Black Music Month Moment: Anita Baker in Nashville by Popular Demand!

Anita Baker performs at the Ryman in late July.

Anita Baker has launched her final Farewell Tour, and she will be performing at Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium for two night, Friday and Saturday, July 27 and 28. She made the decision to come to Music City after a groundswell of support from social media, launched and led by local music and arts activist Brian Sexton.

So, by Popular Demand, Music City welcomes back one of music’s legendary ladies, the “Songstress” herself, Anita Baker.

Sexton himself shared with the PRIDE his overview of the movement and the rationale behind it. Here, in his own words:

“Heard the good news? We have officially entered the month of June which is nationally known as Black Music Month across the country. This is a time where we as a people celebrate the various accomplishments of African American entertainers and their contributions to the music industry. Black Music Month was originally initiated by President Jimmy Carter who, on June 7, 1979, decreed that June would be the month of black music. So, how has African American music played a role in the cultural fabric of our entertainment industry here in Music City? Glad you asked. Let’s take a look, shall we?

“Nashville’s world famous Music Row is an incredibly popular tourist destination and recording haven for some of the world’s biggest artists. However, did you know that the original Music Row was located along Jefferson Street in North Nashville? That’s right! African American musicians like Jimmy Hendrix, Little Richard, and Etta James toured, worked and played right along Jefferson Street to neighborhood residents and tourist alike. Unfortunately, overtime these historic venues would fall victim to abandonment and real estate development, leaving only fond memories.

“What made Nashville’s original Music Row on Jefferson so incredibly unique was the fact that you could actually catch one of your favorite African American performers play to a packed house at any given time. Historic North Nashville venues like Del Morocco Club, Club Baron, and Club Stealaway provided platforms for black musicians’ and artists’ to share captivating performances to be enjoyed by their admirers. These historic venues would make Nashville, TN a major rite of passage for emerging black artists that could not find opportunities to play within their own markets. From the 1940’s to the 1960’s Nashville’s black nightclubs turned Jefferson Street into a hotbed of rhythm & blues which would eventually help Nashville, TN become a global destination for live music.

“As we prepare for the opening of the National Museum of African American Music, it is very important that we continue to tell the story of how black music played a role in the success of Nashville, TN beyond the month of June. It is equally important that we continue to re-establish Nashville, TN as a rite of passage for emerging African American musicians and honor the legendary musicians still living among us.

“On July 27th and 28th, Anita Baker will bring her sold-out farewell tour to Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium before she retires. Many here in Nashville have petitioned and voiced to Ms. Baker via Twitter under the hashtag #NashvilleFairyTales to share her music with Music City out of love and appreciation for her legacy. Ms. Baker thankfully obliged and soon Nashville will be giving Ms. Baker “The Best That We Got” in July. Happy Black Music Month!”

Anita Denise Baker, born January 26, 1958, in Toledo, Ohio, started her career in the late 1970s with the funk band Chapter 8, and released her first solo album, The Songstress, in 1983. In 1986, she rose to stardom following the release of her platinum-selling second album, Rapture, which included the Grammy-winning single “Sweet Love”. She is regarded as one of the most popular singers of soulful romantic ballads during the height of the quiet storm period of contemporary R&B in the 1980s. In May 2005, Baker was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Music from Berklee College of Music. Baker has won eight Grammy Awards and has five platinum albums and one gold album to her credit. In January 2017, Baker confirmed she had retired, and In 2018 came out of retirement.