Top US Cities Famous for Soul Music

Soul music, a popular genre that originated in the African American Community in the late 1950s, has been an enduring spiritual force that’s influenced countless artists across many genres. Soul combines elements of African American gospel music, rhythm and blues, as well as jazz. Soul music, described as robust, uplifting, joyous and comforting, became popular in the United States for listening and dancing during the Civil Rights Movement when record labels such as Motown, Atlantic, and Stax were influential. Soul also rose to popularity around the world and had a direct influence on rock music and the music of Africa. There are specific artists that put their stamp on Soul music between 1955 and 1958 and those artists include Etta James, James Brown, Nina Simone, the Isley Brothers, and Curtis Mayfield. Soul is listened to worldwide, however there are certain cities where soul first shined and continues to today. Here are the top U.S. cities famous for soul music.


Philadelphia soul, most often called Philly soul, is a genre of late 1960s soul music characterized by funk influences and lush instrumental arrangements. Philadelphia soul music was born because of the vibrant and well-known music heritage of Philly that dates back to colonial times. Innovations in classical music, opera, jazz, rhythm and blues, and soul have earned the music of Philadelphia national and international renown. Famous Philly soul artists include The O’Jays, Billy Paul, Teddy Pendergrass, The Spinners, and more. Today, their music is still played, not just in Philadelphia, but all over the world by lovers of soul. The Fillmore Philadelphia, a modern 2,500-capacity venue in the Fishtown area, often has soul-inspired performers take the stage, as well as Temple University’s Liacouras Center, formerly known as The Apollo of Temple. This place has hosted shows by Alicia Keys and even Patti Labelle. Philadelphia is also known for their cheesesteaks and the Wing Bowl, which was a wing eating contest that brought in over 20,000 people each year but ended in 2018. Philadelphia is definitely a music city but has developed and is thriving in several different sectors today.


Chicago is not only the third largest city in the U.S., but the Midwest city was the station that laid the tracks for soul to reach both coasts. It was Chicago, also known as the Heart of Soul, where the legendary music-dance TV show ‘Soul Train’ was born in 1971. Soul Train featured every popular soul and rhythm and blues act up until 2006. Chicago soul is a style of soul music that originated in the 1960s and heavily influenced black gospel music. For a history of Chicago soul, check out the Blues Heaven Museum, where the Chess Records story is told. There’s also Buddy Guy’s Legends restaurant and concert venue where soul food and music can’t be touched. Chicago is also known for its hotdogs, pizza, and skyscrapers.

New Orleans

It has been said that the Blues, Jazz, Gospel, and some Rock and Roll all have deep roots deriving from New Orleans. Over the years, soul music has become a major influence on popular American music and can be heard today in nearly all musical forms from modern classical, to R&B, Rock and Roll, Country, and of course, Jazz. Today, the annual New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival is a very popular event every single year and you can see why. New Orleans is also known for Mardi Gras, their country cooking, and the array of casinos in the area. So, if you’re a casino enthusiast, you’re in luck, because there are so many to choose from. There are also several places that host poker night, so it can get pretty crowded. If this isn’t your scene, you can always skip the crowd and enjoy the same card games right from your phone at Skyvegas, Playok or many other sites available these days. New Orleans may be rooted in soul music, but offers so much more today.


Detroit is home to the famous record label of Motown that was founded back in 1960. Motown is the infamous record label that housed the music of famous Detroit artists such as The Supremes, The Temptations, Smokey Robinson, and the Miracles. Even before Motown, Detroit had an active rhythm and blues and soul community. It was in Detroit that soul, fueled by gospel music, really rose to popularity. Detroit also raised 1990s rhythm and blues singer, Aaliyah, who was the niece of former Detroit politician Barry Hankerson and soul singer Gladys Knight. Aaliyah, who passed away in 2001, was also a Detroit School of Arts graduate. Detroit is not only home of the most famous record label that broke down racial barriers, but it is also known as the center of the American automotive industry, rightfully giving it the nickname “Motor City.”