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Music Industry

What Is Southern Soul Music?

Photograph of the blog post author, Chioma Eguzoraku

Chioma Eguzoraku


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Southern Soul Music

Southern Soul is a genre of music that originated in the Southern United States in the 1960s and 1970s. Its soulful vocals, bluesy guitar riffs, and rhythmic beats characterize it. Southern Soul draws influences from genres such as blues, gospel, and R&B, and has been popularized by artists such as Otis Redding, Al Green, and Aretha Franklin. The genre continues to thrive today with contemporary artists like Chris Stapleton and Leon Bridges incorporating elements of Southern Soul into their music.

History Of Southern Soul Music

The roots of Southern Soul Music can be traced back to the early 1960s when several independent record labels began to emerge in the southern United States. These labels, such as Stax Records in Memphis, Tennessee, and Fame Records in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, were instrumental in developing the sound of Southern Soul Music.

One of the most influential figures in the development of Southern Soul Music was Otis Redding. Redding was a singer, songwriter, and producer who worked with Stax Records in the 1960s. He is best known for his songs “Try a Little Tenderness” and “Sitting on the Dock of the Bay,” which are considered classics of the genre.

Other notable artists in the Southern Soul Music genre include Wilson Pickett, Aretha Franklin, and James Brown. These artists helped to popularize the sound of Southern Soul Music and rhythm and blues, proving how much their music continues to be celebrated today.

Racism In The Music Genre 

During the 1960s, racism was rampant in the Southern United States, and the music industry was no exception. The genre, which emerged during this time, was heavily influenced by the experiences of African Americans living in the South.

Many Southern Soul artists, such as Otis Redding and Aretha Franklin, faced discrimination and segregation while touring in the South. They often had to perform in separate venues from white artists and were not allowed to stay in the same hotels or eat in the same restaurants.

Despite these challenges, soul singers became a powerful tool for African Americans to express their struggles and experiences. Songs like Sam Cooke’s “A Change Is Gonna Come” and Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On” addressed the social and political issues of the time, including racism and the civil rights movement.

The southern gospel also provided a sense of community and hope for African Americans during difficult times. Artists like James Brown and Wilson Pickett created songs that celebrated black culture and identity, such as “Say It Loud – I’m Black and I’m Proud” and “In the Midnight Hour.”

Best Artists Of The Southern Soul Music Genre

Over the years, many talented artists have emerged in this genre, but here are some of the best Southern Soul music artists of all time:

1. Otis Redding – Known as the “King of Soul,” Otis Redding was one of the most influential Southern Soul artists of all time. He had a powerful voice and wrote many classic songs, including “Respect” and “Try a Little Tenderness.”

2. Aretha Franklin – Although she was born in Memphis, Tennessee, Aretha Franklin is often associated with Detroit’s Motown sound. However, she was also a talented Southern Soul artist who had a string of hits in the 1960s and 1970s, including “Chain of Fools” and “Natural Woman.”

3. Al Green – Al Green is a legendary Southern Soul artist who had a string of hits in the 1970s, including “Let’s Stay Together” and “Tired of Being Alone.”

4. James Brown – Known as the “Godfather of Soul,” James Brown was a pioneer of Southern Soul music. He had a unique style that blended R&B, funk, and gospel, and he wrote many classic songs, including “I Got You (I Feel Good)” and “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag.”

5. Etta James – Etta James was a talented Southern Soul artist who had a powerful and soulful voice. She had many hits in the 1960s, including “At Last” and “Tell Mama,” and her music influenced many other artists in the genre.

6. Wilson Pickett – Wilson Pickett was a talented Southern Soul artist who had a string of hits in the 1960s and 1970s.

7. Sam Cooke – Although he is often associated with the Motown sound, Sam Cooke was also a talented Southern Soul artist. He had a smooth and soulful voice and wrote many classic songs, including “A Change Is Gonna Come” and “Cupid.”

The Genre Today

Today, Southern Soul music continues to thrive, with a new generation of artists carrying on the traditions of their predecessors. Artists like Chris Stapleton, St. Paul and the Broken Bones, and Anderson East are bringing a fresh perspective to the genre, infusing it with elements of rock, country, and pop.

One of the defining characteristics of the music is its emphasis on storytelling. Many of the songs in this genre tell stories of love, heartbreak, and struggle, often drawing on the experiences of the artists themselves. This personal touch gives the music a sense of authenticity and emotional depth that is hard to find in other genres.

Another key element of the genre is its connection to the culture and history of the Southern United States. Many of the artists in this genre draw inspiration from the rich musical traditions of the region, incorporating elements of blues, gospel, and country music into their sound.

Closing Thoughts

In conclusion, Southern Soul music is a genre that continues to captivate audiences with its soulful vocals, bluesy guitar riffs, and heartfelt storytelling. Its connection to the culture and history of the southern United States gives it a unique character and a sense of authenticity that is hard to find in other genres. As long as there are artists who are passionate about this music, Southern Soul will continue to thrive and inspire new generations of musicians and fans alike.


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