Some Words on Soul Music

Soul is still a very popular music genre which grew out of fifties rhythm and blues. There were two very defined record labels which dominated this era, Stax and Tamala Motown.

The record label Stax started life in Memphis in 1959, founded by Jim Stewart and Estelle Axton. Around the same time Berry Gordy was creating the two record labels, Tamla and Motown in Detroit. Stax and Tamla Motown became the biggest of rivals for record sales throughout the 1960’s and 70’s. Their music idiom was the same, with a focus on the Black music form soul, but marketing and style differed significantly.

Motown took the music market by storm at a time when white audiences were ignoring many black music forms. Their success was attributed to their light soul style with their image being aimed at the middle class market. Producing hits such as ‘Stop! In the name of love’ by the Supremes, released in 1965, and ‘Heard it through the grapevine’ by Marvin Gaye, released in 1968. Artists such as the Supremes, the Four Tops and Marvin Gaye developed a clean-cut image, appearing on record sleeves and in concerts wearing formal clothes such as tuxedos and evening dresses.

Stax records concentrated more on the original form of Black American Southern soul. For Stax records the original music form was more important than image and marketing. Artists and songs included ‘In the midnight hour’ by Wilson Pickett, released in 1965, and ‘Sittin’ on the dock of the bay’ by Otis Redding, released in 1968.


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