R&B created the foundation for The Beatles: "Rock 'n' roll is black music"

John Lennon said in an interview that he was inspired by the music of African Americans. R&B was at the heart of not only The Beatles, but all of rock, but what did R&B mean to the Beatles?

How rhythm and blues inspired The Beatles.

Rhythm and blues (R&B) is a popular musical style, created by African Americans. It included both elements of popular African American music and a large number of elements from the blues.

The Beatles
The Beatles

Rhythm and blues at the beginning of the last century was called mass music based on blues and jazz styles. In the late 40s, rhythm and blues became official term to designate modern, with an element of dance rhythm, popular trends in the music of African American performers.

Rhythm and blues was very popular in middle of the last century - it was the peak of African American music: at least a couple of such songs were played in every club and every disco, and sometimes nothing but them was played at all. Rhythm and blues, along with country, contributed to the emergence of rock and roll.

John Lennon in his famous glasses
John Lennon in his famous glasses

In 1969, Billboard magazine introduced a new term for popular music in this direction, renaming its hit parade "Best Selling Soul Singles". Soul music has become more wide a concept that included the music of performers of different races and nationalities.

R&B influence on The Beatles

John Lennon always said that there would be no Beatles without rhythm and blues. In fact, if there were no rhythm and blues, then in this scenario - at all there would be no rock'n'roll. Here is what John Lennon himself said about this:

“I will never stop admitting that black music is my life,” John told Jet magazine in 1972. “The Beatles and Sgt. Pepper and all that jazz, it doesn't mean anything. What I'm talking about started in 1958 when I heard Little Richard's 'Long Tall Sally', when I heard Chuck Berry's 'Johnny Be Good', when I heard Bo Diddley. It completely changed my life."

John and Chuck
John and Chuck

During this time, Lennon focused on his studies at the Liverpool College of Art. He met Paul McCartney in the summer of 1957 during a performance by Lennon's skiffle band at St. Peter's Church. McCartney joined the line-up in October, followed by George Harrison in February.

The core for The Beatles was created. "I quit my art, I quit school," Lennon said:

“I dropped everything. I had a guitar and that was the end of everything else."

The Beatles' music was closely tied to the music that grew out of black America throughout the band's early period, consistently incorporating key rhythm and blues tracks into their set lists - and, last but not least, its sound into their songs. And Lennon noted that they were not alone in this.

"Berry," Lennon said, "had a huge impact on the entire Earth. So is Bo Diddley, so is Little Richard. There isn't a single white band on Earth that doesn't have roots in their music. And that's all I listened to at the time," he added. Lennon then said:

“The only white person I listened to at the time was Elvis Presley; on his early recordings, he actually made black music. Presley lived then in Memphis; and for sure he listened to “black” music. And he wanted to play that kind of music. And I wanted too.”

This influence first manifested itself in imitation when Lennon took the microphone to sing covers classic songs by the Isley Brothers (“Twist and Shout”), The Marvelettes (“Please Mr. Postman”), Barrett Strong (“Money [That's What I Want]”) and country soul pioneer Arthur Alexander (“Anna [Go to Him ]”).

Harrison added Smokey Robinson's "You Really Got a Hold on Me" and Chuck's "Roll Over Beethoven", while McCartney added Little Richard's "Long Tall Sally" to the repertoire.

“I said to myself: “Why can’t I sing like that?” I really wanted to do it, and so I tried to do it,” admitted Lennon. "I copied all these people and other Beatles too - until we developed our own style."

"The ugly scars of England's earlier racist-colonial period still taint British ports," Lennon said. “But Liverpool has always been a city of hippers, unlike much of the country. We've been listening to funky black music all our lives when people all over Britain and Europe have never heard of it."

ships came to Britain with goods to trade and, more importantly, music from America for The Beatles' hungry ears.

“I grew up with blues music, country and western music. The sailors brought American folk music - all kinds of it, ”said Lennon. “I immersed myself in rhythm and blues through Bo Diddley, Chuck Berry and Little Richard. But first I heard Leadbelly, then Robert Johnson and Sleepy John Estes. And later, in 1958, I moved on to Chuck Berry and other rhythm and blues musicians.

John Lennon
John Lennon

His own music eventually went far, far away, but Lennon always returned to those African-American roots. He jammed these songs during The Beatles sessions and covered Berry's "Sweet Little Sixteen", Lee Dorsey's "Ya Ya" and Lloyd Price's "Just Because" after the band broke up. His rendition of "Stand By Me" by Ben E. King reached No. 20 on the charts in the summer of 1975.

“So, black music was my life and remains so,” Lennon summed up in an interview in the early 70s. “Of course there is a lot of great white music these days. But really, it's still black music. That's it, dude. Black music started a revolution in the world, the so-called youth revolution. The global style change started with rock and roll, and rock and roll is black music.”

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