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Rhythm and blues, often abbreviated as R&B, is a genre of popular music that originated in African American communities in the 1940s.[1] The term was originally used by record companies to describe recordings marketed predominantly to urban African Americans, at a time when "urbane, rocking, jazz based music with a heavy, insistent beat" was becoming more popular.[2] In the commercial rhythm and blues music typical of the 1950s through the 1970s, the bands usually consisted of piano, one or two guitars, bass, drums, one or more saxophones, and sometimes background vocalists. R&B lyrical themes often encapsulate the African-American experience of pain and the quest for freedom and joy,[3] as well as triumphs and failures in terms of relationships, economics, and aspirations.

The term "rhythm and blues" has undergone a number of shifts in meaning. In the early 1950s, it was frequently applied to blues records.[4] 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. In the 1960s, several British rock bands such as the Rolling Stones, the Who and the Animals were referred to and promoted as being R&B bands; posters for the Who's residency at the Marquee Club in 1964 contained the slogan, "Maximum R&B".[5] Their mix of rock and roll and R&B is now known as "British rhythm and blues". By the end of the 1970s, the term "rhythm and blues" had changed again and was used as a blanket term for soul and funk. In the late 1980s, a newer style of R&B developed, becoming known as "contemporary R&B". It combines rhythm and blues with elements of pop, soul, funk, disco, hip hop, and electronic music.

Eric Burdon & the Animals (1964).

British rhythm and blues and blues rock developed in the early 1960s, largely as a response to the recordings of American artists, often brought over by African American servicemen stationed in Britain, or seamen visiting ports such as London, Liverpool, Newcastle and Belfast.[104][105] Many bands, particularly in the developing London club scene, tried to emulate black rhythm and blues performers, resulting in a "rawer" or "grittier" sound than the more popular "beat groups".[106] Initially developing out of the jazz, skiffle and blues club scenes, early artists tended to focus on major blues performers and standard forms, particularly blues rock musician Alexis Korner,[107] who acted with members of the Rolling Stones, Colosseum, the

British rhythm and blues and blues rock developed in the early 1960s, largely as a response to the recordings of American artists, often brought over by African American servicemen stationed in Britain, or seamen visiting ports such as London, Liverpool, Newcastle and Belfast.[104][105] Many bands, particularly in the developing London club scene, tried to emulate black rhythm and blues performers, resulting in a "rawer" or "grittier" sound than the more popular "beat groups".[106] Initially developing out of the jazz, skiffle and blues club scenes, early artists tended to focus on major blues performers and standard forms, particularly blues rock musician Alexis Korner,[107] who acted with members of the Rolling Stones, Colosseum, the Yardbirds, Manfred Mann, and the Graham Bond Organisation.[106] Although this interest in the blues would influence major British rock musicians, including Eric Clapton, Mick Taylor, Peter Green, John Mayall, Free, and Cream adopted an interest in a wider range of rhythm and blues styles.[106]

The Rolling Stones became the second most popular UK band (after The Beatles)[108] and led the "British Invasion" of the US pop charts.[106] The Rolling Stones covered Bobby Womack & the Valentinos'[109] song It's All Over Now", giving them their first UK number one in 1964.[110] Under the influence of blues and R&B, bands such as the Rolling Stones, the Yardbirds, and the Animals, and more jazz-influenced bands like the Graham Bond Organisation and Zoot Money had blue-eyed soul albums.[106] White R&B musicians popular in the UK included The Beatles)[108] and led the "British Invasion" of the US pop charts.[106] The Rolling Stones covered Bobby Womack & the Valentinos'[109] song It's All Over Now", giving them their first UK number one in 1964.[110] Under the influence of blues and R&B, bands such as the Rolling Stones, the Yardbirds, and the Animals, and more jazz-influenced bands like the Graham Bond Organisation and Zoot Money had blue-eyed soul albums.[106] White R&B musicians popular in the UK included Steve Winwood, Frankie Miller, Scott Walker & the Walker Brothers, the Animals from Newcastle, [111] the Spencer Davis Group, and Van Morrison & Them from Belfast.[106] None of these bands exclusively played rhythm and blues, but it remained at the core of their early albums.[106]

Many British black musicians created the British R&B scene. These included Geno Washington, an American singer stationed in England with the Air Force. He was invited to join what became Geno Washington & the Ram Jam Band by guitarist Pete Gage in 1965 and enjoyed top 40 hit singles and two top 10 albums before the band split up in 1969.[112] Another American GI, Jimmy James, born in Jamaica, moved to London after two local number one hits with The Vagabonds in 1960 and built a strong reputation as a live act, releasing a live album and their debut, The New Religion, in 1966 and achieving moderate success with singles before the original Vagabonds broke up in 1970.[113] Champion Jack Dupree was a New Orleans blues and boogie woogie pianist who toured Europe and settled there from 1960, living in Switzerland and Denmark, then in Halifax, England in the 1970s and 1980s, before finally settling in Germany.[114] From the '70s to '80s, Carl Douglas, Hot Chocolate, Delegation, Junior, Central Line, Princess, and Jacki Graham gained hits on pop or R&B chart. The music of the British mod subculture grew out of rhythm and blues and later soul performed by artists who were not available to the small London clubs where the scene originated.[115] In the late '60s, The Who performed American R&B songs such as the Motown hit "Heat Wave", a song which reflected the young mod lifestyle.[115] Many of these bands enjoyed national success in the UK, but found it difficult to break into the American music market.[115] The British R&B bands produced music which was very different in tone from that of African-American artists, often with more emphasis on guitars and sometimes also with greater energy.[106]