Soul Music

What is soul music?

As early as the 1950s, the term “soul” was used to refer to music. Gospel quartets of that era used the term as a label for the spiritual nature of their music. Jazz musicians used it as early as the 1960s in their reference to hard bop (a style of jazz with bebop influences). Soul music often refers to all black popular music. Billboard magazine has been credited with using the term in 1969, after changing its reference to black popular music to race music, and then to rhythm and blues. Clearly soul music is not a homogeneous form of music but a reflection of identity. It is a reflection of black consciousness and has some connection with Black Power and politics. The political message comes through clearly in singer James Brown’s song, “I’m Black and I’m Proud,” and in Aretha Franklin’s call for respect in her rendition of Otis Redding’s song by that name. Since the 1960s the term “soul” has also been used to describe food and as a term of endearment.


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