EPISODE GUIDES Soul Deep - The Story Of Black Popular Music The Birth Of Soul - Ep1/6
BBC Two 7 May, 9.00-10.00pm
Soul music has conquered the world in the last 50 years - growing from the raw, electric rhythms of the black underclass, it is now a billion dollar industry with R&B and hip-hop dominating the world's charts. It's been the soundtrack to some of the most extraordinary social, political and cultural shifts. And, together with the civil rights movement, it has challenged the white hegemony, helped breakdown segregation and encouraged the fight for racial equality.
This new six part series, made by the BBC team who produced the critically-acclaimed Lost Highway,Walk On By and Dancing In The Street series, charts the evolution of soul music -with a fascinating combination of rare archive and contemporary interviews. From rhythm and blues to today's R&B, via gospel, southern soul, Motown, funk and hip-hop soul, Soul Deep tells the story of the rise of black popular music - in the words of its greatest performers, producers, musicians and commentators. Starting with a previously unseen BBC interview with Ray Charles, he reveals how his innovations first brought soul to a wider audience. "Ray was the genius. He turned the world onto soul music," comments Bobby Womack.
The term rhythm and blues was coined by Billboard Magazine journalist Jerry Wexler after he was asked by his editor to find an alternative for the label 'race music'. After many years touring on what was known as the 'chitlin' circuit' (a network of black clubs and bars) with artists like Ruth Brown, Ray finally created his own style - by unifying the sexually-charged music of the dance floor with the spiritually-charged sounds of the church hall. Life was hard and sometimes dangerous for black musicians in a segregated society. Ruth Brown explains: "When the dance was over sometimes it was so scary we wanted to get out of town as soon as we could.There were still crosses burning in the middle of the night.There was a price paid for this music." The creation of the Atlantic record label took the music to a wider, more mainstream audience. Ahmet Ertegun who, with his brother Nesuhi, started the label, says: "We had a good feel for where the music was going. Our target audience in the beginning was the black audience - which understands the music they like.Their tastes change and, once they change, don't go back." As the black sounds crossed the racial divide, rhythm and blues gave birth to rock 'n' roll - a far more sanitised version of the black sound which was seen to be "too uninhibited, too loose, and too sweaty." Ray Charles says: "Rock 'n' roll is the white version of rhythm and blues.There was a big difference, if you really listened to the music, between the two styles. One is more pure, one is more dirty. R&B has got more toe jam in it."
Black artists were squeezed out of the mainstream charts by white covers of their songs and Charles looked back to his roots for his inspiration and the creation of his own distinctive sound. He quotes his mother's influence in his music and his fusion of gospel and sheer dance hall sex. "I started taking my music and saying it the way that I felt it - the gospel sound that was part of my growing up. I knew all I was doing was being myself." With backing singers the Raylettes, Charles further honed his own sound, much to the chagrin of the church community. Charles' biographer Michael Lydon describes: "He went for a completely uninhibited gospel sound but made it sexual.The Raylettes became the choir behind the preacher."
Another young gospel singer was hot on the heels of Ray Charles - James Brown's hit Please, Please, Please in 1956 was the embodiment of the black American experience. It spoke of the hurt as well as the hopes and aspirations of an underclass. "If you really enjoy it, the spirit comes out," Brown tells Soul Deep
BBC Soul Deep Episodes Online
BBC Soul Deep Episode 1 - Story Of Black Popular Music
BBC Soul Deep - The Story of Black Popular Music -- The Gospel Highway
BBC Soul Deep Episode 2 - Story Of Black Popular Music
BBC Soul Deep - The Story of Black Popular Music - The Sound Of Young America
BBC Soul Deep Episode 3 - Story Of Black Popular Music
BBC Soul Deep - The Story of Black Popular Music - Southern Soul
BBC Soul Deep Episode 4 - Story Of Black Popular Music
BBC Soul Deep - The Story of Black Popular Music - Ain't It Funky
BBC Soul Deep Episode 5 - Story Of Black Popular Music
BBC Soul Deep - The Story of Black Popular Music - From Ghetto to Fabulous
BBC Soul Deep Episode 6 - Story Of Black Popular Music