That Rhythm, Those Blues
American Experience Season 1

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Episode Info

The African-American music known as rhythm and blues helped break down the racial barriers of segregation at a time when Jim Crow laws were the norm in the United States. Directed by George T. Nierenberg, this documentary aired as an episode of the Emmy award-winning PBS television series The American Experience. As shown here, R&B music had grown out of the traditional blues and gospel. Nierenberg traces the increase in popularity of the genre. In the 1940s, R&B spread through live performances because white-owned radio stations refused to play the music. Yet, eventually, whites embraced the style and its dances. Highlights include archival footage of the famed Apollo Theatre in Harlem, as well as profiles of numerous R&B pioneers, including Ruth Brown and Charles Brown.