Shepp was born in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, on May 24th, 1937, but raised in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where he studied piano, clarinet and alto saxophone before focusing on tenor saxophone (he occasionally plays soprano saxophone). He is best known for his passionately Afrocentric music of the late sixties which focused on highlighting the injustices faced by people of African descent. He is also known for his 60's work with the New York Contemporary Five with co-founder Don Cherry and Shepp's collaborations with his "New Thing" contemporaries, most notably Cecil Taylor and John Coltrane, but also Roswell Rudd and Bobby Hutcherson.
Considered a jazz great, saxophonist Archie Shepp recorded albums like Poem For Malcolm and Live in Antibes for labels like Verve and Impulse. He was active in academia at SUNY Buffalo as a professor of African American Studies and the University of Massachusetts Amherst as a professor of music. He played with other notable musical radicals including Frank Zappa and provided the musical score to the movie Gotta Dance and is featured on the 1984 Wilebski's Blues Saloon Festival DVD.