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Soul music

Music Sound

Soul music

Boogaloo | Chicago soul | Funk | Neo soul | Girl groups | Soca music | Memphis soul | Modern soul | Motown Sound | Neo soul | Northern soul | Philadelphia soul | Psychedelic soul | Soul blues

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Stylistic origins: Secularized gospel music, blues, Rhythm and blues
Cultural origins: late 1950s United States (esp. Memphis and Detroit)
Typical instruments: Guitar - Bass - keyboard - Drums - Horn section - Vocals
Mainstream popularity: Significant around the world from 1960s through early 1980s
Derivative forms: Funk, Disco, contemporary R&B
Northern soul - Modern soul - Blue-eyed soul - Brown-eyed soul - - Girl group - Motown Sound - Quiet Storm - Psychedelic soul
Fusion genres
Neo soul - Soul blues
Regional scenes
Detroit soul - Memphis soul - Philly soul

Soul music is a combination of rhythm and blues and gospel which began in the late 1950s in the United States. Rhythm and blues (a term coined by music writer and record producer Jerry Wexler) is itself a combination of blues and jazz, and arose in the 1940s as small groups, often playing saxophones, built upon the blues tradition. Soul music is differentiated by its use of gospel-music devices, its greater emphasis on vocalists, and its merging of religious and secular themes.


The story of soul

Sam Cooke, shown on the cover of his 1964 album Ain't That Good News, is considered one of the founders of soul music. Sam Cooke, shown on the cover of his 1964 album Ain't That Good News, is considered one of the founders of soul music

Sam Cooke, Ray Charles and James Brown are commonly considered the beginnings of soul music. Solomon Burke's early recordings for Atlantic Records codified the style, and as Peter Guralnick writes, "it was only with the coming together of Burke and Atlantic Records that you could see anything resembling a movement." Burke's recordings, in the early 1960s, of "Cry to Me," "Just Out of Reach" and "Down in the Valley" are considered classics of the genre.

In Memphis, Stax Records produced recordings by Otis Redding, Wilson Pickett and Don Covay (Covay also recorded in New York City for Atlantic). Joe Tex's 1965 "The Love You Save" is another classic soul recording. An important center of soul-music recording was Florence, Alabama, where the Fame Studios operated. Jimmy Hughes, Percy Sledge and Arthur Alexander recorded at Fame; later in the 1960s, Aretha Franklin would also record in the area. Fame Studios, often referred to as "Muscle Shoals", after a town neighboring Florence, enjoyed a close relationship with Stax, and many of the musicians and producers who worked in Memphis also contributed to recordings done in Alabama.

Another important Memphis label that produced soul recordings was Goldwax Records, whose owner was Quinton Claunch. Goldwax signed O. V. Wright and James Carr, who would go on to make several records considered essential examples of the genre. Carr's "The Dark End of the Street," written by Chips Moman and Dan Penn (often incorrectly credited to Dan Penn/Spooner Oldham), was recorded at two other important Memphis studios, Royal Recording and American Sound Studios, in 1967. In addition, American Studios owner Chips Moman produced "Dark End of the Street," and the musicians on the record were his house band of Reggie Young, Bobby Woods, Tommy Cogbill and Gene Chrisman. And Carr also made recordings at Fame, utilizing musicians David Hood, Jimmy Johnson and Roger Hawkins.

Aretha Franklin's 1967 album I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You is considered one of the most important soul recordings of the 1960s, and features her biggest hit, "Respect". Aretha Franklin's 1967 album I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You is considered one of the most important soul recordings of the 1960s, and features her biggest hit, "Respect".

Aretha Franklin's 1967 recordings, such as "I Never Loved a Man That Way I Love You," "Respect" (a song originally by Otis Redding), and "Do Right Woman-Do Right Man," are commonly considered to be the apogee of the soul-music genre, and among its most commercially successful productions. During this period, Stax artists such as Eddie Floyd and Johnnie Taylor also made significant contributions to soul music. By 1968, the soul-music movement had begun to splinter, as James Brown and Sly and the Family Stone began to expand upon and abstract both soul and rhythm and blues into other forms. As Guralnick writes, "More than anything else, though, what seems to me to have brought the era of soul to a grinding, unsettling halt was the death of Martin Luther King in April of 1968."

Howard Tate's recordings, in the late 1960s, for Verve Records, and later, for Atlantic, produced by Jerry Ragovoy, are another important body of work in the soul genre.

Later examples of soul music include the recordings of The Staple Singers, such as "I'll Take You There," as well as the 1970s recordings, done at Willie Mitchell's Royal Recording in Memphis, of Al Green. Mitchell's Hi Records continued the tradition of Stax in that decade, releasing not only many hits by Green but also important contributions from Ann Peebles, Otis Clay, O. V. Wright and Syl Johnson. Bobby Womack, who recorded with Chips Moman in the late 1960s, continued to produce soul-music recordings in the 1970s and 1980s.

