Top Must See Spots For Black Music Month

Twelve top picks of the best places to see during Black Music Month.

It’s no secret that Black artists have contributed a great deal to music as a whole.  Not to brag, but as a global phenomenon, all music, including Hip-Hop, just wouldn’t be the same without Michael Jackson, The Motown Sound, Jimi Hendrix, Billie Holiday and NWA to name a few.

To say that these Black artists and groups were major game changers is nothing new.  Nevertheless, it would seem to be eye opening news that the month of June is in fact Black Music month – and thus the perfect time to travel to destinations that celebrate and honor that history.

For many fans who pride themselves on their love of music in all it’s forms, it is a given that pilgrimages will be made to Elvis Presley’s Graceland, Dolly Parton’s Dollywood, as well as the Pere La Chaise Cemetery in Paris, France, the final resting place of The Doors’ frontman Jim Morrison.  While no one would ever fault this desire, it is a sad state of affairs that the same impromptu wanderlust isn’t regularly applied to visiting the landmarks and places that celebrate the vast pool of stars responsible for black music.

But it certainly doesn’t have to stay that way.

To get the ball rolling, here is a list of ideal Black Music Month destinations that don’t have to only be visited in June:

  1. Paisley Park Studios, Audubon Rd, Chanhassen, MN 55317, United States. The artist known as Prince has only been gone for a short time, but the hole that he has left musically and in the hearts and minds of many is as indelible as the deepest shade of purple.  Named for Prince’s 1985 hit “Paisley Park,” from the album Around The World In A Day, Prince’s aim in creating Paisley Park Studios was to do his own take on Elvis Presley’s Graceland public venue model.  While Prince didn’t live to see all of his plans come to fruition, the compound has two live music venues and is the perfect place to remember one of the greats.
  2. Neverland Ranch 5225 Figueroa Mountain Rd, Los Olivos, CA 9344.  While Neverland Ranch has since been renamed Sycamore Valley Ranch, it is still most well known for having been the home of The King of Pop, Michael Jackson.  Jackson named the ranch Neverland as a nod to the fantasy island traversed by one of his favorite fictional characters, Peter Pan, aka the boy who never grew up.  During it’s brightest days, Neverland ranch served as Jackson’s home and personal amusement park complete with a zoo, a small railroad, ferris wheel and amusement park arcade. After Neverland was raided and searched exhaustively by the police during the People vs. Jackson trial where Jackson was accused of child molestation, Jackson vowed never to live at Neverland again.  Since Jackson’s death in 2009, his children, led by his daughter Paris have sought to restore the ranch in a manner befitting Jackson’s memory.
  3. Forest Lawn Memorial Park (Glendale)  1712 S Glendale Ave, Glendale, CA 91205.  If you are already in the golden state visiting Neverland Ranch, it pays to make it a complete trip by visiting the Forest Lawn Cemetery in Glendale, CA where Michael Jackson is buried.  Not only a cemetery, the park also has it’s own museum that has hosted and continues to host art exhibits of the likes of Henry Matisse and Rembrandt.  In addition to being the final resting place of Michael Jackson, former president Ronald Reagan and Jane Wyman were married in 1940 on the Memorial Park’s grounds and Pope John Paul II was a visitor on a papal trip to Los Angeles.  Other famous black musical artists buried at Forest Lawn include Nat King Cole, Dorothy Dandridge, Sammy Davis Jr., Red Skeleton, Sam Cooke and Ethel Waters – to name a few of those gone but not forgotten.
  4. Priority Records 1750 Vine Street Los Angeles, Ca 90028.  Founded in 1985 by Bryan Turner, Mark Cerami and Steve Darth, Priority Records is the music label that signed NWA.  Having made a name for themselves early in Hip Hop via their underground grassroots marketing techniques, Priority Records has distributed the cream of the crop when it comes to the best in the genre including artists Ice Cube, Easy E, Snoop Dogg, Jay -Z, Ice-T, No Limit, Mia, Westside Connection, MC Ren, C-Murder, Master P and others.
  5. Ruthless Records, aka Comptown Records 21700 Oxnard St, Los Angeles, CA 91367.  Founded in 1987 by NWA’s Easy-E and his music manager Jerry Heller as an outlet for releases from NWA, Ruthless Records was born in Compton, California.  Rumored to have been kick started by money Easy-E made selling drugs, with the white hot rise of NWA, so Ruthless Records skyrocketed to the top of class in terms of defining legit and profitable gangsta rap. The label has counted Eazy-E, MC Ren, J.J. Fad, NWA and Bone Thugs-N-Harmony as it’s artists as well as Will 1X and the Atban Klann, who are better known as and of The Black Eyed Peas.  The label currently has artist Lil Eazy-E, the oldest son of Eazy-E.
