R&B (Rhythm and Blues) Music Genres Family Tree

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R&B Sub-Genres

Rhythm & Blues

Defined by Robert Palmer as 'a catchall term referring to any music that was made by and for black Americans'. Jerry Wexler of Billboard magazine is credited with coining the term "rhythm and blues" as a musical term in the United States in 1948

Bands: B.B. King, Muddy Waters, Chuck Berry


Stax was influential in the creation of Southern soul and Memphis soul music. Stax also released gospel, funk, and blues recordings. Renowned for its output of blues music, the label was founded by two siblings and business partners, Jim Stewart and Estelle Axton

Bands: Otis Redding, Sam and Dave, The Bar K's


Soul music is a popular music genre that originated in the African American community in the late 1950s and early 1960s in the USA, combining elements of African-American gospel music, rhythm and blues, and jazz. Soul is known for its depth of feeling and emotive style, highlighted in the work of artists like Aretha Franklin and James Brown.

Bands: Ray Charles, Sam Cooke, Aretha Franklin, Marvin Gaye, and Otis Redding


Motown is an American record label originally from Detroit now owned by the Universal Music Group. It was founded by Berry Gordy Jr. as Tamla Records on January 12, 1959

Bands: Smokey Robinson, Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye


Philadelphia soul, sometimes called Philly soul, the Philadelphia sound, Phillysound, or The Sound of Philadelphia (TSOP), is a genre of late 1960s/1970s soul music characterized by funk influences and lush string and horn arrangements. The genre laid the groundwork for the emergence of disco later in the 1970s by fusing the R&B rhythm sections of the 1960s with the pop vocal tradition and featuring a more pronounced jazz influence in its melodic structures and arrangements.

Bands: The O'Jays, Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes, MFSB (Mother Father Sister Brother)


Funk is a music genre that originated in African-American communities in the mid-1960s when musicians created a rhythmic, danceable new form of music

Bands: James Brown, Sly Stone, Parliament, Earth Wind and Fire


Disco is a genre of dance music that emerged in the 1970s from the urban nightlife scene of the United States. It is characterized by a steady four-on-the-floor beat, smooth bass lines, strings, horns, and electric piano. Disco's music typically features lush production values, complex arrangements, and an emphasis on danceability. The genre was popularized by iconic tracks such as "Stayin' Alive" by the Bee Gees and "I Will Survive" by Gloria Gaynor, and it played a major role in the development of modern club culture.

Bands: Donna Summer

Contemporary R&B

Contemporary R&B blends traditional R&B with pop, hip-hop, and electronic music. It features smooth production, synthesized sounds, and a focus on romantic and emotional themes. The genre continues to evolve with the incorporation of new musical styles.

Bands: Whitney Houston, Usher, Beyonce, and Alicia Keys

Neo Soul

Neo Soul is a subgenre of R&B that emerged in the mid-1990s. It combines the soulful sounds of classic R&B and soul with contemporary elements of hip-hop, jazz, funk, and electronic music. Neo Soul is characterized by its rich, emotional vocal performances, complex melodies, and thought-provoking lyrics often centered around love, relationships, and social issues. The genre places a strong emphasis on artistic authenticity and often features live instrumentation. Its organic and eclectic approach has made it a refreshing alternative to the more commercial sounds of mainstream R&B and hip-hop.

Bands: Erykah Badu, D'Angelo, and Jill Scott

play Whats Going On by Marvin Gaye

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