11 Black Musicians Who Kill It In Heavy Metal & Hard Rock

Black Rock Singers
Black Rock Singers

No.6 Lajon Witherspoon – Sevendust

I remember, back in Wisconsin, delivering about 30 pizzas to a high school gymnasium where Sevendust was playing. The gym wasn’t even half full, which is kind of sad since Sevendust has gone on to become one of the more influential “Nu-Metal” acts. Basically, lead vocalist Lajon Witherspoon and company have inspired most of what you hear on rock radio.

No.5 Doug Pinnick – King’s X

King’s X is one of those bands that garners universal respect from fans, critics, and peers, yet has never achieved widespread success. Much of King’s X’s greatness is derived from bassist and co-lead vocalist Doug Pinnick. If you’ve never seen him or heard him, he plays, carries himself, and resembles Jimi Hendrix, Prince, and The Beatles with punk, funk, Motown, and prog sensibilities.

With influences that range from Hendrix and Zeppelin to Stevie Wonder and Aretha Franklin to Sly and the Family Stone, it comes as little surprise that one of King’s X’s goals was to be simultaneously melodic and heavy.

Despite never achieving that Holy Grail of success, VH1 ranked King’s X at Number 83 on its 100 Greatest Artists of Rock. It’s also widely known within the industry that Pinnick, his vocals, and his distorted bass are highly sought after: In 2006 he stood in for Living Colour’s vocalist, Corey Glover, on the band’s European tour; he’s appeared on countless tribute albums; he was a guest vocalist on Dream Theater’s “Lines in the Sand” on their Falling into Infinity album; and his latest side project, Tre Mtl., involves Jeff Ament (Pear Jam) and Richard Stuverud (Fastbacks).

No.4 Tom Morello – Rage Against the Machine/Audioslave

Rage Against The Machine was all the rage in the ‘90s and aughts. In large part their success was because of Zack de la Rocha’s incendiary lyrics and, of course, because of Tom Morello’s inventive guitar work. Fuck, the dude can scratch his guitar better than most DJs can spin a record.

Tom’s guitar prowess landed him at Number 26 on Rolling Stone’s 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time list, and helped RATM find its way to Number 33 on VH1’s 100 Greatest Artists of Hard Rock list. It’s also helped the band earn a Grammy.

Tom’s guitar work was compelling and intricate, and the riffs combined with the driving hip-hop rhythm sucked you in like nothing else. You couldn’t help but listen.

No.3 Slash

Let’s get this over with. Slash is on this list, well, because he’s Slash and he’s a whore who’s on all sorts of lists. While the name has been sullied and run through the mud, Slash was a part of one of the most important hard rock/metal acts to come out of the ‘80s. Guns N’ Roses’ Appetite for Destruction has gone on to achieve 18 Platinum certifications (as of 2008) and has sold in excess of 28 million copies worldwide (as of 2008). You just can’t argue with those numbers.

But Slash (half black, half white), after the demise of Guns n’ Roses, has gone on to be guest guitarist for several artists, formed Slash’s Snakepit and Velvet Revolver, and most recently (2010) formed his solo act. His debut solo album, Slash, went on to be included in several “metal albums of the year” lists (including Ozzy’s) and landed at Number 3 on the Billboard 200.

Finally, Number 1 is next…

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