Famous Black Pianists

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 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 
Aretha Franklin
(One of the Best-Selling Music Artists in the World & 'Queen of Soul')
Aretha Franklin
6
Birthdate: March 25, 1942
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Memphis, Tennessee, United States
Died: August 16, 2018

Widely regarded as the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin was a singer-songwriter, actress, and civil rights activist. Recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, Aretha was ranked number one on Rolling Stone magazine's 100 Greatest Singers of All Time list in 2010. Having sold over 75 million records, she is also one of the best-selling musicians ever.

 3 
Nat King Cole
(Singer and Jazz Pianist Best Known His Soft Baritone Voice)
Nat King Cole
8
Birthdate: March 17, 1919
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Montgomery, Alabama, United States
Died: February 15, 1965
Jazz pianist/singer Nat King Cole, father of singer Natalie Cole, is best remembered for tracks such as Too Young and Mona Lisa. His last album, L-O-V-E, was recorded while he battled lung cancer. With The Nat King Cole Show, he became the first African-American to host his own show.
 4 
Don Shirley
(Classical and Jazz Pianist and Composer)
Don Shirley
6
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.

 5 
Teddy Pendergrass
5
Birthdate: March 26, 1950
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Kingstree, South Carolina, USA
Died: January 13, 2010
 6 
Lupe Fiasco
(Rapper)
Lupe Fiasco
5
Birthdate: February 16, 1982
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Chicago, Illinois, United States
 7 
Thelonious Monk
(Jazz Pianist & Composer)
Thelonious Monk
5
Birthdate: October 10, 1917
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Rocky Mount, North Carolina, United States
Died: February 17, 1982

Thelonious Monk was an American jazz pianist and composer who was noted for his unorthodox approach and idiosyncrasy during his performance. Mentored by Mary Lou Williams, Thelonious Monk contributed to bebop and was associated with Columbia and Riverside labels. His run-in with the police affected his performance after his New York City Cabaret Card was confiscated following the discovery of narcotics in a car.

 8 
Marques Houston
5
Birthdate: August 4, 1981
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Los Angeles, California, USA
 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 
Eric Benét
(Singer-songwriter)
Eric Benét
4
Birthdate: October 15, 1966
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA
 11 
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
 12 
Victor Willis
4
Birthdate: July 1, 1951
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Dallas, Texas, USA
 13 
Dinah Washington
4
Birthdate: August 29, 1924
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Tuscaloosa, Alabama, United States
Died: December 14, 1963
 14 
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
 15 
Dennis Edwards
4
Birthdate: February 3, 1943
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Fairfield, Alabama, United States
Died: February 1, 2018
 16 
Jody Watley
(Singer)
Jody Watley
3
Birthdate: January 30, 1959
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Chicago, Illinois, United States
 17 
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
 18 
Max Roach
(Musician)
Max Roach
2
Birthdate: January 10, 1924
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Pasquotank County, North Carolina, U.S.
Died: August 16, 2007
 19 
McCoy Tyner
(Pianist)
McCoy Tyner
2
Birthdate: December 11, 1938
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States
Died: March 6, 2020
 20 
W. C. Handy
(Composer)
W. C. Handy
2
Birthdate: November 16, 1873
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Florence, Alabama, United States
Died: March 28, 1958
 21 
Robert Glasper
3
Birthdate: April 5, 1978
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Houston, Texas, United States
 22 
Billy Strayhorn
(Former Jazz artist known for this three-decade collaboration with Duke Ellington)
Billy Strayhorn
2
Birthdate: November 29, 1915
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Dayton, Ohio, United States
Died: May 31, 1967
 23 
Horace Silver
(Pianist)
Horace Silver
2
Birthdate: September 2, 1928
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Norwalk, Connecticut, U.S.
Died: June 18, 2014
 24 
Earl Hines
(Jazz musician)
Earl Hines
2
Birthdate: December 28, 1903
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Duquesne, Pennsylvania, United States
Died: April 22, 1983
 25 
Samuel Coleridge-Taylor
(Legendary British Composer and Conductor)
Samuel Coleridge-Taylor
2
Birthdate: August 15, 1875
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: London, England
Died: September 1, 1912

Known as the African Mahler for his bi-racial ethnicity, British composer Samuel Coleridge-Taylor ruled the music scene of the early 20th century. Throughout his illustrious career, he taught music, judged contests, and created many choral and orchestral works. He was best known for the Longfellow trilogy, based on The Song of Hiawatha.

