With the recent passing of Natalie Cole
we found ourselves listening to her Greatest Hits CD on repeat for a few days. While listening to her soulful voice we were reminded how much we love R&B. The
term gets thrown around frequently but when you have to pin down what
constitutes Rhythm & Blues things can get tricky. Here is Wikipedia’s take on the genre:
Rhythm and blues,
often abbreviated as R&B or RnB,
is a genre of popular African-American
originated in the 1940s. The term was
originally used by record companies to describe recordings marketed
predominantly to urban African Americans,
at a time when "urbane, rocking,jazz based
music with a heavy, insistent beat" was becoming more popular. In the
commercial rhythm and blues music typical of the 1950s through the 1970s, the
bands usually consisted of piano, one or two guitars, bass, drums, saxophone,
and sometimes background vocalists. R&B lyrical themes often encapsulate
the African-American experience of pain and the quest for freedom and joy. Lyrics focus heavily on the themes of
triumphs and failures in terms of relationships, freedom, economics,
aspirations, and sex.
The term rhythm and blues has undergone a number of shifts in
meaning. In the early 1950s it was frequently applied to blues records.
Starting in the
mid-1950s, after this style of music contributed to the development of rock and roll,
the term "R&B" became used to refer to music styles that developed
from and incorporated electric blues,
as well as gospel and soul music.
In the 1960's, several British rock bands such as the Rolling Stones, The Who and The Animals were referred to
and promoted as being RnB bands; posters for The Who's residency at the Marquee Club in 1964
contained the slogan "The Who - Maximum RnB". This
tangent of RnB is now known as "British rhythm and blues". By the 1970s,
the termrhythm and blues changed
again and was used as a blanket term for soul and funk. In the 1980s, a newer
style of R&B developed, becoming known as "Contemporary R&B".
It combines elements of rhythm and blues, soul, funk, pop, hip hop and dance.
Popular R&B vocalists at the end of the 20th century included Michael Jackson, R. Kelly, Stevie Wonder,
Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey.
Some of you may find this description
spot on, while others are picking their jaws off the floor in horror. One thing is for sure – R&B has been
around for years and enjoys a loyal following of listeners across the cultural
spectrum. The debates, conversations and
even arguments that occur not just around R&B – but around all types of
music - only underscore the power of the medium.