Rhythm and blues, also known today as “R & B”, has been one of the most influential genres of music within the African American Culture, and has evolved over many decades in style and sound. Emerging in the late 1940's rhythm and blues, sometimes called jump blues, became dominant black popular music during and after WWII. Rhythm and blues artists often sung about love, relationships, life troubles, and sometimes focused on segregation and race struggles. Rhythm and blues helped embody what was unique about black American culture and validate it as something distinctive and valuable. The term “rhythm and blues” was coined in 1947 by a white man named Jerry Wexler who was a reporter, editor, and writer for Billboard Magazine.
This same type of feel is one of the most defining characteristics of modern jazz music. The idea of this pulse allows different players to play different rhythms at the same speeds. These complex rhythms mashed together, or polyrhythms, were introduced to the United States as the slave trade began to take its course. Afterwards, spirituals blossomed from “plantation Blacks who fused Western European harmonies with African songs, modalities, and practices” (Banfield, 96) such as polyrhythms. Spirituals were quite popular among the slave community and eventually gave birth to the next musical stepping stone to jazz, blues.
This then created another dialogue and narrative of whites appreciating black culture and entertainment recognizing and further realizing the mass appeal and potential for these artists. In all this along with the other cultural contributions of the Harlem Renaissance played part in creating a cultural shift. Not only were African Americans more united, but their status it would seem in regards to the arts was raised as well. Even though Harlem Stride style piano and Jazz music may not be the sole reason that the Harlem Renaissance was able to revive African American pride and culture, it did however keep the spirit of the movement alive and allowed African American musicians to have a lasting effect on American society.
Record labels played a big role in bringing the black struggle to the mainstream through their artists music. In particular, two labels were the frontrunners for producing records that would continue to promote addressing the black struggle: Motown and Stax. Motown, a black-owned label, was seen as a more assimilationist and industrial record label that was successful in making hits that appealed to both black and white audiences, earning it the nickname of “Hitsville, U.S.A.” Stax, a white-owned label, was seen as being more representative of black self-reliance and an overall more authentic, black record label that appealed much more to the black audience, earning it the nickname of “Soulsville, U.S.A.” Despite their differences, both labels used their own style of music production and distribution to help surface the black struggle in very similar ways, and in turn they helped pave the way for black consciousness to emerge through soul music. Before beginning to analyze both Motown and Stax Record’s influence on black consciousness it must first be understood why black consciousness itself can be seen as a step in the right direction in the fight against black struggle. Brian Ward does a great job of capturing the true success of soul music’s influence on black consciousness.
Although often described as having a strong personality, it was a combination of childhood experiences of oppression and realization of his political influence that would take Davis to the top of the musical spectrum. Not only did his music influence the later musical style of artists like Prince, Mos Def and Santana, but he also stood as a symbol for the black power movement. His transition from artistically pleasing standards on Milestones (1958) to the funk rhythms of Bitches Brew (1970) help show the power of an artist’s influence and the lasting changes brought about from the work and life of Miles
Gordy established this aspect of culture and incorporated gospel music from churches into the soul sound Motown was successful for. Moreover, the formation of African American neighbourhoods was a very important aspect of their culture due to its link to the history of segregation. Although many associated these black neighbourhoods or ‘ghettos’ with negative connotations, for blacks, it signified ‘home’, a place that showed representation of black identity, also including the passion and emotion from overcoming the struggle and suffering of being black. “The buildings in Harlem are brick and stone…and the streets are long and wide…but Harlem’s much more than these alone…Harlem is what’s inside…” (Hughes, 1945). Gordy realised that neighbourhoods also represented cultural cohesion where they could relate to each other.
There was an explosion of culture in Harlem the great migration helps get cultural renewal for the people in New York City. When African Americans relocated, they seek jobs and an overall better way of life. Critics however questioned whether the Harlem Renaissance really met its goals for giving blacks a new identity. Due to literary roots, black owned magazines and newspapers flourished freeing African Americans. It was a good time for a cultural celebration; African Americans had faced slavery and oppression.
Music has played a role in society since the dawn of man. Said to be the beginning of communication in early civilization, music and dance have influenced how we think, act and treat members of our own society. Song and dance is used in rites of passage ceremonies such as births, weddings and funerals throughout the world. Jamaican and Yoruba cultures have made many contributions to our society. The uses of this music as a vehicle for political issues, values, and beliefs have been used by many musicians from different cultures.
The music, literature, and intellectuals resulting from the Harlem Renaissance helped to show whites that blacks could create art, achieve professionalism, and be as cultured as whites, which resulted in the change of some stereotypical views of whites, which in turn let the black equality movement advance with less resistance. The accelerated growth of music, literature, and intellectual achievement brought to attention that blacks could achieve as much as whites, and provided many examples. A major part of the Harlem Renaissance was the music, specifically jazz. The music of the Harlem Renaissance was enjoyed by the young white population in the speakeasies and dance halls, which, with the radio, spread the popularity of jazz and promoted imitation by white bands, and led to the merging of black and white music styles. The Harlem Renaissance was lucky enough to start about the time of prohibition.
In the nineteenth century, as a result of minstrel shows due to social issues such as slavery, segregation, race, and riots, blacks find comfort and peace in their music. With that being said, Jazz’s influence on the world music scene would be nothing short of transformational. Jazz saw its early development in the African American communities all throughout the South- with rhythms reflecting the diversity of cultural influences from West Africa to the West Indies, from ragtime to the blues. Desire for change is transformed into positive energy for African Americans. Somewhere in the fight for social, political, and economic awareness, aesthetic awareness has seemed to take a back seat; however, for black people music continues to be the vehicle in