History of Soul Music Christina Ivery University of Phoenix RES/110 John Thomas February 11, 2010 Soul music was a voice for blacks during a time of war and segregation, aside of leaders like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X.. As stated by a historian Peter Guralnick, “It was as if the rhythm and blues singer, like the jazz musician and professional athlete before him, were being sent out as an advance scout into hostile territory”. (Santoro,2003). John Ponomarenko says Soul music originated from African Spirituals, “the first references to spiritual songs sung by black slaves dated as far back as 1828-1850”.
Black spirituals were often used as work songs and sometimes contained coded information s form of secret communication, songs such as “Deep River, Roll Jordan Roll, and Wade in the Water to name a few. Soul Music began in the late 1950’s and the early 1960’s. Many studios developed in inner cities such as Detroit, Chicago, and Memphis and each had a sound of its own. This also encouraged competition and talent from all over the world. Soul music came at a time of the civil rights movement and gave all blacks a voice for their many battles within their neighborhoods and overseas as well.
The staggering war on segregation was a major driving force for soul music during that time. The events in the Deep South inspired many musicians, for example; seeing black protestors hosed down in the streets with fire hydrants and beaten repeatedly with clubs as if their voices were lethal weapons. Soul music was originated in the United States primarily by African American musicians starting with the blending of gospel, rhythm, and blues. Gospel sounds and Christianity were far from the sounds of Ray Charles and James Brown singing of love, women, and good times.
Piero Scaruffi stated, “James Brown, known as the King of soul, began a movement all on his own, captivating people with is powerful voice and his electrifying dance moves. “Say it aloud I’m Black and proud” was blazing from the radio sound in 1968, and said it all in the title. It became the new black national anthem. One of the first to enhance the use of a live band and gave his first choreographed show on Live at the Apollo”. Developed from a merge of gospel, blues, and jazz it came with emotions that could move anyone.
Gene Santoro stated, “soul music was known as “white crossover music”, it was suddenly a way for blacks to be seen on television and most teen oriented music programs with close to no white stars”. This music was something of their own that was uplifting during a depressing time in history that everyone could dance with. Whites and blacks alike related for once because of the sounds of great soul music. The pioneers of soul music were known for their distinctive voices, voices that could only come from people who felt or was feeling traumatizing emotional pain.
Their voices truly matched their ongoing struggle. Soul Music was the epitome of music in the 1960’s; many artists emerged as true musical superstars. Artists like Aretha Franklin from Detroit, who made her first recording as a gospel artist when she was the age of 14 with Columbia records signed by John Hammond. Stated by Richie Unterberger, “she made history with hit songs such as I never loved a man (the way that I love you), Respect, Chain of Fools, and I Say a Little Prayer. Soul music got people off their seats and clapping their hands, something that people could feel all through your body. Marvin Gaye was another soul singer that paved the way for musicians young and old, while also redefining soul. As stated by (Ankeny, 2008) “with one of the greatest songs to hit the charts that altered the face of black music “What’s going On” forged a sophisticated sound and incorporated jazz with classical elements”. What’s Going On also brought the sound of the spiritual believe back to the forefront of soul music.
Once again soul was singing of the issues ranging from poverty and discrimination of the environment, drug abuse and political corruption, mainly the conflict in the Vietnam War. Other great hits included Ain’t No Mountain High Enough, You Precious Love and Your all I Need to Get By. Marvin sang of the issues of the times like no one else. I recall the day that Marvin Gaye was pronounced dead. My mother cried terribly as I imagine quite a large part of the world did that day. It was if soul was gone from that moment forth.
It was sad moments in history that I myself will hold as a paused moment in time. However, this music brings me strength from the many songs that my ancestors before me sang for freedom or of agony; or the stories that are told through rhythm and blues that tell the history of blacks of sorrow and pain. Many songs can make people cry but it takes a mighty strong people to take that sorrow and turn it into something of their own. These artists left huge footsteps for new artist’s to follow in this time of confusion and free agency and free choice.
Throughout all the chaos, soul has the few that are paving the way and would make our past icons proud of the music that these artist’s produce. Artists such as Erika Badu, Leela James, and Mary J. Blige are just a few of the icons today that keep the soul alive. For this reason soul music will not die for years to come. Soul music began with words that tell of history and how to achieve freedom. It tells Americas who we are, were we came from and where we want to go. So sing with me. References Ponomarenko, J. (2005, August) retrieved from ttp://www. localdial. com/users/jsyedu133/Soulreview/Understandingpages/the5. htm Peiro Scaruffi. (2005). A brief history of soul music. Retrieved from http://www. scaruffi. com/history/soul. html Santoro, G. (2003). Sweet Soul Music. Retrieved from University of Phoenix eBook Collection database. Ponomarenko, J. (2005). The history of Soul. Retrieved from www. localdial. com/users/jsyedu133/soulreview/understandingpages/the5. htm Unterberger, R. (2010). The Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin. Retrieved from www. aretha-franklin. com/bio. htm