Soul often refers to the sound that stemmed from the commercialization of the R&B industry. Record companies such as Motown Records capitalized on audiences wanting a distinct sound that consisted of harder rhythms.
Sam Cooke was one of the first of these Soul musicians, and is considered by some to be the king and even creator of Soul. Cooke, who was primarily a Gospel musician found great success on such hits like “You Send Me” and “Wonderful World”. Other musicians, such as Ray Charles had their share of hits. Out of the greatest soul hits came from Aretha Franklin, whose cover of Otis Redding’s “Respect” earned her the honorary title of the “Queen of Soul”. Respect is one of the biggest hit songs of all time, and is in the top ten of Rolling Stone magazine’s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. Marvin Gaye also had one of Soul’s greatest hits when he recorded the politically-conscious “What’s Going On?”
Yet it is impossible to talk about Soul without discussing The Godfather of Soul, James Brown. Brown used to be known as “the hardest working man in show business”, and he produced a number of soul hits that eventually led into funk. Brown and artists such as Sly and the Family Stone helped take funk far into the seventies, and eventually led to disco. Unlike disco, which supposedly “died” in the seventies, soul’s influence lasted far into the eighties. Michael Jackson was often referred to as a Soul singer despite his “King of Pop” status. Most think of contemporary R&B singers, such as Mary J. Blige as examples of contemporary soul singers.
A number of white musicians have produced what is often referred to as “Blue-Eyed Soul”. Examples of these include the many hits of the Righteous Brothers, even certain cuts like George Michael’s “One More Try” fall into this category.