Famous Black Composers

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 1 
Ray Charles
(Singer-songwriter)
Ray Charles
7
Birthdate: September 23, 1930
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Albany, Georgia, United States
Died: June 10, 2004

Ray Charles went on to become a great singer-songwriter, composer, and pianist, despite suffering blindness due to glaucoma early in his life. One of the most respected and decorated musicians of all time, Ray Charles has been named in lists, such as 100 Greatest Singers of All Time. He pioneered the soul music genre, which remains his greatest contribution.

 2 
Miles Davis
(Trumpeter and one of the Most Prominent Figures in the History of Jazz)
Miles Davis
5
Birthdate: May 26, 1926
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Alton, Illinois, United States
Died: September 28, 1991
Jazz trumpeter and composer Miles Davis was a pioneer in the bepop and jazz fusion genres. His work also had electronic, African, and Spanish influences. His album Kind of Blue sold 5 million copies in the U.S. and was termed a national treasure by the House of Representatives, years later. 
 3 
John Coltrane
(One of the Most Influential Saxophonists in Music History)
John Coltrane
5
Birthdate: September 23, 1926
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: HaHamlet, North Carolina, United States
Died: July 17, 1967
Jazz saxophonist John Coltrane is remembered for his significant influence on modern jazz. He was initially part of the Navy band and eventually collaborated with musicians such as Miles Davis. He won a Pulitzer Prize and a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, and was canonized by the African Orthodox Church.
 4 
Luther Vandross
7
Birthdate: April 20, 1951
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: New York City
Died: July 1, 2005

Luther Vandross was an American record producer and singer-songwriter. As a background vocalist, Vandross contributed to the success of several songs recorded by artists like David Bowie, Diana Ross, and Judy Collins. Regarded as a singer with one of the greatest voices in recorded history, Luther Vandross' works have influenced many artists like D'Angelo, Jaheim, Ne-Yo, John Legend, and Usher.

 5 
Chaka Khan
(Singer)
Chaka Khan
7
Birthdate: March 23, 1953
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Naval Station Great Lakes, Illinois
Ten-time Grammy-winning funk/R&B/disco artist Chaka Khan, or the Queen of Funk, soared to fame as the frontwoman of the band Rufus. Known for her hit track I Feel for You, Khan has sold 70 million records and has ranked 17th on VH1’s 100 Greatest Women of Rock & Roll list.
 6 
Don Shirley
(Classical and Jazz Pianist and Composer)
Don Shirley
7
Birthdate: January 29, 1927
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Pensacola, Florida, United States
Died: April 6, 2013

Don Shirley was an American jazz and classical pianist and composer. He is best remembered for his association with Cadence Records where he recorded many albums during the 1950s and 1960s. Apart from performing in numerous concert tours, Shirley also wrote organ symphonies and piano concerti. Shirley's friendship with his bodyguard Tony Lip was dramatized in the film Green Book.

 7 
Teddy Pendergrass
6
Birthdate: March 26, 1950
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Kingstree, South Carolina, USA
Died: January 13, 2010
 8 
Gil Scott-Heron
(Poet and Singer-songwriter)
Gil Scott-Heron
4
Birthdate: April 1, 1949
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Chicago, Illinois, United States
Died: May 27, 2011
 9 
D'Angelo
(Singer-songwriter)
D'Angelo
4
Birthdate: February 11, 1974
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Richmond, Virginia, United States
 10 
DJ Jazzy Jeff
(Club DJ, Disc jockey, Actor, Television actor, Record producer, Composer)
DJ Jazzy Jeff
4
Birthdate: January 22, 1965
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Philadelphia
 11 
Bo Diddley
(Guitarist, Singer, Singer-songwriter, Composer)
Bo Diddley
4
Birthdate: December 30, 1928
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: McComb
Died: June 2, 2008
 12 
Marianne Jean-Baptiste
4
Birthdate: April 26, 1967
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: London, England, UK
 13 
Count Basie
(Former jazz pianist, organist, bandleader, and composer who formed the Count Basie Orchestra)
Count Basie
4
Birthdate: August 21, 1904
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Red Bank, New Jersey, United States
Died: April 26, 1984
 14 
Labrinth
(Singer-songwriter)
Labrinth
4
Birthdate: January 4, 1989
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: London Borough of Hackney Hackney, London, England
 15 
Wynton Marsalis
(Trumpeter)
Wynton Marsalis
4
Birthdate: October 18, 1961
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: New Orleans, Louisiana, United States
 16 
Taj Mahal
(Self-taught Grammy Award-winning blues musician)
Taj Mahal
4
Birthdate: May 17, 1942
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Harlem, New York, United States
 17 
Toro y Moi
(Musician)
Toro y Moi
3
Birthdate: November 7, 1986
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Columbia, South Carolina, United States
 18 
Joan Armatrading
(British singer-songwriter and Grammy and BRIT Award winner who has released popular singles like "Drop the Pilot.")
Joan Armatrading
4
Birthdate: December 9, 1950
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Basseterre, Saint Kitts and Nevis
 19 
Hugh Masekela
(South African Trumpeter Known for His Jazz Compositions and for Writing Well-Known Anti-apartheid Songs)
Hugh Masekela
3
Birthdate: April 4, 1939
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Emalahleni Local Municipality, South Africa
Died: January 23, 2018

