SOS: Did R&B Sell its Soul?

Many may ask what is soul? Soul music essentially comes from the soul. The listener can feel the lyrics of a song, the message behind it and the soul in the musician’s voice.

The listener felt Lenny Williams’ passionate soulful plea for his woman in “Cause I Love You.” Sam Cooke held the weight of a people’s pain on his shoulders in “Change Gon Come.”

Sam Cooke

Marvin Gaye tackled political and environmental issues in “Mercy Mercy Me” and “What’s Going On.”

Soul music is a sound that allows the souls of mankind to connect harmoniously. It is communication though melodic sounds and soulful cries that cause the listener to respond with goose bumps.

Marvin Gaye

The Commodores

It was this Godly sound that carried a generation through a tumultuous period in American history and uplifted a people who had little to nothing to grasp hold onto.

Soul music is a beautiful creation birthed by African Americans in a hostile environment.

It was a combination of factors that birthed soul music. Slavery, racism and many hardships produced this unique sound that allowed Africans to sing away their pains while laboring on the cotton fields and each Sunday while praising God during service.

New Edition

Black music and nearly all forms of contemporary musical genres have roots in Black Gospel in some form or another. And these roots go further back to Africa.

This music kept the black familial structure and community strong up until the crack epidemic of the early 80s, which had dealt a crucial blow to the accomplishments this culture built after the dissolvement of slavery and even through continuous racism.

K-Ci and Jo Jo

It was through soul music; our great American leaders were able to have a soundtrack to march to during the American Civil Rights Mo(ve)ment.

In an interview with Black Tree Media, popular neo-soul musician Musiq Soulchild cites Donnie Hathaway, Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, Michael Jackson, Aretha Franklin, Prince and Earth Wind & Fire as his heroes in the soul genre, to name a few.

James Brown

“They perform, write, arrange and present themselves artistically from their soul and that’s something that I do,” he said. “I like to think I am valid contributor to the legacy of soul music. I follow their lead. I didn’t go to school for this. They were my instructors, my professors.

Where has soul music gone?

Soul music hasn’t left. Our present-day torchbearers of the soul genre, include Raphael Saadiq, Raheem Devaugn, Leela James, Anthony Hamilton, Laila Hathaway and Ledisi, to name a few.

It’s not that soul music has left; it is not receiving as much mainstream presence due to lack of media support. The black sound now has been commercialized and turned Pop for mainstream success.

One could make the argument that black music tells a narrative of the state of black culture. With songs like Al Green’s “Let’s Stay Together” and James Brown “Say It Loud- I’m Black and I’m Proud,” one can get the sense that the black community was more united in the past than in present day.

Sex, violence and drugs now control themes of songs streamed through radios. On today’s radio programming, the word “sex” isn’t even censored.

Current songs receiving considerate amount of radio play include “Quickie” by Miguel and “Bananas” by Ray J ft. Rico Love. One can Google the lyrics to these songs.

This Godly sound that was used to spread love and hope, now is seemingly being used to degenerate an entire culture.

Black music is in a definite state of emergency. In order to save this genre, the consumer must go out and support artists preserving soul.

As our ancestors sent distress signals to God through soul, we must come together to save soul to place the “unity” back into our community. If this is done, we can truly “Save Our Soul.”