Famous Black Composers

This ranking is based on an algorithm that combines various factors, including the votes of our users and search trends on the internet.

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 1 Ray Charles

Ray Charles.
5
Famous As: Singer-songwriter & Musician
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 Luther Vandross

Luther Vandross.
4
Famous As: Singer
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.

 3 Chaka Khan

Chaka Khan.
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Famous As: Singer
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.

 4 John Coltrane

John Coltrane.
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Famous As: Saxophonist, Composer
Birthdate: September 23, 1926
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Hamlet
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.

 5 Don Shirley

Don Shirley.
4
Famous As: Composer
Birthdate: January 29, 1927
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Pensacola, Florida, USA
Died: April 6, 2013

 6 Teddy Pendergrass

Teddy Pendergrass
4
Famous As: Singer
Birthdate: March 26, 1950
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Kingstree, South Carolina, USA
Died: January 13, 2010

 7 D'Angelo

D'Angelo
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Famous As: Singer-songwriter
Birthdate: February 11, 1974
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Richmond, Virginia, United States
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 8 Gil Scott-Heron

Gil Scott-Heron
4
Famous As: Singer, Writer, Composer, Poet, Pianist
Birthdate: April 1, 1949
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Chicago
Died: May 27, 2011

 9 Dizzy Gillespie

Dizzy Gillespie.
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Famous As: Bandleader
Birthdate: October 21, 1917
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Cheraw, South Carolina, United States
Died: January 6, 1993

Jazz trumpeter, bandleader, and singer Dizzy Gillespie developed the virtuoso style of Roy Eldridge, modifying it with innovative harmony and rhythm. He popularized the bebop style of music and was famous for his signature horn-rimmed spectacles. His contribution to modern jazz earned him the title of the Ambassador of Jazz.

 10 DJ Jazzy Jeff

DJ Jazzy Jeff
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Famous As: Club DJ, Disc jockey, Actor, Television actor, Record producer, Composer
Birthdate: January 22, 1965
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Philadelphia

 11 Labrinth

Labrinth
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Famous As: Singer-songwriter
Birthdate: January 4, 1989
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: London Borough of Hackney Hackney, London, England

 12 Bo Diddley

Bo Diddley
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Famous As: Guitarist, Singer, Singer-songwriter, Composer
Birthdate: December 30, 1928
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: McComb
Died: June 2, 2008

 13 Dwayne Wayans

Dwayne Wayans
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Famous As: Composer, Actor, Musician, Writer
Birthdate: July 20, 1956
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: New York City

 14 Marianne Jean-Baptiste

Marianne Jean-Baptiste
4
Famous As: Actress
Birthdate: April 26, 1967
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: London, England, UK

 15 Wynton Marsalis

Wynton Marsalis
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Famous As: Trumpeter
Birthdate: October 18, 1961
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: New Orleans, Louisiana, United States

 16 Joan Armatrading

Joan Armatrading
4
Famous As: Guitarist, Singer-songwriter, Composer, Record producer, Music arranger
Birthdate: December 9, 1950
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Basseterre

 17 Toro y Moi

Toro y Moi
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Famous As: Musician
Birthdate: November 7, 1986
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Columbia, South Carolina, United States

 18 Luther Campbell

Luther Campbell
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Famous As: Music executive, Actor, Record producer, Composer
Birthdate: December 22, 1960
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Miami

 19 Hugh Masekela

Hugh Masekela
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Famous As: Trumpeter, Composer, Jazz musician
Birthdate: April 4, 1939
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Witbank

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 Chingy

Chingy
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Famous As: Rapper, Musician, Actor, Singer, Television actor, Businessperson
Birthdate: March 9, 1980
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: St. Louis

 21 Jelly Roll Morton

Jelly Roll Morton
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Famous As: Pianist, Bandleader, Composer, Conductor, Jazz musician
Birthdate: October 20, 1890
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Gulfport
Died: July 10, 1941

 22 Lester Young

Lester Young
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Famous As: Musician
Birthdate: August 27, 1909
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Woodville, Mississippi, United States
Died: March 15, 1959

 23 Art Blakey

Art Blakey
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Famous As: Drummer
Birthdate: October 11, 1919
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Pittsburgh Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, U.S.
Died: October 16, 1990

 24 Youssou N'Dour

Youssou N'Dour
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Famous As: Singer-songwriter
Birthdate: October 1, 1959
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Dakar, Senegal

 25 Timati

Timati
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Famous As: Rapper, Singer, Record producer, Composer
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.