Detroit was another city which produced some important late-soul recordings; producer Don Davis, from the city, worked with Stax artists such as Johnnie Taylor and The Dramatics. The Detroit Emeralds, on early-'70s recordings such as "Do Me Right," are an important link between soul and the later disco style. Motown Records artists such as Marvin Gaye and Smokey Robinson contributed to the evolution of soul music, although their recordings were conceived in a more overtly pop music vein that those of Redding, Franklin or Carr.

Although they are somewhat different from classic soul stylistically, recordings by Chicago-based artists such as Jerry Butler and The Chi-Lites are often considered part of the genre.

Music produced by white musicians which is stylistically similar to black soul music sometimes is called blue-eyed soul.

By the early 1970s, soul music had been influenced by psychedelic rock and other influences. The social and political ferment of the times inspired artists like Gaye (What's Going On) and Curtis Mayfield (Superfly) to release album-length statements with hard-hitting social commentary. Artists like James Brown led soul towards more dance-oriented music, resulting in funk music; funk was typified by 1970s bands like Parliament-Funkadelic, The Meters, and James Brown himself, while more versatile groups like War, the Commodores and Earth, Wind and Fire also became popular. During the 70s, some highly slick and commercial blue-eyed soul acts like Philadelphia's Hall & Oates achieved mainstream success, as well as a new generation of street-corner harmony or "city-soul" groups like The Delfonics and Howard University's Unifics.

By the end of the 70s, disco was dominating the charts and funk. Philly soul and most other genres were dominated by disco-inflected tracks. During this period, groups like The O'Jays and The Spinners continued to turn out hits.

After the death of disco in the early 1980s, soul music survived for a short time before going through yet another metamorphisis. With the introduction of influences from electro music and funk, soul music became less raw and more slickly produced, resulting in a genre of music that was once again called R&B (although the term is no longer an acronym), usually disinguished from the earlier rhythm and blues by identifying it as "contemporary R&B".

Today the North of England is a bastion of "The Music" aka Soul Music, with many of the most prolific collectors in the world residing and/or socialising there. Both the Northern Soul and Modern soul genres flourish in the clubs of that small strip of land, spanning from Liverpool to Leeds and from Preston down to Stoke.

Genres of soul

Blue-eyed soul

Usually performed by white artists, blue-eyed soul is often characterized by catchy hooks and melodies. It arose from a mixture of Elvis Presley and Bill Haley-derived rockabilly and Dion and The Four Seasons-inspired doo wop; other performers include Righteous Brothers, Hall & Oates, The Rascals, Mitch Ryder & the Detroit Wheels, Dusty Springfield, Boy George, George Michael. David Bowie's Young Americans album is widely regarded as a late classic of the genre.

Detroit (Motown) soul and Northern soul

Dominated by Berry Gordy's Motown empire and often referred to as the "Motown Sound", Detroit soul is strongly rhythmic and influenced by gospel. It often includes handclapping and a powerful bass line, and includes violins, bells and other untraditional instruments. Motown's house band was The Funk Brothers. Other performers: Marvin Gaye, The Temptations, Smokey Robinson & the Miracles, Gladys Knight & the Pips, Martha Reeves & the Vandellas, The Marvelettes, Mary Wells, Diana Ross & the Supremes, The Jackson 5, The Four Tops, Stevie Wonder; songwriters: Holland-Dozier-Holland, Norman Whitfield, Barrett Strong, Smokey Robinson, Nickolas Ashford & Valerie Simpson, Ivy Jo Hunter, Roger Penzabene.

Northern Soul is a style of music with associated dance styles and fashions that developed in the 'North of England' in the late 1960s. In the beginning the dancing was athletic, featuring spins, flips, and drops. The music originally consisted of obscure American soul recordings with an uptempo beat, very similar to and including Tamla Motown, plus more obscure labels (e.g. Okeh) from Northern cities like Detroit and Chicago (in contrast to Southern styles like Memphis soul). By 1970 British performers were recording numbers for this market, and the scarcity of soul records with the required beat led to the playing of stompers, or records by any artist which featured the right beat. The phrase 'Northern Soul' was coined by English journalist Dave Godin sometime around 1971 when writing his column in Blues and Soul magazine. Northern Soul is amongst the most expensive of all musical genres to collect and the movement has set new heights in the resale market of obscure vinyl. Many hundreds of 7" discs have now broken the £1,000 [c.$2,000] valuation barrier, with some even dwarfing that sum. For example, Frank Wilson's "Do I love you" was sold, several years ago, for £15,000 [c.$30,000]. The value of many discs has appreciated due to a combination of factors such as the quality of beat, melody and lyric [virtually always deeply touching the listener, by expressing heartache / pain / joy due to the vagaries of romantic love] in combination with rarity. Most Northern soul artists were having a go at stardom without all of the necessary ingredients being in place. Low-budget, independent labels simply couldn't deliver the necessary promotion, nor radio play. Thence, the often very talented artists with superb compositions, had to go back to their day jobs, thinking themselves failures, with the records being poorly promoted and sinking into obscurity, never to be heard outside of Northen England again!

