As is true with rock ‘n’ roll, there are several artists who can claim that they produced the first true record in the genre called soul music. What’s more important to know is that soul music combined the rougher genre of R&B with the emotional and spiritual aspects of gospel music into a more urban, secular (though not exclusively secular) form of music that was more accessible to a larger audience. Soul music wasn’t the product of one genius (like Ray Charles) but a series of artists who took what they learned from R&B and gospel and applied it to pop music structures.
When rock ‘n’ roll went down the toilet in the early ’60s, early soul music kept the faith going. And though the media focused their attention on The Beatles and the phenomenon we know as The British Invasion, an equally powerful force was coming together in the studios of Motown, Atlantic, and their subsidiaries. Soul music had as much of an impact (if not more) on American culture as rock ‘n’ roll, and though soul artists generally avoided the social-political side of life until very late in the ’60s, their consistent presence on the charts demonstrated that America had come a long way from the era of “race records.” While there’s still a long, long way to go in matters of race in the United States, soul music built a lot of bridges and took down many barriers. It would have been almost impossible for a white woman in the 1950s to publicly express attraction to a black singer; in the ’70s, white women swooned and drooled openly over Barry White.
I’ve covered a lot more soul music than in the reviews listed here. In addition to The Motown Series, I covered dozens of soul singers in the Dad’s 45’s Series. Soul music was primarily a singles genre until the late 60s and I’m geared towards album reviews.
Here’s the list:
- Ruth Brown – The Essentials
- The Motown Series (The Supremes, Martha & the Vandellas, The Temptations, Smokey Robinson & The Miracles)
- Aretha Franklin – I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You
- Aretha Franklin – Lady Soul
- Ben E. King – The Very Best Of
- Bill Withers – Bill Withers Live at Carnegie Hall
- Dusty Springfield – Dusty in Memphis
- James Brown & The Famous Flames – Live at the Apollo
- Marvin Gaye – What’s Goin’ On
- Michael Jackson – Thriller
- Otis Redding – The Very Best of Otis Redding
- Patti Austin – That Secret Place
- Sade – Love Deluxe
- Stevie Wonder – Innervisions