Why Is Soul Music Called Soul?

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

Contributors: Andranick Tanguiane, Fred Lerdahl,

There are a lot of different genres of music out there, and each one has its own unique name. But have you ever wondered why soul music is called soul? In this blog post, we’ll take a look at the history of the genre and how it got its name.

Origins of the term “soul”

The term “soul” has been used in music for centuries, but it wasn’t until the late 1950s that it became associated with a specific genre of music. Soul music is a genre that combines elements of rhythm and blues, gospel, and pop. The term “soul” is often used to describe a musician’s emotional or spiritual connection to their music.

African-American culture

The word “soul” has been used in African-American culture to describe a range of emotions, from the deepest sorrow to the most intense joy. It’s a quality that is often said to be unique to the African-American experience, and it’s one of the things that makes soul music so powerful and moving.

The term “soul” can trace its roots back to the African concept of sa, which refers to the life force or spirit that is within all living things. This idea of a powerful, life-giving force is at the heart of much African-American spirituality, and it has translated into a wide range of cultural expressions, from gospel music to jazz to hip hop.

For many African Americans, soul is more than just a musical genre – it’s a way of life. It’s a way of feeling and connecting with the world around them. And it’s something that they want to share with others, through their music and through their words.

Music of the African diaspora

The music of the African diaspora refers to the music of people of African descent who have been dispersed around the world, particularly through the Atlantic slave trade. The term is also used more broadly to refer to black music from any region or cultural group.

The term soul music was first used in the United States in the late 1950s to describe a new style of black popular music that was influenced by gospel music and rhythm and blues. The style was characterized by a heavy backbeat, driving bass line, and overflowing emotion. It quickly became one of the most popular genres of black popular music and had a significant impact on rock and roll, pop, and funk.

While the term soul has been used to describe black popular music for nearly 60 years, its origins are somewhat unclear. One theory is that it comes from the phrase “soul brother,” which was used to describe someone who was part of your inner circle or family. Another theory is that it is a corruption of the word “sole,” which was used to describe something that was authentic or original.

Whatever its origins, the term soul has come to signify an important and distinct genre of black popular music that continues to influence artists and audiences around the world.

Characteristics of soul music

Soul music is a genre that combines rhythm and blues, gospel, and sometimes jazz. It is a music that was created by African Americans in the 1940s and 1950s. Soul music has a lot of feeling and emotion. The lyrics are often about love, relationships, and life. The music is meant to make you feel good and to make you move.

Gospel influence

Gospel music is said to be the root of soul music. It’s hard to imagine soul music without the Sound of Blackness or Mahalia Jackson. Gospel music is spiritual and uplifting, and it has a strong call-and-response element. This type of music was born in the black church and it’s characterized by its use of devotional lyrics, African-American vernacular, and driving rhythms. Gospel music has Curtis Mayfield, James Cleveland, and Aretha Franklin to thank for its influence on soul music.

Blues influence

Soul music is born from the marriage of gospel music and the blues. It is emotional, personal, and intimate music that pulls at the heartstrings and moves the soul. It is a voice that speaks to the human condition, of love and loss, of hope and despair. It was created by African American musicians in the early 1940s and 1950s, and it has been evolving ever since.

The blues is a music genre that developed in the United States in the late 19th and early 20th centuries from work songs, spirituals, and field hollers of African American slaves on plantations. These musical traditions were brought north by slaves who escaped to freedom in the North through the Underground Railroad. The blues was influenced by the folk music of white people living in the American South. The combination of these two musical traditions gave birth to soul music.

Soul music has its roots in African American culture. The genre is a reflection of the experience of African Americans, both past and present. It incorporates elements of other genres such as gospel, jazz, R&B, and Hip Hop. Soul music speaks to universal human emotions such as love, joy, pain, heartache, and struggle. The genre has provided a soundtrack for the Civil Rights Movement and other social justice movements. It has also been used to celebrate life’s joyous occasions such as birthdays, weddings, anniversaries, and graduations.

