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Rhythm and Blues Defined

Rhythm and blues, also called rhythm & blues or R&B, term used for several types of postwar African-American popular music, as well as for some white rock music derived from it. The term was coined by Jerry Wexler in 1947, when he was editing the charts at the trade journal Billboard and found that the record companies issuing black popular music considered the chart names then in use (Harlem Hit Parade, Sepia, Race) to be demeaning. The magazine changed the chart’s name in its June 17, 1949, issue, having used the term rhythm and blues in news articles for the previous two years. Although the records that appeared on Billboard’s rhythm-and-blues chart thereafter were in a variety of different styles, the term was used to encompass a number of contemporary forms that emerged at that time.

Early rhythm and blues was recorded largely in Los Angeles by small independent record labels such as Modern, RPM, and Specialty. The founding of Atlantic Records in 1947 by Ahmet Ertegun, a jazz fan and the son of a Turkish diplomat, and Herb Abramson, a music industry professional, shifted the industry’s centre to New York City. In 1953 they brought in Wexler as a partner, and he and Ertegun were instrumental in moving rhythm and blues forward. Continue reading from Encyclopedia Britannica

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