The Definition of Soul Music

"The Queen of Soul," Aretha Franklin. Tim Boxer/Getty Images

Soul music is a combination of R&B, gospel, blues and jazz and originated in the late 1950s in the United States. According to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, soul is "music that arose out of the black experience in America through the transmutation of gospel and rhythm & blues into a form of funky, secular testifying."

Soul differentiates from R&B because of soul's use of gospel-music devices, its greater emphasis on vocalists and its merging of religious and secular themes.

Soul traces its roots to four different sources: racial, geographical, historical and economical factors. The 1950s recordings of Sam Cooke, Ray Charles and James Brown are commonly considered the beginnings of soul music.

Different Styles:

There are several sub-genres of soul music, including Detroit soul, Memphis soul, New Orleans soul, Chicago soul, Philadelphia soul, Psychedelic soul, Blue-eyed soul, British soul, and neo-soul.

Detroit soul is exemplified by the Motown Sound, created by Berry Gordy Jr, who founded Motown Records in 1959. His stable of artists became of who's who of music, including Stevie Wonder, Diana Ross and The Supremes, Marvin Gaye, Smokey Robinson and The Miracles, Michael Jackson and The Jackson Five, Gladys Knight and The Pips, The Four Tops, The Temptations, Martha Reeves and The Vandellas, Lionel Richie and The Commodores, and The Isley Brothers.

Memphis soul became very successful through Stax Records which was founded in 1961 in Memphis, Tennessee.

Booker T & The MGS served as the label's house band, and the label's roster included Otis Redding, Isaac Hayes, Sam & Dave, Wilson Pickett, The Staple Singers, The Bar-Kays, Johnnie Taylor, The Emotions, plus Rufus & Carla Thomas.

The New Orleans soul movement was led by composer, arranger, and producer Allen Toussaint who worked with "The Soul Queen of New Orleans," Irma Thomas, He also produced the 1974 LaBelle classic, "Lady Marmalade."

Curtis Mayfield was one of the leaders of the Chicago soul movement, composing and producing numerous solo hits as well as songs for his group, The Impressions. Record labels based in the Windy City including Vee Jay Records, Chess Records, Constellation Records, Brunswick, and Chi-Town produced hits for artists including Jackie Wilson, Jerry Butler, The Dells, The Chi-Lites, Tyrone Davis, Billy Stewart, and Gene Chandler.

Philly soul is represented by "The Sound of Philadelphia," Philadelphia International Records, founded in 1971 by Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff. Their list of stars included The O'Jays, Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes, Teddy Pendergrass, Billy Paul, Lou Rawls, Patti LaBelle, The Stylistics, and Phyllis Hyman.

Psychedelic soul, a blend or rock & roll and funk, was popularized by artists such as Sly & The Family Stone.

Blue-eyed soul was the category created for Caucasian artists recording soul music, including The Righteous Brothers, and later, Hall & Oates.

The Beatles and The Rolling Stones, as well as solo artists including Tom Jones and Dusty Springfield, were most noteworthy among acts classified as British soul.

The term neo-soul was created in the 1990s by producer Kedar Massenburg as a marketing platform to launch the career of his artists D'Angelo and Erykah Badu.

Neo-soul is a fusion of R&B, jazz and hip-hop. Lauryn Hill and Maxwell are also known as neo-soul performers.

Most Popular Soul Artists:

The Billboard R&B charts were previously know as the "Soul" charts. The most famous and successful "soul" artists of all-time are "The Queen of Soul," Aretha Franklin, and the Godfather of Soul, James Brown.

Edited by Ken Simmons