Soul music is a popular music genre that originated in the
in the 1950s
and early 1960s. It combined elements of African-American gospel music, rhythm
and blues, and often jazz. Soul music became popular for dancing and listening
in the United
States – where music such as that of the Motown, United States Atlantic and Stax labels was
influential during the period of the civil rights movement – and across the
world, directly influencing rock music and the music of Africa.
According to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, soul is "music that arose out of the black experience in
through the transmutation of gospel and rhythm & blues into a form of
funky, secular testifying." Catchy rhythms, stressed by hand claps and
extemporaneous body moves, are an important feature of soul music. Other
characteristics are a call and response between the soloist and the chorus, and
an especially tense vocal sound. The style also occasionally uses
improvisational additions, twirls and auxiliary sounds. America
Soul music has its roots in traditional African-American gospel music and rhythm and blues, and the hybridization of their respective religious and secular styles, in both lyrical content and instrumentation that began to occur in the 1950s. According to musicologist Barry Hansen;
"Though this hybrid produced a clutch of hits in the R&B market in the early Fifties, only the most adventurous white fans felt its impact at the time; the rest had to wait for the coming of soul music in the Sixties to feel the rush of rock and roll sung gospel-style."
According to another source, "Soul music was the result of the urbanization and commercialization of rhythm and blues in the '60s." The phrase "soul music" itself, referring to gospel-style music with secular lyrics, is first attested in 1961. The term 'soul' in African-American parlance has connotations of African-American pride and culture. Gospel groups in the 1940s and 1950s occasionally used the term as part of their name. The jazz that self-consciously derived from gospel came to be called soul jazz. As singers and arrangers began using techniques from gospel and soul jazz in African-American popular music during the 1960s, soul music gradually functioned as an umbrella term for the African-American popular music at the time.
Important innovators whose recordings in the 1950s contributed to the emergence of soul music included Clyde McPhatter, Hank Ballard, and Etta James. Ray Charles is often cited as popularizing the soul genre with his string of hits starting with 1954's "I Got a Woman". Singer Bobby Womack said: "Ray was the genius. He turned the world onto soul music." Charles was open in acknowledging the influence of Pilgrim Travelers vocalist Jesse Whitaker on his singing style.
Little Richard (who was the inspiration for Otis Redding), Fats Domino and James Brown were equally influential. Fats Domino originally called himself a rock and roll performer, while James Brown was known as the "Godfather of Soul". However, as rock music moved away from its R&B roots in the 1960s, Brown claimed that he had always really been an R&B singer. Little Richard proclaimed himself the "king of rockin' and rollin', rhythm and blues soulin'", because his music embodied elements of all three, and because he inspired artists in all three genres.
Sam Cooke and Jackie Wilson are also often acknowledged as soul forefathers. Cooke became popular as the lead singer of gospel group The Soul Stirrers, before controversially moving into secular music. His recording of "You Send Me" in 1957 launched a successful pop career, and his 1962 recording of "Bring It On Home To Me" has been described as "perhaps the first record to define the soul experience". Jackie Wilson, a contemporary of both Cooke and James Brown, also achieved crossover success in 1957 with "Reet Petite", and was particularly influential for his dramatic delivery and performances.