Soultemba: The Soul Music Syllabus
By Nomali Cele
Soul music is the heir of blues. Where blues was moody and focused on biographical-sounding narratives, soul looked to liberate the listener and create a mood where they could dance and, maybe, cry while dancing. From the 1950s onward, soul and funk soul emerged and have since influenced pop music and other genres. This Soultemba, we share a few books and documentaries to add to your soul music syllabus.
What to watch
Miss Sharon Jones!
Sharon Jones was the lead vocalist of Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings. In a career spanning 20 years. The power vocalist had a presence all her own on every stage she graced. The documentary will show you a little-acknowledged and talented soul singer at her best as well as she fights cancer for her life.
This is It
Michael Jackon may have been known as “the king of pop” but his career was a culmination of the Motown vision that insisted that the black sound and black artists could be ubiquitous in the mainstream. In “This Is It” Jackson is rehearsing for his final concert – he planned to perform everything from recent hits to the songs he first performed with the Jackson Five.
The Night James Brown Saved Boston
On 4 April 1968, Martin Luther King Jr was assassinated. Boston, like much of America, was experiencing riots and unrest in response the assassination. To this day, history believes that a James Brown performance on 5 April 1968 is the only thing that kept the city peaceful. In “The Night James Brown Saved Boston” prominent black people, historians and musical figures reflect on that concert and the power of music to redirect anger and frustrations.
What to read
The Life and Music of Legendary Bassist James Jamerson by Dr. Licks
Most of the time in music, when the artist is good, everyone outside the blinding spotlight becomes invisible. In performances, it doesn’t quite register how good an instrumentalist was or how much of a visionary a costume designer is, all the credit goes to the person in front of the audience. In the case of James Jamerson, it was no different. Read the book to learn about the session musician whose bass was behind a lot of Motown’s hits.
Nowhere to Run by Gerri Hirshey
Gerri Hirshey interviews soul music legends such as Aretha Franklin, Diana Ross, Ray Charles, James Brown and more. In the book, Hirshey follows some of the subjects of the book, soul music legends such as James Brown, across the United States capturing their performances. Hirshey is one of the few top music journalists who have consistently documented soul music over the years.