Playlist | “Black Artists I Grew Up Hearing” from Tasia Bass

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Tasia Bass, Writer/Volunteer

To my mother, music is as important as breathing air. I grew up hearing music from Whitney Houston, Anita Baker and Stevie Wonder all the time. While my friends could recite every Britney Spears or Destiny’s Child lyric, we were singing Respect by Aretha Franklin into a hairbrush together. 

I went to private Catholic schools my entire life. I was always one of, at most, five students of color, rarely learning about my heritage and history in school. So, my mother spent a lot of my time outside of school teaching me about the great black figures of history. 

But even more than that, she made sure I knew those powerful black artists that changed the world. She could be singing Nina Simone and the next thing I know, I was getting a history lesson on Simone’s civil rights activism. 

There’s few things in life that bring my mother as much joy as music—you can’t get through a conversation with her without her singing some song. She can link almost anything to a song, although sometimes I question if all those songs are real. 

However, it was a double-edge sword. She listened to Prince so much that now I rush to change the station when the radio plays one of his songs. She’s always walking around humming and singing, so much that it would drive me crazy. It was quite common to hear me yell “stop humming” and her to say she didn’t even notice she was doing it. 

Even creating this playlist was mostly me saying “mom, pick ONE song by them”—a  task she failed at completely, but I knew that going into it. 

Yet, these are the moments I’ll always remember fondly. Those days when I was playing video games on the couch, trying to ignore her constantly acting like she is on stage somewhere and not in our living room, or her blocking the way in the hall because she wants to dance and I just wanted to get pass. Sometime I’d even offer her money if she’d leave the singing to Chaka Khan, though secretly I loved listening to her sing those songs that brought her so much joy, even if she’s not the best singer in the world.

That’s what this playlist is, a list of black artists my mom played and sung way too much while I was growing up and the fond memories they bring up.