Here we are again.  Another week has gone by, another Tellus3City Fest has passed and things are now calming down a bit around here.  That being said, we thought we’d enjoy the slow by featuring a subsection of our Rock ‘n’ Roll, Blues, and Soul shelf.  Mid August is here and with all the awesome storms raging around us and all the humidity hanging in the air is a perfect time in the middle of our Summer Rock Block ‘019 to feature our R & B collection.

Rhythm & Blues is in a way the grandparents of almost all pop music genres including rock’n’roll, soul, and even funk.  The term itself has undergone a change in almost every decade since it was coined in the mid 1940s as jazz and blues were meeting and melding into a more stable and mass marketable product.  New Orleans was a very important place for this newly forming style because of their Creole influence and the relationship it had with other Caribbean influences, notably Cuba.  Musicians like Fats Domino and Little Richard began infusing these rhythms with more traditional blues bars and a more upbeat music was created.

In the 1950s as more and more instruments and music were becoming electrified, gospel vocal structures began mixing jazz funkiness and horn sections with the lyrical themes of the blues in regards to love and economics, pushed the already popular development of the genre even further into a sound that was appealing to both white and black audiences.  Artists like Bo Diddley and Johnny Otis continued to be influenced by the Caribbean and especially Cuban music, and this can be heard in their early works such as Willie and the Hand Jive’‘s(Otis, 1958) use of the 3–2 beat, that 1,2,3/1,2.

By the 1960s, R&B had crossed the pond and was influencing future English heavy hitters such as The Rolling Stones and The Who, while in America it was becoming more and more acceptable for mainstream white society to listen and begin producing it thanks to the previous massive popularity of Elvis Pressley.  However, due the embargo on Cuba, less and less focus was given to the original Latin influence on the music.  Sam Cooke, Carla Thomas, and The Miracles were taking R&B into a new and even more popular direction.  The genre began smoothing out and Soul was born.  Millions of records were being sold with songs like ‘Chain Gang’ (Cooke, 1960), ‘Shop Around’ (The Miracles, 1961), and the grittier sound of Memphis soul on Stax Records with ‘Gee Whiz (Look At His Eyes)’  (Carla Thomas, 1961).  R&B was now selling singles in the millions and making massive stars.

By the 1970s, R&B  had moved to Jamaica and had a massive impact on Ska and therefore Reggae.  In the USA it now covered the genres of Funk and Disco as well and had its own Grammy category.  Powerhouse labels were developed in places like Philadelphia with Philadelphia International that contracted artists like Billy Paul, The O’Jays, The Jones Girls, and many others.  The Hi label out of Memphis smoothed things out with Al Green, O.V. Right, and Ann Peebles.

However, in the 1980s with the advent of Hip-hop things began to get a little rocky for R&B. It had become the ivory tower and the older and tenured artists and producers were excluding newcomers. The younger generation was not to be ignored and they wanted their own sound.  As Hip-hop gained in popularity and influence, what would have previously considered R&B acts were now adopting a more urban and modern feel and style to their music often by adding prominent rappers to join in.  This is where groups like Boy II Men, TLC, and Mary J. Blige filled in the gaps up into the 90s and 2000s.

So please peruse our shelves to find some of super smooth selections, but be sure to honor the genre by sipping on a Cuba Libre while doing it!  (and be sure to respect Philadelphia’s contribution to this grand genre by grabbing a steak from Joe P’s).