At the end of January 2020 Google announced the results of “the most searched” African-Americans en African-American movements. Prince was mentioned: “the most searched guitar solo”.
Black History Month
The results were published because of Black History Month, which takes place every year during the month February.
In 1926 historian Carter G. Woodson (who had been publishing the quarterly The Journal of Negro History since 1916) and the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History proclaimed the second week of February to be “Negro History Week”. This week was specifically chosen as it held the birthday of both former American president Abraham Lincoln (on the 12th) and abolitionist leader Frederick Douglass (on the 14th), holidays that were celebrated within black communities. Early on focus was put on added attention on (public) schools to the history of black Americans.
After a slow start it was soon concluded that extra attention was indeed being put on the subject. The Negro History Week was a huge success in the black communities and among progressive whites. During the following years it gained momentum and even led to the official status of ‘holiday’ in many municipalities.
In February 1969 Black History Month was proposed for the very first time. In 1970 it was celebrated for the first time at Kent State University. After six years (50 years after the very first Negro History Week) Black History Month was celebrated across the country. President General Ford encouraged Americans to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history”.
As is often the case with attention to separate groups, like Gay Pride, criticism arose as well. Is it really necessary to give attention to a separate group? Doesn’t it enhance the thought that the group is different from the rest, implicating that the rest equals normal? Doesn’t it make the group extra special? Doesn’t it diminish other groups? Isn’t it just counterproductive, giving attention to a special group, when it should essentially be about adding those characteristics to general norms and standards? Doesn’t it merely lead to hero worship and nothing else? Isn’t it in fact racist to give attention to a specific race?
Outside of the US
In 1987 Black History Month was celebrated in the United Kingdom for the first time. In 2008 the month was officially recognized in Canada. Ireland celebrates the month as well.
In 1960 the US still celebrated Negro History Week. It played a major part in the struggle for equality for blacks and black communities in the US. On February 1st, 1960, four black students entered the lunch room of department store Woolworth in Greensboro. The (shocking and blatantly racist) policy was that only whites were served at the establishment. The students weren’t served and remained seated. The local police were tipped, came over, but didn’t do anything as the four students didn’t break any laws. The press caught wind of the situation and rallied to Greensboro. The following day the four students went back, accompanied by more students. They all took a seat at the establishment and weren’t served (again). On February 5th the number of protestors was so high that lunch couldn’t be served at all, since there was no one in the establishment they could serve.
Due to the massive media attention and television presence the protests quickly spread throughout the south of the US. By the end of March protests were held in 55 cities in 13 states. By the summer of 1960 segregation in a lot of diners and lunchrooms was (officially) over. And what about Greensboro’s Woolworth? At the end of July 1960 segregation was officially over at Greensboro’s Woolworth.
Why this story on the heroes of the Greensboro sit-in? Google precipitated its 60th annual commemoration for publishing their “the most searched” list as part of Black History Month.
“the most searched”
At the end of January 2020 Google announced its “the most searched” lists, as part of the upcoming Black History Month and the commemoration of the 60th anniversary of the Greensboro sit-in. Google published a number of highly used search terms since the introduction of Google Trends. The data used in the results dated back to January 1st, 2004 to July 1st, 2019 (in some cases to November 1st, 2019).
It provided some interesting information, including “the most searched”:
Montgomery bus boycott; Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat in the bus to a white passenger
- “female poet”
March on Washington, Augustus 28th, 1963, where Dr. Martin Luther King delivered his impressive “I have a dream” speech
Civil Right Movement, the struggle against social injustice and the fight for equality for the black communities in the US
The Greensboro sit-in (see above)
Dr. Martin Luther King’s impressive “I have a dream” speech on August 28th, 1963
- “tap dancer”
- “guitar solo”
- “jazz musician”
And exactly how did Google come by these results? Read Google’s explanation:
The Most Searched data methodology
Google Trends gives us a unique look at what the world is searching for, and what it seeks to better understand. Search trends illuminate what is going on in the world right now. And yet, they can also help us understand what has endured — what has captivated our attention over time.
