Mandatory Music: The Best Black Musical Groups in History
If one talented musician is good, many are better. Throughout history, bands have brought undeniable energy and musical ingenuity to stages and stereos all over the world. Black musical groups in particular have made unique contributions that have transformed the way we listen to music today. That’s why we’re celebrating the black artists who broke new ground in music-making and who persevered despite the entrenched racism in the recording industry. From Motown and R&B to soul and funk, these musical groups have made us sing, dance, and revel in the magic of music.
Cover Photo: Michael Ochs Archives / Stringer (Getty Images)
Popular in the ‘60s and ‘70s, this Detroit-based group is known for tunes like "My Girl," "Ain't Too Proud to Beg," and "I Wish It Would Rain." The Temptations nabbed three Grammy awards, making them the first Motown act to win one of the awards. They also had a slew of No. 1 singles.
This sweet R&B soul foursome is behind irresistible songs like "Will You Love Me Tomorrow" and "Tonight's the Night."
The Four Tops
"I Can't Help Myself (Sugar Pie Honey Bunch)" and "Reach Out I'll Be There" were just a couple of the hits that put this Detroit-formed Motown group on the map. After decades of chart-topping tunes and enthusiastic performances, they were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
The Jackson 5
So, the Jackson family was pretty messed up, but for a time, Jackie, Tito, Jermaine, Marlon, and Michael made infectious and catchy pop music together. "I Want You Back," "ABC," and "I'll Be There" were just a few of the group’s memorable No. 1 hits.
This female trio led by Diana Ross became the most successful vocal group of the 1960s. Their timeless earworms "Where Did Our Love Go," "You Keep Me Hangin' On," and “Stop! In the Name of Love” made it into the Grammy Hall of Fame.
Kool & the Gang
You’ve surely danced along to at least two of this group’s hits: "Jungle Boogie" and "Celebration." Combining the best elements of R&B, soul, funk, disco and jazz, they released 23 studio albums and close to 70 singles over their decades-long career.
Sly and the Family Stone
This San Francisco psychedelic soul/funk band was the first American musical group to feature members of different races and genders. Together, they crafted Billboard Hot 100 hits like "Dance to the Music," "Everyday People," and "Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Again)." The Rock and Roll Hall of Famers were honored by artists like John Legend, The Roots, and Maroon 5 in a 2005 tribute album, Different Strokes by Different Folks.
The Pointer Sisters
This Oakland, California, dance music group won over audiences during the ‘70s and ‘80s with tunes like "Jump (For My Love)" and "Automatic."
Boyz II Men
This Philadelphia R&B threesome was all the rage in the ‘90s with a parade of soulful hits that included "Motownphilly," "It's So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday," “End of the Road,” and “I’ll Make Love to You.” They spent a whopping 50 weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard charts, bested only by Elvis Presley, The Beatles, and Mariah Carey. They continue performing (albeit less often) today.
This female trio from Atlanta became the bestselling American girl group in the ‘90s thanks to R&B hits like "Creep," "Waterfalls," and "No Scrubs." The group earned four Grammy Awards, five MTV Video Music Awards, and five Soul Train Music Awards over the years. Though Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes died in an auto accident in 2002, Tionne "T-Boz" Watkins and Rozonda "Chilli" Thomas continued to perform as TLC together and released another album in 2017.