Wednesday, February 24, 2010

When R&B Went New Wave...

It doesn't get remembered much anymore, but there was a brief period in the early 1980s when elements of New Wave--a predominantly white musical genre--found their way into R&B.

And these weren't tunes designed to crossover into white markets. A segment of black teens were listening to New Wave music (such as the B-52s, the Vapors, Blondie and others), and influential black radio DJs like Chicago's Herb Kent--whose "Punk Out" show on the old WXFM was huge--were spinning New Wave jams for black audiences. So black music took steps to keep up.

Leon Sylvers III's wicked-as-hell bassline (coupled with Earnest Reed's guitar work) in Janet Jackson's "Come Give Your Love to Me" from 1982 has heavy New Wave elements. As does O'Bryan's "Gigolo":

Even jazz folks got in on it. Here's a forgotten (and partly inexplicable) one from Bill Summers & Summers Heat, "Seventeen."

And there is Andre Cymone, the talented protege of Prince: