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Blues is the name given to both a musical form and a music genre that originated
in African-American communities of primarily the "Deep South" of the United States at the
end of the 19th century from spirituals, work songs, field hollers, shouts and chants, and
rhymed simple narrative ballads. The blues form, ubiquitous in jazz, rhythm and blues,
and rock and roll is characterized by specific chord progressions, of which the twelve-bar
blues chord progression is the most common. The blue notes that, for expressive purposes
are sung or played flattened or gradually bent in relation to the pitch of the major scale, are
also an important part of the sound.
The blues genre is based on the blues form but possesses other characteristics such as
specific lyrics, bass lines and instruments. Blues can be subdivided into several subgenres
ranging from country to urban blues that were popular during different periods of the 20 th C.
Best known are the Delta, Piedmont, and Chicago blues styles. World War II marked the
transition from acoustic to electric blues and the appeal of blues music to a wider audience,
especially white listeners. ~Wikipedia
Rhythm and blues, often abbreviated to R&B, is a genre of popular African-American
music that originated in the 1940s. The term was originally used by record companies to
describe recordings marketed predominantly to urban blacks at a time when "urbane,
rocking, jazz-based music with a heavy, insistent beat" was becoming more popular.
In the early 1950s, the term rhythm and blues was frequently applied to blues records.
Starting in the mid-1950s, after this style of music contributed to the development of rock
and roll, the term "R&B" became used to refer to music styles that developed from and
incorporated electric blues, as well as gospel and soul music. By the 1970s, rhythm and
blues was used as a blanket term for soul and funk. In the 1980s, a newer style of R&B
developed, becoming known as "contemporary R&B". Jerry Wexler of Billboard magazine
coined the term "rhythm and blues" in 1948 as a musical marketing term, for music aimed
mainly at African-American consumers.
Ragtime is a musical genre which enjoyed its peak popularity between 1897 and 1918. Its
main characteristic is its syncopated, or "ragged," rhythm. It began as dance music in
the red-light districts of black communities in St. Louis and New Orleans years before being
published as sheet music for piano. Ragtime was also a modification of the march made
popular by John Philip Sousa, with additional polyrhythms coming from African music. The
ragtime composer Scott Joplin became famous through the publication in 1899 of the
"Maple Leaf Rag" and his ragtime hits that followed, although he was later forgotten by all
but a small, dedicated community of ragtime aficionados until a major ragtime revival in the
early 1970s. Ragtime fell out of favor as jazz claimed the public's imagination after 1917,
but there have been numerous revivals since the music has been re-discovered.
Soul music is a combination of R&B and gospel, and began in the late 1950s in the United
States. Soul differentiates from R&B because of Soul's use of gospel-music devices, its
greater emphasis on vocalists and its merging of religious and secular themes. Soul traces its
roots to four different sources: racial, geographical, historical and economic factors. The
1950s recordings of Sam Cooke, Ray Charles and James Brown are commonly considered
the beginnings of soul music.
Different Types:
There are many different kinds of Soul music, including, but not limited to: Southern Soul,
Neo-Soul and Psychedelic Soul (which paved the way for Funk music in the 1960s.) Soul
was born in Memphis and more widely in the southern U.S. where most of the performing
artists were from. More than any other genre of popular American music, Soul is the result
of the combination and merging of previous styles and sub-styles in the 1950s and 60s.
Where It Comes From:
Broadly speaking, Soul comes from a mixture of the sacred (i.e. gospel) and the profane
(blues). Blues mainly praised fleshly desires, whereas gospel was more oriented toward
spiritual inspiration. Soul music exploded in the 1960s and ruled the black music charts
throughout the decade, and inspired many other music styles. Although Soul's popularity
has waned over the years, its impact and influence can still be heard in many musical styles,
including Funk, Neo-Soul and contemporary pop.