The term “soul” can be defined in many ways. For some people, it is a feeling or emotion that comes from within. For others, it is a style of music that moves them emotionally or spiritually. And for others still, it is a way of life that encompasses mind, body, and soul. Whatever your definition of soul may be, there is no doubt that this genre of music has the power to touch us all on a very deep level.

Rhythm and blues

Rhythm and blues, popularly abbreviated as R&B, is a genre of popular music that originated in African American communities in the 1940s. The term was originally used by record companies to describe recordings marketed predominantly to urban African Americans, at a time when “urbane, rocking, jazz based music with a heavy, insistent beat” was becoming more popular. In the commercial rhythm and blues music typical of the 1950s through the 1970s, the bands usually consisted of piano, one or two guitars, bass, drums, one or more saxophones, and sometimes background vocalists. R&B lyrical themes often encapsulate the African-American experience of pain and the quest for freedom and joy.

There are several elements that define soul music. The first is its use of call-and-response vocals, which is a technique that was developed in Africa and brought over by slaves. This technique was used in work songs and field hollers to communicate between workers in different parts of the plantations. Call-and-response vocals were also used in spirituals and gospel music. Another element that defines soul music is its focus on emotion. The lyrics often deal with personal topics such as love, relationships, heartbreak, and struggle. The third defining element of soul music is its use of funky grooves and rhythms. This element is what sets soul music apart from other genres such as rock or pop. Soul music often has a slower tempo than other genres, but it makes up for it with its infectious rhythms.

The fourth element that defines soul music is its social consciousness. Many soul artists used their platform to address issues such as poverty, racism, and inequality. One of the most famous examples is Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On” which addressed environmentalism and police brutality. Lastly, soul music is defined by its use of traditional instrumentation such as drums, bass guitar, piano, horns, and electric guitar.

The golden age of soul

Soul music is a genre that arose out of the African American experience. It is a combination of gospel, R&B, and blues. The term “soul” was first used in the mid-1950s to describe African American popular music.


The term “soul music” was coined in the late 1950s by record producer Jerry Wexler. At the time, Aretha Franklin was recordings for Atlantic Records and she was one of the first artists to be associated with the genre.

While there is no definitive answer for why soul music is called soul, it is generally agreed that the term refers to the emotional and spiritual qualities of the music. The genre often deals with themes of loss, love, and heartbreak, and the lyrics are typically sung with a lot of feeling.

Soul music originated in the African-American community, and it was greatly influenced by gospel music. In the 1960s, Motown became one of the most successful labels for soul music, and artists like Marvin Gaye, Smokey Robinson, and Stevie Wonder helped to bring the genre to a wider audience.

Today, soul music is enjoyed by fans all over the world, and it continues to evolve as new artists add their own unique elements to the genre.


In the 1960s, a new sound was emerging from the African American community in the south that would come to be known as soul music. This new sound was a blend of gospel, R&B, and blues, and it was made possible by the formation of a new record label called Stax.

Stax was founded in Memphis, Tennessee in 1961 by Jim Stewart and Estelle Axton. Stewart had been a country music DJ who started dabbling in recording, while Axton was a former radio station owner. The two came together to form a label that would focus on recording African American artists from the south.

The first artist signed to Stax was singer Rufus Thomas, and the label’s first hit came with the release of Thomas’s “Bear Cat” in 1962. The song rose to #3 on the R&B charts and #29 on the Billboard Hot 100, and it helped put Stax on the map as a major force in soul music.

The label’s breakthrough came in 1965 with the release of Otis Redding’s “I Can’t Turn You Loose.” The song became a smash hit, reaching #1 on the R&B charts and #35 on the Hot 100. It established Redding as one of the biggest stars in soul music and helped make Stax one of the most important labels in the genre.

