Inspirational Black Musicians

Over the past decade, we have seen many talented Black musicians pass away. Here are six of the most notable of them.

Chris Kelly

Chris Kelly was most notably known as one half of the rap duo Kris Kross. 

They were discovered in 1990 when Kelly was just 14 years old. The duo’s most well-known song “Jump” stayed at number one on the Billboard Hot 100 for eight weeks.

The duo eventually split after they released the album Young, Rich, and Dangerous in 1996.

After the split, Kelly studied audio engineering and ran a small record label, named Teamwork Records.

He passed away on May 1, 2013, at the age of 34 years old.

Natalie Cole

Natalie Cole, daughter of musician Nat King Cole, never planned on becoming a musician, so she went to college for psychology and received her Bachelor’s Degree in 1972.

However, she did have a background in singing as her father was a vocal legend and her mother was a jazz singer, Maria Cole. 

Her first album was released in 1975 titled Inseparable, she however struggled with addiction and left the music industry to get clean.

The song “This Will Be (An Everlasting Love)” won her two Grammys. In 1979, she received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

In the 1990s, she returned with an album titled Unforgettable.

She passed away on December 31, 2015, of heart failure. 


Born Prince Rodger Nelson, then the artist “formerly known as Prince”, is well-known as a musical icon of his generation 

He was a singer, songwriter, producer, dancer, and guitarist. Prince could also play the drums, bass, and keyboard.  

Prince was known for his album Purple Rain, which won a Grammy and an Academy Award. His music was a mix of funk, disco, soul, jazz, punk, heavy metal, and hip-hop. 

On March 15, 2004, Prince was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

On April 21, 2016, he died due to a drug overdose.

Aretha Franklin

Aretha Franklin was very young when she started singing and was self-taught. This resulted in many acknowledging her as a child prodigy.

Franklin started in her father’s church choir when she was 14, and later she released an album of these songs entitled The Gospel Sound of Aretha Franklin

Later, in 1960, she signed with Columbia Records, and in 1961, she released her debut album titled Aretha.

In her 1967 album, I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You, her hit song “Respect” won Franklin two Grammys.  

Aretha released her last album in 2003, and she ended her career with 18 Grammys. In January 2021, a biopic titled Respect was released. 

 She passed away on August 16, 2018, from pancreatic cancer.


Born Earl Simmons, he chose the stage name “Dark Man X”, but later embraced the abbreviation he came to be known as DMX.

DMX’s albums reflected on his troubled past; he referred to it as “gritty”, and he mixed in Christian spirituality. 

His career started with beatboxing, the act of imitating a drum or other instrument with your mouth.  

Before releasing his first album, he committed crimes and spent time in a correctional institution, and battled with addiction. 

Simmons was known for electrifying crowds and had a memorable stage presence. 

His most popular song is “Party Up (Up In Here)”, which is a diss track. Which means he was responding to something bad someone else said about Kelly. 

On April 9, 2021, he died from a heart attack. 


Coolio, born Artis Leon Ivey Jr., was born in Monessen, Pennsylvania, but he grew up in Compton, California where he earned his stage name after “Julio Iglesias”. 

Coolio’s career started in the indie circuit in Los Angeles and in 1991, he released his debut album. Whilst in the circuit, he met with other artists like Ice Cube. 

By 1994, Ivey went solo and did work on songs for Nickelodeon and movies like “Space Jam”. 

His most notable song is “Gangster’s Paradise” which won a Grammy in 1996.

He passed away on September 28, 2022, at 59 years old


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