A pioneer of South African jazz, instrumentalist Hugh Masekela excelled in the trumpet and introduced South African music to countries such as the U.S. He was also a vocal anti-apartheid activist, played for the Jazz Epistles, and was known for his iconic albums such as Hope and Johannesburg.

 20 
DJ Mustard
(Record producer, Disc jockey who released the mixtape Ketchup in 2013)
DJ Mustard
4
Birthdate: June 5, 1990
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Los Angeles, California, United States
 21 
Luther Campbell
(Music executive, Actor, Record producer, Composer)
Luther Campbell
3
Birthdate: December 22, 1960
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Miami
 22 
Chingy
(Rapper, Musician, Actor, Singer, Television actor, Businessperson)
Chingy
3
Birthdate: March 9, 1980
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: St. Louis
 23 
Jelly Roll Morton
(Pianist, Bandleader, Composer, Conductor, Jazz musician)
Jelly Roll Morton
3
Birthdate: October 20, 1890
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Gulfport
Died: July 10, 1941
 24 
Art Blakey
(Drummer)
Art Blakey
3
Birthdate: October 11, 1919
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Pittsburgh Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, U.S.
Died: October 16, 1990
 25 
Lester Young
(Musician)
Lester Young
3
Birthdate: August 27, 1909
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Woodville, Mississippi, United States
Died: March 15, 1959
 26 
Youssou N'Dour
(Senegalese Musician and Former Culture Minister Who Pioneered the Mbalax Genre)
Youssou N'Dour
3
Birthdate: October 1, 1959
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Dakar, Senegal

Senegalese singer Youssou N'Dour is known for popularizing the musical genre mbalax. The Grammy Award- and Praemium Imperiale-winning singer has also served as Senegal’s culture and tourism minister. Initially part of the Star Band, he later formed Étoile de Dakar. He has also starred in the British-American movie Amazing Grace.

