Soul songs can cover any topic, but many focus on love. These tracks evoke feelings like the exhilaration of young romance or heartache in an existing relationship before conveying an urge to dance impulsively with excitement.
Percy Sledge’s 1966 classic is an ideal example of this genre, drawing elements from gospel and R&B music while adding jazzy instrumentals and an easygoing steady beat.
A Whiter Shade of Pale
Procol Harum’s debut single A Whiter Shade of Pale was first released in 1967, reaching number one and remaining there for six weeks on the UK charts; it also charted in the US where it peaked at number 5. Known for its distinctive style and Bach-influenced organ part played by Matthew Fisher using his Hammond M102 organ, A Whiter Shade of Pale remains obscure in meaning and has inspired numerous theories over time.
Its timeless melody and unique lyrics have cemented it as one of the enduring soul music songs ever written, being covered by numerous artists – most notably Moody Blues who covered it on their 1989 album Classic Blue. Additionally, movie soundtracks such as The Exterminators, Alfonso Cuaron’s Children of Men, and The Devil Wears Prada featured it. Furthermore, commercials for American Express feature it.
No one knows for certain what “a whiter shade of pale” refers to; however, it appears to refer to someone who is very sick or depressed. The song’s lyrics have inspired decades-long debate about their meaning – some suggest it’s about seducing women while others believe its message may be more complex; one theory suggests the song references The Miller’s Tale from Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales as it features adultery as one theme.
Procol Harum keyboardist Gary Brooker wrote the song’s instrumental parts, drawing inspiration from Bach’s piece Air on a G String. Gary used a stepwise bassline reminiscent of classical composition to build anticipation and tension, providing contrast with vocal melody. To heighten excitement and drama further, an inverted version of organ motif played during chorus adds another layer. Finally, its harmonic structure rests upon C major, just as its bassline moves stepwise downward in an almost repetitive fashion.
Ray Davies of The Kinks is an adept lyricist whose songs perfectly capture moments, places and feelings. Perhaps none encapsulate these traits better than ‘Waterloo Sunset’, his tribute to London that has come to encapsulate its unique characteristics and beauty.
Waterloo Sunset was released as a single from The Kinks’ Something Else album in 1967 and quickly became one of their signature hits, beloved by audiences everywhere. It even inspired one character in Love, Simon (starring Ethan Hawke ) as his widow claims he listened to Waterloo Sunset every day while passing away.
The track was inspired by Davies’ experiences at Croydon Art School where he often saw couples meeting outside Waterloo station and sitting together outside Waterloo Bridge on their way to class. Additionally, this song pays a fitting ode to London itself by depicting an idyllic British scene replete with Bentleys, semi-detached houses, and afternoon cups of tea – as he often saw them passing each other by their windows while heading home each day.
Although its lyrics may seem melancholic, “Waterloo Sunset” remains one of the Kinks’ most beloved and beautiful songs. It stands as an evidence of music’s healing powers; also demonstrating how simple melodies combined with catchy lyrics can create timeless classics like this song.
Ferris & Sylvester have created an exquisite rendition of this well-known song. Issy’s mesmerising vocals and Archie’s soothing tones make for an astounding and mesmerising performance, creating a compelling folk/folk rock fusion whose production captures perfectly its delicate beauty, while bass and drums bring some added edge that prevents this track from sounding too sweet.
At the conclusion of the Olympic Games, few songs could be more fitting than this beautiful track to commemorate London. Sure to resonate at Stratford stadium and beyond.
Fairytale of New York
Fairytale of New York stands out among festive songs as an unforgettable sing-along experience, featuring the NYPD Choir Boys and Barbra Streisand-style chanteuse. This memorable tune can bring people from around the globe together in celebration on Christmas Day, no matter how alone you may feel at times like this.
Songs such as this perennial hit have also generated controversy, especially the Pogues’ 1987 version which contains an offensive word considered homophobic by some listeners. Radio 2 recently made an announcement that they will no longer play this version during Christmas; many saw this censorship as evidence of cancel culture; it should be noted however, that many more swear words and offensive lyrics are removed when music is broadcast over radio all year round.
Though controversial, it seems unlikely that the word f-word will be removed from the song in the long run. Remembering that it wasn’t originally intended as a homophobic slur and only became restricted after controversy developed caused the word to become controversial made it unlikely for its removal from lyrics.
Though the song’s offensive lyrics have caused much discussion, its success cannot be denied. The Pogues have become legendary bands, and this track remains one of their biggest hits. Kirsty MacColl’s contribution may not match that of Shane MacGowan but her performance stands out; her bold yet seductive vocal style fits in well with that of an underaged tank hero found within this track.
Notably, this song has been covered by numerous artists over time; Sinead O’Connor, Katie Melua and Cerys Matthews among them have recorded versions. These renditions have helped keep the song relevant and fresh over time.
The Civil Rights Movement
Civil Rights Movement ignited rhythm and blues music–the musical genre comprised of gospel chords, African American spirituals, jazz influences and soul music–into a genre with great popularity that spoke out on social and political issues with great vocal talent such as soul music. Artists employed the style to explore poverty, racism and violence within America while using it to advocate change through activism through their music.
Otis Redding’s unofficial civil rights anthem “Respect,” released in the late 1950s, became so widely beloved that President Lyndon Johnson included it into his March on Washington speech that same year. Additionally, other groups such as Staple Singers produced songs which promoted black pride and self-esteem – one such song by Staple Singers entitled “Respect Yourself” calling for recognition of all people’s achievements and aspirations was released several years later in 1971.
By the 1970s, soul music had developed several distinct styles. A popular form known as blue-eyed soul achieved mainstream success thanks to singers like Hall and Oates as well as groups such as The Delfonics and Oakland’s Tower of Power. Meanwhile Memphis Tennessee label Stax established their distinctive sound which included pushing vocals further back in the mix than typical R&B records while employing vibrant horn parts instead of background voices for added vibrancy; Stax also helped pioneer deep and southern soul genre with artists like Booker T & The MGs and The Memphis Horns creating signature sounds which focused on low end frequencies.
However, artists like James Brown injected soul music with raw energy and passion, using rhythms, jazz horns, stage histrionics and guttural lascivious wails to convey a powerful message about black empowerment. Meanwhile, singer-songwriters like Bob Dylan produced earnest yet inspirational folk songs that conveyed deeper understanding of freedom struggles as well as encouraging support for civil rights protests and reform movements.