While black rock bands are sometimes overlooked, they have produced many influential, underrated albums.
Despite some of these musicians not receiving mainstream recognition, many of these bands have significantly impacted the music industry and continue to do so. Want to know more about them? Here are some of the best black rock bands that you should know about.
Living Colour is a rock band formed in New York City in 1984. The band’s music mixes heavy metal, funk, and hip hop. The band’s most popular songs include “Cult of Personality” and “Love Rears Its Ugly Head.” Living Colour’s funk-metal style has influenced many other bands, including Rage Against the Machine.
Fishbone is a rock band formed in Los Angeles, California, in 1979. The band’s music mixes punk, ska, and funk. Fishbone is known for its high-energy live shows. This black band’s most popular songs include “Party at the Kokomo” and “Sunless Saturday.”
They toured with Red Hot Chili Peppers and Jane’s Addiction and have been cited as an influence by bands like No Doubt and Sublime.
Bad Brains is a punk rock band formed in Washington, D.C., in 1977. The band is considered to be one of the pioneers of hardcore punk. They are also credited with helping to popularize reggae and hip hop within the punk rock scene. Bad Brains’ most popular songs include “Banned in D.C.” and “Kick Out The Jams.”
The Gap Band
The Gap Band was a funk band formed in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in 1967. The band is best known for their hits “Outstanding” and “You Dropped a Bomb on Me.” The Gap Band was one of the most successful funk bands of the 1980s.
Death is a Detroit-based rock band founded in 1971 by brothers Bobby (bass) and Dannis Hackney (drums). The band’s music combines punk, metal, and funk. Death is thought to be one of the first black punk bands.
The band released only one album, For the Whole World to See (1974), before breaking up in 1977. The album was not a big success but is now considered a cult classic. In 2009, Rolling Stone ranked For the Whole World to See at number298 on its list of the 500 greatest albums.
Parliament/Funkadelic is a musical collective founded by George Clinton in the 1960s. The collective’s music mixes funk, soul, and rock. Parliament/Funkadelic is considered one of the most influential bands of all time.
The band has released over 40 albums, including Mothership Connection (1975) and One Nation Under a Groove (1978). Parliament/Funkadelic was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1997.
Kool & The Gang
Kool & The Gang is a jazz-funk band founded in Jersey City, New Jersey, in 1964. The band’s most popular songs include “Celebration” and “Get Down On It.” Kool & The Gang won multiple Grammy Awards and has been inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame.
The band’s music has been featured in numerous films and television shows, including Saturday Night Fever (1977) and The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air (1990).
Eric Gales Band
The Eric Gales Band is a blues rock band from Memphis, Tennessee. Guitarist Eric Gales fronts the band and is considered one of his generation’s best guitarists.
The band released nine studio albums, including The Psychedelic Underground (2017) and Middle of the Road (2019). The Eric Gales Band toured with artists like Joe Bonamassa and John Mayer.
Sly & The Family Stone
Sly & The Family Stone was a hugely successful Funk and Soul band of the late 1960s and early 1970s. The band’s music mixed R&B, soul, rock, and psychedelic elements. Sly & The Family Stone was known for its high-energy live shows and socially conscious lyrics.
The band’s most popular songs include “I Want to Take You Higher” and “Everyday People.” Sly & The Family Stone was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1993.
Ohio Players was a funk band from Dayton, Ohio, best known for their hit songs “Fire” and “Love Rollercoaster.” The band was one of the most successful funk bands of the 1970s.
Ohio Players’ music has been used in numerous films and television shows, including Black Panther (2018) and Stranger Things (2016).
The band’s album covers were often quite risqué and caused controversy.
The Commodores is a black soul and R&B band formed at Tuskegee Institute (now Tuskegee University) in 1968. The band’s most popular songs include “Easy” and “Brick House.”
The Commodores has sold over 75 million records and has been inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame.
Lionel Ritchie was a member of the band from 1968 to 1982. He went on to have a successful solo career.
TV On The Radio
Formed in Brooklyn, New York, in 2001, TV On The Radio is an experimental rock band praised for its innovation and creativity. The band’s music incorporates punk, hip hop, electronica, and jazz elements.
TV On The Radio has released five studio albums, including Return to Cookie Mountain (2006) and Nine Types of Light (2011). The band has won two Grammy Awards.
James Brown & The JBs
James Brown was a hugely successful soul singer and bandleader in the 1960s and 1970s. His band, The JBs, was a tight funk outfit that provided the backing for some of Brown’s most famous songs.
The JBs’ most popular songs include “Get Up (I Feel Like Being A) Sex Machine” and “Super Bad.” Hip-hop artists have heavily sampled the band, and it is considered one of the most influential funk ensembles ever.
James Brown’s career spanned six decades in multiple genres. He passed away in 2006.
