Rhythm and blues, often abbreviated as R&B or RnB, is a genre of popular African-American music that originated in the 1940s. In the commercial rhythm and blues music typical of the 1950s through the 1970s, 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, the term rhythm and blues has undergone a number of shifts in meaning. In the early 1950s it was applied to blues records. This tangent of RnB is now known as British rhythm and blues, by the 1970s, the term rhythm and blues changed again and was used as a blanket term for soul and funk. In the 1980s, a style of R&B developed, becoming known as Contemporary R&B. It combines elements of rhythm and blues, soul, funk, pop, hip hop, popular R&B vocalists at the end of the 20th century included Michael Jackson, R. Kelly, Stevie Wonder, Whitney Houston, and Mariah Carey. Although Jerry Wexler of Billboard magazine is credited with coining the term rhythm and blues as a term in the United States in 1948. It replaced the term race music, which came from within the black community. The term rhythm and blues was used by Billboard in its chart listings from June 1949 until August 1969, before the Rhythm and Blues name was instated, various record companies had already begun replacing the term race music with sepia series. In 2010 LaMont Robinson founded the Rhythm & Blues Hall of Fame Museum, writer and producer Robert Palmer defined rhythm & blues as a catchall term referring to any music that was made by and for black Americans. He has used the term R&B as a synonym for jump blues, however, AllMusic separates it from jump blues because of its stronger, gospel-esque backbeat. Lawrence Cohn, author of Nothing but the Blues, writes that rhythm, according to him, the term embraced all black music except classical music and religious music, unless a gospel song sold enough to break into the charts. Well into the 21st century, the term R&B continues in use to music made by black musicians. In the commercial rhythm and blues music typical of the 1950s through the 1970s, arrangements were rehearsed to the point of effortlessness and were sometimes accompanied by background vocalists. Simple repetitive parts mesh, creating momentum and rhythmic interplay producing mellow, lilting, while singers are emotionally engaged with the lyrics, often intensely so, they remain cool, relaxed, and in control. The bands dressed in suits, and even uniforms, an associated with the modern popular music that rhythm. Lyrics often seemed fatalistic, and the music typically followed predictable patterns of chords, there was also increasing emphasis on the electric guitar as a lead instrument, as well as the piano and saxophone
Image: Ruth Brown cropped
Louis Jordan, New York, N.Y., ca. July 1946 (William P. Gottlieb 04721).
The habanera rhythm shown as tresillo (lower notes) with the backbeat (upper note).