In the first of four shows today we heard some fantastic music and had a brief look at the story of soul music.
Soul music first gained a following during the 1950s. At that time, musicians like Ray Charles and James Brown blended familiar gospel singing with rhythm and blues to produce the first soul music sounds. Some found this early music almost sacrilegious, as depicted in the film Ray, the story of Ray Charles life.. To take gospel, one of the great African American contributions to Christianity, and use the singing style to talk about love, women, and good times, seemed to some, risky.
Yet these early soul music stylings proved immensely popular. The familiar music of gospel that spoke to the soul was blended with early rock and roll and rhythm and blues. A number of record companies quickly jumped on the bandwagon of producing the increasingly popular soul music, and some companies were founded on their production of this musical form. While mainstream labels like Atlantic Records quickly signed soul music artist Solomon Burke, new companies like Stax Records and Goldwax Records helped the popularity of soul along by recording artists like Otis Redding, Aretha Franklin, and James Carr.
By the 1970s, soul music had changed forms to incorporate more message-based music and also some of the stylings of psychedelic rock. One of the standout albums of this time period is Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On, which thematically deals with continued strife between races in America and the onset of the Vietnam war.
Soul music also jumped to funk and disco styles. While singing styles remained similar, the more syncopated danceable beats of disco and funk left an indelible mark on soul. The Commodores and Earth, Wind and Fire were two extremely popular bands of the disco movement, bringing soul music to the forefront of public attention and creating many mainstream hits.
Our Featured artist today was Aretha Franklin
Aretha Franklin is one of the giants of soul music, and indeed of American pop as a whole. More than any other performer, she epitomized soul at its most gospel-charged. Her astonishing run of late-’60s hits with Atlantic Records–“Respect,” “I Never Loved a Man,” “Chain of Fools,” “Baby I Love You,” “I Say a Little Prayer,” “Think,” “The House That Jack Built,” and several others–earned her the title “Lady Soul,” which she has worn uncontested ever since.
More great soul inspired music next week.