Was Beethoven an African?

Was Beethoven an African?


norman lebrecht

June 08, 2015

A new website says he spent much of his life in Vienna covering up his black origins.

It goes on to argue that all European interpreters have misread his rhythms.

This is not a new supposition: it comes around every once in a while. But this time there’s a recording to support it.


Beethoven black


  • Mikey says:

    Absolutely Beethoven was African!… just like Justin Bieber is a lesbian, Queen Elizabeth is transsexual, 9/11 was an inside job, the Illuminati control the world banks, and Lizard People from the centre of the earth will rise up and enslave all of humanity.


  • Delbert Grady says:

    This is about on the same level as “Mrs. Bach wrote the cello suites.”

  • Delbert Grady says:

    The Internet is great for keeping crankery alive. More entertaining is “Mozart didn’t write the works attributed to him,” by a certain Robert Newman:


  • Ppellay says:

    Oh dear Lord, not this old canard again??!!

  • Malcolm james says:

    Isn’t it possible that Beethoven had a small amount of black ancestry from some illicit liaison some generations previously and his appearance is due to genetic throwback? If this is the case, any black ancestry would be far too remote to have affected his music.

  • william osborne says:

    The Beethoven Center at San Jose State University owns a lock of Beethoven’s hair. Its previous owners subjected the hair to a DNA analysis, but I’ve seen no reports about racial findings. Perhaps such analysis was not included in the study.

    It is not entirely implausible that Beethoven had a tiny fraction of Moorish ancestry. The Moors occupied Spain for close to 800 years (711 to 1492), and the Spanish Crown (Habsburg Spain) occupied The Spanish Netherlands from 1581 to 1714. This region comprised all of modern Belgium and Luxembourg, as well as parts of northern France and Germany. As Beethoven’s name implies, his ancestral heritage stems from this region. Spread over so many centuries, the Moorish part of his DNA would likely be very small.

    One thing is certain, with their own glorious musical heritage in America, black people don’t need to claim Beethoven. Roll over Ludwig. And if we want to see African influences on European culture, we only need visit the architectural glories of Southern Spain.

    • Francis says:

      “And if we want to see African influences on European culture, we only need”

      … to look to Pushkin, who had a African great-grandfather


    • Delbert Grady says:

      “It is not entirely implausible that Beethoven had a tiny fraction of Moorish ancestry” – true, but it seems more plausible that he might have had some Spanish or other Southern European ancestry. At least one biographer, Marion Scott, suspected so; but she admitted it was merely speculation.

      In any case “Moor” is not a racially specific term, it means a North African Muslim, who could be anywhere on the color spectrum.

      And beyond that, this is just speculation anyway. We know Beethoven’s family tree going back several generations. It’s all Germans and Flemish. LvB’s “look” is not that uncommon among Germans, and the notion put forth on that website – that LvB had to carry out some elaborate ruse to “hide” his racial origins – is plain ridiculous, although I give the author credit for having a vivid imagination.

      Incidentally, I’ve also seen speculation about the “black ancestry” of two famous German-Americans, Babe Ruth and Dwight Eisenhower. Again, it’s probably based on them having that particular look.

    • Juju says:

      Actually, haplogroup analysis of the Iberian Peninsula reveals that “Arabic”/”Moorish” markers are only present in about 10% of the population. Whereas as Jewish markers are found in fully 25%, making the Iberian peninsula the most (genetically) Jewish place outside of Israel. So if the Beethoven-Spanish BS *was* true, then it would more likely be indicative of Jewish ancestry.

      Which is just another way of saying that most of us have a little Jewish (or a little Irish) in us anyways.

  • SEE says:

    Interesting article, but the recording – which is supposed to support this – is rather disappointing: it really sounds like a MIDI recording!?? (which it probably is)…

  • herrera says:

    Interesting to listen to their “evidence”, their “new” playing of the so-called poly-rythmic piano sonatas of Beethoven. To my ears, their playing is the squarest playing I’ve ever heard, as though rendered by a computer program (Sibelius or something), soulless.

    “African” or not (I don’t have a PhD in ethnomusicology), their playing to “reveal” the “true” rhythm of Beethoven robs it of any soul.

    And one thing Blacks have is “soul”, baby. ; )

    Next: Black Beethoven invented rhythm and blues. Listen to his later R&B sonatas.

  • Erwin Poelstra says:

    Who wrote this nonsense?

  • Una says:

    If Barack Obama can have Irish in him, I’m sure Beethoven could be an African somewhere down the line. Aren’t we all?

    • Doug says:

      That must also explain why Hillary Clinton will spontaneously break into Ebonics in front of the right audience.

  • Adam Corley says:

    I have been following this topic for some years so it’s not new. I don’t think it’s wrong to discredit this theory since many famous and huge historial facts have been debunked and laid out truthfully. There are better portraits than the one shown here of phenotype. Seems purposefully put here.to make a joke about it which casual readers have no idea of context nor circumstantial evidence. I am open to more plausible scenarios as the researchers have laid out some claims. Seems we have a comical society in that people are more open in general about Hitler facts or myths than discrediting any idea that Beethoven may have had some African roots especially characterized by phenotype. As an American, I’ve seen too many double standards in my time, and usually when it involves African Americans you never get an objective fair shake conversation. Insecurities at best.

    • herrera says:

      As William Osborne wrote above, the best, and only evidence we need, is DNA.

      I personally would rejoice if Beethoven had African ancestry. It’d undermine so many stereotypes about people based on their color.

      But the problem with non-DNA evidence, is that we tend to fall back on stereotypes when we say, was Beethoven African, like, did Beethoven look “black”, did Beethoven have rhythm, etc., as though to be African was to have good rhythm.

      (In terms of evolution, we ALL came from Africa, let’s not forget this non-negligeable fact.)

      • Knight says:

        If evolution were true, your comment would make sense. However, I do agree that Africa was the beginning point of human life, or at least someplace close to Africa, around the Middle East. The original skin color of humans may have been lost through time, but I highly doubt it was white or black, probably somewhere in-between.

    • Melvin Owens says:


  • urania says:

    Everybody has african ancestry so whats the point here we all came from africa and we all came from a african women so we are all africans really are we so blind we can not see the truth

    • Knight says:

      Life either began in Africa or someplace close to Africa in the Middle East. Either way, it’s not likely that the first humans were white or black, but probably some skin color in-between.