Funk is a music genre that originated in the mid-late 1960s when African
American musicians blended soul music, jazz and R&B into a rhythmic, danceable new
form of music. Funk de-emphasizes melody and harmony and brings a
strong rhythmic groove of electric bass and drums to the foreground. Funk songs are often
based on an extended vamp on a single chord, distinguishing it from R&B and soul songs,
which are centered on chord progressions.
Like much African-inspired music, funk typically consists of a complex groove with rhythm
instruments such as electric guitar, electric bass, Hammond organ, and drums playing
interlocking rhythms. Funk bands sometimes have a horn section of
several saxophones, trumpets, and in some cases, a trombone, which plays rhythmic "hits".
Many of the most famous bands in the genre also played disco and soul extensively.
Funk samples have been used in genres including hip hop, house music and drum and bass.
It is also the main influence of go-go, a subgenre associated with funk. The music was slow,
sexy, loose, riff-oriented and danceable. Funky typically described these qualities rather
than a distinct genre.
"Rockabilly" usually refers to the type of rock and roll music which was played and
recorded in the mid-1950s by white singers such as Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins and Jerry
Lee Lewis, who drew mainly on the country roots of the music. Many other popular rock
and roll singers of the time, such as Fats Domino and Little Richard, came out of the
black rhythm and blues tradition, making the music attractive to white audiences, and are
not usually classed as "rockabilly.” It is intense & frantic, a southern phenomenon.
In July 1954, Elvis Presley recorded the regional hit "That's All Right (Mama)" at Sam
Phillips' Sun Studio in Memphis. Three months earlier, on April 12, 1954, Bill Haley & His
Comets recorded "Rock Around the Clock". Although only a minor hit when first released,
when used in the opening sequence of the movie Blackboard Jungle, a year later, it set the
rock and roll boom in motion. The song became one of the biggest hits in history, and
frenzied teens flocked to see Haley and the Comets perform it, causing riots in some cities.
"Rock Around the Clock" was a breakthrough for both the group and for all of rock and roll
music. If everything that came before laid the groundwork, "Rock Around the Clock"
introduced the music to a global audience.
In 1956 the arrival of rockabilly was underlined by the success of songs like "Folsom Prison
Blues" by Johnny Cash, "Blue Suede Shoes" by Perkins and "Heartbreak Hotel" by
Presley. For a few years it became the most commercially successful form of rock and roll.
Later rockabilly acts, particularly performing songwriters like Buddy Holly, would be a
major influence on British Invasion acts and particularly on the song writing of The
Beatles and through them on the nature of later rock music.
Doo wop was one of the most popular forms of 1950s rock and roll, with an emphasis on
multi-part vocal harmonies and meaningless backing lyrics (from which the genre later
gained its name), which were usually supported with light instrumentation. Its origins were
in African American vocal groups of the 1930s and 40s, like the Ink Spots and the Mills
Brothers, who had enjoyed considerable commercial success with arrangements based on
close harmonies. They were followed by 1940s R&B vocal acts like The Orioles, The
Ravens and The Clovers, who injected a strong element of traditional gospel and,
increasingly, the energy of jump blues. By 1954, as rock and roll was beginning to emerge,
a number of similar acts began to cross over from the R&B charts to mainstream success,
often with added honking brass and saxophone, with The Crows, The Penguins, The El
Dorados and The Turbans all scoring major hits. Despite the subsequent explosion in
records from doo wop acts in the later 50s, many failed to chart or were one-hit wonders.
Exceptions included The Platters, with songs including "The Great Pretender" (1955)
and The Coasters with humorous songs like "Yakety Yak" (1958), both of which ranked
among the most successful rock and roll acts of the era. Towards the end of the decade there
were increasing numbers of white, particularly Italian American, singers taking up Doo
Wop, creating all-white groups like The Mystics and Dion and the Belmonts and racially
integrated groups like The Dell Vikings and The Impalas. Doo wop would be a major
influence on vocal surf music, soul and early Merseybeat, including The Beatles.
