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.

Vote for Your Favourite Composers

 1 
Ray Charles
(Singer-songwriter)

Ray Charles
6
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
4
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 

Luther Vandross
5
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.

 4 
Chaka Khan
(Singer)

Chaka Khan
5
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.

 5 
John Coltrane
(One of the Most Influential Saxophonists in Music History)

John Coltrane
4
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.

 6 
Tom Morello
(Musician)

Tom Morello
5
Birthdate: May 30, 1964
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: New York City, United States

Tom Morello is an American musician, rapper, singer, actor, songwriter, and political activist. Morello is best known for his association with Rage Against the Machine, which he co-founded with Zack de la Rocha. Renowned for his creative and unique guitar playing style, Tom Morello was ranked among the 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time by Rolling Stone magazine.

 7 
Don Shirley
(Classical and Jazz Pianist and Composer)

Don Shirley
5
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.

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 8 

Teddy Pendergrass
5
Birthdate: March 26, 1950
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Kingstree, South Carolina, USA
Died: January 13, 2010

 9 
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

 10 
D'Angelo
(Singer-songwriter)

D'Angelo
4
Birthdate: February 11, 1974
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Richmond, Virginia, United States

 11 
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

 12 
Bo Diddley
(Guitarist, Singer, Singer-songwriter, Composer)

Bo Diddley
4
Birthdate: December 30, 1928
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: McComb
Died: June 2, 2008

 13 
Labrinth
(Singer-songwriter)

Labrinth
4
Birthdate: January 4, 1989
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: London Borough of Hackney Hackney, London, England

 14 

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

 15 
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

 16 
Wynton Marsalis
(Trumpeter)

Wynton Marsalis
4
Birthdate: October 18, 1961
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: New Orleans, Louisiana, United States

 17 
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

 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 
Toro y Moi
(Musician)

Toro y Moi
3
Birthdate: November 7, 1986
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Columbia, South Carolina, United States

 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 
Hugh Masekela
(Former Jazz Trumpeter who was described as)

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.

 22 
Luther Campbell
(Music executive, Actor, Record producer, Composer)

Luther Campbell
3
Birthdate: December 22, 1960
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Miami

 23 
Chingy
(Rapper, Musician, Actor, Singer, Television actor, Businessperson)

Chingy
3
Birthdate: March 9, 1980
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: St. Louis

 24 
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

 25 
Art Blakey
(Drummer)

Art Blakey
3
Birthdate: October 11, 1919
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Pittsburgh Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, U.S.
Died: October 16, 1990

 26 
Lester Young
(Musician)

Lester Young
3
Birthdate: August 27, 1909
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Woodville, Mississippi, United States
Died: March 15, 1959

 27 
Youssou N'Dour
(Singer-songwriter)

Youssou N'Dour
3
Birthdate: October 1, 1959
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Dakar, Senegal

 28 
Max Roach
(Musician)

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

 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 

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

 32 
Timati
(Rapper, Singer, Record producer, Composer)

Timati
3
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.

 33 
Judith Hill
(Singer-songwriter)

Judith Hill
3
Birthdate: May 6, 1984
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Los Angeles, California, U.S.

 34 
Freddie Hubbard
(Trumpeter)

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

 35 
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

 36 
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

 37 
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

 38 
Donald Byrd
(Musician)

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

 39 
Horace Silver
(Pianist)

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

 40 
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

 41 
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. 

Oritsé Williams
3
Birthdate: November 27, 1986
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: West End of London

 43 
Koffi Olomide
(Singer, Musician)

Koffi Olomide
3
Birthdate: July 13, 1956
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Kisangani, Democratic Republic of the Congo

 44 
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.

 45 

Yusef Abdul Lateef
3
Birthdate: October 9, 1920
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Chattanooga, Tennessee, United States
Died: December 23, 2013

 46 

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

 47 
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

 48 
Ignatius Sancho
(Composer, Writer)

Ignatius Sancho
4
Birthdate: 1729 AD
Birthplace: Atlantic Ocean
Died: December 14, 1780

 49 
Tony Allen
(Drummer)

Tony Allen
0
Birthdate: July 20, 1940
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Lagos, Nigeria
Died: April 30, 2020

 50 
Christian Scott
(Trumpeter)

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