The Birth of Soul Music

Soul Music has influenced so many different genres of other music, but it was itself influenced by many different types of music and cultures as well. It was first developed in America during the 1950s and was a mixture of church music and African American music.

The Abolishment of Slavery

On January the 31st in 1865 slavery was abolished in the United States but this was not the end of the racial differences that existed especially in the southern states of America. Black Americans were not allowed in many of the common areas that white Americans frequented. This included churches, restaurants, restrooms and nearly every public place. The answer was for the African Americans to build their own churches, where their style of service included the rhythms and themes of their culture. There were many songs that were sung that the congregation joined with, singing joyfully whilst clapping their hands and moving to the beat.

Early Soul Music

The first soul songs were gospel songs and the term Take it to the Church refers to soul singers who had their roots firmly back in church and gospel. To give you an example of this type of singing would be Ray Charles and I’ve Got a Woman which is a popular soul song based on the gospel song I’ve Got a Savior. The music and words are heavily influenced by the church song, but Charles brought it to wider audience by his rendition. Sam Cooke was another legendary name in early soul music, and it was Cooke that transitioned the crossover between gospel and soul. At the time he was castigated for the musical direction he was taking and actually banned from certain churches and shunned by the gospel community.

Early Soul Music
Early Soul Music

The Crossover of Soul

Not only was Sam Cooke a brilliant singer and really good looking, he was also a clever business man. He knew that for soul music to really get established he had to break into the mainstream white popular music industry. 1957 was a landmark year for Cooke and for soul music, his record You Send Me entered the billboard charts and he was the first black singer to reach this monumental achievement. Not only did he manage to crossover into mainstream American music, he managed to kick Elvis Presley off the top of the charts. Sam Cooke also realized to really make money he would need to own his music and the rights to it. He formed his own record company but by doing so he upset the white moguls who had ruled the American record music industry for decades. Sam Cooke met an untimely death in a sordid shooting in a motel room. There are many conspiracies about the death, the Mob and the music industry moguls were implicated but nothing was ever proven. Soul music has had to fight its way to be become accepted as a main music genre, and it is similar to the struggles that the early African Americans had to endure. They had to fight to purely exist and soul music had to overcome many challenges to be truly accepted.   

Sam Cooke
Sam Cooke

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