Interesting Facts - Music

Black History – Music legend Aretha Franklin is one of the most honored artists in Grammy Award history, with 20 wins to date.

In 2006 Whitney Houston, a celebrated singer, songwriter and actress, was named the most awarded female artist of all time by the Guinness World Records.

In 1980, singer and performer Michael Jackson secured the highest royalty rate in the music industry—37 percent of the album's profit.

Michael Jackson achieved a number of Guiness World Records including Most Succesful Entertainer of All Time.

The video for Michael and Janet Jackson's duet, "Scream", cost $7 million to produce, making it the most expensive music video ever made.

In 1984 Michael Jackson was nominated for 12 Grammy awards, winning eight. In his career he received a total of 13 Grammy awards. Michael Jackson is a double inductee into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Michael Jackson’s album Thriller produced the most Top 10 singles from an album. The album Bad produced the Most No 1 Singles from one album.

Music composer and producer, Quincy Jones is the most Grammy-nominated artist in the history of the awards with 76 nominations and 26 awards.

At the 2010 Grammy Awards, singer Beyonce Knowles walked away from the ceremony with six awards—the most wins in a single night by a female artist in the history of the event.

Beyonce Knowles holds the title for the second best-selling female artist of the 21st century with sales of over $37 million.

Beyonce Knowles, an award-winning singer, songwriter and actress, holds the record for the longest run on the Billboard Hot 100's No. 1 spot in 2003 with the songs "Crazy in Love" (8 weeks) and "Baby Boy" (9 weeks).

James West's research in sound technology led to the development of foil-electret transducers used in 90 percent of all microphones built today and in most new telephones being manufactured. West holds 47 U.S. and more than 200 foreign patents on microphones and techniques for making polymer foil-electrets. He was inducted into the National Inventor's Hall of Fame in 1999.

Harmonica player Deford Bailey was most notable for mimicking the sound of locomotives. He was the first African-American to perform at the Grand Ole Opry and one of the first African-American stars of country music.

Nat ‘King’ Cole was the first African-American to host a television variety show.

Baritone opera singer Todd Duncan became the first African-American to sing in a major opera company when he became a member of the New York City Opera in 1945.

In 1959, Ella Fitzgerald became the first African-American woman to earn a Grammy Award. She won five awards that year, including an award for best jazz soloist and one for best female pop vocalist.

Soul singer Aretha Franklin became the first female artist to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987.

Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five became the first rap group to earn induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

In 1950, African-American Mahalia Jackson became the first gospel singer to perform at New York's Carnegie Hall.

Matilda Sissieretta Joyner Jones was the first African-American opera singer to perform at Carnegie Hall in New York.

Actress Hattie McDaniel was the first black woman to sing on the radio in America.

Dancer Arthur Mitchell opened the first African-American classical ballet company, Dance Theatre of Harlem, in 1969.

Black Swan Records, founded in 1921 by Harry Pace in Harlem, was the first U.S. record label owned and operated by African-Americans. It was originally the Pace Phonograph Corporation and was renamed Black Swan Records after the 19th century opera singer Elizabeth Taylor Greenfield, who was known as the Black Swan.

Charley Pride (1938 - ) is one of the most successful African-American country singers of all time, with a career spanning over 40 years and 36 number one hits. He is also the first African-American to be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2000. Pride was a baseball player with the Negro League and the Memphis Red Sox before becoming a successful musician’.

Hip-hop group Run-D.M.C. became the first rap act to appear on the cover of Rolling Stone and make a video appearance on MTV.

Musician and composer, William Grant Still, was the first African-American to conduct a major American symphony orchestra and the first to have a symphony of his own performed by a leading orchestra.

Jazz, an African–American musical form born out of the Blues, Ragtime, and marching bands originated in Louisiana during the turn of the 19th century. The word Jazz is a slang term that at one point referred to a sexual act.

Musician Louis Armstrong bought his first coronet at the age of 7 with money he borrowed from his employers. He taught himself to play while in a home for juvenile delinquents.

Louis Armstrong earned the nickname "Satchmo" from his peers. The name was short for "satchelmouth", a reference to the way he puffed his cheeks when he played his trumpet.

After African-American performer Josephine Baker expatriated to France, she famously smuggled military intelligence to French allies during World War II. She did this by pinning secrets inside her dress, as well as writing them in invisible ink on her sheet music.

