20 of the Best R&B Hits of the 1950s

The 1950’s were an era of dramatic social and cultural transformation that would pave the way for civil rights activism, rock & roll music and rhythm and blues (R&B) music as unifying force among American youth, helping bridge racial divisions while inspiring future genres of music.

Main characteristics of soul music were soulful singing and an upbeat backbeat, often featuring love/relationship-themed lyrics. Piano trios and doo-wop vocal harmonies became particularly popular.

Pat Boone – “Ain’t That a Shame”

Cover versions of R&B or rock and roll songs by white pop singers often represent a breakthrough for that genre on mainstream radio, as witnessed by “Ain’t That Shame,” which became a number one hit for both Fats Domino and Pat Boone in 1955.

Boone had become an instantaneous heartthrob to young girls thanks to his movie appearances, yet was still relatively inexperienced when recording this song for Dot Records’ president, Wood. They agreed on a handshake contract in Gallatin, Tennessee where Boone would record as soon as appropriate material became available for him.

Instead, Wood brought Boone to Chicago to record with bandleader Dave Bartholomew and his orchestra under Dave Bartholomew’s baton; their brass section added an upbeat edge that fit better with Boone’s singing style; this addition of brass also emphasized more upbeat vibe that fit his vocal delivery better. At the same time, however, Boone still managed to remain true to the spirit of Fats Domino’s original composition while emphasizing its melancholic lyrics with unique vocal interpretation.

As a result, the two recordings differ significantly; Fats Domino’s version invokes feelings of optimism and love while Boone’s evokes sadness, regret and longing. Yet both versions remain classic doo-wop hits that have become part of American musical heritage.

With his success, Pat Boone established himself as a pioneer of breaking down racial barriers when it came to translating R&B and rock and roll songs for white audiences of his day. This trend continued over decades as more pop artists took up the challenge of adapting R&B music for white listeners by changing tempo, removing horn sections or changing voiced pronunciation – changes meant to make R&B music more appealing and palatable to white listeners.

The Platters – “The Great Pretender”

The Platters’ rendition of “The Great Pretender” is an emotional ballad that captures heartbreak’s pain and loneliness through lush harmonies and emotive vocals, creating an emotive sense of vulnerability and yearning that’s both moving and powerful. The song became one of their signature hits during their 50s run as one of the most beloved R&B groups – it even appeared in Rock Around the Clock as part of its iconic status! They continued producing hit after hit throughout this decade including iconic tracks like “Only You” and “Searchin’.”

“Hound Dog” by Elvis Presley remains a timeless rock and roll classic that propelled its genre into mainstream popularity. Its catchy melody and upbeat tempo combined with Presley’s powerful vocals make this timeless song timeless even today, continuing its legacy across generations and genres.

“Heartbreak Hotel,” written and performed by Elvis Presley, is another iconic R&B hit of the 1950s. This slow ballad effectively conveys heartbreak’s pain and isolation while its delicate melody and emotive vocals create an overwhelming feeling of desperation and loss that’s both touching and heartbreaking at the same time.

R&B in the 1950s was a time of enormous creativity and innovation, from Sam Cooke’s soulful ballads to Little Richard’s rock and roll classics, this music left an indelible mark on culture. Motown also flourished during this decade thanks to acts such as Supremes, Smokey Robinson & Miracles, Four Tops etc. R&B continued evolving during this era with psychedelic sounds, rock funk disco and eventually merging with pop in the late ’80s.

Are You Feeling Lost In History Or Looking To Relax And Listen to Classic R&B Songs? Regardless, these tunes will take you back in time and help bring memories flooding back – so sit back, relax and enjoy these timeless classics!

Johnnie Ray & the Four Lads – “Cry”

R&B music evolved out of African American experience as immigrants migrated into urban centers in search of economic opportunity. Artists such as Fats Domino and Sam Cooke pioneered R&B by condensing dance-friendly jazz and wailing blues into Top 40 songwriting that laid the groundwork for rock and roll music.

As a precursor to the 1970s funk and soul explosion, R&B began incorporating elements of rock, funk, disco, and pop into its formulas. Through the 1990s R&B continued its transformations into various styles such as pop or hip-hop music.

In the 1950s, Toronto-born vocal group The Four Lads reigned supreme on North American pop scene with their distinctive image and multi-part harmonies, becoming a phenomenon. Their rendition of popular ballad “Lean On Me” became one of the biggest hits of their era.

Churchill Kohlman wrote and recorded “Okeh 6840,” released as Columbia Records Catalog No. 30Street in New York City as Catalog Number Okeh 6840, at Columbia Studios’ 30Street studio as Okeh 6840. This version became a double-sided hit; with “The Little White Cloud That Cried” reaching number two on the charts. Later recordings by The Four Lads for Kapp, Dot, and United Artists would fail to hit charts again during their recording careers through 1960s recordings without ever hitting any charts again!

This heartwarming and nostalgic ballad by Cole speaks of time passing quickly while remembering past experiences with loved ones. The simple melody combined with his melodious vocals create an eloquent yet melancholy sound that is both warm and bittersweet; helping cement his place amongst one of history’s great vocalists.

James Brown, often called the “godfather of soul”, was an innovator in rhythm and blues music’s development. His 1956 hit single, “Please Please Please,” reached No. 2 on the R&B charts – setting off a chain reaction which led to funk and soul music styles emerging later. Brown would continue his prolific career with numerous other hits reaching No.1 of Billboard R&B charts and was honored with induction into Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986.

The Drifters – “Sincerely”

The 1950s witnessed a golden age of music creativity, and R&B stood at the forefront. Influencing rock and roll and soul genres as it is today, this genre remains popular today and here are 20 songs from this era that perfectly embody it! Enjoy listening!

R&B (Rhythm and Blues) is an American musical genre combining influences from jazz, gospel music and traditional blues. Originating as a distinct style during World War II and growing increasingly popular during its subsequent popularity on black radio stations throughout the 1950s; today this style incorporates elements from rock ‘n’ roll, disco and hip hop into its repertoire.

“Rhythm and blues” was initially applied only to electric blues records; however, over time it came to encompass various African-American music styles and their related lyrical themes such as discrimination, poverty and relationships within African-American communities.

Doo-wop music emerged during the early 1950s. Characterized by acoustic instruments, and featuring both bass-tone vocals as well as high falsetto vocals. Doo-wop featured an infectious rhythmic beat with catchy melodies; many popular R&B hits from this era included doo-wop; it became a staple in jukeboxes and dance halls alike.

The Drifters were one of the most iconic doo-wop groups from Cleveland during the 1950s, with their signature hit “Sincerely”. Established by DJ Alan Freed for local promotion on his radio show in Cleveland, their harmonies became particularly beloved, making this song an international phenomenon.

Original Drifters members were Bobby Lester, Harvey Fuqua, Pete Graves and Prentiss Barnes. Lester passed away unexpectedly in Louisville in 1980 but the remaining members have continued performing with other artists while also touring and recording independently; one song by The Drifters known as Sincerely has even been included on Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s list of 500 Songs That Shaped Rock & Roll!