Birthed as rhythm and blues, R&B has enriched music lovers everywhere since the 1940s. The sounds of R&B are firmly rooted in gospel, soul, and blues. Some of today’s biggest stars include Usher, Luther Vandross, Mariah Carey and many others. But the R&B tradition evolved from historic beginnings.
The genre traces its origins all the way back to 1920s jazz as a precursor. Jazz and rhythm and blues tended to cross pollinate in big cities such as Los Angeles, Chicago and New York well into the 1930s. Many of the important players of the day are generally forgotten with the exception of legends such as T-Bone Walker and Lonnie Johnson. With its up-tempo beats and soulful lyrics, R&B broke away from Jazz during the 1940s and outpaced it in terms of mainstream popularity.
With big label RCA Victor touting the emerging trend as Blues and Rhythm in 1948, Louis Jordan became one of the leading pop culture figures of the era. Jordan topped the charts with three hits and two were “boogie-woogie” songs. Today, this dance-style music is commonly referred to as “Jump Blues” and other iconic 1940s artists also included Big Joe Turner, Wynonie Harris, and chart-topper Sonny Thompson whose song “Long Gone” hit No. 1.
Although R&B was enjoying an artistic renaissance during the 1940s, it didn’t find its way on to mainstream radio in any significant way until the 1950s. The genre had taken hold in the African-American community where records were mostly sold. During the 1950s, white teens began to embrace to creative genius of R&B and economics drove it into the mainstream.
Little Richard would emerge as a type of cross-over artist that bridged the American cultural divide with hits such as “Tutti Fruitti” and the timeless “Long Tall Sally” that enjoys popularity to this day. Little Richard would have a pronounced influence across the music world and legends such as Elvis Presley, James Brown, and Otis Redding took their cues from the trailblazer.
The 1950s was the decade that made R&B a global phenomenon and masters such as Fats Domino, Ray Charles, Bo Diddley, Chuck Berry, Carl Perkins, and many others shook the foundation of the music world.
Just as rhythm and blues evolved from Jazz, the creativity of the artists that produced top-selling records continues to develop sub-genres in the ensuing decades. These included fun dance songs such as Chubby Checker’s “The Twist” and disco-infused sounds of the 1970s, led by Donna Summer and Gloria Gaynor.
But after critics began to clarify the differences between disco-era music and R&B, its contemporary identity has become more closely associated with funk-influenced artists and soulful singers such as Al Green, Whitney Houston, Isaac Hayes and Barry White among others. Contemporary leanings also crossed over into Hip Hop, led by popular acts such Boyz II Men and solo artist Beyoncé.
R&B has enjoyed amazing musical growth since its first incarnations nearly 100 years ago. That diverse history makes taking this R&B trivia test a lively challenge.
Take the R&B and Soul quiz to test your knowledge of lyrics from the ’70s and the sultry sounds of the ’90s. Indulge in the soul trivia to see how well you know the greats that sang the tunes we still LOVE today! Test your skills!