Ode to Billie Joe

an illustration by alleanna harris of the song Ode to Billie Joe by Bobbie Gentry

“And me, I spend a lot of time pickin’ flowers up on Choctaw Ridge… And drop them in the muddy water off the Tallahatchie Bridge.”

My mom and I were in the drive thru at Chick-fil-A and we randomly got into this conversation about the movie Ode to Billy Joe, based on the 60s blues song Ode to Billie Joe by Bobbie Gentry. We both love the song. It’s kinda sultury because of the singer’s voice, and it has a groove to it because of the guitar’s rhythm, but if you listen to the lyrics and the violins, it’s slightly eerie. You have to listen to it to understand, lol.

Fast forward two weeks later and my mom and I were in the EXACT SAME PLACE in the drive thru line at the EXACT SAME Chick-fil-A, and we had 60s on 6 on SiriusXM playing in the car. Guess what started playing?

Ode to Billie Joe. Shooketh.

Took that as a sign to draw it. I never really used a color palette like this, but I had to go for it. It matched how the song looks in my head. It’s the synesthesia.

The Purple One

an illustration by alleanna harris of the legendary singer Prince in concert

Hey everyone! I’m back! I spent May revising illustrations for a book (that I can’t wait to share). Just small revisions left. Now I have some free time… to do even more art.

Did you know that this month is Black Music Month? It was started in 1979 by Kenny Gamble and Dyana Williams. The month focuses on Black music artists that are from the US. President Carter signed the first proclamation on June 7, 1979 and President Obama renamed it African American Music Appreciation Month in 2009.

I figured I should start with Prince because it would’ve been his 60th birthday on June 7th. After this, I might rewind and go back to the early 20th century. We’ll play it by ear.

Janet Jackson

Today’s Black History Month illustration is of Janet Jackson. She’s known for her innovation in her sonically innovative records, innovative choreography, and innovative music videos. She’s the only female artist in the history of the Billboard Hot 100 to have 18 consecutive top ten hot singles.

Also, to be honest, I really wanted to draw shots from my favorite Janet music video, lol. I love the lighting and the setting.

Marvin Gaye

a black history illustration and gif by alleanna harris of the legendary soul singer marvin gaye

Today’s Black History Month illustration is of Marvin Gaye’s 1971 concept album What’s Going On. This album is considered one of the greatest albums of the 20th century and one of the landmark recordings in pop music history.

The album is from the point of view of a Vietnam War veteran returning back to the US and seeing hatred and injustice. Marvin Gaye’s lyrics discuss themes such as the Vietnam War, poverty, drug abuse and global warming.

Now available for purchase here.

Ella Fitzgerald

a black history month illustration by alleanna harris of the legendary jazz singer ella fitzgerald

Today’s Black History Month illustration is of Ella Fitzgerald, the first Black woman to win a Grammy award. Often called the First Lady of Song, Fitzgerald is known for her tone, diction, phrasing, intonation and scatting/improvisational ability.

Side note: this is a pencil sketch that I did a little while ago! Back to the computer tomorrow.

Now available for purchase here.

Marian Anderson

a black history illustration by alleanna harris of the singer marian anderson in front of the lincoln memorial

Today’s Black History Month illustration is of Marian Anderson, whose 1939 performance at the Lincoln Memorial raised awareness of racial discrimination.

She had been scheduled to sing at Washington’s Constitution Hall, but the Daughters of the American Revolution (who managed the hall) refused to let her sing because she was Black. In response, Eleanor Roosevelt resigned from the DAR, and President Roosevelt gave permission for a concert at the Lincoln Memorial. She performed “My Country, ‘Tis of Thee” to an audience of 75,000 people and an NBC radio audience of millions.

Anderson also was the first African American to be invited to perform at New York’s Metropolitan Opera House and the first African American invited to perform at the White House.

Now available for purchase here.

Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis

a black history month illustration by alleanna harris of the legendary duo Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis.

Today’s Black History Month illustration is of Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis, the legendary R&B songwriting and record production team. They have more Billboard number ones than any other songwriting and production team in history and they’ve received the most Grammy nominations for Producer of the year.

Side note: It was RIDICULOUSLY hard to pick just one of my favorite songs from them, so here are three: If It Isn’t Love by New Edition, Sensitivity by Ralph Tresvant, and That’s the Way Love Goes by Janet Jackson.

Now available for purchase here.

Sister Rosetta Tharpe

a black history month illustration by alleanna harris of sister rosetta tharpe, the godmother of rock and roll

Today’s Black History Month illustration is of Sister Rosetta Tharpe (1915-1973), a singer, songwriter & guitarist who is referred to as the “godmother of rock and roll.”

She was the first great recording star of gospel music. Also, due to her unique mix of spiritual lyrics & rhythmic accompaniment, she was one of the first gospel musicians to appeal to rhythm and blues and rock & roll audiences.

She influenced early rock & roll musicians like Little Richard, Johnny Cash, Chuck Berry, Elvis Presley & Jerry Lee Lewis.

Now available for purchase here.

James Jamerson

a black history month illustration by alleanna harris of the legendary bass player james jamerson

Today’s Black History Month illustration is of James Jamerson, one of the most influential bass players in music history. He was a core member of The Funk Brothers, a small group of studio musicians who performed on most Motown recordings during the 60s. He played more #1 hits than The Beatles (30 to be exact).

Jamerson used only his right index finger (“The Hook”) to pick lines, an approach from his stand-up bass days. Overall, his complex melodic style brought the bass guitar from the background to the forefront and forever changed the face of bass playing.

Side note: my fave Jamerson basslines are “For Once In My Life” by Stevie Wonder and “It’s a Shame” by The Spinners 🙂

Now available for purchase here.