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R&B (sometimes written as RnB) stands for “rhythm and blues.” It’s one of the most prevalent and important genres in the history of popular music. The term can mean a lot of things and encompasses a wide range of artists including Alicia Keys, Beyoncé, Kool and The Gang, Robin Thicke, and Stevie Wonder.

The term “rhythm and blues” was coined by Jerry Wexler in 1948 to replace the offensive term “race music.” Since then, R&B has been used as a label for a variety of different blues-rock sound. It has also been used as a catch-all term for music “made by and for black Americans.” Pioneering artists like Louis Jordan, Big Joe Turner, Fats Domino, Little Richard, Bo Diddley, Sam Cooke, and Chuck Berry were classified under R&B at one time or another.

In the 1960s, rhythm and blues had a major impact on the British music scene. The genre was introduced to British audiences by service men and merchant marines bringing R&B records to the U.K. from the States. The Rolling Stones’ first album consisted largely of R&B covers and The Who were once billed as playing “maximum rhythm and blues.” It’s true that many of these British rockers focused on the guitar and didn’t faithful reproduce the American R&B sound of the early 1960s, but they did help popularize the genre.

Today, R&B encompasses a wide range of artists and borrows from a variety of genres including hip hop, rock, funk, jazz, pop, and soul (especially soul). A lot of the music you hear on Top 40 stations is called urban R&B or contemporary R&B by industry insiders. Today’s R&B is dominated by soulful singers like Cee Lo Green, Mary J. Blige, John Legend, Rihanna, and Gary Clark, Jr. These artists not only sell records and R&B tickets but they also push popular music forward and expand the genre’s sonic boundaries.

One of the most unique aspects of R&B is its wide range of instrumentations. You can make R&B music with guitars, drums, a saxophone, and a piano just as easily as you can with a synthesizer and a drum machine. That’s partly why the term has such broad applications. Still, at its core, R&B is popular music with roots in rock and jazz, and a little bit of soul thrown in for good measure.


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1981 Memorial Dr.
Chicopee, MA #217

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