I brought Hiram Hicks, who was the president of Island Records, Ronald Isley, his then wife Angela Winbush, and Ernie Isley to the White House. They brought a gift to the President and it was a guitar signed by all the living brothers from the group.
EBONY: What can current artists do to enrich not only Black Music Month, but black music as a whole for generations to come?
DW: The artists can encourage their consumers to do their homework and learn about their influences. While I’m on TV and radio, my core business is celebrity strategizing and coaching. For the past 20 years, I’ve been doing artist development. I tell my clients all the time to do their homework. Who are your influences? If that particular artist is your influence, go back and study their catalogs. You’d be surprised that some artists don’t know these classic artists. I’ll mention Donny Hathaway and they’ll say, “Who?” Then I’m like, “Okay, if you don’t know who Donny Hathaway is, you don’t belong in the music business.” Especially with my young artists, I always tell them to go back and look at the showmanship and stage presence of a Sam Cooke, Jackie Wilson, and Cab Calloway. There was an art form there that has been lost in recent generations because these kids don’t have a sense of what came before them. I also explain to them that black music is a universal language that’s really felt. The lyrics may not be understood, but it’s felt by all people from different cultures.
EBONY: Why is it important to continue to celebrate Black Music Month in the future?
DW: It is important to celebrate Black Music Month because it’s a recognition and ownership of our culture. It’s something that we need to be proud of. If you ask artists from different cultures, they’ll tell you how influential black music has been to them. Ask Mick Jagger. Ask Paul McCartney. Ask Eric Clapton. Ask Kid Rock. Ask them how much black music influenced their careers. The Rolling Stones got their group name from an old Muddy Waters record. In some cases, most White artists know our music better than we do. It’s important to know because it’s a source of inspiration and a motivating factor. It enhances our overall life experience and that’s why I’m so passionate about this music. It serves as a source of pride and a source of great history as well. How can you not be proud when you look at the timeline of our musical history? We’ve struggled and our music has paralleled those struggles in America. It tells our stories of enslavement, our desire for freedom, and our victories and defeats. It’s the soundtrack to our experience in this country.
Chris Williams is an internationally published writer. You can follow him on Twitter @CWmsWrites.