Soul music is a fusion. Its early pioneers and innovators took the feel and sensuality of contemporary rhythm and blues, and introduced it to the fervour and emotional intensity of gospel. That interplay between Saturday night raunch and Sunday morning repentance has always fuelled soul's greatest singers, and the greatest singers in soul are among the greatest singers of all.

Here are 10 BBC documentaries that shed some fresh light on a musical form that is already well lit from within, with righteous passion.

1. The Story of Stax

[LISTEN] BBC Radio 2 - The Story of Stax - Episode 1

[LISTEN] BBC Radio 2 - The Story of Stax - Episode 1

The Stax record label, based in Memphis, was famed for releasing raw, primal soul that stripped away the ornamentation of the Motown R&B sound, emphasised the funk, and encouraged its singers to sweat, rant and testify like a Pentecostal preacher. In The Story of Stax, Beverley Knight traces the glorious history (and business catastrophes) of the label that brought us Otis Redding, Sam & Dave, Isaac Hayes, Wilson Pickett and many more.

Download Episode 1 of The Story of Stax via the iPlayer Radio app (until 27 Sep)
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2. Great Lives: Jazzie B on James Brown

[LISTEN] BBC Radio 4 - Great Lives: James Brown

In this episode of Radio 4's Great Lives, Matthew Parris's guests is Jazzie B of Soul II Soul, who nominated his personal hero James Brown, a man with more nicknames than an entire secondary school - the Godfather of Soul, Hardest Working Man in Showbusiness, Soul Brother No.1 - all of them well deserved. Matthew, Jazzie and music journalist Charles Shaar Murray discuss the influence of one of 20th century music's most influential figures.

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3. What's Going On: Music that Defined a Decade

[LISTEN] BBC World Service - What's Going On: Music that Defined a Decade

Marvin Gaye's album What's Going On is a magical, contradictory suite of political songs that manages to sound both outraged and blissful at the same time. In Music that Defined a Decade, Marvin's fellow Motown star Smokey Robinson explores the cultural, social and political impact of the album, and examines whether the themes he was singing about in 1970s America still resonate with modern society.

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4. Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?

[LISTEN] BBC Radio 4 - Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow

The American girl group boom of the early 1960s came out of R&B and doo wop, heavily influencing the early sound of Motown and setting the now commonplace pop template for teenage girl singers, singing songs about being a teenage girl, directly to teenage girls. In this appreciation of these unsung women, Tracey McLeod draws a line from Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers to The Supremes, via girl group legends such as The Shangri Las, The Ronettes and The Shirelles.

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5. Billy Preston: That's the Way God Planned It

[LISTEN] BBC Radio 4 - Billy Preston: That's the Way God Planned It

The extraordinarily gifted Hammond organist and songwriter Billy Preston lived many lives and was considered a peer by some exceptional people along the way, including Nat King Cole, Aretha Franklin, Bob Dylan and The Beatles. But he was a troubled man with some seriously life-interrupting habits. Here, Rick Wakeman - a man who knows a thing or two about keyboards - tells his remarkable story, with a little help from fellow fans Jools Holland, Bill Wyman and Pete Townshend.

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Listen to more episodes of BBC Radio 4's Seriously...

6. Michael Jackson: The Thrill of Thriller

[LISTEN] BBC World Service - Michael Jackson: The Thrill of Thriller

The stories that surround Michael Jackson's Thriller - the world's biggest-selling album - are often told, but this is a very different sort of tale. In The Thrill of Thriller we discover how Michael Jackson's biological lineage links him with the Ivory Coast village of Krindjabo - DNA tests prove that he was descended from the royal Sanwi line - and he was declared part of their royalty, known locally as Prince Michael Jackson Amalaman Anoh.

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The ultimate Thriller quiz: Can you Beat It?

7. Soul Music: Don't Leave Me This Way

[LISTEN] BBC Radio 4 - Soul Music: Don't Leave Me This Way

The Philadelphia soul classic Don't Leave Me This Way - sung with great desperation by Teddy Pendergrass of Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes - is a song of longing and begging, of dark clouds on the horizon, and ultimately the cathartic nature of howling out a whopping great chorus. It is also a song that has taken up great significance at times of despair, not least when The Communards' cover version became a mournfully defiant soundtrack to the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the mid-1980s.

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8. Mighty Real: McAlmont Sings Sylvester

[LISTEN] BBC Radio 4 - Mighty Real: McAlmont Sings Sylvester

Sylvester may be principally known for the carefree joy of his high-energy disco barnstormer Mighty Real, but his life and career took place against a backdrop of extreme political turmoil, with the both black and gay communities demanding civil rights and meeting extreme resistance. David McAlmont investigates a true soul icon, travelling to San Franscisco to meet his sister, friends and fellow performers and revealing the man behind the glittery facade.

Listen to more epsiodes of BBC Radio 4's Seriously...

9. Front Row: Bobby Womack

[LISTEN] BBC Radio 4 - Front Row: Bobby Womack

This 2012 interview for BBC Radio 4's Front Row is part career retrospective (just listen to it! What a life!) and part salute to Bobby Womack's dogged nature, as he battles health problems and personal issues to release what would sadly become his final album The Bravest Man in the Universe, in collaboration with Damon Albarn. And it contains a nugget of vital life advice from Sam Cooke, who once told him to always wear an expensive ring and watch, in case he found himself in a tight spot and in need of cash.

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10. The Atlantic Records Story: Money Honey

[LISTEN] BBC Radio 6 Music - The Atlantic Records Story: Money Honey

[LISTEN] BBC Radio 6 Music - The Atlantic Records Story: Money Honey

Having started this roundup with a pioneering record label, let's end with another. In this 13-part documentary series Johnnie Walker tells the story of Atlantic Records, the label that discovered some of the finest soul singers of all time, including Ray Charles and Aretha Franklin, not to mention Led Zeppelin. In the first episode, he describes the electrifying effect American R&B had on label founder and president Ahmet Ertegun, who had moved to America from Istanbul as a child.

Download The Atlantic Records Story: Money Honey via the iPlayer Radio app (until 10 Sep)
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