Rhythm and blues

2007 Schools Wikipedia Selection. Related subjects: Musical genres, styles, eras and events

Rhythm and blues (aka R&B or RnB) is a popular music genre combining jazz, gospel, and blues influences — first performed by African American artists.

The term was coined as a musical marketing term in the United States in 1947 by Jerry Wexler at Billboard magazine. It replaced the term race music (which originally came from within the black community, but was deemed offensive in the more positive postwar world,), and the Billboard category Harlem Hit Parade in June 1949. The term was initially used to identify the rocking style of music that combined the 12 bar blues format and boogie-woogie with a back beat, which later became a fundamental element of rock and roll. In 1948, RCA Victor was marketing black music under the name Blues and Rhythm. The words were reversed by Wexler of Atlantic Records, the most aggressive and dominant label in the R&B field in the early years.

In “Rock & Roll: An Unruly History” (1995) Robert Palmer defines "rhythm and blues" as a catchall rubric used to refer to any music that was made by and for black Americans. In his 1981 book “Deep Blues” Palmer used "r&b" as a synonym for jump blues. Lawrence Cohn, author of “Nothing But the Blues”, writes that rhythm and blues was an umbrella term invented for industry convenience, which embraced all black music except classical music and religious music, unless a gospel song sold enough to break into the charts.

By the 1970s, rhythm and blues was being used as a blanket term to describe soul and funk. Today the acronym R&B is almost always used instead of the full rhythm and blues, and mainstream use of the term refers to a modern version of soul and funk-influenced pop music that originated as disco became less favorable.

Original rhythm and blues

Original Rhythm and blues
Stylistic origins: Jazz, blues, and gospel
Cultural origins: 1940s United States
Typical instruments: Guitar - Bass - Saxophone - Drum kit - Keyboard
Mainstream popularity: Significant from 1940s to 1960s
Derivative forms: Rock and Roll - Soul music - Funk
Doo wop

In its first manifestation, rhythm and blues was one of the predecessors to rock and roll. It was strongly influenced by jazz, jump blues and black gospel music. It also influenced jazz in return; rhythm and blues, blues, and gospel combined with bebop to create hard bop. The first rock and roll hits consisted of rhythm and blues songs like Rocket 88 and Shake, Rattle and Roll, which appeared on popular music charts as well as R&B charts. Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin On, the first hit by Jerry Lee Lewis, was an R&B cover song that reached #1 on pop, R&B and country and western charts.

Musicians paid little attention to the distinctions between jazz and rhythm and blues, and frequently recorded both genres. Numerous swing bands (i.e, Jay McShann's, Tiny Bradshaw's, and Johnny Otis's) also recorded rhythm and blues. Count Basie had a weekly live rhythm and blues broadcast from Harlem. Even a bebop icon Tadd Dameron arranged music for Bull Moose Jackson and spent two years as Jackson's pianist after establishing himself in bebop. Most of the R&B studio musicians were jazz musicians, and many of the musicians on Charlie Mingus' breakthrough jazz recordings were R&B veterans. Lionel Hampton's big band of the early 1940s — which produced the classic recording Flying Home ( tenor sax solo by Illinois Jacquet) — was the breeding ground for many of the bebop legends of the 1950s. Eddie "Cleanhead" Vinson was a one-man fusion; a bebop saxophonist and a blues shouter.

The 1950s was the premier decade for classic rhythm and blues. Overlapping with other genres such as jazz and rock and roll, R&B developed regional variations. A strong, distinct style straddling the border with blues came out of New Orleans, and was based on a rolling piano style first made famous by Professor Longhair. In the late 1950s, Fats Domino hit the national charts with Blueberry Hill and Ain't That a Shame. Other artists who popularized this Louisiana flavor of R&B included Clarence "Frogman" Henry, Frankie Ford, Irma Thomas, The Neville Brothers and Dr. John.

At the start of their careers in the 1960s, British rock bands like The Rolling Stones, The Yardbirds and the Spencer Davis Group were essentially R&B bands.

Contemporary R&B

Contemporary R&B
Stylistic origins: Funk, soul music, and pop music
Cultural origins: Early 1980s US
Typical instruments: synthesizers - Keyboard - Drum machine
Mainstream popularity: Moderate since 1980s around the world, especially in recent years in the United States
Quiet Storm
Fusion genres
New Jack Swing - Hip-hop soul - Neo soul - 2Step
Other topics

It was not until the 1980s that the term R&B regained ordinary usage. During that time, the soul music of James Brown and Sly & the Family Stone had adapted elements from psychedelic rock and other styles through the work of performers like George Clinton. Funk also became a major part of disco, a kind of dance pop electronic music. By the early 1980s, however, funk and soul had become sultry and sexually-charged with the work of Prince and others. At that time, the modern style of contemporary R&B came to be a major part of American popular music.

R&B today defines a style of African-American music, originating after the demise of disco in 1980, that combines elements of soul music, funk music, pop music, and (after 1986) hip hop in the form known as contemporary R&B. In this context only the abbreviation "R&B" is used, not the full expression.

Sometimes referred to as " urban contemporary" (the name of the radio format that plays hip hop and R&B music) or "urban pop", contemporary R&B is distinguished by a slick, electronic record production style, drum machine-backed rhythms, and a smooth, lush style of vocal arrangement. Uses of hip hop inspired beats are typical, although the roughness and grit inherent in hip hop are usually reduced and smoothed out.

R&B in the 2000s

By the 2000s, the cross-pollination between R&B and hip hop had increased to the point where, in most cases, the only prominent difference between a record being a hip hop record or an R&B record is whether its vocals are rapped or sung. Mainstream modern R&B has a sound more based on rhythm than hip hop soul had, and lacks the hardcore and soulful urban "grinding" feel on which hip-hop soul relied. That rhythmic element descends from new jack swing. R&B began to focus more on solo artists rather than groups as the 2000s progressed. As of 2005, the most prominent R&B artists include Usher, Beyoncé (formerly of Destiny's Child), and Mariah Carey whose music often blurs the line between contemporary R&B and pop.

Soulful R&B continues to be popular, with artists such as Alicia Keys, R. Kelly, John Legend, Toni Braxton, American Idol winner Fantasia and the brand new singer [[ showcasing classic influences in their work. Some R&B singers have used elements of Caribbean music in their work, especially dancehall and reggaeton.

Quiet storm, while still existent, is no longer a dominant presence on the pop charts, and is generally confined to urban adult contemporary radio. Most of the prominent quiet storm artists, including Babyface and Gerald Levert, began their careers in the 1980s and 1990s, although newer artists such as Kem also record in the quiet storm style. Its influence can still be seen in singles such as Mariah Carey's " We Belong Together".

In addition, several producers have developed specialized styles of song production. Timbaland, for example, became notable for his hip hop and jungle based syncopated productions in the late-1990s, during which time he produced R&B hits for Aaliyah, Ginuwine, and singer/rapper Missy Elliott. By the end of the decade, Timbaland's influences had shifted R&B songs towards a sound that approximated his own, with slightly less of a hip hop feel. Lil' Jon became famous for a style he termed crunk & B, deriving its influences from the Southern hip hop subclassification of crunk music. Jon gave R&B artist, Ciara, the title of "The First Lady of Crunk & B", and Brooke Valentine the Colombian CHARLIE RANDALL and Usher have also recorded R&B songs with strong crunk influences.

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