Musician and activist Harry Belafonte originally devised the idea for "We Are the World," a single that he hoped would help raise money for famine relief in Africa. The single became the fastest selling in history, making more than $20 million worldwide.

The "King of Pop," Michael Jackson, co-wrote the single "We Are the World" with Motown legend Lionel Richie. The single became one of the best-selling singles of all time, with nearly 20 million copies sold and millions of dollars donated to famine relief in Africa.

Before becoming a professional musician, Chuck Berry studied to be a hairdresser.

Chuck Berry's famous "duck walk" dance originated in 1956, when Berry attempted to hide wrinkles in his rayon suit by shaking them out with his now-signature body movements.

Legendary singer James Brown performed in front of a televised audience in Boston the day after Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated. Brown is often given credit for preventing riots with the performance.

Chester Arthur "Howlin' Wolf" Burnett was one of the most important blues singers, songwriters and musicians, influencing popular rock groups like The Beatles. Unlike many blues artists, Howlin' Wolf maintained financial success throughout his life, held a stable marriage, and avoided drugs and alcohol.

Rap artist Chuck D earned a bachelor's degree in graphic design.

Revenue from musician Nat 'King' Cole's record sales financed a majority of Capitol Records' success during the 1950's so much so, that the distinctive Capitol Records building on in Los Angeles became known as 'the house that Nat built.’

The St. John Coltrane African Orthodox Church in San Francisco uses jazz musician John Coltrane's music and philosophy as sources for religious discovery.

Actor and comedian Bill Cosby is also an avid musician. The jazz drummer has served as master of ceremonies for the Los Angeles Playboy Jazz Festival off and on since 1979.

Musician Bo Diddly reportedly got his name from the diddley bow, an African instrument with one string.

Thomas Andrew Dorsey was considered the "Father of Gospel Music" for combining sacred words with secular rhythms. His most famous composition, "Take My Hand Precious Lord" was recorded by the likes of Elvis Presley, Mahalia Jackson and many others.

Ella Fitzgerald had a three-octave range - a range greater than most professional Opera singers.

After friend and musical partner Tammi Terrell died of a brain tumor, Marvin Gaye left the music industry for two years. During this time, he tried out for the Detroit Lions football team, but didn't make the cut. Instead, he returned to the studio to record his hit single, "What's Goin' On”.

Bagpipes were used in antiquity, from Egypt to Persia.

At the very peak of his fame, rock 'n' roll pioneer Little Richard concluded that his music was the Devil's work, and became a traveling Evangelical preacher instead. When the Beatles revived several of his songs in 1964, Little Richard returned to the stage.

Ray Charles Robinson (1930 – 2004) a musical genius and pioneer in blending gospel and the blues shortened his name to just Ray Charles to prevent confusion with the great boxer Sugar Ray Robinson. Ray Charles began going blind at an early age and was completely blind by the time he was 7 years old, but has never relied upon a cane, or a guide dog. He was one of the first inductees into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame at its inaugural ceremony in 1986.

Upon her death in 2003, singer Nina Simone's ashes were spread across the continent of Africa, per her last request.

African-American tap dancer Howard Sims, was known as the "Sandman" because he often sprinkled sand on stage to amplify his tap dance steps.

Mamie Smith was the first African-American artist to make a blues record. The album, which brought blues into the mainstream, sold a million copies in less than a year.

In 1930, Valaida Snow captivated audiences with her professional singing and jazz trumpet playing. Her abilities earned her the name "Little Louis", in reference to the style of trumpeter Louis Armstrong.

Former footballer Dion Dublin, is the first Black British inventor of a musical instrument.

Muddy Waters (1913 – 1983) is considered the "Father of Chicago Blues" with his infusion of the electric guitar into the Delta country blues. Muddy Waters was influential to some of the most popular rock bands, such as the Rolling Stones, who named themselves after his popular 1950 song: “Rollin’ Stone”.

Musician Stevie Wonder recorded the cries of his newborn daughter, Aisha Morris, for his popular song, "Isn't She Lovely?”.

The banjo originated in Africa and up until the 1800s was considered an instrument only played by Black people.

Jazz drummer William "Cozy" Cole broke Billboard records in 1958 with the single "Topsy," when it became the only drum solo to sell more than one million records.