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Columbia College Chicago
Rhythm & Blues

Rhythm & Blues

Definition of Style

While the term remains in use as a category designation by some radio programmers and record retailers, the epoch of rhythm and blues (or R&B) truly spans the late 1940s to the early 1960s. As the term suggests, R&B was a combination of the swinging rhythm of jazz and other "race" music with the lyrical content, sonic gestures, and format of the blues. Its early days were dominated by high-energy bandleader-musicians such as Louis Jordan and Johnny Otis, but R&B at its height was largely a vocal form. The vocal-oriented exponents of R&B include the doo-wop groups of the 1950s, such as the Moonglows and the Penguins, and solo vocal artists such as Ruth Brown and Jackie Wilson. Perhaps equally important, the unexpected melding of R&B with country and western (or "hillbilly") music in the mid-1950s gave birth to rock and roll. Later still, in the mid-1960s, R&B would become soul music, as illustrated by the long, varied careers of artists such as James Brown.

Musical Example