A History of Soul Music in the US

Soul music is a popular music genre in America. It was one of the first music genres in America after folk music. The Afro-American music style is often said to be the father of the contemporary music genres we enjoy like hip-hop, R&B, dancehall and even funk music. You can hear influences from soul music in so many other genres as well. It is truly an interesting type of music.

The Early Years

The music genre is believed to have started in America during the 50s. The style is strongly linked to the African Americans who developed their gospel music in their church as they were not allowed to worship in white church even after the end of slave trade era. They borrowed the worship songs from the whites but infused their style, rhythm, and tempo to it. They redefined most of the borrowed songs using their beats and melody in the spirit of worship. They sang with high-spirit and filled devotion; these attributes are the significant characteristics of soul music. The tune from the black Christian worship was transferred to the genre.

Soul music was born when secular musicians changed the lyrics of these black Christian songs to songs about life, women, and love. The high-tempo gospel songs were redefined into the party and dancehall tunes while the slower, spirited flows where changed to love songs.

The 60s

As the trend continued during the 60s, gospel artists began to shift stand from their gospel group to record “worldly” versions of Christian songs. The trend was the sole reason for the decline in gospel groups as most artists began to “Jump Ship” and record the secular versions of their “groups” hit tracks in the bid to top charts and gain more fans.

A popular example of artists in this category was Sam Cooke. Sam was expelled from the gospel music group “Soul Stirrers” after he went behind their back to record the hit song “Lovable” which is a secular replacement of the song “Wonderful” from his group. He went on to have an incredible musical career after his expulsion, and so many other gospel artists followed his blaze.

During the early 60s, another favorite style of Soul music called the “Motown’s pop-soul” emerged from the Motown records owned by Berry Gordy. Berry assembled a group of talented music writers to create different lyrics that doesn’t contradict gospel songs. His artists also created the “Motown sound” which immediately became very popular in the entire north. The “Motown’s pop-soul” united both the white and black residents as the lyrics where something both parties could relate to and the sound made use of musical instruments like the guitar which is common among the white folks.

The Motown records produced stars like Diana Ross, the change of style and voice made the soul music more acceptable. Artists also found ways to mix soul with pop, increasing the popularity of the genre across the country. Soul music was then exported to other parts of the world where it quickly was adopted. From here, other artists started modifying the style to give rise to R&B, funk and dancehall music.