James Brown

Soul is a type of rhythm and blues that was originally a secular version of gospel and spiritual music. It was the major black musical form of the 1960s and 1970s. Soul had originally been used by jazz musicians and listeners to signify music with a greater sense of authenticity and sincerity. As it developed in the 1960s, it was a merger of gospel-style singing and funk rhythms.


Funk was originally used in the 1950s to describe a form of modern jazz which concentrated on "swing" and became used in the 1960s in R&B and soul music. Soul grew up in the wake of the success of Ray Charles from about 1954 on and came to its full flowering, along with Motown, in the early 1960s. The genre was often ballad in form, with love as a major theme. Soul became closely identified with several independent record labels: Atlantic, Stax/Volt, and Motown, each with its own stable of performers and an identifiable sound, and associated with particular geographic locations and music scenes: e.g. Detroit; Philadelphia; Southern.


Soul was politically significant through the 1960s, paralleling the civil rights movement. Soul singers of note to emerge in the 1950s included Sam Cooke and Jackie Wilson; in the 1960s James Brown, Bobby Bland, Aretha Franklin, Otis Redding, and Percy Sledge. Often, practitioners such as Sam Cooke maintained two careers simultaneously in soul and popular music.


Soul had ceased to be an identifiable genre by the late 1970s, gradually being absorbed into various hybrid forms of black music and dance music more generally. Its major performers and their records still enjoy a considerable following, indicated by the sales of soul compilation albums, and the international success of the film The Commitments (1991) and its soundtrack of soul covers.