Rhythm and Blues
Rhythm and Blues Music
The term rhythm and blues (R&B) was first introduced into the American lexicon in the late 1940s by a magazine reporter (Jerry Wexler) who worked for Billboard. It is a term that was used to help market and describe the blues influenced music that was predominately performed by African-Americans in the late 30s and 40s. It replaced the term 'race records' and is generally defined as a catch all term that is referring to any music that was made by and specifically for black Americans.
R&B evolved out of the jump blues in the 1940s and it kept the tempo and drive of jump blues, but the instrumentation was leaner and the emphasis was the song, not improvisation. R&B is considered among the most important precursors of rock and roll music.
The genre has changed and evolved throughout the years. In the early 1950s, the music was shaped and molded from the jump blues and something that had more appeal to the pop listeners and material that was tailored toward a younger audience. Artists such as Lavern Baker, Ruth Brown and Chuck Willis (among others), released music that retained its strong jump blues flavor, but the rhythms, riffs and lyrics pointed more toward rock and roll. Several distinct genres including the doo wop groups, electric blues and New Orleans would soon exert a large influence on popular music.
Other popular R&B artists of the time included Ike Turner, Bobby Bland, Ivory Joe Hunter, Big Momma Thornton, Junior Parker, Johnny Otis, Screamin Jay Hawkins, Little Milton and many others who helped facilitate the change from straight out blues to R&B. Other early pioneers of R&B included Ray Charles, James Brown, Jackie Wilson, Jessie Belvin and Little Willie John (among others), who adeptly mixed their gospel roots and church influences and helped to define the genre.
R&B eventually was a term that was interchangeable with soul music, which describes a number of R&B-based musical styles. There was the pop-friendly acts of Motown and music that was indigenous to different parts of the country including New York soul, Philly soul, Chicago soul (among many others) and by the 1970s, the term R&B was usually used as a blanket term to describe soul, funk and disco.
During the last 20 years, the music has evolved and changed to reflect the times and can be defined as urban African-American music with elements of soul, funk and hip hop. Popular artists such as Usher, Alicia Keys, Ashanti, R. Kelly and Jennifer Hudson (among many others) help to keep the sound alive today
Popular Rhythm and Blues Artists