The Truth About Rock ‘n Roll: The Whitewashing of R ‘n B

R ‘n B, or Rhythm and clues, a combination of urban blues and the upbeat tempo of swing, with soulful vocals. This genre has a very significant history because it created racial controversy that reflects the history of  this country. While Rhythm and Blues was widely played amongst black radio stations, it was only when R ‘n B become extremely popularized that some white stations started to play the genre.

Alan Freed began playing R ‘n B under the name “Rock ‘n Roll” so it would be more acceptable to the white audience. Shortly after, the segregationist south called to ban “Rock ‘n Roll ” from the radio station. They saw the influence that it had on young Americans, deeming the music unacceptable.

Record companies and radio stations alike attempted to alleviate this outrage by playing covers of black songs by white artists. Because white radio stations refused to play the original songs, the white artists received more money and credit than their white counterparts. Two examples of this injustice are Big Mama Thornton’s “Hound Dog” and Little Richard’s “Tutti Frutti.”

While many people do not consider the white covers to be negative, one must understand that these covers were exploitation. Black artists put their hard work into the arrangements and lyrics of their songs, but they did not receive the same praise. This exploitation reveals a historical moment where the nation appreciated the sound and not the blackness. It was only until the listeners demanded the original songs when the radio stations started playing them. Even then, when they had to play in front of their white audience, they still had to travel and perform in a segregated nation.

Black R ‘n B artists during this time had to fight for their right  for radio stations to play their music. They had to endure the hardships the a segregated nation offered. This genre reveals the way that black people create what becomes popular in the nation. 

Deja Mason

Deja Mason

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