The New Blue Music
Changes in Rhythm & Blues, 1950–1999
A study that finds African influences of melody, harmony, rhythm, and form in the top 25 songs from each decade of R&B
Rhythm & blues emerged from the African American community in the late 1940s to become the driving force in American popular music over the next half-century. Although sometimes called “doo-wop,” “soul,” “funk,” “urban contemporary,” or “hip-hop,” R&B is actually an umbrella category that includes all of these styles and genres. It is in fact a modern-day incarnation of a musical tradition that stretches back to nineteenth-century America, and even further to African beginnings.
The New Blue Music: Changes in Rhythm & Blues, 1950-1999 traces the development of R&B from 1950 to 1999 by closely analyzing the top twenty-five songs of each decade. The music of artists as wide-ranging as Louis Jordan; John Lee Hooker; Ray Charles; James Brown; Earth, Wind & Fire; Michael Jackson; Public Enemy; Mariah Carey; and Usher takes center stage as the author illustrates how R&B has not only retained its traditional core style, but has also experienced a “re-Africanization” over time.
By investigating musical elements of form, style, and content in R&B—and offering numerous musical examples—the book shows the connection between R&B and other forms of American popular and religious music, such as spirituals, ragtime, blues, jazz, country, gospel, and rock 'n' roll. With this evidence in hand, the author hypothesizes the existence of an even larger musical “super-genre” which he labels “The New Blue Music. ”