Who Sings R&B Music?

R&B (Rhythm & Blues) music has a rich and vibrant history spanning several decades, reaching its pinnacle during the 1990s when girl groups such as SWV and Destiny’s Child experienced unprecedented global fame.

These iconic artists set an outstanding standard for modern R&B, while emerging talents like Erykah Badu and Giveon represent new waves of talent.

Marvin Gaye

Marvin Gaye was a legendary Motown artist credited with changing the course of soul music forever. One of the first Black artists to use urban soul to express personal and social concerns through urban soul, Marvin created an influential body of work which still influences R&B music today.

Although he dropped out of high school, Gaye quickly found work as a drummer and crooner. His beautiful tenor voice and three-octave vocal range caught the attention of Motown impresario Berry Gordy in 1961 and earned him duets with Tammi Terrell that would become classics during 1967 and 1968: such songs by Nickolas Ashford and Valerie Simpson as “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” and “Your Precious Love”. With Terrell gone, Gaye fell into depression; eventually returning with groundbreaking album What’s Going On which addressed issues including Vietnam, poverty and racism.

Gaye’s political content marked a distinct change from his earlier hits; lyrics of its title track call on listeners to take action against police brutality and general miscarriages of justice. Following Diana Ross’ 1973 duet album Diana & Marvin and scoring one last No.1 hit in 1974 (‘Got to Give It Up Pt. 1) his marriage ended and as part of settlement payment arrangements made up for missed payments on Here My Dear a 1978 album was recorded with ironic title Here, My Dear as reparations payment of missed payments made against missed payments made for missed alimony payments made against Anna Gordy in 1978 sardonically entitled Here My Dear to make amends for missed payments made towards missed payments on missed alimony payments due to missed payments made towards him from him!

Even after his murder by his own father in 1984, Marvin Gaye left behind an extensive legacy. A film chronicling his life titled What’s Going On was released in 2006 and two years later the TV documentary Remembering Marvin premiered on PBS. Additionally, modern musicians such as Cyndi Lauper and the Commodores have paid their respects with remakes of some of Gaye’s best work; additionally in 2008 BBC/PBS broadcasted Marvin Gaye: A Funky Space Reincarnation on PBS as part of an R&B-soul music series called Marvin Gaye: A Funky Space Reincarnation that made its debut. Ultimately Gaye remains an influential part of R&B history while soul music remains essential within its canon.

Stevie Wonder

Stevie Wonder is one of the most esteemed R&B musicians ever, famed for his singing, writing and pianist skills as well as being a humanitarian and activist. Due to this involvement he has performed at many high-profile events; known for making audiences feel the music. Furthermore, he has written songs for multiple other artists.

Wonder was born blind in Saginaw, Michigan in 1950 due to macular degeneration resulting from blood vessels behind his retinas not growing forward as intended, which damaged the optic nerve and resulted in macular degeneration. Over the course of his early musical development he wrote his first chart-topper at age 12 after signing with Motown’s Tamla label – his debut album Fingertips Pt 2 became an instantaneous hit launching his career; later he started writing songs under his own name rather than under his alias of Little Stevie for even longer.

Wonder’s prolific work during the 1970s established him as an esteemed artist while helping shape modern pop music. He released Songs in the Key of Life – an impressive double album which became an astounding commercial success – which contained such hits as Sir Duke (dedicating itself to jazz greats he’d been inspired by), I Wish, an uptempo anthem; as well as Isn’t She Lovely (written for celebrating his daughter’s birth). Additionally, radio played it often and enjoyed listening out for Isn’t She Lovely as well.

Wonder was one of several R&B artists during his era who brought R&B albums into the modern era, crafting cohesive statements with his albums about various subjects ranging from spirituality, love and family life to subjects such as spirituality and family matters. Many other musicians including Luther Vandross and George Michael covered his songs.

Wonder remained active throughout the 1990s, collaborating with many notable artists as he recorded music of his own and performing charity events and in honor of deceased musical icons like Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston and Prince. Additionally, in April 2018 Wonder joined other celebrities at Global Citizen event for COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund of WHO.

Aretha Franklin

Aretha Franklin was one of the most iconic and influential singers in music history, known as the “Queen of Soul.” Her talents were enhanced through years of training as a gospel singer; with powerful yet soulful vocals as well as a sense of purpose to inspire others through song, she made history while remaining relevant today.

Aretha began recording with Columbia Records after signing with legendary talent scout John Hammond. Though her years at Columbia Records provided valuable experience and exposure, they did not produce many hit singles for Aretha. Following this move to Atlantic Records with producer Ahmet Ertegun who understood all forms of African American music traditions such as jazz, blues, soul, etc,

Aretha’s sound transformed upon signing with Ertegun Records. Veteran arranger Arif Mardin helped Aretha craft more contemporary recordings – which led to huge chart success with Aretha and Jump to It albums.

Aretha truly displayed her talent at the Grammy Awards of 1998 when operatic tenor Luciano Pavarotti had to cancel due to illness; Aretha took his place and stunned producers, musicians and the audience by singing Pavarotti’s iconic piece Nessun Dorma from Puccini’s Turandot in its original key – stunning everyone present and impressing all involved with a thrilling rendition that stunned everyone involved.

The performance was an affirmation of Aretha’s extraordinary musical talents and demonstrated her ability to reach global audiences with her music. Furthermore, it demonstrated how someone who had witnessed heartache could still overcome it all and remain an inspirational figure for future generations.

Aretha continued her dominance of the charts with Spirit in the Dark and Young, Gifted and Black albums. Additionally, Aretha made history musically as the first soul artist ever to perform at Fillmore rock venue; later that same year she recorded live for Amazing Grace which went on to become the best-selling gospel album of all time and includes powerful reflections of pain and loss as well as encouraging messages of hopefulness.

Whitney Houston

Whitney Houston is one of the best-selling singers of all time. Additionally, she is an esteemed film actress; making her film acting debut in 1992’s The Bodyguard (with Dolly Parton’s “I Will Always Love You”) which spent 14 weeks at number one on Billboard Hot 100 chart and won Houston four Grammy Awards – setting a new record at that time.

Houston went on to appear in several more movies, such as Waiting to Exhale and The Preacher’s Wife (both featuring hit soundtracks), before her personal life started unraveling in the early 2000s. Her noticeably thinner physique and odd behavior fuelled speculation of drug addiction; an interview on television where she said, “Crack is Whack,” made headlines that damaged her public image further.

Houston persevered despite her troubles to create music; both her debut album in 1983 (self-titled) and second collection Rapture went platinum, becoming R&B classics due to Houston’s powerful contralto and vocal range.

Houston was married to fellow musician Bobby Brown and the couple had one daughter, Bobbi Kristina. In 2009, Houston revealed she had battled depression for some time as well as substance abuse throughout her lifetime – something which only worsened prior to her passing at age 48 on February 11th 2012.

The Great Migration from 1916 – 1970 brought African-Americans from rural Southern communities into urban hubs such as Atlanta, New York City and Los Angeles where they became exposed to new forms of African American art like fashion, film and music. R&B emerged during this time as an expression of African-American experience.

Though there have been many other notable figures in R&B music history, these six have left an indelible mark on the genre. Their talents made an incredible statement about its evolution – be sure to stay tuned for updates from Epidemic Sound on all the latest hits and trends within this genre! Need help building up your library? Reach out; we are more than happy to assist!