Celebrating Black Music Month: What Does R&B Really Mean?

Today, Singersroom kicks of a celebration of the most memorable and influential moments in R&B dating back to the 1930’s, stay clicked to the site through the month of June as we take a look back at the past and a look toward to the future of R&B/Soul in celebration of Black Music Month. What does R&B really mean? Other than standing for Rhythm and Blues, there is a story behind R&B and how it became a force in American Culture from the Motown Era to today’s movers and shakers including Usher, Beyonce, Jill Scott, Ne-Yo and many others. R&B has been used to describe a blues-influenced form of music predominately performed by African Americans since the late 1930s however, Billboard Magazine was the first to use the term for use in musical marketing. In 1949, Billboard reporter Jerry Wexler who later became a major producer, created the phrase to designate the upbeat popular music performed by African American artists that combined jazz and blues which replaced the prior catch-all phrase “race music.” According to historical accounts, The “rhythm” part comes from the dependance upon four-beat measures or bars and employs a backbeat (beats two and four accented in each measure). While the “blues” portion comes from the lyrics and melodies of the songs which told an often sad, or ‘blue’ story during the music’s emergence during the World War II era. Over time “R&B” became more popular than saying “Rhythm and Blues,” and was later used to describe the closely related genres of Soul and Funk. Much like today, R&B is used as a blanket to describe related music like neo-soul and more modern versions of soul and funk-influenced pop music. R&B has made a permanent imprint with it’s influence on history and modern culture as proven recently with well over 25 songs in Rolling Stones’ top 100 songs including hits from Aretha Franklin, Al Green and Stevie Wonder to name a few. The influence of the genre extends through many decades dating back to the Civil Rights Movement, World War II, The Riots of 1967 and other major events. R&B continues to make history today with it’s part in the campaign for Democratic Nominee for President of the United States Barack Obama. What does R&B mean to you and how has it influenced you? We would love to hear your story.


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