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Why do they call it "R&B"?

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [BG]' started by alexssandro, Jun 14, 2001.

  1. Perhaps there has already been a thread about this as this is one of those things that just doesn't make sense. I don't get it. I hear "R&B" on the radio, but I certainly don't hear any rhythm and blues in that. I'd say that at least 75% of the people don't even know what R&B stand for. So why call it "R&B"?
  2. It's just a marketing tool used by record companies. Don't sweat it.
  3. DaveB


    Mar 29, 2000
    Toronto Ontario
    Interesting question. I'm a lifelong student of Rhythm & Blues. Let me take a crack at an answer.

    In the late 40's and early '50's the amalgam of jazz and blues became R&B. The Rhythm part because it was more danceable (rhythmic) than jazz and was blues based. Back then the name made sense.Good examples were Louis Jordan and Ruth Brown.

    As it moved into the '60's R&B became the Memphis Stax sound, the Atlantic Records sound, and the Detroit Motown sound. I think Stax was pretty true to the definition but Motown made it way more "pop" -like. In the '60's the definition certainly kept it's integrity through James Brown.

    The late '60s and '70's saw a new melting of R&B into "Soul" - which I would define as slick, more commercialized R&B. The Philadelphia sound and later L.A. based Motown were the torch carriers here.

    The evolution has continued to where the Toni Braxton, Boys2Men, "soul" music had been re-labelled R&B again. And I think that has been a marketing thing. You ask a 23 years old R&B fan his/her favorite music and they will say"R&B" not "Rhythm & Blues". That's how it's been marketed in recent years.

    Musically, I think that today's R&B is an evolution '70's "Soul". I hear a lot a Chi-Lites and Delfonics in Luther Van Dross and Macy Gray. I don't hear Louis Jordan,Otis Redding, Ruth Brown or Aretha.And I sure don't hear any James Brown.
  4. rickbass

    rickbass Supporting Member

    DaveB explained it very well, IMO.

    To expand, a car analogy - if General Motors can take mostly Chevy and Buick parts and call it a Cadillac, it makes marketing sense and business sense.

    "R&B" has brand equity. Creating a new genre for music such as you inferred, that isn't clearly defined.... what would you call it? "R&B Potpourri?" I think that's one of the reasons "New Age" and "World" music haven't flourished as brand names. The listener really doesn't know what to expect, and unfortunately, people don't tale chances much anymore, with the ridiculous cost of CD's.
  5. Christopher


    Apr 28, 2000
    New York, NY
    "R&B" is a radio format designation. It's about as accurate at describing the music to which it's applied as "Lite Rock" (Celine Dion is rock?), IMO, though less offesive than the "Race Music" label used during the 50s.
  6. Its unfortunate that the name "R&B" has been hijacked for this modern style that has very little to do with the original R&B. When I tell people I'm into R&B I always have to qualify it by saying I'm into the "Real R&B" from the '40's, '50's & '60's, because I certainly don't want people to think they're going to hear Mariah Carey or Boys II Men when they come see me play.
  7. jazzbo


    Aug 25, 2000
    San Francisco, CA
    I think Dave nailed it. I would like to add that I hear some James Brown in Prince's new material.
  8. rickbass

    rickbass Supporting Member

    "Old School" = Great melodies and beats+talented artists.

    I've been to 3 "CD Wherehouse"-type, (sic), places in the last two days looking for some old R&B I have to learn for an audition. It seemed like all the selections marked "Old School" had actual, happening musicians and singers on them.

    Too many of the current "R&B" offerings I saw were basically some idiot with some scratch pads, a drummer plus a keyboard player to lend it some false authenticity, and some dip with a mike and a lot of cheap-looking jewelry trying to cash in on the genre. Oh, and they're all "players", just ask them.

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