Bernice Johnson Reagon

Music

Sweet Honey in the Rock

“What Bernice has done with Sweet Honey is more innovative than what anyone has done to synthesize root and evolved forms into a new form. She’s done it with vocal music, but in a sense she’s done it with instrumental music, too, because she’s taken the voice and used it as another kind of instrument. She has drawn on the richest wellspring of Black and in some cases, non-black, vocal tradition and created a brilliant new genre. It’s the most important thing being done with traditional vocal styles and repertoire than anybody’s done in this country.”
—Ralph Rinzler, Smithsonian Asst Secretary for Public Service

photo of Sweet Honey in the Rock

Annual Washington, DC Concert at Warner Theater Bernice Johnson Reagon, Carol Lynn Maillard, Aisha Kahlil, Ysaye Maria Barnwell, Nitanju Bolade Casel

Sharon Farmer, photographer

Now moving well into it fourth decade, Sweet Honey In The Rock, was organized by Bernice Johnson Reagon as an African American women a cappella ensemble in 1973 in Washington, DC. Reagon led and performed with the group for 30 years, retiring in early 2004. This African American women communal song and singing ensemble has built an international following of music lovers pulled to the strong harmony singer, a wide range of genres including spirituals, lined hymns, children songs, blues, jazz, and original compositions. The group is known for her unapologetic stand for justice, respect and equality.

Sweet Honey In The Rock at the Smithsonian Festival of American Folklife, Washington, DC, 1974

Sweet Honey In The Rock at the Smithsonian Festival of American Folklife, Washington, DC, 1974. (l-r) Mie, Louise Robinson, Bernice Johnson Reagon, Carol Maillard

Rosie Lee Hooks, photographer

February 1, 2004, Seattle, Washington marked a milestone for Sweet Honey, that of transition as Bernice Johnson Reagon performed her last concert as member and leader of the ensemble.

For more information on Sweet Honey In The Rock, please visit their website.

Songtalk Publishing Organized 1978

Management of the Music and Works of Bernice Johnson Reagon

Music licensing: contact Kathy Ostien

Booking: Jodi F. Solomon Speakers Bureau

Music Commissions and other information: or write to: Songtalk Publishing, PO Box 56482, Washington, DC 20040-6482