The foundation of many contemporary modern music genres comes from Soul Music. Soul emerged in the late 1950’s from the Gospel music found in African-American churches. The vocals were filled with melody and rhythm and the vibe was upbeat and joyous as the choir sings their love for God through their own artistic expression. While some gospel songs were made for joyful exuberance, others were sung at much slower songs with deeper emotion, this actually formed the foundations of the two different types of Soul music to come.
The very first introduction to Soul music came when artists decided to rewrite the existing Gospel music into pieces that were secular, removing the religious aspect and instead using the songs to express human emotion. Up tempo Gospel songs now became happy, vibrant Soul tracks and the slower Gospel music was adapted to produce mesmerising love songs.
A good example of the secular adaptation of this come in the form of Ray Charles and his masterpiece “I’ve got a woman’ which was released in 1954 as a rendition of the Gospel song ‘I’ve got a saviour’. Another famous example of this is James Brown and his 1956 smash hit ‘Please, please, please’ which was a gospel song talking about yearning for God’s love, which James Brown turned into a song yearning for a woman’s love.
The Mid-fifties saw Soul starting to gain a following and social support, with talented artists coming up everywhere on the scene. Another tremendous Soul pioneer was Sam Cooke who joined the ‘Soul Stirrers’ as a young teen, he also had a knack for turning Gospel songs and rewrote the gospel song ‘Wonderful’ into a secular love song called ‘Lovable’, ironically, this didn’t make him very lovable with the other band members and he was forced to leave the group shortly thereafter.
Sam had an illustrious career as a Soul music trailblazer, he even went as far as to unite the two genres of rock and Soul music and in 1957 he wrote You send me, a crossover track that actually soared past the legendary Elvis Presley’s chart-topping ‘Jailhouse rock’. Before Sam could enjoy the lofty heights and true success of his work, he was murdered in Downtown Los Angeles and even though he may not have lived to see his full potential, the foundation he laid for the Soul music genre was undeniably important work, opening the door for many African-American Soul artists to break onto the scene in the years to come.
Detroit and Chicago – Northern Soul
In the early 1960’s, Soul music was dominated by Motown records Pop-Soul bands. Berry Gordy founded Motown records, a label that was exclusively to represent up and coming Soul, Motown and R&B artists. Gordy has tremendous success with the label, picking up some of modern music’s most prolific stars along with his impressive career as head of the label and as a producer.
The Detroit-based Motown Records was right in the epicentre of the developing soul scene and is considered by many to be the shining testament to Soul. For without Gordy and his label, Soul may never have broken into the mainstream and would have remained in relative obscurity, considering that soul music was the building block of so many of today’s sounds such as modern R&B, Hip-Hop, and pop. The importance of Gordy and his label, as well as the Detroit and Chicago, sounds that were developed by the Motown are instrumental to the progression and evolution of a large part of modern music.
The ‘Motown sound’ produced dozens upon dozens of chart-topping classics that saw the rise of many artists such as the Supremes, the Four Topps, the Funk brothers and Diana Ross.
Some of the chart-busting singles dropped by Berry Gordy and the Motown label include; Uptight (Everything’s Alright) by Stevie Wonder, ‘The Tracks of My Tears’ by The Miracles, and ‘I Heard It Through the Grapevine’ by Marvin Gaye, whose album What’s Goin’ On, released in 1974 has to be one of the crowning achievements of his career and is widely recognised as one of the most popular Soul tracks of all time. The real hits of the Motown era would come from a group that would be set to feature one of the greatest pop icons ever to grace a recording studio, the Jackson Five featuring their little brother, who was set to become the shining star of pop music in the decades to come. Michael Jackson. Their song ‘I’ll be there’ was Motown’s biggest hit and they quickly shot to superstardom.
Across town, a very different style of Soul music as developing in Chicago. Curtom records were founded by Curtis Mayfield, who used the label as a means to speak about the social and political injustices being perpetrated on the black communities of America at the time. Some of Curtoms best records were We’re a Winner and Keep on Pushing, regarded as some of the greatest Soul music ever written.
Memphis – Southern Soul
Down in the South, in Memphis, Tennessee, a powerful and innovative style of Soul music was grabbing hold of the social culture of the Sixties. There were two influential labels that led the production scene; ‘Stax Records’ was a label that went on to produce one of the defining sounds of Southern Soul music; ‘Deep Soul’ and ‘Hi records’ developed the ‘Memphis soul’ sound. Deep soul was defined by its powerful effect and Memphis soul by its smooth production.