Over the next few years, Stax would release classics by artists like Sam & Dave, Isaac Hayes, Booker T. & The MGs, and The Staples Singers. These artists helped define what soul music sounded like and turned Stax into THE place to go if you wanted to make a soul record.

The label hit its peak in 1968 with what is arguably its most famous release: “(Sittin’ On) The Dock Of The Bay” by Otis Redding. The song was released just days after Redding’s untimely death in a plane crash, but it went on to become one of his biggest hits, reaching #1 on both the R&B and pop charts. It remains one of the most iconic soul songs of all time.

Sadly, Stax went bankrupt in 1975 and was forced to close its doors. But despite its relatively short lifespan, the label left an indelible mark on popular music and helped shape what we now know as soul music.


In the 1950s, a combination of factors including the rise of rhythm and blues, the growth of doo-wop and the arrival of rock and roll led to the development of a new style of music called soul.

The term “soul” was originally used to describe African American gospel music, but it came to be associated with a new type of music that combined elements of gospel, R&B and rock and roll.

Soul music was born in the African American community, but it quickly crossed over into the mainstream. In the 1960s, artists like James Brown and Otis Redding became popular with both black and white audiences.

In the 1970s, soul music evolved into disco and funk, but it has continued to influence other genres including hip-hop, R&B and pop.

Contemporary soul

Soul music is a genre that arose out of the African-American experience. It is a mix of rhythm and blues and gospel music. The term “soul” was once used to describe African-American music in general, but it eventually became associated with a particular style that emerged in the 1960s.


Neo-soul is a subgenre of contemporary soul that emerged in the early 1990s. It is characterized by a mix of traditional soul and R&B with contemporary hip hop, jazz, and funk. Neo-soul artists are often influenced by the work of 1970s soul artists such as Stevie Wonder and Marvin Gaye.

While neo-soul has its roots in the work of 1970s soul artists, it is also indebted to the sound of 1980s hip hop. In particular, many neo-soul artists incorporate elements of hip hop such as rap, sampling, and programmed drums into their music. This use of hip hop elements has helped to give neo-soul its distinctive sound.

While neo-soul artists share a common musical style, they often have very different lyrical content. Some neo-soul artists sing about personal and social issues, while others focus on more positive themes such as love and relationships. Regardless of their lyrical content, all neo-soul artists share a passion for making music that is genuine and authentic.


Funk is a music genre that originated in African-American communities in the mid-1960s. The term funk initially referred to a foul odor, but was later used to describe a distinct style of music characterized by a strong, rhythmic groove. Funk songs are often based on a simple riff or groove that is repeated throughout the song. This type of composition provides a solid foundation for improvisation and encourages audience participation.

Funk music is often associated with danceability and party atmosphere. The genre developed from African-American soul music, which was characterised by its own rhythmic groove but also incorporated elements of jazz, blues and R&B. As funk developed, it began to incorporate more African influences, such as polyrhythms and call-and-response vocals.

Funk songs typically feature a number of instruments playing interlocking rhythms, which create a “groove” that is difficult to resist dancing to. The genre is often characterised by its use of electric bass, drums, horns and keyboards. Funk bands may also use guitars, but the focus is on the rhythm section rather than the lead instruments.

Funk has been influential on several other genres of music, including disco, hip hop and electronic dance music. Some of the most famous funk songs include James Brown’s “Sex Machine”, Parliament’s “Flash Light” and Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition”.


Contemporary soul, sometimes known as R&B, is a genre of popular music that originated in the 1950s and 1960s. It combines elements of rhythm and blues, gospel, and pop music. Soul music became popular in the United States during the early 1960s. Motown Records was one of the most successful soul music labels. Hits like “My Girl” by The Temptations and “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” by Marvin Gaye helped to bring soul music to a wider audience. In the 1970s, soul music began to merge with other genres, such as funk and disco. This led to the creation of new subgenres, such as Philly soul and southern soul. Contemporary soul is still popular today, with artists like Mary J. Blige and Alicia Keys continuing to release hit records.

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