From Aretha Franklin to Beyoncé: How Harlem's Iconic Apollo Theater Gave Rise to Black Stars for 85 Years

The legendary Apollo Theater has been a platform for iconic African American stars for decades

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The Apollo Theater

apollo theater exterior in harlem
Getty

The legendary Apollo Theater has been a platform for iconic African American stars for decades. Once shut down, it is now forever immortalized as part of the National Museum of American History. From Aretha Franklin to Destiny's Child, Ray Charles and The Temptations to JAY-Z and Nas, see the icons who have hit the famous stage through the years.

02 of 16

Michael Jackson

Michael jackson jumping onstage
TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Gety

Michael Jackson, the King of Pop, helped kick off a nationwide voter registration drive by opening for the Democratic National Committee benefit concert on April 24, 2002 at the Apollo.

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Ray Charles

ray charles perfomring
Jack Vartoogian/Getty

Ray Charles, known as the Father of Soul, performed with the Philip Morris Superband at the Apollo on Nov. 10, 1990. Despite his inability to see, the icon made waves with his legendary music.

04 of 16

De La Soul

de la soul standing outside of the apollo theater
David Corio/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty

David Jude Jolicoeur, Kevin Mercer and and Vincent Mason of the hit hip-hop group De La Soul stood outside of the theater in September 1993.

05 of 16

Miles Davis and Paul Chambers

miles davis performing
Herb Snitzer/Michael Ochs Archive/Getty

Miles Davis, an acclaimed jazz musician, performed with influential bassist Paul Chambers at the Apollo in 1960.

06 of 16

Tracy Morgan

tracy Morgan at the apollo theater
Mike Coppola/Getty

Tracy Morgan, comedian and actor, attended the live taping of Spike's One Night Only: Alec Baldwin at The Apollo Theater on June 25, 2017.

07 of 16

Nat King Cole and Maria Hawkins Ellington

nat king Cole at the apollo theater
ERIC SCHWAB/AFP/Getty

Nat King Cole, jazz legend and pianist, sat in his box at the Apollo with his wife Maria Hawkins Ellington in the 1950s.

08 of 16

Wilson Pickett

wilson pickett
Don Paulsen/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty

Wilson Pickett, a chart-topping singer-songwriter, spent time relaxing backstage at the Apollo Theater on Sept. 8, 1966.

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Aretha Franklin

Aretha Franklin at the apollo
Aretha Franklin. Mychal Watts/WireImage

Aretha Franklin, known as the Queen of Soul, hit the Apollo theater stage for an unforgettable performance in 2006. This marked her first time returning to the famous theater in 20 years.

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JAY-Z and Nas

jay z and nas at the apollo
Shareif Ziyadat/FilmMagic

JAY-Z and Nas, both hip-hop legends, hit the stage for a dynamic duo performance during JAY-Z's Concert at The Apollo on Nov. 13, 2007.

11 of 16

Smokey Robinson and The Temptations

smokey Robinson backstage
Don Paulsen/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty

Smokey Robinson, singer-songrwiter and the founder and frontman of the Motown vocal group the Miracles, rehearsed the hit song "My Girl" with The Temptations in their dressing room at the Apollo Theater in 1964.

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Snoop Dogg

snoop Dogg looking in mirror
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Snoop Dogg, a game-changing rapper, took a moment of reflection at the historic Apollo Theater in the 1990s.

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Destiny's Child: Beyoncé, Michelle Williams, Solange Knowles and Kelly Rowland

destinys child standing backstage
David Surowiecki/Getty

Beyoncé, Michelle Williams, Solange Knowles and Kelly Rowland stood backstage before their showtime at the turn of the century in 2000. At the time, Beyoncé's sister Knowles was a background dancer for the group.

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Bruno Mars

bruno mars stage marquee
Michelle Crowe/CBS/Getty

Bruno Mars used the Apollo's iconic marquee as his stage during his televised 24K Magic concert special in 2017.

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Gladys Knight & The Pips with friends

gladys knight and the pips
David Reed/Redferns

Gladys Knight & The Pips enjoyed time backstage at the Apollo in 1973 along with friends. Many legendary performers kicked back behind-the-scenes at the iconic venue.

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Steve Harvey

steve Harvey at the apollo
FOX Image Collection/Getty

Steve Harvey, actor, comedian and television host, stood alongisde contestants from the group Fresh The Clowns during a live taping of Showtime at the Apollo in 2017.

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