 27 
Max Roach
(Musician)
Max Roach
3
Birthdate: January 10, 1924
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Pasquotank County, North Carolina, U.S.
Died: August 16, 2007
 28 
Grover Washington, Jr.
3
Birthdate: December 12, 1943
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Buffalo, New York, United States
Died: December 17, 1999
 29 
McCoy Tyner
(Pianist)
McCoy Tyner
3
Birthdate: December 11, 1938
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States
Died: March 6, 2020
 30 
Solomon Burke
(Singer, Priest, Guitarist, Songwriter, Composer)
Solomon Burke
3
Birthdate: March 21, 1940
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Philadelphia
Died: October 10, 2010
American preacher and singer Solomon Burke shaped the sound of rhythm and blues as one of the founding fathers of soul music in the 1960s. Known for his 'prodigious output', Burke has been called 'a key transitional figure bridging R&B and soul'. During his professional career that lasted 55 years, Burke released 38 studio albums and had 35 singles.
 31 
Judith Hill
(Singer-songwriter)
Judith Hill
3
Birthdate: May 6, 1984
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Los Angeles, California, U.S.
 32 
Cuba Gooding Sr.
(The most successful lead singer of the soul group)
Cuba Gooding Sr.
0
Birthdate: April 27, 1944
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Harlem, New York, United States
Died: April 20, 2017
 33 
Billy Strayhorn
(Former Jazz artist known for this three-decade collaboration with Duke Ellington)
Billy Strayhorn
3
Birthdate: November 29, 1915
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Dayton, Ohio, United States
Died: May 31, 1967
 34 
Freddie Hubbard
(Trumpeter)
Freddie Hubbard
3
Birthdate: April 7, 1938
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Indianapolis, Indiana, United States
Died: December 29, 2008
 35 
Timati
(Rapper, Singer, Record producer, Composer)
Timati
4
Birthdate: August 15, 1983
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Moscow
Born into an affluent Russian family, Timati initially studied economics but later drifted toward music. The hip-hop artist gained fame with the reality show Star Factory 4 and later released hits such as Welcome to St. Tropez. However, his song Moscow, deriding anti-government protestors, became the most-disliked Russian YouTube video.
 36 
Donald Byrd
(Musician)
Donald Byrd
3
Birthdate: December 9, 1932
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Detroit, Michigan, United States
Died: February 4, 2013
Oritsé Williams
3
Birthdate: November 27, 1986
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: West End of London
 38 
Horace Silver
(Pianist)
Horace Silver
3
Birthdate: September 2, 1928
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Norwalk, Connecticut, U.S.
Died: June 18, 2014
 39 
Samuel Coleridge-Taylor
(Composer, Pianist, Conductor)
Samuel Coleridge-Taylor
3
Birthdate: August 15, 1875
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: London, England
Died: September 1, 1912
 40 
Chevalier de Saint-Georges
(Known as the first classical composer of African descent)
Chevalier de Saint-Georges
3
Birthdate: December 25, 1745
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Baillif, Guadeloupe
Died: June 10, 1799
 41 
Fatman Scoop
(Rapper and radio personality and hip-hop promoter best known for his hit song Be Faithful and for hosting the Full Throttle Radio Worldwide podcast.)
Fatman Scoop
3
Birthdate: August 6, 1971
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: New York, New York, United States
 42 
Koffi Olomide
(Singer, Musician)
Koffi Olomide
3
Birthdate: July 13, 1956
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Kisangani, Democratic Republic of the Congo
 43 
William Grant Still
(Composer who became the first black man to conduct a major orchestra)
William Grant Still
3
Birthdate: May 11, 1895
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Woodville, Mississippi, United States
Died: December 3, 1978
 44 
Yusef Abdul Lateef
3
Birthdate: October 9, 1920
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Chattanooga, Tennessee, United States
Died: December 23, 2013
 45 
Seu Jorge
(Actor, Musician, Singer-songwriter, Composer, Screenwriter)
Seu Jorge
3
Birthdate: June 8, 1970
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Belford Roxo

Seu Jorge is a Brazilian actor, songwriter, and musical artist. He is credited with renewing Brazilian pop samba and his musical work has attracted praises from several internationally-recognized musicians including David Bowie and Beck David Hansen. Seu Jorge is also known for his acting performance in films like The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou and City of God. 

 46 
Solomon Linda
(Former musician, singer and composer best known as the composer of the song)
Solomon Linda
3
Birthdate: 1909 AD
Birthplace: Pomeroy, South Africa
Died: September 8, 1962

Solomon Linda is best remembered for writing the hit Mbube, later known as Wimoweh and The Lion Sleeps Tonight. Part of the Evening Birds, he never got his due and died poor. His family couldn’t afford to build a headstone for his grave until 18 years after his death.

 47 
Terence Blanchard
3
Birthdate: March 13, 1962
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: New Orleans, Louisiana, United States
 48 
Tony Allen
(Drummer)
Tony Allen
0
Birthdate: July 20, 1940
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Lagos, Nigeria
Died: April 30, 2020
 49 
Ignatius Sancho
(Composer, Writer)
Ignatius Sancho
4
Birthdate: 1729 AD
Birthplace: Atlantic Ocean
Died: December 14, 1780
 50 
Albert Ayler
(Saxophonist, Composer)
Albert Ayler
3
Birthdate: July 13, 1936
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Cleveland, Ohio, United States
Died: November 25, 1970