Black musicians have changed the world’s entertainment scene in the last century.
During the slavery period, they managed to blend their African tunes with Western music to create some of the world’s exceptional music genres.
Their unique music genres have influenced various cultures resulting in some whites adopting their music cultures like soul, hip hop, and blues.
Despite the popularity of Black music genres, do you know that there are various Black artists who sound White?
These artists have managed to permeate various music genres like country music and rock.
Some of these artists like Jimmie Allen and Kane Brown have even managed to revolutionize these genres.
Here are some of the top Black musicians who sound White:
1. Arthur Lee
Believe it or not, Arthur was at some point bigger than Jim Morrison or Hendrix. The leader of the 1960s band “Love” has a higher and gentler voice which was associated with White singers. His unique voice sounded whispy on ballads with no hint of blues associated with jazz singers of the time. The Black singers of the time had low-pitch voices with hints of blues.
Listen to Arthur Lee’s Crooked:
2. Charley Pride
As the first, Black Country Music singer, Pride was mistaken for a White guy most of the time. After all, country music was associated with white people and when he started singing, he was the only Black man doing it.
Pride had a deep bass voice just like the White country music singers. To succeed in the genre, he had to sound like the White country lover, which made it hard for Country Music fans who were listening to his tunes for the first time to believe that he was Black.
Listen to the very best of Charley here:
3. Lenny Kravitz
Most folks who grew up listening to rock music and hadn’t seen his videos believed that Lenny was White. His hit “Fly Away” topped the chart worldwide and since music videos weren’t that common in some parts of the world, most folks assumed he was White.
On top of that, his voice doesn’t have the bluesy attributes and note-bending expected from a Black singer. Plus, the fact that he produced some of the top rock tracks of all time confused most folks. But he is a Black man and he embraces his heritage.
Lenny Kravitz’s Fly Away:
4. Eliot Sloan
Sloan may be a member of Blessid Union of Souls, but his voice lacks the soul notes associated with most Black singers. This may be because of the genre of music he sings and some folks claim that he even sounds white when singing about being Black.
A song like “Hey Leonardo (She Likes Me for Me)” sounds like something a White rock band would produce. But it was one of their hit songs that put their name on the map.
Listen to “Hey Leonardo (She Likes Me for Me)”:
5. Minnie Riperton
Unlike most Black singers, Minnie could hit some really high notes quietly and softly that was almost impossible for even opera singers. She became popular after releasing her hit “Loving you” in the 1970s which had no hint of soul. Unfortunately, she passed away before blessing us with more tracks.
Listen to Minnie’s Loving you here:
6. Darius Rucker
The lead singer of “Hootie & the Blowfish” is another rock star on our list who sounds White. Just like Lenny Kravitz, he has a baritone sound that has been described as charismatic, gruff, and low. The band flipped the formula of a normal rock band in the 80s that included Black bands with white lead singers.
Hootie & the Blowfish’s Losing my Religion below:
7. Kathleen Battle
Opera music has been associated with the Whites for over a century and very few black singers have been able to succeed in this genre. And that’s because very few Black singers including Kathleen have been able to easily hit the high notes. But Battle has a distinctive vocal tone and range that stands out. Kathleen is loved for her operatic soprano voice that helped her sing songs like “O mio babbino caro.” She is even the first black female opera musician to win an Emmy and a Grammy.
Watch Kathleen Battle sings “O mio babbino caro” from Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi below:
8. Chuck Richard
Other than being a popular DJ on WBAL, Chuck was a Ballad singer who sounded Whiter than the White singers of his time. Chuck recorded in the 1930s with various swing orchestras like Henderson Fletcher and Duke Ellington. But in his defense, soul music had not been introduced by then, which is why his voice didn’t have a tone of soul in it.
9. Michael Jackson
The Jackson 5 family members were all soft-spoken, but none of them could hit a higher pitch than Michael. And that’s because he learned how to maintain a higher pitch while singing in the late 70s. Jackson perfected his technique and could sing on a higher note than most White singers. Plus, the fact that he had bleached his skin had me thinking he was white while growing up.
10. Jessye Norman
Another Black woman who has thrived as an opera singer is Jessye Norman. Norman can hit high notes and her voice has been described as enormous as it can reach upward and backward. She fell in love with opera while young and took lessons to improve her voice. Currently, she is considered a soprano singer of regal stature, a level not associated with Black singers.
11. Jimmie Allen
Like Charley Pride, Jimmie has taken country music to another height with his beautiful voice. Country music may be associated with White singers, but Allen has done his part to put a new twist to this genre of music. Unfortunately, he still sounds like a White country music singer and that may be because of his upbringing and listening to Pride’s beautiful music.
Listen Jimmie Allen’s Be Alright here:
12. Avery Brooks
Our list would be incomplete without including a male opera singer; after all, most opera singers have no hint of soul in their voices. Avery is a deep baritone whose voice sounds Whiter than Black.
Listen to Avery Brooks sing on stage:
Like Michael Jackson, Prince could hit higher notes than most Black male singers with a soft voice. Prince starred in Purple Rain as a biracial musician which played a major role in the misinterpretation of his race. And his music didn’t help either since he loved pop, funk, and rock music. He is the son of two African American Louisiana natives.
14. Childish Gambino
Other than being an actor, Donald Glover has produced a number of songs with his most popular one being “This is America.” which doesn’t sound like it has been done by a Black man since it doesn’t include Black American slang.
It’s a known fact that Drake wasn’t born in the United States, so expecting him to sound like a Black American is impossible. He has produced some of the world’s top hits but he doesn’t have a Black American accent since he is Canadian; in fact, when you hear him talk, you can mistake him for a White man, but he is of mixed race.
Our upbringing can affect how we talk or the type of music we listen to, which is why some Black singers sound white. The above artists have managed to revolutionize the music industry while permeating various genres that were originally thought to be White. Despite sounding Whiter than some White musicians, these singers still entertain us every day.