This Black History Month, Google is celebrating the African Americans and African American-led movements that were the “most searched” in the United States through Google Trends history.
Standing out as “most searched” means that in the United States, a person, movement, or moment was searched more than any other in a specific category since Google Trends data first became available in 2004. In other words, being the “most searched ballerina” means Misty Copeland was most searched in the United States among all ballerinas. We have highlighted individuals and moments from the “most searched” list based on both cultural influence and historical impact, and it’s important to note that this list is not exhaustive of every African American individual who fits the criteria of “most searched”.
Using internal Google tools, we calculated the “most searched” person, movement, or moment in each category1 using anonymous and aggregated Google Trends data samples from January 01, 20042 to July 01, 2019 in the United States. In some cases, the date range extended to November 01, 2019.
We validated the search interest in three ways:
- When a definitive list exists for a “most searched” category, we calculated3 the entity4 with the highest total search interest of all entities in the list.
- Example: “Nobel Peace Prize winners” is a definitive list, we select the person from this list with the most U.S. search interest in Google Trends data.
- When a “most searched” category is represented by a Knowledge Graph topic, we calculated3 the entity4 with the most search interest in (entity4 + topic).
- Example: To find the most searched “slam dunk,” we rank search interest of (person’s name + slam dunk topic).
- When a “most searched” category is best expressed as a search term, we calculated3 the entity4 with the highest total search interest in (entity4 + term).
- Example: To find the most searched “guitar solo” we rank search interest of (person’s name + “guitar solo”).
1 Category is a reference to a career title, an action, event, or achievement.
2 Data is dated back to January 1, 2004 because that’s the date Google started tracking Search Trends.
3 Calculations of search interest are quantified using Google’s proprietary internal tools.
4 Entity is referring to the person, moment or movement.
As the title of this article mentions the main reason for this article are the results of “the most searched guitar solo” search query. Google offers a short description on Prince:
Prince’s guitar solos have more U.S. search interest than any other artist’s guitar solos in Google Trends history. Minnesota, Prince’s birthplace and the setting of his 1984 musical drama, “Purple Rain”, searched for “prince guitar solo” more over time than any other U.S. state. The musician even rivals real-life royalty – he is also America’s most searched prince.
It is quite remarkable to witness that during his lifetime Prince was respected as a guitar player (especially by his peers), but wasn’t recognized as one of the world’s finest. Nowadays, that view is changing. It’s probably got a lot to do with the ban on YouTube movies no longer being upheld (as aggressively) like before. More people see images and videos of Prince live and therefore they get to see some of his impressive guitar skills.
There are quite a few in circulation leaving the listener/viewer completely in awe, such as:
- the guitar solo at the end of the (regular) video clip to the song Purple Rain
- the stunning performance of Motherless Child on November 22nd, 1999, at the Spanish television show
(see also: Prince – Motherless Child
- during the closing section of the 2004 Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame, in which Prince blasts everyone off the stage with his end solo in While My Guitar Gently Weeps
(see also: Prince at the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame: the guitar solo)
I probably am a bit biased, but Prince being an extraordinary guitar player is a fact of life. The fact that nowadays images and sound are more easily accessible is a blessing in disguise. Prince’s battle for the rights (and profits) to his music that went on for years and years, also made it fairly impossible to have his music played in “public spaces”. The fact that more and more people are finally able to witness the ridiculous talent he had, supports his legacy tremendously.
What do you think of “the most searched guitar solo” in relationship to Prince? What do you think of Google’s initiative of publishing these results? What do you think of Prince as a guitar player? Let me know and leave a comment. It really is highly appreciated!
This story contains an accompanying video. Click on the following link to see it: Video: Prince – Google’s most searched guitar solo. The A Pop Life playlist on Spotify has been updated as well.
Prince – the most searched guitar solo &
Prince – Motherless Child images: youtube.com
Carter G. Woodson image: brittanica.com
Greensboro sit-in image: berightthere.info
The Most Searched: A celebration of Black history makers (blog item Google 26-01-2020) image: blog.google
Prince – Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame – While My Guitar Gently Weeps image: thecurrent.org