When Sam Cooke recorded ‘You Send Me’ in June 1957, he had no idea he was constructing a new black music form. Exiled from his beloved gospel roots, the singer with the golden voice thought he was making a pop record. And it was much the same for Ray Charles as he kept on adding more and more gospel to the R&B stew of ‘What’d I Say’. They may not have known it, but together with the likes of Clyde McPhatter and James Brown, they were searching for the roots of soul, a way to represent not only the excitement of gospel, but its implications of social and personal interdependence.


Racial discrimination, beatings and KKK killings were rife in early sixties America, particularly in the old Confederate South. The civil rights movement rose up as a vehicle for resistance and as the protests increased so too did black pride. Soul music became the rallying cry for a change in black consciousness, and while never truly political in nature, came to represent one of the first and most visible successes of the movement.


By 1964, soul as an entity in its own right was finally being recognised and getting dirtier, greasier, rawer and more secular, paradoxically by imitating gospels most hardcore aspects; it’s shouting, it’s hand clapping, it’s speaking in tongues expressivity, its Holy Roller dementia, it’s relentless rhythms. Most of the new soul generation were already established within the black community.


Bobby Bland’s records were some of the finest gospel influenced recordings of the period, while former preacher Solomon Burke somehow transferred the fervor of the pulpit into stirring rhythms. Otis Redding also emerged; all grits, grunts and gospel fire. And there were others too; Curtis Mayfield’s Impressions, their ‘People Get Ready’ another timeless civil rights spiritual, Joe Tex and Wilson Pickett. Most made their best records in 1965/66 where they went almost completely unnoticed and unheralded.


Inevitably, it was left to the maverick James Brown to push soul in a new direction by using his full on personality to smash a way into the public consciousness. Revered as ‘Soul Brother No 1’, even amongst his peers, he released a string of tougher than tough dance records before blowing everything apart with ‘Cold Sweat’, a record so radical and so different it single-handedly detonated a seismic shift towards funk, and in so doing changed the course of black music history.


Without doubt, James Brown was the most assertively black personality ever accorded mainstream acceptance in America. The great esteem in which he was held was exemplified on April 5th 1968, the day after Martin Luther King’s assassination. A TV station in Boston, a city that had already suffered one night of serious rioting, aired a live JB concert in the vain hope of preventing any further damage. And, as incredible as it may seem, it worked, Boston actually suffering less crime that night than on a regular Friday in April!


01 SAM COOKE ‘You Send Me’ (A Side October 1957)

02 CLYDE McPHATTER ‘A Lovers Question’ (A Side November 1958)

03 RAY CHARLES ‘What’d I Say Pt 1’ (A Side July 1959)

04 IKE & TINA TURNER ‘A Fool In Love’ (A Side August 1960)

05 BOBBY BLAND ‘Don’t Cry No More’ (A Side September 1961)

06 SOLOMON BURKE ‘Cry To Me’ (A Side February 1962)

07 ARTHUR ALEXANDER ‘You Better Move On’ (A Side February 1962)

08 THE DRIFTERS ‘On Broadway’ (A Side March 1963)

09 BARBARA LEWIS ‘Hello Stranger’ (A Side May 1963)

10 GARNET MIMMS & THE ENCHANTERS ‘A Quiet Place’ (A Side July 1963)

11 IRMA THOMAS ‘Time Is On My Side’ (B Side July 1964)

12 THE IMPRESSIONS ‘People Get Ready’ (A Side February 1965)

13 OTIS REDDING ‘Down In The Valley’ (Otis Blue LP October 1965)

14 JOE TEX ‘The Love You Save’ (A Side Feb 1966) 

15 WILSON PICKETT ‘Ninety Nine And A Half (Won’t Do)’ (A Side May 1966)

16 HOWARD TATE ‘Ain’t Nobody Home’ (A Side July 1966)

17 JAMES CARR ‘Pouring Water On A Drowning Man’ (A Side September 1966)

18 DYKE & THE BLAZERS ‘Funky Broadway Pt 1’ (A Side October 1966)

19 ARETHA FRANKLIN ‘Do Right Woman, Do Right Man’ (B Side February 1967)

20 JAMES BROWN & THE FAMOUS FLAMES ‘Cold Sweat Pt 1’ (A Side July 1967)

21 THE DELLS ‘There Is’ (A Side December 1967)

22 SLY & THE FAMILY STONE ‘Dance To The Music’ (A Side January 1968)

23 THE INTRUDERS ‘Cowboys To Girls’ (A Side March 1968)

24 RUFUS THOMAS ‘The Memphis Train’ (A Side May 1968)

25 JOHNNY JOHNSON & THE BANDWAGON ‘Breakin’ Down The Walls Of Heartache’ (A Side August 1968)

26 ISLEY BROTHERS ‘It’s Your Thing’ (A Side February 1969)

27 ISAAC HAYES ‘Walk On By’ (B Side July 1969)

28 STAPLE SINGERS ‘When Will We Be Paid’ (A Side October 1969)