Sunday, August 28, 2011

The first soul record

What was the first soul record? There must be many contenders from the late 50s and early 60s, by artists such as James Brown, Sam Cooke, Jackie Wilson, Little Willie John, Chuck Willis, Clyde McPhatter, Jerry Butler, Solomon Burke and early Motown and Stax artists. The word 'soul' was commonly used in many gospel and jazz songs of the era, but it wasn't applied to soul music as we now know it at the time. Soul was a fusion of rhythm and blues, gospel and doo-wop, and there were certainly records that had what we now call 'soul' in the fifties. But it wasn't called soul.

Craig Charles on his Moments of Soul programme on Radio 2 last night - the start of a soul all-nighter - started his show with Ray Charles's I Gotta Woman, which is considered by some to be the first soul record. But Paul Gambaccini, who is a bit of an expert on such things, nominated Soul Twist by King Curtis (pictured) as the first record that used the word in the way we know it today. This record was followed shortly afterwards by Curtis's Soul Serenade and Sam Cooke's LP Mr Soul, and blossomed into the sixties soul that we know and love. I can't really argue with this, as I can't think of an earlier use of the word in a non-gospel/jazz context. Any offers?

To be fair, Craig had a pretty fair stab at choosing the greatest early soul moments, with Barrett Strong's Money, Shop Around by the Miracles, James Brown's Try Me from Live At The Apollo, and both the Aretha and Otis versions of Respect. He followed up with Sam's Wonderful World, two from Percy Sledge (When A Man Loves A Woman and Out Of Left Field) and then some later funkier stuff such as Ball Of Confusion, Mercy Mercy Me and Superfly. He moved on to the Wigan Casino story with Russ Winstanley. Wonderful soul and great to hear it on mainstream radio.


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