What is R&B?
What started as African American music, the R&B genre grew alongside the nation’s civil rights movement and fanned the flames that would eventually change the nation’s social and political views. Following World War I and World War II, African Americans began to move into urban communities and cultural pride boomed as the community worked to make strides in a turbulent political landscape.
With the increased population and increased access to economic resources, the communities need for entertainment grew. The commercial success of Mamie Smith’s “Crazy Blues” helped pave the way for African American artists to make a meaningful impact within the music industry. Originally called “race records,” the category was created to show solidarity for the African American community and included various styles of music such as blues and gospel.
First coined in 1948, the term “rhythm and blues” was used by RCA Victor records to describe secular songs by African Americans. It was a term to replace “race music” and has gone on to describe various styles of music including variations of swing, jazz, and blues. Also known as R&B, rhythm and blues is often described as music that combines pop, blues, and jazz elements with a strong beat.
As the nation fought for civil rights, R&B continued to develop as more and more people began to identify with the music. The Dixie Cups are attributed to bringing R&B into the mainstream. Their release of “Chapel of Love” in 1964 knocked the Beatles out of their number one spot in the pop charts and their rendition of “Iko Iko” originally released by James “Sugar Boy” Crawford as “Jack-A-Mo” garnered national attention and has been covered by the likes of music legends the Grateful Dead and Cyndi Lauper.
In his most recent YouTube video “A Lil Rhythm & Blues” our resident artist Stanford Lee talks about R&B and how it has inspired his music. You can watch the Stanford Lee Show on YouTube and Rumble to see what else Stanford Lee has to say about music and musicology.
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