Rock and roll (often written as rock & roll or rock 'n' roll) is a genre of popular music
that originated and evolved in the United States during the late 1940s and early
1950s, primarily from a combination of African American blues, country, jazz, and gospel
music. Though elements of rock and roll can be heard in country records of the 1930s [and
in blues records from the 1920s, rock and roll did not acquire its name until the
1950s. Encyclopædia Britannica regards it as the music that originated in the mid-1950s
and later developed "into the more encompassing international style known as rock music".
In the earliest rock and roll styles of the late 1940s and early 1950s, either the piano or
saxophone was often the lead instrument, but these were generally replaced or
supplemented by guitar in the middle to late 1950s. The beat is essentially a blues rhythm
with an accentuated backbeat, the latter almost always provided by a snare drum. Classic
rock and roll is usually played with one or two electric guitars (one lead, one rhythm), a
string bass or (after the mid-1950s) an electric bass guitar, and a drum kit.
Rock and roll began achieving wide popularity in the 1960s. The massive popularity and
eventual worldwide view of rock and roll gave it a widespread social impact. Bobby
Gillespie writes that "When Chuck Berry sang 'Hail, hail, rock and roll, deliver me from the
days of old', that's exactly what the music was doing. Chuck Berry started the global
psychic jailbreak that is rock'n'roll."
Far beyond simply a musical style, rock and roll, as seen in movies and on television,
influenced lifestyles, fashion, attitudes, and language. It went on to spawn various subgenres, often without the initially characteristic backbeat, that are now more commonly
called simply "rock music" or "rock".
Stylistic Origins: Blues • gospel • folk • country •electric blues • jump blues •Chicago
blues • swing •boogie-woogie •rhythm and blues
The origins of rock and roll have been fiercely debated by commentators and historians of
music. There is general agreement that it arose in the Southern United States – a region
which would produce most of the major early rock and roll acts – through the meeting of
various influences that embodied a merging of the African musical tradition with European
The migration of many former slaves and their descendants to major urban centers
like Memphis and north to New York City, Detroit, Chicago, Cleveland and Buffalo meant
that black and white residents were living in close proximity in larger numbers than ever
before, and as a result heard each other's music. Stations that made white and black forms of
music available to both groups, the development and spread of the gramophone record, and
African American musical styles such as jazz and swing which were taken up by white
musicians, aided this process of "cultural collision.” The immediate roots of rock and roll
lay in the rhythm and blues, then called "race music", and country music of the 1940s and
1950s. Particularly significant influences were jazz, blues, gospel, country,
and folk. Commentators differ in their views of which of these forms were most important
and the degree to which the new music was a re-branding of African American rhythm and
blues for a white market, or a new hybrid of black and white forms.
Boogie-woogie is a style of piano-based blues that became popular in the late 1930s and
early 1940s, but originated much earlier, and was extended from piano, to three pianos at
once, guitar, big band, and country and western music, and even gospel. While
the blues traditionally depicts a variety of emotions, boogie-woogie is mainly associated
with dancing. For the most part, boogie-woogie tunes are twelve-bar blues, although the
style has been applied to popular songs such as "Swanee River" and hymns such as "Just a
Closer Walk with Thee". It is sometimes called "eight to the bar", as much of it is written
in common time (4/4) time using eighth notes.
The origin of the term boogie-woogie is unknown. However, Dr. John Tennison, a San
Antonio pianist and musicologist, has suggested some interesting linguistic
precursors. Among them are four African terms, including the Hausaword "Boog" and
the Mandingo word "Booga", both of which mean "to beat", as in beating a drum. There is
also the West African word "Bogi", which means "to dance", and the Bantu term "Mbuki
Mvuki", which means, "Mbuki—to take off in flight" and Mvuki—"to dance wildly, as if to
shake off ones clothes". The meanings of all these words are consistent with the
percussiveness, dancing, and uninhibited behaviors historically associated with boogiewoogie music. Their African origin is also consistent with the evidence that the music
originated among newly emancipated African Americans.
