YouTube Celebrates Black Music Month

June 22, 2016

June is Black Music Month, which began in 1979 as a campaign to recognize the cultural and economic impact of black musicians. President Obama recently continued the tradition by proclaiming June 2016 as African-American Music Appreciation Month, a title that began during his tenure.

To honor Black Music Month at YouTube, we looked at total views in 2016 (Jan 1 - May 31) and identified the most popular black musicians by decade. These artists continue to stand the test of time and underscore the contributions of black musicians to culture.

1920s: Louis Armstrong - 46,468,385 views in 2016 (through May 31st)

Louis Armstrong - When The Saints Go Marching In

Louis Armstrong’s career spanned decades, and on YouTube he remains one of the most popular artists from the first half of the 20th century. His 1967 recording of “What A Wonderful World” is his most popular track, viewed over 130,000 times per day in 2016.

1930s: Billie Holiday - 20,273,058 views in 2016 (through May 31st)

Billie Holiday - Strange Fruit

Billie Holiday’s legacy continues on YouTube: her music had 1.2 million views on April 7, 2015, when her fans celebrated what would have been her centennial.

1940s: Nat King Cole - 49,536,611 views in 2016 (through May 31st)  

Nat King Cole - (Get Your Kicks On) Route 66

Within Nat King Cole’s YouTube catalogue, L-O-V-E is the most popular track. Every year since 2012, it’s one of 18 tracks to double in views on Valentine’s Day, as YouTube users endearingly share and link to the video.

1950s: Ray Charles - 68,571,028 views in 2016 (through May 31st)

Ray Charles - Seven Spanish Angels

Among Ray Charles’ top 10 songs on YouTube, the seventh most popular track is from the later years of his discography: “Seven Spanish Angels,” a duet with Willie Nelson that reached #1 on the U.S. Billboard Hot Country Singles in 1984. This year, it has had nearly 5 million views.

1960s: Marvin Gaye - 130,647,559 views in 2016 (through May 31st)

Marvin Gaye - Sexual Healing

Sexual Healing” is Marvin Gaye's most popular track, with over 80 million views in 2016. 25 percent of these views are from a 2013 remix of the song by Norwegian DJ Kygo.

1970s: Bob Marley & The Wailers - 313,646,935 views in 2016 (through May 31st)

Bob Marley - Buffalo Soldier

Bob Marley and The Wailers are the third most-viewed artist on this list, with nearly 300 million views this year. One of their single-day highest views (7.3 million views) occurred on February 7, 2015, which marked Bob Marley’s 70th birthday.

1980s: Michael Jackson - 1,046,087,180 views in 2016 (through May 31st)

Michael Jackson - Thriller

Michael Jackson has remained so popular in 2016 that he charts at #26 on YouTube Music Top 100 Artists list for the week of June 3, with approximately 47 million views.

1990s: Dr. Dre - 286,582,767 views in 2016 (through May 31st)

Dr. Dre’s popularity grew significantly on YouTube in 2015, following the release of the film “Straight Outta Compton.” His most popular track on YouTube, “The Next Episode,” has had over 116 million views in 2016.

2000s: Rihanna - 1,970,465,898 views in 2016 (through May 31st)

Rihanna - Don’t Stop The Music

Rihanna has released eight studio albums, and her earlier work from the 2000s remains highly popular on YouTube. Among her top 20 tracks on YouTube in 2016, seven are from pre-2010 albums: “Umbrella,” “Rude Boy,” “Take A Bow,” “Don’t Stop the Music,” “Rehab,” “Unfaithful,” and “Disturbia.”