Each September we look at music and metaphysics, and I am excited about exploring the deeper spiritual meanings and lesson of Soul music for September. We will be looking for the spiritual messages of Soul. Soul music came into being when I was a teenager and young adult. I remember dancing the night away to some of the best music that we will be exploring. I can assure you that at that time I would have never thought I would be exploring this music in a spiritual interpretation.
Charles Fillmore, co-founder of Unity, defines soul as man’s consciousness. He reminds us that soul food is our thoughts. True soul food is the Word of God. Not only do we have a soul, but the United States also has a soul consciousness, which is the total collective thoughts of our country. We must change our own soul consciousness in order for the collective consciousness to change, and I believe that Soul music was one way of doing that. Soul music was created and developed in the socially conscious ’60s; it was born right in the middle of the Civil Rights Movement. Many African Americans took their sacred gospel music and developed it into secular music. And just as their sacred music expressed a yearning for God and the joy of God, their secular soul music expressed a yearning for and the joy of freedom. This was one way it could be expressed in the turbulent sixties.
The term Soul was adopted to describe Black popular music as it evolved from the 1950s into the socially conscious 1960s, and through to the early 1970s. Soul was quite clearly a return to the roots of Black music, to the Blues and, in particular, Gospel and the church. After slavery ended in 1865, African Americans weren’t welcome in the churches of white Americans, so they built their own churches and sang Christian songs with African-American vocal styles and rhythms. They sang joyful, up-tempo gospel songs while clapping and moving to the beat, and they sang slower gospel songs that expressed deep feelings of yearning for God’s love.
The first soul songs were created when gospel songs were changed into secular songs by rewriting the lyrics. Joyful, up-tempo gospel songs became up-tempo soul songs, while slower gospel songs became romantic love songs (Ray Charles’ 1954 song “I’ve Got a Woman (Way Across Town)” and a secular version of the old gospel song “I’ve Got a Savior”(Way Across Jordan),” for example). Call and Response in Soul Music came directly from call and response in Gospel. Another example of this crossover hit was Sam Cooke and his last and greatest song “A Change is Gonna Come” in 1964. The song expressed his yearning for the end of racism; but before it was released, Sam was murdered in Angles. Even though his life was cut short, his success opened the way for many other African American Soul singers.
There were many different styles of Soul music, often determined by where it was and how it was recorded. The most popular soul music in the early ’60s was Motown pop soul out of Detroit. How could anyone forget Diana Ross and The Supremes or The Jackson 5 featuring 11-year-old Michael Jackson on lead vocals? There was also Chicago Soul, Memphis Soul, and from Southern Soul came Aretha Franklin, who brought female gospel styles to soul music in the 1960s. Percy Sledge’s 1966 single “When a Man Loves a Woman” became one of soul’s biggest selling records. Both of these artists recorded in Muscle Shoals, Alabama.
Soul Music continues to influence the music of today. I look forward to exploring the metaphysical meanings of this music. I love the music that Lori Dokken has selected for this series. I love the lessons to be presented, and I know you will to. Join us as we begin this series on Sunday, September 3, featuring the music of who else but Aretha.
Love and Blessings,