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What is R&B Music?

A Definition of the Genre

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What is R&B Music?
Rhythm & Blues is a term used to describe the blues-influenced form of music predominantly performed by African-Americans since the late 1930s. The term 'Rhythm and Blues' was first introduced into the American lexicon in the late 1940s: The name's origin was created for use as a musical marketing term by Billboard magazine. In 1949, then-Billboard magazine reporter Jerry Wexler (who later went on to become a music producer) created the term for Billboard to designate upbeat popular music performed by African American artists that combined Blues and Jazz.

The "Rhythm & Blues" term was created to replace the designation "race music," which until then was the stardard catch-all phase used in reference to most music made by blacks at the time. After the "race music" term was deemed offensive, Billboard began using the Rhythm & Blues name that Wexler created.

The meaning behind the name is this: the "rhythm" part comes from the music's typical dependance upon four-beat measures or bars and employ a backbeat (beats two and four accented in each measure). And the "blues" portion came from the lyrics and melodies of the songs, which were often sad, or 'blue' during the music's emergence in the World War II era. Over time the name was shortened to R&B as a matter of convenience.

By the 1970s, rhythm and blues was also being used as a blanket term to describe soul and funk as well. And today, the term can be used to loosely define most sung African-American urban music, even though soul and funk can be placed in categories of thier own.

Examples of popular contemporary R&B artists include Usher, Alicia Keys, R. Kelly and Jennifer Hudson.

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