Music in the United States
blues, otherwise know as R&B, is a genre of music produced
and supported mainly by African Americans in the 1940's. The
genre embraces different styles of R&B such as urban, funk
and soul. The term rhythm and blues was first used by Jerry
Wexler, a music journalist with Billboard Magazine, as a synonym
for black rock and roll (until the 1950's the latest styles
of R&B was referred to as rock and roll by white DJ's and
fans.) R&B has been a great influence on popular music
around the world, such as rock music, country and western,
gospel music, jazz and other forms of music.
performances share a common instrumentation, with its musical
ensemble divided into a rhythm section and a horn section.
The rhythm section usually consists of a drum set, bass, piano,
organ, and guitar. The horn section is made up of saxophones,
trumpets, and trombones. Its emphasis on horns in most types
of R&B, distinguishes it from other types of music such
as rock music.
the 1940's, there was a shifting of the demographics of African
Americans, facilitated by their mass movement from the rural
South to Midwest, Northeast and West coast cities. New styles
of popular music were created to meet the changing tastes of
these new urbanites.
change was accompanied by the invention of the electric guitar
in the late 1930s and the discovery of a German made tape recorder
by the music industry at the end of World War II. With this
new tape that simplified the recording process, entrepreneurial
individuals were able to start independent recording companies
(such as Atlantic Records, Chess, Specialty, Modern and Motown.)
Another important change was the rise in television broadcasting
in the late 40's. Radio station owners thought that TV would
make radio obsolete, therefore they sold their stations and
this allowed blacks to buy and own radio stations on which
they could play their music.
of R&B began on the East and the West coasts. Former jazz
musician Louis Jordan formed a small ensemble in 1938 named
the Tympany Five. Jordan performed mainly in the up-tempo,
horn driven style known as jump blues. The jump blues style
that he originated quickly became popular among white and black
audiences. Jordan was a major influence on every R&B artist
in the 1940's. 50's and 60's, including James Brown, BB King
and Chuck Berry.
At the same
time as Jordan's era, Nat "King" Cole and Charles
Brown pioneered a quieter styles of blues called club blues.
Two other early styles of rhythm and blues that were popular
are an instrumental strain featuring a coarse tenor saxophone
sound and the vocal-group genre. In the 1950's, R&B began
to be directed toward a teenager audience rather than adults.
The vocal-group style gave way to the doo wop style of the
In the 1960's,
the three most important styles of R&B were: Chicago Soul,
the Motown Sound and southern style. Chicago style was influenced
by gospel-music songs and was the style of music that artist
Curtis Mayfield used.
combined songwriting with straightforward vocal delivery. Motown
records was formed in Detroit, Michigan by Berry Gordy, Jr.
The most important Motown artists include, Diana Ross, Smokey
Robinson, The Temptations, Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder.
soul was originated by James Brown and Ray Charles. This style
of music was heavily influenced by gospel music. Other important
artists in this sub genre of R&B are Aretha Franklin, Otis
Redding, Isaac Hayes and Al Green.
social sphere of African Americans in the late 1960's brought
about a militancy in blacks and increased sense of African
heritage, which had a profound effect on R&B music. James
Brown signaled the start of funk music with his song "Cold
Sweat". This style was adopted by artists such as Sly
and the Family Stone and George Clinton. Funk gave way to disco
which was dominated by artists like Donna Summers and Earth,
Wind and Fire.
In the 80's
and 90's artists such as Michael and Janet Jackson and Prince
burst onto the scene producing a songs that borrowed many different
styles merged together. This style of music was dance oriented
and with the rising popularity of music videos, artists' dancing
abilities became increasingly important. Today, the vocal group
tradition continues, as does the prominence of solo vocal acts
such as singers Whitney Houston and Luther Vandross.