer Hudson, Martina McBride, and Florence Welch.


Kanye West, Graduation (iTunes>)
GRAMMY wins: 18
Memorable GRAMMY gold: The enigmatic rapper graduated in 2007 with four GRAMMYs for Best Rap Song, Best Rap Album, Best Rap Performance By A Duo Or Group, and Best Rap Solo Performance. West won another four GRAMMYs this year, including Best Rap Song for "All Of The Lights" with Jeff Bhasker, Fergie, Malik Jones, and Warren Trotter, and Best Rap Album for My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.


Ray Charles, Genius Loves Company (iTunes>)
GRAMMY wins: 17 
Memorable GRAMMY gold: Following his passing in 2004, Charles' Genius Loves Company album spawned five posthumous statues at the 47th Annual GRAMMY Awards, including Album Of The Year and Record Of The Year. His album Genius + Soul = Jazz earned an induction into the GRAMMY Hall Of Fame in 2011.


Beyoncé, I Am…Sasha Fierce (iTunes>)
GRAMMY wins: 16
Memorable GRAMMY gold: In 2010 the R&B/pop princess won a six-pack of GRAMMYs at the 52nd Annual GRAMMY Awards, including Song Of The Year for "Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It)." This year, aside from giving birth to her daughter, Blue Ivy Carter, Beyoncé garnered nominations for Best Rap/Sung Collaboration for "Party" with André 3000 and Best Long Form Music Video for I Am...World Tour.


B.B. King, Completely Well (iTunes>)
GRAMMY wins: 15
Memorable GRAMMY gold: King was crowned with his first GRAMMY in 1970 for Best R&B Vocal Performance, Male for "The Thrill Is Gone," which hit No. 15 on the Billboard Hot 100. King won GRAMMYs in the '80s, '90s and '00s, with his most recent win coming in 2008 for Best Traditional Blues Album for One Kind Favor.


Jay-Z, The Blueprint 3 (iTunes>)
GRAMMY wins: 14
Memorable GRAMMY gold: Following the three GRAMMYs he won last year, Jay-Z picked up three GRAMMYs again at the 53rd Annual GRAMMY Awards last year for Best Rap Performance By A Duo Or Group for "On To The Next One" with Swizz Beatz and Best Rap/Sung Collaboration and Best Rap Song for "Empire State Of Mind" with Alicia Keys. This year he took home the Best Rap Performance award for "Otis" with Kanye West.


Alicia Keys, Songs In A Minor (iTunes>)
GRAMMY wins: 14
Memorable GRAMMY gold: Proving her worth right out of the gate, in 2001 Keys released her debut album, Songs In A Minor, and won five GRAMMYs, including Song Of The Year for "Fallin'" and Best New Artist. She picked up two awards with Jay-Z for Best Rap/Sung Collaboration and Best Rap Song for "Empire State Of Mind" at the 53rd Annual GRAMMY Awards in 2011.


Michael Jackson, Thriller (iTunes>)
GRAMMY wins: 13
Memorable GRAMMY gold: Riding the wave of Thriller, the King of Pop won an unprecedented eight GRAMMY Awards in 1983, including Album Of The Year and Record Of The Year for "Beat It." Jackson's This Is It garnered a nod for Best Male Pop Vocal Performance at the 53rd Annual GRAMMY Awards.


Duke Ellington, Anatomy Of A Murder (iTunes>)
GRAMMY wins: 11
Memorable GRAMMY gold: The eminent big-band leader and composer picked up three GRAMMYs at the 2nd Annual GRAMMY Awards in 1959 for Anatomy Of A Murder, including Best Performance By A Dance Band.


Natalie Cole, Unforgettable With Love (iTunes>)
GRAMMY wins: 9
Memorable GRAMMY gold: The smooth R&B songstress had an unforgettable year in 1991, picking up a trio of GRAMMYs, including Record Of The Year for "Unforgettable."


Miles Davis, Aura (iTunes>)
GRAMMY wins: 8
Memorable GRAMMY gold: One of jazz's most noteworthy trumpet players picked up two GRAMMY Awards in 1989, including Best Jazz Instrumental Performance, Big Band for his colorful opus Aura.


Tina Turner, Private Dancer (iTunes>)
GRAMMY wins: 8
Memorable GRAMMY gold: Turner landed three GRAMMY Awards in 1984, with her No. 1 hit "What's Love Got To Do With It" winning for Best Pop Vocal Performance, Female and Record Of The Year. This year the anthem was inducted into the GRAMMY Hall Of Fame.


Usher, Raymond V Raymond (iTunes>)
GRAMMY wins: 7
Memorable GRAMMY gold: Usher picked up two trophies at the 53rd Annual GRAMMY Awards, including Best Male R&B Vocal Performance for "There Goes My Baby." His first two GRAMMYs came in 2001 and 2002 for "U Remind Me" and "U Don't Have To Call," respectively. Usher performed his No. 1 single from Raymond V Raymond, "OMG," on the 53rd GRAMMY telecast with Justin Bieber in 2011.


Buddy Guy, Living Proof (iTunes>)
GRAMMY wins: 6
Memorable GRAMMY gold: The influential blues guitarist picked up his sixth GRAMMY this year for Best Contemporary Blues Album for Living Proof, marking the fourth time he has won the award. Guy first won the award in 1991 for Damn Right, I've Got The Blues.


Whitney Houston, The Bodyguard — Original Soundtrack Album (iTunes>)
GRAMMY wins: 6
Memorable GRAMMY gold: Houston, whose untimely death came on the eve of the 54th Annual GRAMMY Awards on Feb. 11, made an impressive GRAMMY debut in 1985, garnering an Album Of The Year nomination for her self-titled debut, and winning Best Pop Vocal Performance, Female for "Saving All My Love For You." On the strength of the 1992 blockbuster film The Bodyguard, which she starred in, in 1993 Houston took home Album Of The Year honors for the film's soundtrack, and earned Record Of The Year for the heart-wrenching "I Will Always Love You." Houston was honored on the 54th GRAMMY telecast with a stirring performance of the song by GRAMMY winner Jennifer Hudson.


Blind Boys Of Alabama, Down In New Orleans (iTunes>)
GRAMMY wins: 5
Memorable GRAMMY gold: After a GRAMMY win in 2008 for Best Traditional Gospel Album for Down In New Orleans, the Blind Boys Of Alabama were honored with The Recording Academy's esteemed Lifetime Achievement Award in 2009.

Which African-American artists do you think made important contributions to popular music? Drop us a comment and let us know who your picks are.

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