Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Soul Men

Soul Music: Part 1
We're back and ready to talk about Soul music! Arising out of the black experience in America in the late '50s and early '60s, 'soul' music was deeply rooted in gospel music (using secular lyrics), as well as in rhythm and blues (R&B). Important features of soul included catchy rhythms (accented by hand claps and improvised body moves), call and responses between soloist and chorus, and a tense vocal sound.
From 1961 through 1981, probably the most successful soul duo was Sam & Dave, featuring the tenor vocals of Sam Moore and baritone/lower tenor vocals of Dave Prater. During the mid-1960s, they were not only one of the greatest live acts, but they were one of the most consistent in their R&B charts successes that included 10 consecutive Top 20 singles and 3 consecutive Top 10 albums. Not only did their crossover chart-appeal aid in the acceptance of soul music by white pop audiences, but their song "Soul Man" helped define the genre, being one of the first songs by a black group to top the charts using the word 'soul.' Released in August of 1967, "Soul Man" is Sam & Dave's biggest and most remembered hit, reaching #1 on the R&B charts, #1 on the Cashbox charts, and #2 on the Billboard chart. Written and produced by Issac Hayes and David Porter, and inspired by the turmoil of the Africa-American Civil Rights Movement, here's the song that earned Sam & Dave the 1968 Grammy Award for Best Rhythm & Blues Group Performance.

One popular soul song of 1966 was "When a Man Loves a Woman," recorded by American R&B/soul performer Percy Sledge. A soulful ballad that is still heard at weddings today, this classic made it to #1 on both Billboard and R&B charts, and has been listed among the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. Actually written by Sledge himself, he gave the songwriting credit to Calvin Lewis and Andrew Wright, who played bass and keyboards on the recording. During the recording session, the song had no title or lyrics, and Sledge improvised the lyrics with minimal pre-planning. His performance was so convincing that the studio musicians assumed that he had the words written down. This soulful anthem has been re-recorded by dozens of the other artists, yet remains Sledge's signature song today.

American soul singer-songwriter/record producer Otis Redding was a major figure in soul/R&B during the 1960s. His open-throated vocals and powerful style of rhythm and blues created the foundation of the Stax Sound (a renowned record label for its Southern soul and Memphis soul music styles; included Sam & Dave), and has been given the honorific name "King of Soul." One of his last big concerts was at the Monterey Pop Festival in June of 1967, where he performed before a primarily white audience. Following the festival, Redding wrote and produced "(Sittin' On) the Dock of the Bay" just three days before his death in a plane crash in December '67. That single was released in January 1968 and became the #1 record on both the pop and R&B charts, as well as the first posthumous #1 single in U.S. chart history. He was only 26 but he is still considered one of the greatest singers of all time. From earlier in '67 while on the Stax Tour in Europe, here's Redding giving a live performance of the classic "Try a Little Tenderness," another considered among the greatest songs of all time.

We'll conclude today's post with the "Godfather of Soul," American singer, songwriter, musician, and recording artist James Brown, also known as "The Hardest-Working Man in Show Business." With an extensive career from the late 1950s until his death in 2006, Brown was the originator of the musical style funk, and was a major figure in 20th century pop music for both his vocal and dancing styles. In 1965, he released two signature hits, "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag" and "I Got You (I Feel Good)," both of which became his first Top 10 hits, as well as major #1 R&B hits. The following year, "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag" won the Grammy Award for Best Rhythm and Blues recording. Here's a high-energy performance with fancy footwork by James Brown, live on the Ed Sullivan Show.

No comments:

Post a Comment