Someone on this thread mentioned Nelson George's "The Death of Rhythm and Blues" as worthy of a read based on the OP's initial question. Some of you may already know Mr. George as a very knowledgeable music critic - if not the foremost authority on post-60s Black music - if you were around and reading critiques in the 80s and 90s.
Well, in his book, soul, hip hop, funk, quiet storm, classic Motown, as well as Philly, Memphis, LA, etc. styles are all considered R&B. Honestly, I have some problems with this book, but, I also have to say that my discomfort is not that I disagree with what Mr. George lays out, but that he's right and it's downright uncomfortable. It covers situations, topics and themes in the specific context of African Americans, but that are shared by all so-called "hyphenated Americans" (Asian-Americans, Mexican-Americans, Irish-Americans, Jewish-Americans, etc.), and the consequences of life in the US for these groups is a steady "bleaching" of sensibilities, values, and art forms to the larger social/material/temporal values - and these values also change over time.
Anyway, back to Jorlsafar's question: My experience is that the umbrella term "R&B" came to be used by the music industry as lazy shorthand for all Black-oriented music (you now hear the term "urban music" used to denote the same genres). What I mean by "Black-oriented" is that is was created by and for African Americans, however, those of us growing up in inner cities also clearly found this music just as compelling then and now.
So, those of us that came up in the era covered in the "Death of R&B" might just end up using the term R&B to cover all African American-based music forms. Actually, when people as me what kind of music I like best, I usually say "jazz, R&B, and hip hop" because I feel they are all closely related. If I use the term broadly, it doesn't mean that I don't respect or recognize the differences in eras, geographies, rhythms, or contexts, it's just easier for me to say that than: "They're a hip hop and soul band with a 70s funk sound, like Public Enemy's politically conscious approach, but with three MCs, an underground vibe, and an old school horn section, but they've also got hard bop grooves from a real back up band and singers, and of course a DJ".
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