Black Women Invented Rock, Proving the Enduring Legacy of Black Musicians

hands raised at a concert
Alyssa Guzik
September 7, 2023

Steeped in energy and raw emotion, Rock & roll has a rich history that often fails to acknowledge the profound contributions of Black women. From its early days, fierce and innovative Black women defied stereotypes and broke down barriers, paving the way for the creative powerhouses of today.

Twice inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and the muse who taught Mick Jagger how to move, Tina Turner was ignored by record executives who thought she was washed up. They bowed down when 1984's "Private Dancer" dropped and reaffirmed her reign as Queen of Rock & Roll.

Music historians wrote dissertations with their whole chests, declaring Chuck Berry or Elvis inventors of Rock & Roll. But neither had any idea what Rock was without Sister Rosetta Tharpe. She shredded gospel on the guitar, creating a brand-new genre. Little Richard and Berry both acknowledged they owed their stylings to her.

Blowing minds with theatrical performances, Labelle had formed intending to be Rock. But all people saw were four (then three) Black women with bouffant hairstyles. They had to be an R&B group, right? That's until the notes started flowing and Miss Patti's voice bellowed.

The intersectionality of race and gender has boxed Black women within society's narrow perceptions. But artistry and creativity exist in our power. We fight for what we want, need, and believe in. Like the greats who paved the way, we must be willing to power through to be heard and secure our legacies for future generations.