Beasley Best Community of Caring

Beasley Best Community of Caring

Beasley Best Community of Caring

Earlier this month, as part of GRAMMY week in Los Angeles, Lenny Kravitz was honored at the third annual Recording Academy Honors Presented By The Black Music Collective. He was presented with the award by H.E.R. She discussed his influence on her: “The fashion, the confidence, the badass walk, and the killer vocals made me at six years old say to my dad, ‘I wanna play guitar.’ ‘I wanna be a rockstar.’ ‘I wanna be like Lenny Kravitz.’”

Kravitz recalled going to see the Jackson 5 when he was a kid, and fantasizing about joining the group. He also discussed the influence of Duke Ellington, Miles Davis, Grandmaster Flash and the Furious 5, Marvin Gaye, Rick James, Prince, and John Coltrane.

“So many geniuses and so many genres informed my spirit,” he said, according to the Associated Press. “I could go on all night about these musical masters who molded me. I love all of these musicians. I love this music because it feeds our hearts and strengthens our resolve to keep our hope. A healing to a wounded world. To be a part of the lineage is a privilege I cherish.”

It was a lovely moment. And in a week when lots of awards and honors are given out, it was a moment that mattered. In his recent interview with Esquire, Kravitz mentioned how he’s been ignored by traditional Black media outlets, including Vibe, BET, and The Source. “To this day, I have not been invited to a BET thing or a Source Awards thing,” he noted. “And it’s like, here is a Black artist who has reintroduced many Black art forms, who has broken down barriers—just like those that came before me broke down.”

He added, “I have been that dream and example of what a Black artist can do.” In the same feature, he noted that an article written about him early in his career said that “If Lenny Kravitz were white, he would be the next savior of rock and roll.” The feature noted that instead, he was often criticized for being too influenced by older acts, like Led Zeppelin. This writer recalls he was often compared to the Rolling Stones and the Beatles. All of those bands, and every white rock band of that era borrowed heavily from Black artists (and that’s a generous way of phrasing it).

Later in the week, another Black artist who debuted in the late ‘80s got an outpouring of love as well. Tracy Chapman was a surprise performer at the GRAMMY Awards, joining country singer Luke Combs for his cover of her 1988 classic, “Fast Car.” The moment she appeared on stage the crowd at the arena went nuts, and a quick search for Ms. Chapman on social media shows overwhelmingly positive sentiment. More than that, people reacted in a really emotional way to seeing her, hearing how amazing she sounds, and seeing the smile on her face when she heard the cheers.

So when we decided to celebrate some of the great Black rock stars (and we definine “rock” broadly), we decided to stick with the ones who you can still see today.

  • Lenny Kravitz

    Let’s start with Lenny: he’s preparing to release his next album, Blue Electric Light, on May 24. He’s already released the first single, the very funky, synth-driven “TK421.” Kravitz has been one of the most consistent rock stars since debuting in 1989 with Let Love Rule. But it’s been six years since his last album, Raise Vibration. And yes, he’s going to be on the road: it looks like he’ll spend the summer touring in Europe, but when he comes to the U.S. you won’t want to miss him. And he’s on the ballot for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for the first time this year.

  • Living Colour

    Living Colour debuted in 1988 with Vivid. The album had their biggest hit, “Cult of Personality.” A song that big can be a blessing and a curse. Of course, it’s a classic that spans generations, but it also overshadows the rest of a pretty amazing catalog. 1990’s Time’s Up and 1993’s Stain were both excellent as well, and there are a lot of great songs on their post-reunion albums. Their most recent one, 2017’s Shade was one of the best albums of the year. This writer has caught them over 20 times over the years, from their days playing New York’s Ritz to their latest theater tour with Extreme. Whether headlining, opening or on a festival lineup, they empty the tank every time. No band in their right mind should ever want to follow them on stage (the one band who arguably pulled it off well, in my opinion, is the Rolling Stones).

  • Ayron Jones

    Jones is from Seattle, and he sounds like it. His guitar heavy music shows the influence of Soundgarden, Nirvana, Alice In Chains, Pearl Jam, and of course, Jimi Hendrix. Signed to John Varvatos’ record label, he’s one of active rock’s brightest rising stars, and it’s been a long time coming: he’s been at it since 2010, when he fronted a trio called Ayron Jones and the Way. A decade and thousands of miles on the road later, he’s one of the best live rock artists you can see, and you can see him this year. He’s currently on tour for 2023’s Chronicles of the Kid.

