I remember how us black folks used to say “(s)he sound black!” when we were introduced to a Caucasian singer with a soulful voice. We never realized how absolutely ignorant that was to say but in some of our defense, it was only natural for us to react in such a way because we were pleasantly surprised that a non-black person could belt notes so soulful and with so much feeling.
According to Wikipedia, Rhythm & Blues (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 African-Americans, at a time when “urbane, rocking, jazz based music with a heavy, insistent beat” was becoming more popular.
Today, R&B’s popularity has reached its’ highest peak with the help by some of today’s biggest entertainers, and guess what….NONE of them are black. I think it’s safe to say that R&B is no longer a “black thing”. In fact, our talented white entertainers are proving that soul has no color.
I want to dedicate this post to the late great Teena Marie. I was a kid when I discovered that she was white when my mother brought home her classic album Robbery. I was truly amazed because her music exudes a passionate soul that I thought only a black woman could vocalize. Her singing skills were impeccable, to say the least. I loved how her African-American fans embraced her & “adopted” her as their blue-eyed sister of soul. Since my discovery of Teena, I hold on to that memory when I’m introduced to a Caucasian R&B singer. At this day in age, when urban culture is becoming widely popular & accepted, the development of R&B singers goes far & beyond the kid from the projects now. The love of urban culture & the birth of R&B singers are also developed in predominantly white neighborhoods.
How do you feel about white artists labeled as R&B singers?