In April, singer Nat King Cole’s 1961 version of “The Christmas Song” was added to the Library of Congress’s 2022 National Recording Registry. Cole (1919-1965) had one of the smoothest voices of all singers.

Other great African Americans on the 2022 National Recording Registry include Duke Ellington (1899-1974) for his 1956 jazz album Ellington at Newport; Louis “Satchmo” Armstrong (1901-1971) for his 1938 “When the Saints Go Marching In”; and Mississippi opera star Leontyne Price (b. 1927), et al., for 1965’s Aida (album).

For a full list of the 2022 selections for the National Recording Registry, see

During African American Music Appreciation Month, music lovers might enjoy reading about the careers of their favorite musicians. For example, many African American musicians had roots in Alabama.

Alabama’s list of African American musicians is long; it includes Cole, W.C. Handy (1873-1958), Dinah Washington (1924-1963), Percy Sledge (1940-2015), Wilson Pickett (1941-2006), Martha Reeves (b. 1941), Big Mama Thornton (1926-1984), and Lionel Ritchie (b. 1949).

Ritchie recently received the Library of Congress’s Gershwin Prize for Popular Song.

Pennsylvania’s famous African American musicians include Chubby Checker (b. 1941), Billie Holliday (1915-1959), Ethel Waters (1886-1977), Marian Anderson (1897-1993), Patti LaBelle (b. 1944), Solomon Burke (1940-2010), and others.

In the 1950s and 1960s, AM radio stations provided a steady stream of African American music to keep teens dancing. The popularity of such performers as Checker, Johnny Mathis (b. 1935), James Brown (1933-2006), and other African American musicians contributed to the end of racial segregation across the country. 

Reportedly, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (1929-1968) was a fan of legendary blues singer B.B. King (1925-2015). Alabama saw difficult times during the struggle for Civil Rights in the 1960s. B.B. King helped the Civil Rights cause in Birmingham, Alabama.

Celebrate African American Music Appreciation Month by listening to your favorite songs by African American artists. Expand your appreciation by listening to other African American musicians across musical fields, such as opera, folk music, international pop music, etc.

Another way to celebrate African American Music Appreciation Month is to write to our older African American artists. In your letter, extend your or your family’s appreciation for the artist’s contribution to America’s music.

Many mailing addresses for these older artists can easily be found on the internet, and many older artists sell autographed photos personalized for their fans.

If you include a gift with your letter of appreciation, consider a book of postage stamps or other practical items. Include return postage on a self-addressed envelope if you want a reply.

During African American Music Appreciation Month, stay mentally, socially, and physically active. Enjoy music with friends. Dance away stress. Our senior days are as happy as we make them.

Dance your way to happiness? Give it a try!


James Patterson is a Washington, D.C.-based writer and speaker.

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