Modern soul

For more details on this topic, see Modern soul

Modern soul is a term coined in Northern England and was born out of Northern Soul. Its birth can arguably be traced back to a single event. One night in the mid 70s, Ian Levine, a DJ at the Blackpool Mecca soul club played a new release by a group called The Carstairs. This caused a falling-out within the followers of Northern Soul music. Some wanted to stick with the traditional "stomper" sound, whilst some were ready to move on and explore the new releases, seeking and accepting a richer, more intricately-produced and complex-sounding, Hi-Fi friendlier product. New releases were thereafter referred to as "Modern Soul" by the soul fans. A new genre that has flourished - it is alive and well in 21st Century England - had been born.

Southern soul

Generally refers to a driving, energetic soul style combining R&B's energy with pulsating Southern gospel music sounds, as produced at Stax in Memphis. Stax self-consciously nurtured a distinctive sound, which included putting vocals further back in the mix than most contemporary R&B records, the use of vibrant horn parts in the place of background vocals, and a focus on the low end of the frequency spectrum. The vast majority of Stax releases were backed by house bands Booker T and the MGs (which included soul legends Booker T. Jones, Steve Cropper, Duck Dunn, and Al Jackson) and the Memphis Horns (the splinter horn section of the Mar-Keys), and the label counted Otis Redding, Carla Thomas, Sam & Dave, Rufus Thomas, William Bell, and Eddie Floyd among its stars. People interested in learning more about Stax's history and music are advised to check out Peter Guralnik's Sweet Soul Music (which also serves as a very poetic primer on Soul in general) and basically anything by Rob Bowman (who seems to have talked with nearly every still-living person who was connected with Stax).

Memphis soul

A shimmering, sultry style of soul music produced in the 1960s and 1970s at Stax Records and Hi Records in Memphis, featuring tasteful, melancholic, melodic horns, organ, bass, and drums, as heard in recordings by Hi's Al Green and Stax's Booker T. & the M.G.'s. The latter group also sometimes played in the harder-edged Southern soul style. The Hi label's Hi Rhythm Section house band and Willie Mitchell's production style developed the signature, surging soul style heard in the label's many hit recordings of the 1970s. Some Stax recordings also fit into this style and had their own unique sound.

Neo soul

For more details on this topic, see Neo soul.

A mixture of 1970s soul-styled vocals and instrumentation with a contemporary R&B sound and hip hop beats and rap interludes, neo-soul first appeared, after previous permutations in new jack swing and hip-hop soul, in the mid-1990s with the work of Tony! Toni! Toné! and D'Angelo. Lauryn Hill, Musiq Soulchild, The Roots and Alicia Keys began massively popularizing the sound. Other performers include Jill Scott, Jaguar Wright, Erykah Badu, Adriana Evans, Maxwell, and India.Arie or even English-born Joss Stone and Tom Fox

Philadelphia soul

Based primarily in the output of the Philadelphia International label, Philadelphia soul had as distinguishing characteristics a lush orchestral sound and doo-wop-inspired vocals. Thom Bell, and Kenneth Gamble & Leon Huff are credited as the founders of Philadelphia soul, which was dominated by artists such as The Delfonics, The Stylistics, Patti LaBelle, The Three Degrees, MFSB, Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes, and McFadden & Whitehead.

Psychedelic soul

A blending of psychedelic rock and soul music in the late-1960s that paved the way for the mainstream emergence of funk music a few years later. Principle figures included muticultural band Sly & the Family Stone, The Fifth Dimension, and, with producer Norman Whitfield, The Temptations and The Undisputed Truth.


  • Download sample of Ray Charles' "What'd I Say", the most well-known hit from Charles, a noted R&B and soul singer
  • Download sample of Otis Redding's "Mr. Pitiful", one of the most well-remembered songs from this soul great
  • Download sample of Aretha Franklin's "Chain of Fools", one of the biggest hits of Franklin's career and a still well-known soul and R&B song
  • Download sample of The Delfonics' "Ready or Not Here I Come (Can't Hide From Love)" from The Sound of Sexy Soul, one of the pioneering recordings of Philly soul
  • Download sample of Marvin Gaye's "What's Going On" from What's Going On, a seminal soul album led by the hit title track, What's Going On transformed the genre from single-led pop to cohesive albums with socio-political lyrical content. "What's Going On", recorded despite condemnation from Gaye's record label, became a hit and has since become one of the most well-known anti-Vietnam protest songs
  • Download sample of D'Angelo's "Untitled (How Does It Feel)" from Voodoo; accompanied by a controversial video featuring nothing but the nude singer, D'Angelo, who is one of the most renowned male artists of the hip hop/R&B/70's soul fusion neo soul

External links


  • Miller, Jim (editor) (1976). The Rolling Stone Illustrated History of Rock & Roll. New York: Rolling Stone Press/Random House. ISBN 0-394-73238-3. (Chapter on "Soul," by Guralnick, Peter. pp. 194-197.
  • Escott, Colin. Liner notes for The Essential James Carr. Razor and Tie Records, 1995.
Soul music
Girl group - Motown Sound - Northern soul - Psychedelic soul - Memphis soul - Neo soul - Funk - Hip hop soul - Disco

Home | Up | Doo-wop | Hip hop soul | New jack swing | Quiet storm | Soul music

Music Sound, v. 2.0, by MultiMedia

This guide is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia.

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