History of R&B Music

R&B dates back long before there was a music chart for it. Rhythm & Blues of the 1940s greatly influenced the rock and roll of the fifties. By the 1960s the popularity of Motown and artists discovered by Ahmet Ertegun for Atlantic Records fueled the soulful sounds of social change. Artists such as Ray Charles, James Brown, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin and Otis Redding had a huge impact on bringing r&b to the masses. Here are various r&b lists:

1960s-1970s R&B Dance
1970s R&B Dance
1980s R&B Dance
1980s Rap and Hip Hop
1990s R&B Dance
1990s Rap and Hip Hop
2000s R&B Ballads
2000s R&B Dance
2000s Rap and Hip Hop

The story of r&b music paralleled the development of rock and roll in many ways. Both forms of music had common ancestors, particularly blues. The merging of country and blues or in come cases country and r&b is essentially what led to the birth of rock and roll. The term "rock and roll" was first used in 1930s r&b records as a code for sex. A popular early use of the term was the boogie woogie song "Good Rockin' Tonight" by Wynonie Harris in 1947. Boogie woogie, a form of rhythmic swing music, was vibrant and bouncy and featured a lot of the bass riffs that helped shape rock and roll.

The sound term "rhythm and blues" was coined by Jerry Wexler of Billboard in 1948. It came to mean music of the African-American community and replaced the offensive music industry terms "race records," "race music" and "Harlem Hit Parade." Billboard renamed their "race records" chart in 1949 with the title "Hot Rhythm & Blues Singles." The chart was discontinued between 1963 and 1965 because so many r&b artists had crossed over to the Hot 100 singles chart. Then thanks to the popularity of artists on Motown, Atlantic, King and Stax Records, Billboard brough back the chart. In 1969 the chart's name was changed to "Best Selling Soul Singles." By that point the term "soul" had become a household word to describe the Motown sound. Billboard changed the name again in 1982 to "Black Singles" only to revert back to "R&B" in 1990 then "Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles & Tracks" in 1999. In 2005 the name changed to "Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs."

The pioneers of this music that has been called so many different names were Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Jordan, Count Basie, Nat King Cole and several blues artist such as Muddy Waters and Howlin' Wolf. In the 1950s Ray Charles began having a string of big hits such as "What'd I Say," which many historians consider essential to the development of both rock and soul. Chuck Berry, Fats Domimo and Bo Diddley were each considered early rock and roll artists, blurring the distinctions between rock and soul. Between the mid-50s and mid-60s was an r&b style called "doo-wop" that featured rich harmonies, as heard in records by The Platters, The Penguins, Frankie Laine and Frakie Lymon and The Teenagers.

But it was clearly the impact of Berry Gordy's label Motown that turned r&b or soul music into widely accepted mainstream music. Throughout the sixties, their top act The Supremes rivaled the popularity of The Beatles. Other big name soul acts that emerged on Gordy's family of Detroit labels that decade were Smokey Robinson & The Miracles, Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, The Four Tops, Martha and The Vandellas and The Temptations. James Brown on King Records helped usher in a new sound called funk. Another influential soul label was Atlantic, run by Ahmet Ertegun, who signed acts like Aretha Franklin and Otis Redding. Aretha eventually earned the title "Queen of Soul."

Soul music became even more popular in the 70s with The Jackson 5 and countless other crossover acts, especially once disco became mainstream with Barry White and Donna Summer. Prior to disco's influence on soul taking on a more keyboard sound, several r&b acts were electric guitar-based and could be considered soulful rock bands such as Sly & The Family Stone, The Ohio Players and Earth, Wind & Fire. Once rap became big starting with DJ Kool Herc, Kurtis Blow, Sugarhill Gang and Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five, r&b music became much more electronic. The guitar, however, began to be embraced in r&b again in the 2000s.

© Playlist Research. All rights reserved.