The House of Soul Music

This article is a collaborative effort, crafted and edited by a team of dedicated professionals.

Contributors: Andranick Tanguiane, Fred Lerdahl,


The House of Soul Music is a website dedicated to the history and preservation of soul music.


The House of Soul music was a subgenre of the larger Motown sound that became popular in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The style was characterized by a heavy use of electric guitars, drums, and bass, as well as a focus on soulful vocals. House of Soul music was a popular style for Motown artists such as Marvin Gaye, Smokey Robinson, and Stevie Wonder.

Berry Gordy

Berry Gordy was born in Detroit, Michigan, on November 28, 1929. Gordy’s parents, Bertha and Berry Gordy Sr., mothered and fathered eight other siblings: Esther, Gwen, Jack, Bennie, Georgeann, Gwenethlean, Harvey and Robert. Jack was killed in a knife fight when Gordy was just six years old. At the age of eight he started his own boxing gym called the Berry Gordy Boxing Club. His earnings from the club allowed him to help his struggling family during the Great Depression of the 1930s.

Gordy eventually became interested in music and started writing songs. In 1953 he founded the record label Tamla Records with money he borrowed from his family. The label’s first release was Marv Johnson’s “Come to Me.” The record was a hit and established Motown as a viable company. Throughout the 1960s, Motown released some of the most popular music in America. Hitsville USA, as Motown’s Detroit headquarters came to be known, churned out such artists as Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, Diana Ross and the Supremes, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, and the Temptations.

The Supremes

The Supremes were an American female singing group and the premier act of Motown Records during the 1960s. Founded as The Primettes in Detroit, Michigan, in 1959, the Supremes were the most commercially successful of Motown’s acts and are, to date, America’s most successful vocal group with 12 number-one singles on the Billboard Hot 100. Most of these hits were written and produced by Motown’s main songwriting and production team, Holland–Dozier–Holland. At their peak in the mid-1960s, theSupremes rivaled The Beatles in worldwide popularity, and it is said that their success made it possible for future African American R&B and soul musicians to find mainstream success.

The group signed with Motown Records in 1961 as The Supremes. Mary Wilson replaced Ballard in early 1962; Cindy Birdsong came aboard later that year. Between 1961 and 1963, the Supremes released six singles; all of them flopped on the Pop charts. They covered songs written by others—standard pop fare such as “Ramblin’ Round” (a hit for Bill Haley & His Comets in 1953), “I Want a Guy” (a 1958 hit for The Marvelettes), and “Who’s Lovin’ You” (a 1960 Miracles hit)—and a few originals that failed to find an audience.

Marvin Gaye

Marvin Gaye (born Marvin Pentz Gay Jr.; April 2, 1939 – April 1, 1984) was an American singer, songwriter and record producer. Gaye helped to shape the sound of Motown in the 1960s, first as an in-house session player and later as a solo artist with a string of hits, including “Ain’t That Peculiar”, “How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You)” and “I Heard It Through the Grapevine”. He recorded more than 30 number-one hits on Billboard magazine’s pop singles chart between 1961 and 1981.

Gaye’s later recordings influenced several contemporary R&B subgenres, such as quiet storm and neo soul. Following a period in Europe as a tax exile in the early 1980s, he released the 1982 Grammy Award-winning hit “Sexual Healing” and its parent album Midnight Love. On April 1, 1984, Gaye was shot to death by his father at their house in Los Angeles. Marvin Gaye was posthumously inducted into The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987 and the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2004. He is ranked number 18 on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of 100 Greatest Singers of All Time.


Stax was an American record label founded in 1957 by Jim Stewart and Estelle Axton in Memphis, Tennessee. Stax was home to some of the greatest soul performers of all time such as Otis Redding, Isaac Hayes, and The Staple Singers. The label was known for its “Memphis sound” which was a mix of gospel, blues, and R&B.

Otis Redding

Otis Redding was an American singer, songwriter, record producer, arranger, and talent scout. He is considered one of the greatest singers in the history of American popular music and a seminal artist in soul music and rhythm and blues. His singing style influenced many other soul artists of the 1960s.

During his short career, Redding wrote and recorded a great number of songs, many of which have become soul classics. His recordings reflect his own style but also embody the sound of Stax Records which he helped to define. In addition to his own work, Redding produced records for Carla Thomas, Sam & Dave, Rufus Thomas, and Johnnie Taylor. He also co-wrote many of their hit singles with co-composer/arranger Steve Cropper.

Sam & Dave

Sam & Dave were an American soul and R&B duo who performed together from 1961 to 1981. The duo was born out of the contemporary gospel group the Soul Stirrers, led by Sam Cooke. Cooke and another member, J.W. Alexander, formed a gospel quartet, the Teen Kings, which later became The Valentine Brothers before finally teaming up as Sam & Dave.

Isaac Hayes

Isaac Hayes (born August 20, 1942) is an American musician, singer, songwriter, actor and voice actor. Hayes was one of the creative influences behind the Southern soul music sound of the 1960s and 1970s. He is best known for his work as a songwriter and producer for Stax Records, where he helped bring to prominence artists such as Sam & Dave, Carla Thomas and Johnnie Taylor.

As a performer, Hayes songs such as “Shaft”, “Theme from Shaft” and “Soul Man” encoding black pride and political awareness into funk anthems that featured libertarian lyrics with a strong message of self-sufficiency and individualism. At Stax, Hayes also became noted for his highly choreographed stage shows.

Hayes is a member of both the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame (2002) and the Memphis Music Hall of Fame (2015).


Atlantic Records is an American record label founded in October 1947 by Ahmet Ertegun and Herb Abramson in New York City. Ertegun and Abramson were also founding members of the jazz label National Records, which they began in 1945. They founded Atlantic as a rhythm and blues label to service the growing number of African-American musicians and audiences in the postwar era.

Aretha Franklin

Aretha Franklin (born March 25, 1942) is an American singer and songwriter who is referred to as the “Queen of Soul” and “Lady Soul”. She is known for her powerful vocal abilities, which has resulted in much success throughout her career. Aretha’s repertoire includes gospel, R&B, pop, jazz, and blues. Aretha has won a total of 18 Grammy Awards and is one of the best-selling female artists of all time with 72.5 million records sold worldwide.

Some of her most popular songs include “Respect”, “A Natural Woman (You Make Me Feel Like)”, and “I Say a Little Prayer”.

Wilson Pickett

Wilson Pickett (March 18, 1941 – January 19, 2006) was an American singer and songwriter. A major figure in the development of American soul music, Pickett recorded over 50 songs which made the US Billboard R&B charts, many of which crossed over to the US Billboard Hot 100. Among his best-known hits are “In the Midnight Hour” (1965), “Land of 1,000 Dances” (1966), “Mustang Sally” (1966), and “Funky Broadway” (1967).


Cream was a house band at the Atlantic recording studio in the mid-1960s. The members of the band were allsession musicians who had played on many of Atlantic’s biggest hits. The band was led by producer, arranger, and composer Barry Goldberg.

The band’s name came from the fact that all of the members were white, which was unusual for a soul music group at that time. The band’s repertoire included covers of R&B hits, as well as original songs written by Goldberg and other members of the band.

The Cream recorded two albums for Atlantic, which were released in 1966 and 1967. The first album, Super Spade, featured covers of R&B hits such as “I Can’t Turn You Loose” and “In the Midnight Hour”. The second album, White Hot Soul, featured original songs written by Goldberg and other members of the band.

Both albums were well-received by critics and both charted on Billboard’s soul albums chart. The Cream disbanded in 1968, but its members continued to work together on various projects over the years.

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