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Voices of Empowerment

It's Been Said All Along: Voices of Empowerment

Hear about the exhibit

It's Been Said All Along: Voices of Empowerment

Hear about the exhibit
About The Exhibit

In the years before rock & roll, work songs, spirituals, the blues and jazz provided messages of encouragement and empowerment. In Black culture, music as an art form has been a powerful method to process frustrations, with the basis of it stemming from pain, misery and the strong desire to overcome.

In Black culture, music as an art form has been a powerful method to process frustrations, with the basis of it stemming from pain, misery and the strong desire to overcome. The power of a song can encourage listeners in the worst of times.

One example of those cataclysmic times was on April 5, 1968, with the nation on edge the night after Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination, James Brown gave the performance of a lifetime at Boston Garden. The powerful and emotional concert aired on local TV, and as a result, Boston avoided the major rioting that other American cities experienced. Brown became outspoken on Black self-empowerment and echoed it in his songs including “Say It Loud, I’m Black and I’m Proud” and “I Don’t Want Nobody to Give Me Nothing (Open Up the Door I’ll Get It Myself).”

His courage inspired other artists and subsequent generations to understand – and use – the power of music to propel change.

Inductee Aretha Franklin Valentino Dress, c. 1976
Inductee Aretha Franklin Valentino Dress, c. 1976
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Franklin wore this dress during her first appearance at Radio City Music Hall. She was also the first woman to be inducted into the Rock Hall in 1987. Audio from Dr. Daniel Walker about Franklin.

Inductee James Brown Jumpsuit c. 1972
Inductee James Brown Jumpsuit c. 1972
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One of the many jumpsuits that James Brown wore during his electrifying performances. Brown was inducted into the Rock Hall in 1986.

Spotlight On: Miles Mosley's "Brother"

GRAMMY-nominated bassist Miles Mosley was raised by a Black father and Jewish mother of Russian descent; the Mosley family experienced intense racism due to their union and moved to Oakland in hopes of a better life.

“The messages of the past have gotten us to a place of action, we are built to survive, survival is not static— we have the will to live.” This song reflects not only Mosley’s experience but explores the traumas involved with dual identity and hope that moves one to action.

Hear Mosley discuss writing the song below.

Poster

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Artist Miles Mosley discusses writing his song "Brother"

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Artist Miles Mosley discusses writing his song "Brother"

Hear the Story

Take a Trip to the Museum

Induction Ceremony Performances

Celebrating musical voices of empowerment, click here to view Lauryn Hill’s full performance of Inductee Nina Simone’s “Ain’t Got No – I Got Life” at the 2018 Induction Ceremony.

Rock Hall EDU

“…she made the depths of African-American as well as women’s humanity both audible and legible at a moment in time when both of these groups were struggling not just to be heard but to be recognized as fully desiring subjects and citizens.”

Learn about Inductee Aretha Franklin's career in soul music and the impact it had as a vehicle for messages of empowerment and identity. Click to access "Anatomy of Soul," the official essay by Dr. Daphne Brooks.

Know More About the Artists

Explore the Hall of Fame Inductees that used their music as a platform for messages inspiring audiences while fighting for justice and equality. 

Chuck Berry Gallery 1
1987 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inductee Aretha Franklin Performing at the Rock Hall Opening Concert
1986 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inductee James Brown
NINA SIMONE, THE RANGE PLACE 1968

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