Aretha Franklin

American Singer, Known as the “Queen of Soul” • 1942-2018 • R&B, Soul, & Gospel

Fast Facts

  • Born in Memphis, Tennessee in March of 1942
  • Defined the Golden Age of Soul Music in the 1960s
  • Mother was a gospel singer and pianist, father was a nationally-renowned minister
  • Raised in Detroit by her father when her parents divorced
  • Performed gospel music around the country when he preached in cities across the US and was recognized as a vocal prodigy
  • Transitioned from sacred to secular music at age 18
  • Was signed by Atlantic Records in 1966, where she was able to develop her own musical identity
  • Known for hits including “Respect”, “Think” and “Natural Woman”
  • Refined her own mix of gospel and R&B and was dubbed the “Queen of Soul”
  • Died in Detroit, Michigan in August of 2018


Zekejones11, CC BY-SA 4.0 <;, via Wikimedia Commons

(Anthony Parker)

American Songwriter, Performer, Entrepreneur, and Philanthropist  • Born 1980 • Hip Hop

Fast Facts

  • Born in Germany where his father was stationed and landed in Baltimore, MD when he was 19
  • Often partners with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra to collaborate and combine hip hop, spoken word, and classical music
  • Has written music for various shows on Netflix and maintains relationships with ESPN and NFL Networks
  • Started a not-for-profit company focused on supporting underserved communities called “Rise With a Purpose, Inc.”
  • Has released 6 albums
  • All albums focus on strong, motivational messages while also telling the stories of the working class and the dangers of modern day society
  • Opened an independent label in 2009 that specializes in Music Licensing and Distribution, Song Writing, Performing, and Community Engagement


By Steve Terrell –, CC BY 2.0,

Inuit Soul Music and Dance Group • Active 1995 – Present • Indigenous Alaskan

Fast Facts

  • Pamyua has four members.
  • Phillip and Stephen Blanchett are brothers.
  • Ossie Kairaiuak is a master Yup’ik drum maker, illustrator, and dancer.
  • Karina Moeller joined the band in 1996 and composes and arranges some of their music.
  • Pamyua is the Yup’ik word for Encore or Do it again.
  • Pamyua created their own style of music by harmonizing and re-arranging traditional Inuit stories and melodies.
  • Pamyua wrote the theme song for Molly of Denali.
  • They have also written music for Flying Wild Alaska.

Jeremy Dutcher

By Artsandstuff1 – I took the photo at Jeremy’s concertPreviously published: Christina Cassaro, CC BY-SA 4.0,

Classically-trained tenor, composer, musicologist, performer, activist and member of the Tobique First NationBorn 1990

Fast Facts

  • Jeremy is a Polaris Prize Winner for his Album: Wolastoqiyik Lintuwakonawa (translates in English to Our Maliseets Songs).
  • Dutcher identifies as two-spirit.
  • Jeremy is a classically trained opera tenor and pianist.
  • He is a performer, composer, activist, and musicologist.
  • Jeremy is one of fewer than 100 people who still speak Wolastoq. 
  • Wolastoq means beautiful and bountiful river.
  •  In 1604, French settlers “discovered” the Wolastoq watershed and renamed it “rivière St. Jean,” or “Saint John river”.
  • Jeremy is a member of Tobique First Nation in New Brunswick which is just north of the mouth of the Tobique river which connects to the Saint John River. 
  • Jeremy first began his musical studies in Halifax, Nova Scotia before working in the archives at the Canadian Museum of History, transcribing Wolastoq songs from 1907 wax cylinders.
  • Wax cylinders are the earliest commercial medium for recording and reproducing sound, and they were commonly known as “records” in their era of greatest popularity (c. 1896–1915).

Sister Rosetta Tharpe

American Godmother of Rock n’ Roll • 1915-1973 • Gospel, Rhythm and Blues, Rock n’ Roll

Fast Facts

  • Sister Rosetta Tharpe was born in Cotton Plant, Arkansas in 1915
  • She was one of the few black female guitarists to find commercial success and the first artist to blend gospel and secular music.
  • She was the first Black queer gospel music star and first great recording star of gospel music.
  • She invented rock and roll music; she was the Black, queer mother of rock and roll.
  • She was known as the “singing and guitar-playing miracle”, “the Godmother of rock ‘n roll”, “the original soul sister”, and was a pioneer in her guitar technique.
  • She influenced many early rock n’ roll musicians such as Little Richard, Chuck Berry, and Elvis Presley.
  • Her gospel recording of “Strange Things Happening Every Day” entered Billboard’s “Harlem Hit Parade” in 1944.

