(CelebrityAccess MediaWire) — On June 22, President George Bush hosted an afternoon performance by the Billy Taylor Trio as part of "A Salute To National Endowment of the Arts (NEA) Jazz Masters" at the White House while declaring June Black Music Month in the United States.
"During this month," said Bush, "we recognize the great contribution that black music has made to the culture of our nation and to the world. This music could only have come from the unique experience of African Americans; yet it speaks to every human heart. Black music in America began with spiritual songs that bore witness to the cruelty of bondage and the strength of faith. From those roots, it grew into a variety of styles — jazz and gospel, rhythm and blues, and rock and roll. All these forms capture a part of the American spirit."
"It's impossible to imagine American music without Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington, Mahalia Jackson and Billie Holiday, Lionel Hampton or B.B. King, Stevie Wonder and Aretha Franklin, and countless others. It's just impossible to imagine American music without them, isn't it?"
"Recently, we've lost two of our greatest African American musicians. Last month, the celebrated jazz drummer Elvin Jones passed away. He was the fiery pulse of John Coltrane's Quartet. Elvin Jones loved music so much that rather than spend his last days in the hospital, he brought an oxygen tank on stage with him, so he could keep amazing his audiences until the very end."
"And just days ago we said good-bye to another American original, Ray Charles, who's often called 'the father of soul music.' But his music embraced every style and transcended every label. It takes a great talent to make a song forever your own, and no one hears 'Georgia On My Mind' or 'Hit the Road, Jack' without thinking of Ray Charles. When he was 15, his mother, Aretha, told him just before her death, 'You might not be able to do things like a person who can see, but there are always two ways to do everything — and you've just got to find the other way.' Well, Ray found — Ray Charles found the other way, a beautiful way, and it was our privilege to witness it."
"Though an older generation leaves us, their legacy lives on in many talented, young African American musicians of today. Gospel singers like Kirk Franklin and Yolanda Adams — I might add, both from Texas — (laughter) — bright jazz talents like Roy Hargrove, Mark Turner, Joshua Redman. Pop artists like Alicia Keys. And, of course, there's a Marsalis brother for just about every instrument." (laughter)
"These performers and many others carried forward the tradition of black music in our country. We take great pride in this heritage. We're grateful to every musician who keeps that heritage so rich and so vital today.""And so I've signed a proclamation designating June 2004 as Black Music Month in the United States of America. It's a way we honor this important part of our heritage." –Bob Grossweiner and Jane Cohen