 26 
Ruth Brown
(Singer-songwriter)
Ruth Brown
2
Birthdate: January 12, 1928
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Portsmouth, Virginia, United States
Died: November 17, 2006
 27 
Ramsey Lewis
(Radio personality, Jazz musician, Pianist)
Ramsey Lewis
2
Birthdate: May 27, 1935
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Chicago
 28 
Norman Whitfield
(Songwriter)
Norman Whitfield
2
Birthdate: May 12, 1940
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Harlem, New York, United States
Died: September 16, 2008
 29 
Florence Price
(Composer)
Florence Price
2
Birthdate: 1887 AD
Birthplace: Little Rock, Arkansas, United States
Died: 1953 AD
 30 
Abdullah Ibrahim
(Pianist, Composer)
Abdullah Ibrahim
2
Birthdate: October 9, 1934
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Cape Town

South African pianist Abdullah Ibrahim, known as Dollar Brand, is best remembered for his socially relevant music, such as the jazz piece Mannenberg, which became an anthem for anti-apartheid activists. As part of The Jazz Epistles, he was one of the first black South Africans to record a jazz LP.

 31 
Fletcher Henderson
(Former pianist, bandleader, arranger and composer, important in the development of big band jazz and swing music)
Fletcher Henderson
2
Birthdate: December 18, 1897
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Cuthbert, Georgia, United States
Died: December 29, 1952
 32 
Ellis Marsalis Jr.
2
Birthdate: November 14, 1934
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: New Orleans, Louisiana, United States
Died: April 1, 2020
 33 
Tommy Lee Flanagan
(Jazz Pianist)
Tommy Lee Flanagan
2
Birthdate: March 16, 1930
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Conant Gardens, Detroit, Michigan, United States
Died: November 16, 2001
 34 
Johnnie Johnson
(American musician)
Johnnie Johnson
2
Birthdate: July 8, 1924
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Fairmont, West Virginia, United States
Died: April 13, 2005
 35 
Mary Lou Williams
(American jazz pianist)
Mary Lou Williams
3
Birthdate: May 8, 1910
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Atlanta, Georgia, United States
Died: May 28, 1981
 36 
Pinetop Perkins
(Jazz Pianist)
Pinetop Perkins
2
Birthdate: July 7, 1913
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Belzoni, Mississippi, United States
Died: March 21, 2011
 37 
Bobby Short
(Singer)
Bobby Short
4
Birthdate: September 15, 1924
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Danville, Illinois, United States
Died: March 21, 2005
 38 
Otis Blackwell
(Songwriter)
Otis Blackwell
2
Birthdate: February 16, 1931
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Brooklyn, New York, United States
Died: March 6, 2002
 39 
Teddy Wilson
(Jazz Pianist)
Teddy Wilson
2
Birthdate: November 24, 1912
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Austin, Texas, United States
Died: July 31, 1986
 40 
Hank Jones
(Musician)
Hank Jones
2
Birthdate: July 31, 1918
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Vicksburg, Mississippi
Died: May 16, 2010
 41 
Barry Harris
(Pianist)
Barry Harris
2
Birthdate: December 15, 1929
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Detroit, Michigan, United States
 42 
Anthony Braxton
(Composer)
Anthony Braxton
2
Birthdate: June 4, 1945
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Chicago, Illinois, United States
 43 
Cedar Walton
(Jazz Pianist)
Cedar Walton
1
Birthdate: January 17, 1934
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Dallas, Texas, United States
Died: August 19, 2013
 44 
Rubén González
(Former Pianist who is said to have "forged the style of modern Cuban piano playing in the 1940s".)
Rubén González
1
Birthdate: May 26, 1919
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Santa Clara, Cuba
Died: December 8, 2003
 45 
Billy Taylor
(Jazz Pianist)
Billy Taylor
1
Birthdate: July 24, 1921
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Greenville, North Carolina, United States
Died: December 28, 2010
Emahoy Tsegué-Maryam Guèbrou
1
Birthdate: December 12, 1923
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Ethiopia
 47 
Blind Tom Wiggins
(Music Performer)
Blind Tom Wiggins
1
Birthdate: May 25, 1849
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Harris County, Georgia, United States
Died: June 14, 1908
 48 
Shirley Horn
(Musician)
Shirley Horn
2
Birthdate: May 1, 1934
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Washington, D.C., United States
Died: October 20, 2005
 49 
Jackie Mittoo
(Former keyboard player known for member of The Skatalites)
Jackie Mittoo
1
Birthdate: March 3, 1948
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Brown's Town, Saint Ann Parish, Jamaica
Died: December 16, 1990

Jackie Mittoo was a Jamaican-Canadian songwriter, keyboardist, and musical director. He is best remembered for his association with the Studio One record label where he worked as a musical director. Jackie Mittoo is also remembered as one of the most important members of the popular ska band, The Skatalites.

 50 
Kenny Drew
(Musician)
Kenny Drew
1
Birthdate: August 28, 1928
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: New York City, New York, United States
Died: August 4, 1993