Beyond the Beat: Explore the Legacy of African-American Musicians

Last year, we unveiled a new passion project for Black History Month. After a few of our team members had a discussion about black musicians whose contributions to modern music have been forgotten or categorically ignored by most history books, we created Beyond the Beat, an interactive storytelling experience.

beyond-the-beat

Beyond the Beat spotlights unique black musical artists who have made a lasting impact on music as we know it today.

Through interactive slideshows and music, you can explore different artists’ lives to learn about where they came from, what they did, and the legacy they left behind.

beyond the beat black history month sister rosetta thorpe
beyond the beat black history month sister rosetta thorpe

The first interactive story we shared—crowdsourced and designed by 10 members of our California-based team—showcased rock matriarch Sister Rosetta Tharpe. We tracked her evolution from small-town girl to the windmill-strumming guitarist who influenced Elvis Presley.

beyond the beat black history month sister rosetta thorpe
beyond the beat black history month sister rosetta thorpe
beyond the beat black history month sister rosetta thorpe

This year, we’re exploring the life of Robert Johnson, a singer and guitarist whose sound and style turned the tide on American blues.

A historical figure shrouded in mystery, Johnson’s story is particularly alluring.

Unfolding primarily around the legendary Mississippi Delta region in the early 1900s, legend says he struck a deal with a devil at a local crossroads to achieve his sudden success.

beyond the beat black history robert johnson guitar

His obscured life and death fuel continued speculation. Johnson died of unknown causes at age 27, making him an early member of the 27 club.

beyond the beat black history robert johnson guitar

Though his life and career were brief, Johnson’s spirit still lives on, having shaped the wide-ranging sounds of Eric Clapton, Bob Dylan, The White Stripes, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and more. Rolling Stone ranked him #5 on the “100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time” list.

beyond the beat black history robert johnson guitar

Just as music is ever-evolving, so will this interactive site. We’ll continue to use Beyond the Beat to tell more stories of unheard, obscure, and forgotten black artists—year-round.

Click on over to check out Beyond the Beat (remember to keep your sound on). And do let us know if there are any artists you’d love to see featured.

Want to see more? Explore our People For Periods interactive infographic, which aims to destigmatize menstruation. Play Groove Glider, our very first video game. And check out the custom deck of cards we designed.