By Daniel McAdam.
There are a lot of ways to restate the question posed above, but few if any methods to answer the question satisfactorily. Let's start with the restatements:
What's the time period for old school R&B music?
When did they play classic R&B?
The problem, of course, is one of definition. No one can agree on what "golden age" or "old school" or "classic" means. Very few can agree on what "R&B" or "rhythm and blues" means. Suggest a time period for classic R&B, and someone will immediately say that you left something out before or after that time period. Realizing, then, that I've set off on a fool's errand, I'll continue and provide an answer that will at least serve as food for thought.
Let's start with what is meant by R&B. Wikipedia says R&B is, ". . . a genre of popular African-American music that originated in the 1940s." Urban Dictionary says it's, ". . . upbeat, funky music that started in the 60s with the Motown era." (Already, we have disagreement on a start date.) Random House Kernerman Webster's College Dictionary has perhaps the worst of many bad definitions, claiming R&B is, ". . . a folk-based form of black popular music forerunning rock." Yeah, sure. So, in other words, you think all those R&B acts were folksingers, and that R&B disappeared once rock music came along. Like they say, there's a lot of knowledge you can't get in college.
Here's what I think. R&B, also known as rhythm and blues music, is:
We can accept that the pre-Golden Age of R&B was the 1950s, with great artists like Bo Diddley and Little Richard. Some might include Chuck Berry, though he is of course tied more strongly to rock and roll in most folk's minds, and there are others. In any case, those artists works were often referred to as "oldies" throughout the two decades following the 1950s.
Which brings us to the 1960's. I'll make my argument for this time period by listing a sampling of a few notable R&B recordings by year.
Barrett Strong - Money (That's What I Want)
Ray Charles - Georgia On My Mind
Sam Cooke - Chain Gang
Ben E. King - Stand By Me
Etta James - At Last
Jimmy Reed - Bright Lights Big City
Ray Charles - Hit The Road Jack
Booker T and the MG's - Green Onions
Isley Brothers - Twist and Shout
Otis Redding - These Arms of Mine
Solomon Burke - Cry to Me
Marvin Gaye - Pride and Joy
Miracles - You've Really Got a Hold On Me
Irma Thomas - Wish Someone Would Care
Otis Redding - Mr. Pitiful
Otis Redding - That's How Strong My Love Is
James Brown - Papa's Got a Brand New Bag
Otis Redding - I've Been Loving You Too Long
Otis Redding - Respect (Otis Redding wrote this song)
Ramsey Lewis - The "In" Crowd
Solomon Burke - Tonight's the Night
Wilson Pickett - In the Midnight Hour
Jimmy Ruffin - What Becomes of the Brokenhearted
Percy Sledge - When A Man Loves A Woman
Sam & Dave - Hold On, I'm Coming
Stevie Wonder - Up Tight
Aaron Neville - Tell It Like It Is
Aretha Franklin - Respect
Sam & Dave - Soul Man
Aretha Franklin - Chain of Fools
Clarence Carter - Slip Away
Etta James - Tell Mama
Otis Redding - I've Got Dreams to Remember (posthumously, with Carla Thomas)
Sly & The Family Stone - Dance to the Music
Isley Brothers - It's Your Thing
Marvin Gaye - I Heard It Through the Grapevine
Sly & The Family Stone - Everyday People
Looking at the list objectively, a person could make a reasonably good argument that the Golden Age of R&B extended from 1964 (It would be hard to exclude Mr. Pitiful or That's How Strong My Love Is) through 1968 (again, you can't really exclude Slip Away, Chain of Fools or Tell Mama). Right in the middle of this time period are undeniable classics, like Aretha Franklin's Respect, Sam & Dave's Soul Man, and Wilson Pickett's The Midnight Hour. Oh, and did I mention Percy Sledge's When A Man Loves A Woman?
Five years - 1964 through 1968 - might be a little restrictive, so it makes sense to just include the entire decade. And there you have it. Whatever else you may associate the 1960s with, those years were, indisputably, the Golden Age of R&B.
Copyright © Daniel McAdam· All Rights Reserved