Trombone Shorty (Troy Andrews)

Takahiro Kyono from Tokyo, Japan, CC BY 2.0 <;, via Wikimedia Commons

American Trombonist • Born 1986 • Jazz

Fast Facts

  • First played Trombone at age three 
  • Born in the United States in New Orleans, Louisiana
  • Focuses on Jazz, but has performed many other genres
  • Proficient on Trumpet, Trombone, Keyboard, and Vocals 
  • At age four, he performed with Bo Diddley
  • Plays in a band called Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue
  • Leads the Trombone Shorty Foundation, supporting music education in New Orleans
  • Has also authored children’s books

Tito Henriquez

Photo courtesy of Maria Del Valle Brin

Puerto Rican Singer and Composer • 1920-1994

Fast Facts

  • Tito Henriquez’s full name is Faustino Serapio Henriquez Diaz.
  • Tito Henriquez was born in Santurce, Puerto Rico.
  • His most famous piece is called “Bello Amanecer” which translates to “Beautiful Sunrise.” The lyrics describe pride for being born in such a beautiful place as Puerto Rico. 
  • Tito Henriquez wrote the song “Quinceañera” to celebrate his daughter’s fifteenth birthday. 
  • Tito Henriquez learned to play the guitar as a child, and played the bass in his quartet. 
  • He composed music for musicians and groups including Ruth Fernandez, Tito Rodriguez, and El Gran Combo.

Raye Zaragoza

Photograph by Justin Higuchi, 2013 (CC BY 2.0)

Japanese-American, Mexican, Indigenous • Singer and Songwriter • Born 1993 • Folk Music

Fast Facts

  • Raye has her own independent label called Rebel River Records.
  • Her song “In the River” was produced as a single to protest the Dakota Access Pipeline in Standing Rock.
  • “In the River” was awarded the Global Music Awards’ 2017 Heretic Award for Protest/Activist Music and the Honesty Oscars’ award for Best Song.
  • Working with her brother, Raye made a music video for “In The River” that shared information about Standing Rock. Overnight, it received 100,000 views.
  • She grew up in Manhattan, New York, and moved to Los Angeles, California at the age of 14.
  • She now lives in Long Beach, California.
  • Her father is Broadway performer Gregory Zaragoza who is of Mexican and Indigenous heritage.
  • Her mother is an immigrant from Japan. 
  • Her Great-Grandmother was adopted out of her tribe as a young child and raised by a white woman.
  • Her influences are Joni Mitchell, Carole King, Joan Baez, and Buffy St. Marie 
  • Working with Tucker Martin, Raye recorded Women in Color in just 10, 10-hour days in Portland, Oregon
  • Many notable guests played on this album including, Colin Meloy (The Decemberists), Laura Veirs, Dylan Day (Jenny Lewis), Andrew Borger (Norah Jones), and Kyleen King (Brandi Carlile)

Stevie Wonder

American Singer, Songwriter, Producer, and Multi-Instrumentalist • Born 1950 • R&B/Soul

Fast Facts

  • He was considered a child prodigy because he was a skilled musician (piano, organ, harmonica, drums) by 8 years old. 
  • He made his first recording debut at the age of 12. 
  • He was blind, but not born blind; he became blind due to retinopathy of prematurity, which got worse after he received too much oxygen in an incubator. 
  • He was born in Michigan, USA. 
  • His first stage name was “Little Stevie Wonder.”
  • He has received 25 Grammys and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1989. 
  • He was a huge advocate for social issues and used his single, Happy Birthday, to help create a national holiday for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s birthday. 
  • He also supports social issues such as AIDS research and research for the blind community. 
  • Because of his commitment to social issues, he was named the United Nations Messenger of Peace in 2009.

John Legend

Photo by Tech. Sgt. Samuel King Jr., Courtesy: US Air Force

(John Roger Stephens) 

American Singer, Songwriter, & Producer • Born December 28th, 1978 • R&B, Soul, Pop

Fast Facts

  • John Legend was a child prodigy who learned to play piano from his grandmother and sang in a church choir.
  • He was the salutatorian of his graduating high school class in Springfield, Ohio.
  • After college, he first worked for a Boston Consulting Group, but still made time for music by performing at nightclubs in New York City.
  • Soon after, John was introduced to Kanye West and the pair worked together on their early demos.
  • His very first album, Get Lifted, went platinum in 2004 and won three Grammy awards.
  • In 2018 after his performance as Jesus in NBC’s production of Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert, John Legend became the youngest and first African-American man to have received one of each major North American entertainment award: an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony Award (known as a member of the EGOT Club).
  • John has stressed in interviews that he wants his career to be defined by the fact that he’s always going to try new things and experiment.
  • He has been a vocal coach on NBC’s The Voice singing competition since 2018.
  • John Legend is married to model Chrissy Teigen and they have two children, Luna and Miles.