  6. The Motown Museum 2646 West Grand Blvd, Detroit, MI 48208. Founded by Berry Gordy’s sister and former Motown Records Senior Vice President Esther Gordy Edwards, The Motown Museum’s main aim is to protect and celebrate the flame from whence the famous Detroit Motown Sound was created.  Through the grit and determination of her brother Berry Gordy, a brand new sound that was a mixture of the spirit of gospel, the insubordination of jazz and the soul of funk gave birth to the rise of girl groups like The Supremes and the Marvelettes and other groups and artists such as Marvin Gaye, The Four Tops, The Funk Brothers, The Jackson 5 and Stevie Wonder – all of whom recorded in the museum’s famous Studio A.
  7. The Tupac Shakur Statue at the Tupac Amaru Shakur Center For the Arts off of Memorial Drive in Stone Mountain, GA.  The center, which was founded in 1997 by Tupac Shakur’s mother Afeni Shakur, was originally put together to continue Tupac Shakur’s legacy by providing arts training and opportunities to young people.  Unfortunately the center fell on hard times and has been closed since late 2014, but a statue of Tupac Shakur still stands in the park adjacent to the now shuttered center.
  8. The Apollo Theater 253 West 125th street, Manhattan, New York.  Registered officially in the U.S. National Register of Historic Places as an NYC Landmark, The Apollo Theater in Harlem has long been associated with the best African American musical acts that the world can offer since it first opened to black patrons in 1934.  As host of the iconic show titled “Showtime At The Apollo” the show as well as the venue have long been the litmus test for the best new black musical acts since well before it’s first televised show in 1987.  Acts that have debuted or performed  at The Apollo include Duke Ellington, Dizzy Gillespie, Count Basie, Mahalia Jackson, Billie Holiday, The Jackson 5, and more recent artists including Mariah Carey, Lauryn Hill and Ne-Yo.
  9. Bob Marley Mausoleum Nine Mile, Saint Ann, Jamaica.  While the actual date of reggae legend Bob Marley’s birth wasn’t accurately recorded, it is well known that in keeping with Rasta tradition, Marley is buried close to where he was born. Bob Marley was born in 1945 in February on the farm of his maternal grandfather in Nine Mile, Saint Ann Parrish, Jamaica.  The mausoleum, which is managed and run by members of the Marley family contains many objects that were important to the deceased legend, including guitars, various awards, historical photos and a rock pillow painted in Rasta colors that Marley purportedly would lay his head in order to gather inspiration for his music.
  10. Handel House Museum 25 Brook Street, Mayfair, London W1K, 4HB.  In an interesting juxtaposition of differing musical styles and eras, for a brief but notable period in 1969, rock guitarist, singer and songwriter Jimi Hendrix lived with his girlfriend Kathy Etchingham’s in her 23 Brook Street apartment right next door to where 18th century German baroque classical composer George Frideric Handel lived and composed for 36 years.  As such, the Handel House Museum is dedicated largely to Handel, but also to Jimi Hendrix and his period spent in London’s west end.
  11. Detroit School of Arts 123 Selden St., Detroit, MI 48201.  If you are already visiting The Motown Museum, it’s not a bad plan to swing by the Detroit School of Arts, which is the high school that R&B singer and actress Aaliyah graduated from. As a blue ribbon magnet high school, prospective students must win entry to the school at the end of the eighth grade via  audition.  Other graduates of note include Broadway actress and 3-time Tony award nominee Celia Keenan-Bolger.
  12. B.B. King Museum And Delta Interpretive Center 400 2nd St, Indianola, MS 38751. Dedicated to preserving the memory of Blues singer and guitarist B.B. King, The B.B. King Museum And Delta Interpretive Center more than does the job while also including education about the greater musical tradition of the Mississippi Delta. The Museum contains historical artifacts directly linked to the late great B.B. King and also serves as his final resting place.  When King died in 2015, he was subsequently interred in a planned memorial garden that serves as a centerpiece for the museum.  The Museum also features the cotton gin where B.B. King used to work.