Legendary Black Singers Who Never “Crossed Over”

black artists and entertainers

The countless contributions that Black people have made to music are indisputable. From country music, to rap, we are the originators of American music–not to mention music in general.

In today’s current climate of the dominance of the “popular” music that we seemingly hear everywhere, many Black artists have made the decision to use their talents to “cross over”–or collaborate–with artists of the dominant society with the promise of exposure to a broader audience, the opportunity to evolve as artists, and last but not least, more money. This is not an indictment on those Black artists who have made these career decisions (much love and respect to them for doing what they have to do), however, let us highlight a few notable Black recording artists (in no particular order) who–for whatever reason–never made such a move.

The criteria for the listing of these singers is that they had to have made music with Black Society in mind on a consistent basis over the years…In other words, their music had that “Black sound”. The following artists are also known for having their music played on a national scale, yet they were able to continue “keeping it at home” with their extensive body of work. Another interesting factor to consider about this list is that you won’t typically hear people outside of Black Society playing and/or referencing these artists’ music on an everyday basis. Although there are many more artists who could have made this list, here is a short list of Black singers who we have in mind.

1. Anita Baker

For over thirty years, “The Songstress” from Detroit has blessed Black Society with her graceful singing style, and has accumulated a long list of soulful ballads.

2.  Ronald Isley (and the Isley Brothers)

From It’s Your Thing to My Favorite Thingthe man who’s affectionately known in Black Society as “Mr. Biggs” doesn’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon.

3. Luther Vandross

The instant smiles that make their way on the faces of Melanoid people as you mention Luther Vandross pretty much sums up the legacy that the legendary singer left behind. In spite of the fact that it has been 10 years since he passed, the indelible mark that his music has left on Black people remains intact.

4. S.O.S. Band

Long before the ATL blessed us with talented singers such as Monica, Jagged Edge, and Xscape, The S.O.S. Band hailed from the exact same city, and they set the airwaves on fire throughout the 1970s and 80s with smash hits like Tell Me If You Still Care and The FinestThis soulful collection of performers have definitely lived up to their name…The Sounds Of Success.

5. Maze Featuring Frankie Beverly

 No Black cookout is complete without a Maze record gracing the playlists of the music that day. The same group that brought you Joy And Pain makes sure that we never forget the great songs that they’ve created, still touring the country and causing you leave their shows with Happy Feelings in the process.

6. Donny & Lalah Hathaway

The Late Great Donny Hathaway was known and loved for his memorable duets with Roberta Flack in addition to his own solo hits. His daughter, Lalah, has carried on his legacy in a manner that would make her father proud.

7. Jill Scott

For 15 years since the debut of her first album, Miss “Jilly From Philly” has shown us the breadth of the talents that she possesses. Although she has experienced success in Hollywood, the music that she continues to create has never given us an inkling of the “pop” sound that the dominant society craves.

8. Erykah Badu

We could go “On & on” about this free-spirited singer, but her resume speaks for itself. With an array of songs laced with knowledge-dropping/down-to-earth lyrics that we can both expand our minds and relate to at the same time, she’s guaranteed to keep blessing Black folks for years to come.

9. Charlie Wilson (and the Gap Band)

Long before the band’s Charlie Wilson embarked on a highly successful solo career, The Gap Band put on one hell of a show for music fans everywhere, and we will always appreciate that.

10. Chaka Khan

In recent years, the Chi-Town native with the powerful voice has been re-introduced to younger audiences due to her Through The Fire being sampled by Kanye West’s debut hit Through The WireHowever, her music reigned long before that. Born Yvette Stevens, she took on her current name from a Yoruba Baba during a naming ceremony. She was also an active member of the Black Panther Party as a youth.

11. Floetry

Adding a little international flavor to Black music, the beloved duo from the U.K. have recently reunited after nearly 10 years of pursuing solo careers–both of who were very successful in their individual endeavors.

12. Anthony Hamilton

If you enjoy vibing to songs like Charlene and Can’t Let Gothen you enjoy the sounds of Anthony Hamilton’s songs.

13. Gerald Levert/Keith Sweat/Johnny Gill

What’s remarkable about this trio of singers is that not only were they smash hits as solo artists, but they also found an equal level of achievement when they decided to form the supergroup, titled LSG, in 1997. The group went on to have an album which would reach multiplatinum status. Although Gerald Levert passed away in 2006, we are left to wonder how much more great music that these vets of music could have made together as a group.

 14. Joe

This Brother has proved that he’s ‘not your average Joe’ by putting out album after album–each filled with great music. With an ever-growing body of work that he has compiled, you can almost guarantee that we’ll be seeing future work from him.

15. D’Angelo

The dominant society isn’t going to be crashing servers to purchase an album titled Black Messiah anytime soon. For that alone, we’ve gotta give pay our respects (on top of everything else he’s made previous to that). ‘Nuff said.

B. Clark

10 thoughts on “Legendary Black Singers Who Never “Crossed Over”

  1. dj says:

    “The countless contributions that Black people have made to music are indisputable. From country music, to rap, we are the originators of American music–not to mention music in general.” I know music was the focus of this article but you may as well have said American culture in addition to American music.

    Mostly everything that Black people have created or had a hand in creating was stolen by (as well as given to) the “dominant society” in America.

    This article was insightful. I just wish we had a gang of loyal black politicians, law enforcers, news reporters, actors, and athletes who won’t cross over for white acceptance.

  2. Ebi says:

    I bow to you queen Badu.

  3. TAbrafo says:

    Wonderful list… the only addition that I’d make is the Whispers.

  4. Great list. Playing “The Finest”- by SOS Band right now

  5. Esther says:

    But Luther Vandross and Chaka Khan are referenced and played by a lot of older people from other races too well at least in uk and their played a lot on smooth radio, a non black station.

  6. chica says:

    Charlie Wilson may not have crossed over in his music, but his wife is certainly a crossover aka non-melanoid…

  7. chuquestaquenumber1 says:

    You are aware that Chaka Khan married a white man.

  8. Knighthonor says:

    how about Babyface?
    but he did have something with Job B who said openly he not black.

  9. KJ says:

    Great article. Its funny because this isnt something that gets pointed out often, yet I think most of us subconsciously have this list in our heads.

    I do agree that marrying a nonmelanoid is the ultimate crossover. Im surprised to hear about Chaka, Charlie not so much.

  10. paul says:

    What About Earth Wind and Fire.

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