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Quiet storm is a late-night radio format, featuring soulful slow jams, pioneered in the mid-1970s by then-station-intern Melvin Lindsey at WHUR-FM, in Washington, D.C. Smokey Robinson's like-titled hit single, released in 1975 as the title track to his third solo album, lent its name to the format and to the radio program that introduced it to the public. Encompassing a mix of African American music genres, quiet storm music is distinguished by understated, mellow dynamics and relaxed tempos and rhythms. It can be soothingly pensive, or express romantic sentiment. Quiet storm music is similar to soft rock and adult contemporary styles, but it is more closely and unmistakably rooted in R&B and soul music, often with jazz extensions. At its best, the style features an urban sophistication and subdued soulfulness.

Today, quiet storm is a broad term given to an array of mellow, slow-groove contemporary R&B, soul and smooth jazz offerings of the type featured on Melvin Lindsey's WHUR program, and on myriad other stations that followed his lead -- most notably KBLX-FM in San Francisco, which in 1979 became the first radio station in the U.S. to present a 24-hour quiet storm format.




Melvin Lindsey was first a disc jockey for WHUR in 1976 as a stand-in for an employee who failed to report for work because of violent storm that caused power outages and knocked some area radio stations off the air. The response from listeners was positive, and Lindsey stayed on. Founder of Radio One Cathy Hughes, WHUR station manager, heard of the show's positive reception and responded by giving Lindsey his own show.

After a time, the strains of "A Quiet Storm," Robinson's popular recording, became Lindsey's theme music and introduced his time slot every night thereafter. For many, when Robinson's trademark tenor voice wafted out over the airwaves, it signalled a welcome end to the stresses of the workday. "The Quiet Storm" was four hours of melodically soulful music that provided an intimate, laid-back mood tailor-made for late-night listening, and that was the key to its tremendous appeal among adult audiences. The format was an immediate success, becoming so popular that within a few years, virtually every station in the U.S. with a core black, urban listenership adopted a similar format for its graveyard slot. Melvin Lindsey died of AIDS in 1992, but the "Quiet Storm" format he originated remains a staple in radio programming today, almost 30 years after its inception.


Quiet storm programming is credited with launching the careers of Luther Vandross and Anita Baker, and with introducing Sade to U.S. audiences. Classic quiet storm recordings include Frankie Beverly and Maze's "Golden Time of Day," Marvin Gaye's Let's Get It On, the orchestrations of Philadelphia soul, the recordings of Al Green, Barry White, and Bill Withers, much of jazz guitarist Wes Montgomery's work during his CTI (Creed Taylor, Incorporated) years, and the work of jazz-funk saxophonist Grover Washington, Jr.. A little later, in 1986, Peabo Bryson released an album entitled Quiet Storm. Quiet storm was most popular as a programming niche with baby boomers from the mid-'70s to the early '90s, after which time much of mainstream R&B took on a harder, hip-hop influenced approach.

WHUR radio still has a "Quiet Storm" show; and many urban, black radio stations still reserve their late-night programming slots for quiet storm music, as well. Now included in the genre is music with a hip-hop infusion, known as neo soul. Neo soul artists today include Raphael Saadiq, John Legend, Brian McKnight, Joe, Jaheim, D'Angelo, Maxwell, Mary J. Blige, India.Arie, Jill Scott, Lauryn Hill, Erykah Badu, and Alicia Keys. Quiet storm music is also the more mellow, soulful side of smooth and contemporary jazz.

At least one non-commercial FM station, the community-based WGDR in Plainfield, Vermont, broadcasts a weekly, two-hour "Quiet Storm" program -- a 50-50 mix of smooth jazz and soft R&B presented in "Triple-A" (Album Adult Alternative) style, with a strong emphasis on "B" and "C" album tracks that most commercial stations often ignore. Launched in 1998 and hosted by Skeeter Sanders, WGDR's "Quiet Storm" is one of the station's most popular music programs (based on a 2007 listenership survey) and is the only program of its kind on the air in northern New England.

(WHUR owns the rights to the name "Quiet Storm," and any broadcaster using the term for its programming must pay WHUR a royalty fee.)

The mellow, laid-back nature of the format has been parodied, most notably by Tim Meadows on "Saturday Night Live," in which he played a "Quiet Storm" DJ who would react to life-shattering news, such as being fired, having his wife confess to adultery, and even his own murder, with his soothing voice unaltered. Back in the 1990s, Canadian adult contemporary station CFQR-FM in Montreal aired a Quiet Storm program featuring new age music. Most recently, in 2007, Premiere Radio Networks launched a nationally syndicated nightly radio program based upon the Quiet Storm format, known as The Keith Sweat Hotel.

See also

  • A Quiet Storm - the Smokey Robinson record where the song "Quiet Storm" appeared

External links

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