RnB 40s : Billie Holiday (1915-1959) ∙ Nat King Cole (1919-1955) ∙ Ella Fitzgerald (1917-1996) ∙
Blues music developed in the second half of the 19th century in the region called "The Delta", the alluvial floodplain stretching from Memphis to Vicksburg between the Mississippi and the Yazoo River. By the end of the 19th century, it had spread throughout the eight states - from Texas to Florida - known as the Deep South. Jazz originated in the early 1900s in the form of Dixieland brass bands in New Orleans. But following entertainment bans in the Storyville red light district of New Orleans, many of the city’s famous musicians - including King Oliver and Louis Armstrong - emigrated in the early 1920s to Chicago, New York, Philadelphia, Minneapolis and elsewhere, as Swing-jazz and Big-band jazz entered their golden age.
With the advent of radio and recording technology, music began to be broadcast and mass-marketed in the mid-1920s. Blues and jazz were then the two most important African-American musical genres and successfully competed with other contemporary styles. Vocal songs built on blues and jazz gradually became a genre in its own right while gospel started to reach mainstream audiences in the mid-1930s with Mahalia Jackson and Sister Rosetta Sharpe as the genre's first superstars. The advent of Rock’n’roll in the late 1940s did not only revolutionize American folk and country music but also blues, popular vocals and gospel, while marking the end the era for Swing-jazz, Big band jazz and Boogie-woogie. In the following years, each of these musical genres integrated in its own way the moods, rhythms and instruments of rock music.
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RnB 50s : Esther Phillips (1935-1984) ∙ Ray Charles (1930-2004) ∙ Sam Cooke (1931-1964)
Beginning in 1950, Rythm'n' Blues (RnB USA) was the music scene where the most popular and high-profile musical genres developed as a result of the aforementioned evolution. As such, RnB defined the modern pop music of Afro-American communities. Throughout the 50s, its most successful subgenres were jazz, blues, RnB rock, RnB gospel and RnB vocals.
- JAZZ became a more complex and confidential music segment, praised both technically and artistically but with limited audience. Notwithstanding such evolution, singers Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald - who both started in the 1930s - leave their mark forever in the jazz-song segment.
- RnB BLUES modernized and became more widespread with Screaming Jay Hawkins turning classic blues into spectacular popular acts and B. B. King transforming it into elaborate jazzy blues-rock. A number of songs promoted the genre's mass popularity and have since become classics.
- RnB ROCK had its roots in the late 1940s as derived from boogie, blues and swing-jazz (see Rock USA 1940s) and turned into a frenzy in the 50s.
- RnB GOSPEL drew on the popular gospel forms developed in 1941-46 by the spirituals vocal ensemble The Jubalaires. It flourished in 1952-55 with bands like The Soul Stirrers, The 5 Royales, with singer Faye Adams, and even more significantly in 1957-1964 with singer Sam Cooke's stellar 30-hit streak.
- RnB VOCALS followed the musical style pioneered in the 1930s by The Mills Brothers and supported by the advances made in the 40s on the crooner scene by jazz singer Nat King Cole. It spawned the doo-wop frenzy in the mid-50s with serial hits by new bands like The Platters, Frankie Lymon & the Teenagers, The Moonglows, The Five Satins, or The Coasters.
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RnB Soul 60s
RnB Soul 60s: James Brown (1933-2006) ∙ Aretha Franklin (1942-2018) ∙ Diana Ross (born 1944) ∙
In 1960, RnB's high-profile scene began to be called 'RnB Soul' due to the distinctve trendsetting impact of its vocal stars who were seen as putting their soul into their voice.
- BLUES JAZZ was marked by the beginnings of Aretha Franklin (1942-2018), a singer and musician from gospel who shone as much in the soul vocals and rock registers as in blues-jazz. Nina Simone (1933-2003) was the other great lady of the 60s’ RnB blues-jazz, where veteran Louis 'Satchmo' Armstrong (1901-1971) released 'What a wonderful world' (1967), his biggest commercial success. At the other end of the spectrum, "Little" Stevie Wonder was blind and 13 when his single "Fingertips part II" (1963) topped the Billboard and 17 when his progressive soul track "I was made to love her" (1967) topped the RnB charts. Singer-songwriter and pianist Roberta Flack (born in 1937) personifies the next generation of popular jazz-song and released her first album in 1969.
- RnB ROCK saw the arrival of The Valentinos with Bobby Womack, Wilson Picket, Ike & Tina Turner and gave way to psychedelic RnB rock in 1968-70 with the rise to fame of Jimi Hendrix, Sly & the Family Stone and Funkadelic.
- On the SOUL VOCALS scene, the king of soul Sam Cooke (1931-1964) suffered a violent death at the age of 33. The new king of soul was Otis Redding (1941-1967) but he too died prematurely at the height of his fame, and it was posthumously that his signature song '(Sitting on) The dock of the Bay' was published in January 1968. Soul singers Ben E. King, Marvin Gaye, Aaron Neville, Roberta Flack and Dionne Warwick also appeared during the decade, as did vocals groups The Temptations, The Four Tops and The Jackson Five. Girl vocal groups had seen popularity earlier – as with the songs "Lollipop" (1958, The Chordettes) and "I met him on a Sunday" (1958, The Shirelles) – and thrived on the RnB Soul scene of the 1960s where the most popular became The Supremes with Diana Ross, in particular with the planetary hit "Baby love" (1964).
- PROGRESSIVE RnB SOUL took hold in 1967 - the same year as psychedelic rock (cf. Rock USA 60s) - and blew a new wind. Incumbent vocals groups such as The Temptations and Diana Ross & the Supremes successfully joined the genre where the band Fifth Dimension took center stage. Three songs among the jewels from this era: Marlena Shaw's 'California soul', Donny Hathaway's 'The Ghetto pt. 2' and 'Cissy strut' by funk pioneers The Meters.
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RnB Soul 70s
RnB 70s: Stevie Wonder (born 1950) ∙ Roberta Flack (born 1937) ∙ Michael Jackson (1958-2009) ∙
In the 1970s, RnB FUNK, DISCO and SOUL was the commercially most successful music genre worldwide, while Progressive RnB kept delivering stunning developments.
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RnB Soul 80s
RnB Soul 1980s: Grace Jones (born 1948) ∙ Prince (1958-2016) ∙ Whitney Houston (1963-2012) ∙
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Janet Jackson (born 1966), Erykah Badu (born 1971), The Fugees (active 1990-97), Timbaland (born 1972)
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