Although soul music has played an important role in British popular culture since the 1960s, its impetus has always come mainly from America. Its contribution has been as a sound which has influenced British music, despite rarely being produced in this country.
   Early soul music developed as a combination of rhythm and blues, gospel and popular ballads. Its sound was made for dancing, with strong emphasis placed on the rhythmical elements of the music. By the early 1960s it was beginning to be heard in Britain, with bands such as the Rolling Stones drawing heavily on the soul sound on their early records. In the years that followed, soul came to be dominated by the ‘Motown sound’, strongly melodic songs, often written to a formula, with performers having little or no artistic control. One offshoot of this sound was Northern Soul, a particularly frenetic form of soul which became popular in the north of England.
   In the late 1960s and early 1970s, a political element developed in soul music with songs beginning to comment on issues such as racial inequality and poverty. At around the same time, funk grew out of the soul sound. Over the next few years the sound of soul changed dramatically, with songs becoming slower, more in a ballad style, and lush orchestration being introduced, particularly in the style known as Philly (or Philadelphia) soul. Throughout the remainder of the 1970s and the 1980s soul became more and more commercial, becoming typified by slick production values and precise instrumentation which robbed the music of much of its emotional appeal, although its popularity remained unaffected. In the 1990s, however, soul has been influenced by hip hop (which had, in turn, drawn much of its sound from earlier soul), and the resulting style, know as swingbeat (or simply swing) has brought some passion back to the music. Swing is characterized by fairly stripped down instrumentation, strong melodies (often sung in close harmony) and a seemingly endless lyrical interest in sex.
   Soul music has influenced many different styles of popular music in Britain, from the bluesey soul of bands such as the Spencer Davis Group in the 1960s through to the pop soul of artists like Gabrielle and Eternal in the 1990s, and has proved itself to be a lasting and versatile musical force.
   See also: blues; reggae

Encyclopedia of contemporary British culture . . 2014.

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