What is soul music? To me it’s the feeling you get when you listen to it. It gives you an inner emotion that’s hard to explain but here goes… let me try. Hard rock or dance music for example can make you feel energized, the blues may make you feel sad at times, jazz – relaxed and may provoke deeper thoughts but Soul just makes you feel good – plain & simple. Soul songs are mostly about love and or positive emotions. There are of course exceptions to this but generally speaking it’s uplifting music. On my radio show, I have often said that it’s what’s missing in the soul that makes it unique. It’s the timing of the singer, or a missing beat that the listener then has to fill in with his or her own raw emotion. That’s soul.


Soul music can be broke down into different sub-genre’s i.e. classic soul, old school, R&B, neo-soul and more and all should evoke the same type of feeling. So if you can’t fell it in your bones, it’s not soul.

Some of the all time great classic soul singers include Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin, Sam Cooke and the list goes on and on.

Old School music is essenially 70’s & 80’s with artists such as Rick James, The Commodores, Michael Jackson and so on.

Contemporary R&B really started in the early 90’s with a new type of sound. It was more studio/program based with no real instruments but again it retained the same feel. Mary J Blidge, Dru Hill and 112 where just some of the top artists of that time.

Then came neo-soul in the late 90’s/early 2000’s. This sub genre infused jazz and re-introduced live musicions and deeper lyrics back into the music. Artists such as Erykah Badu, Maxwell, Angie Stone and D’Angelo were some of the first to help create this new type of sound.


But if we focus on the “feeling” of soul, this can be found in some rock, reggae, jazz, house or dare I say most genre’s. I have even felt soul in some country songs!!! Yep I said it. It’s just the emotion that’s all. If the song speaks to you from within then it’s soulful.




Is “Soul Music ” black music? Well my collection of album artwork would surely support that plus the fact that I must have DJ’d a hundred parties where I am the only white in the room. All I know is I have always been welcomed into the black community to do my thing and I always get treated like family. Think about that for a second… a pasty white boy from England rolling up at an event with all black people to provide the entertainment? You think a young black man would be welcomed at an “all white” back road bar to perform? Hmmmmmm


Anyway, I’ll leave you with that thought to ponder over until the next time I write.



Bennie James signing out,


The Bennie James Show – 9-noon Tuesdays on KTUH 90.3fm Honolulu





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