Deep-soul hits that came out of the Stax Records and Hi Records stables included classics like Sam and Dave’s ‘Soul Man’, Wilson Pickett’s In the ‘Midnight Hour’. Booker T. & the M.G.’s were a mixed-race Soul band that had a funk edge while ‘the Mar-Keys’ were another act that had an R&B edge and had hits such as ‘Green Onions’. At Hi Records, producer Willie Mitchell used instruments like horns, strings and backup singers to produce the early beginnings of house style music and became one of the leading artists out of Hi Records with smash hits like Al Greene and his crossover hits of the seventies that included the likes of ‘Call me’ & ‘Let’s Stay Together’. He also recorded the gospel-soul classics ‘Take Me To The River’ and ‘Love and ‘Happiness’.
Other notable soul musicians from the South side of Soul music include female legends like Aretha Franklin, who used female gospel styles in soul music toward the mid-1960s, and who can ever forget Percy Sledge, whose stunning 1966 single ‘When a Man Loves a Woman’ went down as one of the soul’s greatest-selling records of all-time. Both these talented artists, as well as many others that came out of the South, recorded some of their careers most memorable music with a small band of white ‘session musicians‘ named ‘the Swampers’ at the legendary FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama. All of these talented artists came together at the right time in the right place to create a genre of music that defined an era and paved the way for the advancement of the modern sounds of R&B and pop music that we see in chart-topping artists of the Nineties all the way into 2017.
- Gospel to Soul: Sam Cooke – Portrait of a Legend 1951-1964, Aretha Franklin – Amazing Grace, 30 Greatest Hits
- R&B to Soul: Ray Charles – The Birth of Soul, James Brown – Live at the Apollo
- Early Motown: Various Artists – Motown Greatest Hits, The Supremes – Gold
- Later Motown: Marvin Gaye – What’s Going On, Stevie Wonder – Original Musiquarium I
- Contemporary R&B: Various Artists – Essential R&B: 90’s Anthems, Macy Gray – On How Life Is
- Memphis Soul: Al Green – Let’s Stay Together, Ann Peebles – Straight from the Heart
- Deep Soul: Various Artists – Stax Number Ones, Otis Redding – The King of Soul
Soul music today
Since the first Soul music washed out across the airwaves and inspired a nation of new artists to come up and establish a scene, the movement has only gained further traction. The power of Soul music has transformed and morphed itself to keep up with popular culture and technology over the years and its influence can be seen everywhere in modern contemporary music. Pop artists, R&B sensations, and Hip-Hop stars have all benefitted from the trail blazed by the early pioneers of Soul music and the passion and love they had for their pursuit of an ideal and a dream that Soul music provided them through their own creative expression. Artists like Mary J Blige, Whitney Houston, and Mariah Carey all admit to having strong soul influences on their own styles.
Events for a Soul music experience
Soul music is a sound that belongs at any live event that needs an uplifting experience that everyone will remember. The adaptability of Soul means that it can be used for a variety of occasions and functions. From small, intimate affairs that have only a few guests, right up to grandstand events that are attended by hundreds, if not thousands of people. Soul music has something for everyone and reaches across a wide spectrum of cultures and classes to bring together everyone in a musical spectacle that will leave you breathless.
From corporate events where you want live entertainment that engages the audience, to a wedding reception that needs to feel romantic and close, Soul music will suit just about any occasion with its diverse nature and its stack of hits that everyone will know and love. So, if you are planning a function, hire a funk and soul band for the live entertainment experience that will give you and your guests the best event ever!
Soul Fresh – The new legacy of live Soul music performance
If you are need of something that’s spectacular for your wedding reception, corporate party or any event where you need some quality live entertainment, consider ‘Soul Fresh’, the hottest Soul music experience that you can find. Their talented performances leave audiences spellbound as they lay down all the best classics from the soulful Sixties right up until the modern era of R&B and Pop hits that we all know and love so well.
Perfect harmonies, beautiful melodies, and the silkiest smooth vocals are what you can expect when Soul Fresh take the stage, they ae true professionals that value the opportunity they have to give their audiences the time of their lives every time that they step out on stage. Their contemporary twist on new and old hits get you and your guest out on the dancefloor and their full brass section gives the sound a powerful and punchy sound.
Book ‘Soul Fresh’ with Earcandy Entertainment and make your next event a soulful entertainment experience.