Earth Wind & Fire
Earth Wind & Fire is a black soul and R&B band formed in Chicago, Illinois, in 1969. The band has won multiple Grammy Awards and has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Earth Wind & Fire’s music is characterized by its use of elements from African, Latin American, and Caribbean genres. The band’s most popular songs include “September” and “Boogie Wonderland.”
The Isley Brothers
The Isley Brothers are an R&B and soul group from Cincinnati, Ohio. The group’s music has been popular for over six decades. The Isleys have had several hit songs, including “Shout,” “That Lady,” and “Between the Sheets.”
The band appeared in Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing (1989) and performed at President Barack Obama’s Inaugural Ball in 2009. The Isley Brothers have been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Vocal Group Hall of Fame.
The Jackson 5 was a pop group formed in the 1960s. The group was made up of five brothers: Jackie, Tito, Jermaine, Marlon, and Michael.
The Jackson 5’s most popular songs include “I Want You Back,” “ABC,” and “I’ll Be There.” The group was hugely successful in the 1970s and has sold over 100 million records.
Michael Jackson went on to have a hugely successful solo career and is considered one of the greatest musicians of all time.
Bob Marley and the Wailers
Bob Marley was a hugely popular Jamaican singer, songwriter, and musician. His band, the Wailers, was one of the most successful reggae groups, and the Wailers’ music is characterized by its upbeat lyrics and catchy melodies.
The Wailers’ most popular songs include “No Woman, No Cry,” “One Love,” and “Get Up, Stand Up.” The band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1994. Bob Marley died of cancer in 1981. Ziggy Marley, Bob’s son, has continued the band’s legacy.
Ike & Tina Turner
Ike & Tina Turner were an American R&B duo from St. Louis, Missouri. The Turners rose to fame in the 1960s with their soul and rock ‘n roll music. Some of their most popular songs include “Proud Mary” and “Nutbush City Limits.”
The Turners’ live shows were known for their high-energy and sexually charged performances. Tina Turner had a highly successful solo career after she and Ike divorced in 1976.
The Time was a Minneapolis-based R&B and funk band formed in 1981. The group was created by Prince and featured Morris Day on vocals. The Time’s music is characterized by its funky beats and clever lyrics.
The band released four albums between 1981 and 1990. They also appeared in the movies Purple Rain (1984) and Graffiti Bridge (1990). They disbanded in 1991 but have reunited several times since then.
War is an American funk band from Long Beach, California. The group’s music mixes R&B, jazz, and Latin styles. War is best known for the hit song “Low Rider,” featured in the movie American Graffiti (1973).
The band has been working since the 1970s and has released 20 albums. War has won two Grammy Awards and was nominated for a third in 1975.
The Roots are a band from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The band is known for the stellar live shows, which often feature guest appearances by other musicians. The Roots have released 13 albums and have won four Grammy Awards.
The group’s music often deals with social and political issues. Their song “People’s Court” was nominated for a Grammy Award in 2002.
Tower of Power
Tower of Power is an American soul and funk band from Oakland, California. The group was formed in 1968 and is best known for its hit song “What Is Hip?” Tower of Power’s music is characterized by its horn-based arrangements and tight rhythms.
The band has released 20 albums and has been nominated for two Grammy Awards. Tower of Power continues to tour and perform today.
The Family Stand
The Family Stand is an American R&B and soul group from New York City. The group formed in 1988 and is best known for its hit song “Ghetto Heaven.” The Family Stand’s music is characterized by its upbeat lyrics and catchy melodies.
The group has released four albums and has been nominated for a Grammy Award. The Family Stand has toured extensively throughout the United States and Europe.
The Mars Volta
The Mars Volta was an American progressive rock band from El Paso, Texas. The group was formed in 2001 and was known for its experimental and psychedelic music. The Mars Volta’s most popular album, De-Loused in the Comatorium (2003), won a Grammy Award for Best Hard Rock Performance.
The band disbanded in 2012, but its members have continued to pursue solo careers.
Cameo is an American R&B and funk band from New York City. The group was formed in 1974 and is best known for its hit song “Word Up!” Cameo’s music is characterized by its explicit lyrics and funky beats.
The group has released 12 albums and has been nominated for a Grammy Award. Cameo continues to tour and perform today.
Mother’s Finest is an American R&B and rock band from Atlanta, Georgia. The group was formed in 1970 and is best known for its hit song “Baby Love.” Mother’s Finest’s music is characterized by its mix of hard rock and soul.
The band has released eight albums and has toured extensively throughout the United States and Europe. Mother’s Finest continues to perform today.
Black Rock Bands, Final Thoughts
Black rock bands have been a staple of the music industry for decades. The mix of hard rock, soul, punk, and funk has appealed to audiences across the globe, and the influence of these artists cannot be overstated.
Black rock bands like War, Tower of Power, and Living Colour have shaped the sound of popular music for generations. These bands continue to inspire new artists and influence the direction of rock music.