Music has always been a huge part of my life from the time I was born. Growing up on steady portions of gospel from the church and soul music from the vinyl records that were found in my home, I developed a love that eventually led me to move to Memphis. I was born and raised in Covington, Tenn. – the birth home of Isaac Hayes – and found myself seeking higher education at Lemoyne-Owen College – the city’s only HBCU that sits in the middle of the historic Soulsville USA neighborhood. It’s no coincidence that this music that drew me in as a child continued to call my name as an adult through the work that I still do in that famous neighborhood through Memphis Slim Collaboratory and the Soulsville USA Festival. I am a child of Soul in every way imaginable and I feel very much connected to the musical legacy of the city. 

So, what is Black Music Month?

Three influential black music executives – Dyana Williams, Ed Wright, and Kenny Gamble (of the famous Philly duo Gamble and Huff) – founded Black Music Month as a way to celebrate the priceless contributions that black artists have made to American music. With the help of then President Jimmy Carter, the month was declared official on June 7, 1979. Forty-one years, three months of a full global pandemic shutdown, and 20 straight days of protest later we find ourselves again uttering the haunting words that Syl Johnson penned at Hi Records in 1968: “Is it because I’m black?” People have taken to the streets demanding the RESPECT that Otis Redding and the Staple Singers sang about in their songs. If the move for civil rights and equality had a soundtrack, it would be laced with Memphis soul and R&B. From old to new, the music made by our homegrown artists continues to lead us progressively into the future. 

About this playlist

I was excited when asked to curate this playlist because music most certainly speaks when words fail.  Here is my special tribute to the music that made me, along with the music that my friends and I were inspired to make!

To learn more about Tonya Dyson, please click here for our previous profile on her!

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