Jump blues is an up-tempo blues usually played by small groups and featuring horns. It
was very popular in the 1940s, and the movement was a precursor to the arrival of rhythm
and blues and rock and roll. More recently, there was renewed interest in jump blues in the
1990s as part of the swing revival.
Blues and jazz were part of the same musical world, with many accomplished musicians
straddling both genres. Jump blues, or simply "jump," was an extension of the boogiewoogie craze. Jump was especially popular in the late 1940s and early 1950s, through artists
such as Louis Jordan, Big Joe Turner, Roy Brown, Charles Brown, T-Bone Walker, Roy
Milton, Billy Wright and Wynonie Harris.
Jazz is a musical style that originated at the beginning of the 20th century in black
communities in the Southern United States. It was born out of a mix of African and
European music traditions. Its black African pedigree is evident in its use of blue
notes, improvisation, polyrhythms, and syncopation. From its early development until the
present day, jazz has also incorporated music from American popular music.
As the music has developed and spread around the world, it has drawn on many different
national, regional and local musical cultures giving rise, since its early 20th century
American beginnings, to many distinctive styles: New Orleans jazz dating from the early
1910s, big band swing, Kansas City jazzand Gypsy jazz from the 1930s and
1940s, bebop from the mid-1940s and on down through West Coast jazz, cool jazz, avantgarde jazz, Afro-Cuban jazz, modal jazz, free jazz, Latin jazz, soul jazz, jazz fusion and jazz
rock, smooth jazz, jazz-funk, punk jazz, acid jazz, ethno jazz, jazz rap,cyber jazz, Indo
jazz, M-Base, nu jazz, urban jazz and others. In a 1988 interview, trombonist J.J.
Johnson said, "Jazz is restless. It won't stay put and it never will".
Joaquim Berendt defines jazz as a "form of art music which originated in the United States
through the confrontation of blacks with European music"; he argues that jazz differs from
European music in that jazz has a "special relationship to time, defined as 'swing'", "a
spontaneity and vitality of musical production in which improvisation plays a role.
Swing, is a form of American music that developed in the early 1930s and became a
distinctive style by 1935. It uses a strong rhythm section of double bass and drums as the
anchor for a lead section of brass instruments such as trumpets and trombones; woodwinds,
including saxophones and clarinets, and sometimes stringed instruments such as violin and
guitar, medium to fast tempos, and a "lilting" swing time rhythm. The name swing came
from the phrase ‘swing feel’ where the emphasis is on the off–beat or weaker pulse in the
music). Swing bands usually featured soloists who would improvise on the melody over the
arrangement. The danceable swing style of big bands and bandleaders such as Benny
Goodman and Count Basie was the dominant form of American popular music from 1935 to
1945, a period known as the Swing Era.
In the US, by the late 1930s and early 1940s, swing had become the most popular musical
style and remained so for several years, until it was supplanted in the late 1940s by the pop
standards sung by the crooners who grew out of the Big Band tradition that swing began.
Bandleaders such as the Dorsey Brothers often helped launch the careers of vocalists who
went on to popularity as solo artists, such as Frank Sinatra.
Swing music began to decline in popularity during World War II because of several factors.
Most importantly it became difficult to staff a "big band" because many musicians were
overseas fighting in the war. Also, the cost of touring with a large ensemble became
cumbersome because of wartime economics. These two factors made smaller three- to fivepiece combos more profitable and manageable. A third reason is the recording bans of 1942
and 1948 because of musicians' union strikes. When the ban was over in January 1949,
swing had evolved into new styles such as jump blues and bebop.
Bebop or bop is a style of jazz characterized by fast tempo, instrumental
virtuosity and improvisation based on the combination of harmonic structure and melody. It
was developed in the early and mid-1940s. It first surfaced in musicians' speech some time
during the first two years of American involvement in the Second World War. This style of
jazz ultimately became synonymous with modern jazz, as either category reached a certain
final maturity in the 1960s.