 26 Max Roach

Max Roach
3
Famous As: Musician
Birthdate: January 10, 1924
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Pasquotank County, North Carolina, U.S.
Died: August 16, 2007

 27 Judith Hill

Judith Hill
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Famous As: Singer-songwriter
Birthdate: May 6, 1984
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Los Angeles, California, U.S.

 28 Solomon Burke

Solomon Burke
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Famous As: Singer, Priest, Guitarist, Songwriter, Composer
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.

 29 McCoy Tyner

McCoy Tyner
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Famous As: Pianist
Birthdate: December 11, 1938
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States
Died: March 6, 2020

 30 Grover Washington, Jr.

Grover Washington, Jr.
3
Famous As: Saxophonist
Birthdate: December 12, 1943
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Buffalo, New York, United States
Died: December 17, 1999

 31 Freddie Hubbard

Freddie Hubbard
3
Famous As: Trumpeter
Birthdate: April 7, 1938
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Indianapolis, Indiana, United States
Died: December 29, 2008

 32 Donald Byrd

Donald Byrd
3
Famous As: Musician
Birthdate: December 9, 1932
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Detroit, Michigan, United States
Died: February 4, 2013

 33 Horace Silver

Horace Silver
3
Famous As: Pianist
Birthdate: September 2, 1928
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Norwalk, Connecticut, U.S.
Died: June 18, 2014

 34 Oritsé Williams

Oritsé Williams
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Birthdate: November 27, 1986
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: West End of London

 35 Seu Jorge

Seu Jorge
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Famous As: Actor, Musician, Singer-songwriter, Composer, Screenwriter
Birthdate: June 8, 1970
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Belford Roxo

 36 Yusef Abdul Lateef

Yusef Abdul Lateef
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Famous As: Musician
Birthdate: October 9, 1920
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Chattanooga, Tennessee, United States
Died: December 23, 2013

 37 Solomon Linda

Solomon Linda
3
Famous As: singer, songwriter, composer
Birthdate: 1909 AD
Birthplace: South Africa
Died: October 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.

 38 Terence Blanchard

Terence Blanchard
3
Famous As: Musician
Birthdate: March 13, 1962
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: New Orleans, Louisiana, United States

 39 Christian Scott

Christian Scott
3
Famous As: Trumpeter
Birthdate: March 31, 1983
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: New Orleans, Louisiana, United States

 40 Dave Bartholomew

Dave Bartholomew
3
Famous As: Composer, Record Producer
Birthdate: December 24, 1918
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Edgard, Louisiana, United States
Died: June 23, 2019

 41 Mercer Ellington

Mercer Ellington
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Famous As: Musician
Birthdate: March 11, 1919
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Washington, D.C., United States
Died: February 8, 1996

 42 Eubie Blake

Eubie Blake
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Famous As: American composer
Birthdate: February 7, 1887
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Baltimore, Maryland, United States
Died: February 12, 1983

 43 Florence Price

Florence Price
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Famous As: Composer
Birthdate: 1887 AD
Birthplace: Little Rock, Arkansas, United States
Died: 1953 AD

 44 Milt Jackson

Milt Jackson
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Famous As: Jazz vibraphonist
Birthdate: January 1, 1923
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Detroit, Michigan, United States
Died: October 9, 1999

 45 Milton Nascimento

Milton Nascimento
2
Famous As: Singer, Composer, Guitarist
Birthdate: October 26, 1942
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Rio de Janeiro

 46 Ahamefule J. Oluo

Ahamefule J. Oluo
2
Famous As: Jazz musician
Birthdate: 1982 AD
Birthplace: Denton, Texas, United States

 47 Archie Shepp

Archie Shepp
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Famous As: Jazz Saxophonist
Birthdate: May 24, 1937
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Fort Lauderdale, Florida, United States

 48 J. J. Johnson

J. J. Johnson
2
Famous As: Trombonist
Birthdate: January 22, 1924
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Indianapolis, Indiana, United States
Died: February 4, 2001

 49 Barry Harris

Barry Harris
2
Famous As: Pianist
Birthdate: December 15, 1929
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Detroit, Michigan, United States

 50 Anthony Braxton

Anthony Braxton
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Famous As: Composer
Birthdate: June 4, 1945
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Chicago, Illinois, United States