What's in a Name?
The term R&B, which stands for rhythm and blues, was coined by a Billboard magazine reporter named Jerry Wexler in the 1940s. At the time, Billboard referred to its R&B music charts by names like Harlem Hit Parade and Sepia, which were considered demeaning to the African American community. R&B was used to describe upbeat postwar African American music that combined blues & jazz.
Some of R&B’s earliest and most popular artists were Ray Charles, James Brown, Sam Cooke and Little Richard. Each of those artists is considered music legends both in and outside of the R&B music scene, even decades after their rise to fame.
The Evolution of R&B
By the 1960s, R&B had evolved into a music genre that included the sister music style of soul. Soul music focused heavily on elements of gospel and blues. After Ray Charles became the first artist to secularize gospel music, Aretha Franklin came along, earning the nickname “Queen of Soul.”
As soul music continued to gain momentum, the era of Motown hit in the 1960s. Artists like Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, Etta James, and The Supremes were emerging as big acts in the soul music field. The first soul song to reach #1 on the pop charts was “When a Man Loves a Woman” by Percy Sledge in 1966.
The Elements of Soul
Some key elements of soul music include emotionally-driven vocals, themes of ethnic pride and sad lyrics that reflect a World War II era way of life. In fact, the “blues” part of R&B refers to the sadness that people experienced during the time. The “rhythm” part comes from the way the second and fourth beats of the music are accented.
Multi-part vocal harmonies are also a large component of soul and R&B music. Groups like The Temptations, The Supremes and the Jackson Five utilized this in their music.
The R&B Music Spectrum
Classic R&B music was well defined in earlier decades but today several music genres fit under the R&B umbrella. Urban styles like soul, funk, disco, and rap are also considered types of R&B.
Some of today’s most popular R&B artists include Mariah Carey, Alicia Keys, Drake, Kanye West, and Beyonce. These artists are not only among the most famous in their genre but in the world of music. Tickets to their shows often sell out within minutes. Make sure to check SeatRetriever for exclusive deals at cheap prices so you aren’t rummaging for tickets at the last minute. Not only are concerts by R&B artists fun, listening to live soul music is definitely good for making the soul feel alive.