  • Allison Russell

    If you watched the Grammys this year, you might have caught Allison Russell along with a lot of other artists backing up Joni Mitchell’s performance of “Both Sides Now.” And if you watched the premiere ceremony on YouTube, you saw her win a Grammy for Best American Roots Performance. But who is Allison Russell? A singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist (she plays guitar and clarinet!) who has been putting out music as part of various groups for two decades. She first went solo in 2021 with her debut album, Outside Child (but you might have caught some of her non-album covers of Sade, Fleetwood Mac and Billie Eilish). If you’re not familiar with her, check out her songs “Nightflyer,” “The Returner,” and “You’re Not Alone.” The latter song features Brandi Carlile, who has often championed Russell.

  • Tracy Chapman

    OK, including her on a list of artists who you could see in concert today is a bit hopeful on our part. One of the stunning things about her recent Grammy performance is that she hasn’t toured since 2009, and has only appeared on stage a handful of times since then. But we’d have to think that concert promoters are trying to figure out how to get her back on the road right now. And who knows, maybe she might decide to write and record new songs again.

  • Gary Clark Jr

    If you love face-melting guitar, you’re probably a fan already. The blues is alive and well in GCJ’s music, but you never feel like you’re in a blues museum when you listen to him. He brings the genre, which is over a hundred years old, into the present. This writer started and finished the summer of 2012 with Gary Clark Jr. Let me explain: In June of that year, I saw him on Metallica’s Orion Music + More Festival; Metallica’s guitarist Kirk Hammett introduced him from the stage and then watched, awestruck from the side of the stage. Weeks later, on Labor Day weekend, I saw him play Jay-Z’s Made In America Festival, and noted that both Jay and Beyonce were watching from the wings in amazement. Clark has released lots of music and logged many miles on the road since then and has only gotten better. His new album, JPEG RAW, is due out in March, and he’s touring this summer.

  • H.E.R.

    At just 26 years old, she’s one of the most exciting artists in any (or all) genres of music. She already has five Grammy awards, as well as an Oscar (for “Fight for You” from Judas and the Black Messiah). A singer/songwriter/guitar player who also plays piano and drums, she can probably make records without anyone’s help. But the list of artists she’s recorded with or performed with really shows her range: Khalid, Chris Brown, Kane Brown, the Foo Fighters, Chris Stapleton and Keith Urban. And she’s able to write songs about matters of the heart, as well as political issues (“I Can’t Breathe”). More recently, she blew minds by playing guitar onstage with Usher at the Super Bowl Halftime show.

  • Buddy Guy

    Legend has it, the only time Jimi Hendrix ever missed a gig is because he ditched his show to see Buddy Guy perform. Even if that wasn’t true, Buddy’s influence on Jimi is obvious, and not just for his firey bluesy style, but also for his wild performance style. After sitting out much of the ‘80s, he made an incredible comeback in 1991 with Damn Right, I’ve Got The Blues, re-establishing him as one of the greatest blues artists ever. In the years since, he’s stayed prolific and many of his albums are among the best that he’s ever done (notably 1993’s Feels Like Rain, 2001’s Sweet Tea, and 2010’s Living Proof. At 87 years old, he’s on his farewell tour and you’d be well advised to catch him.

  • Nandi Bushnell

    The youngest artist on this list, Nandi brought joy to so many during the pandemic with her viral videos. Predominantly a drummer, she’s also a virtuoso on guitar and bass and recently has been teaching herself saxophone. She’s sat in on drums for the Foo Fighters and has jammed with Tom Morello and Roger Taylor of Queen, among other rock royalty. She’s performed in the U.K. where she’s from – she’s still in school so touring overseas may not be in the cards for her in the future. But here’s hoping that we get to see her perform in America soon.

  • Cindy Blackman

    One of the best drummers today in any genre, Cindy Blackman started out playing for jazz greats. But she got a gig playing in Lenny Kravitz’s band in 1993, and stayed in his band for nearly two decades. She’s put out solo music, and was briefly in a band called Spectrum Road with Living Colour’s Vernon, Reid, John Medeski on organ and former Cream bassist Jack Bruce. These days, she plays drums for Santana (she also happens to be married to Carlos Santana).

  • Tombone Shorty

    Not all rock music needs to be based around the guitar! Trombone Shorty, as you may have guessed, is a trombone player (he also plays trumpet and sings). His entire band – including two guitarists – is absolutely killer. That’s why he’s played shows with rock bands including the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Foo Fighters. On any given night that Trombone Shorty and his band are on stage, they may be the best band in the world. If you know, you know. If you don’t know, make it a point to check them out and be prepared to dance and have a blast.

Sign me up for the ROAR email newsletter!

Stay connected to all things ROAR Detroit and join the ROAR Sports Club! As a ROAR Sports Club member, you get a VIP chance to win prizes, game tickets, and receive updates on the latest happenings in Detroit Sports.

By clicking "Subscribe" I agree to the website's terms of Service and Privacy Policy. I understand I can unsubscribe at any time.