The Roots Of R&B

Hope Elle

The origins of R&B have always been centered around the combination of powerful, soulful vocals and strong back belts. The term is the abbreviation of Rhythm and Blues; which describes a deep emotion laced with blues, influenced melodies, and the dependence on four beat bars. It’s employed by the back beat two to four accents in each bar; or as it’s often called, ‘measures’. Although, the roots of soul music goes back to Negro Spirituals and the slaves of Africa; the term was created to diminish the original, offensive phrase. R&B was designed and therefore enjoyed by Black Americans, during the late 1930’s and post World War II. The genre of music was predominantly performed by Black Americans, thus being referred to as “Race Music”.


Photographer Unk Title Unk September 9, 2016

Artists of the Southern portion of the United States accentuated the voluptuous sultry sounds of R&B; most notably, Ray Charles, James Brown and Sam Cook. The initial phrase “race music” was utilized to label any music made and performed by Black Americans. It wasn’t until 1949, when Jerry Wexler (a music magazine writer, who became a music producer) created the term R&B for Billboard Magazine; once “race music” was deemed offensive. Bare in mind, the abbreviation is more convenient than chic. And often describes an upbeat, jazzy, blues influenced music.  This was especially true around the 1970’s, when it was a blanket term to include Funk and Urban-Soul. This is definitely noticed in the popular music of Donna Summer’s Love To Love You Baby.

 Now, the term is so loosely used that it’s often misplaced in music genres that has nothing to do with traditional R&B, or music that was derived from soul music. Nonetheless, the true essence of R&B music can still be heard in today’s popular artists including; D’Angelo, Maxwell, Alicia Keys, Jill Scott, and many others. However, to really understand the deep origins of the beautiful genre, listen to classic tracks by Motown, Little Richard, James Brown and the great late Ray Charles. A true music lover completely understands the difference between the classic and modern forms of R&B.


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