Soul music

What is soul music?

Soul music is a style of African American music. It developed from rhythm and blues in the USA in the 1950s and 60s.

John McCallum, Atholl Ransome and Malcolm Strachan from the Haggis Horns discuss soul music before performing their own composition, "Give me something better".

Soul music is characterised by:

  • gospel influence - intense vocals, call and response
  • an emphasis on the rhythm section
  • large horn sections (trumpets, saxophones and trombones)

The most famous soul record labels were:

Tamla Motown - set up by Berry Gordy in Detroit.

Artists included:

  • The Supremes
  • The Four Tops
  • Marvin Gaye
  • The Jackson 5

Stax- based in Memphis.

Artists included:

  • Otis Redding
  • Wilson Pickett

Atlantic- founded in 1947 and specialised in R&B, soul and jazz recordings.

Artists included:

  • Aretha Franklin
  • Ray Charles
Otis Redding was among soul's most famous performers

Key features

Subject matter

  • Lots of soul music takes the form of a love song. The emotional subject matter works well with the emotional vocal delivery.
  • Social issues, particularly those faced by African Americans, became an increasingly popular subject and reflected the growing call for racial equality from the Civil Rights Movement in the 50s and 60s.
In My Lover's Prayer by Otis Redding features soulful gospel-influenced singing and a prominent horn section.