rhythm and blues (R&B)


rhythm and blues (R&B)

Any of several closely related musical styles developed by African American artists. The various styles were based on a mingling of European influences with jazz rhythms and tonal inflections, particularly syncopation and the flatted blues chords. They grew out of the blues of the rural South, which blended work chants with songs of deep emotion, and were greatly influenced by gospel music. Three major forms were distinguishable. The earliest, called race, was the style of the “jump” band, which emphasized strong rhythm, solo work (especially by saxophones), and vocals in a shout-blues manner. A second form, often called Chicago blues, was exemplified by performers such as Muddy Waters and was typically played by a small group with amplified instruments. The third major form was primarily vocal, featuring close, gospel-influenced harmonies often backed by an orchestra. In the mid-1950s the term rhythm and blues was adopted by the music industry for music intended for the African American audience; with the gradual disappearance of racial barriers, the Chicago blues style began to seem less a vital form than a folk tradition, while the gospel style was transformed into the soul music of vast appeal. Rhythm and blues was the chief antecedent of rock music.

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