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Soul America is a three-part series chronicling the journey of soul music, from its birth out of gospel and R&B in the 1960s, when it delivered an assertive, integrated vision of black America, and produced its first generation of stars including Otis Redding and Aretha Franklin.
In the late 60s, soul was the loud, proud and funky voice of black resistance and self-determination, spearheaded by the likes of James Brown and Isaac Hayes, while in the 1970s and 1980s a second coming of soul men focused on the bedroom led by Al Green, Teddy Pendergrass, Marvin Gaye and Luther Vandross offered slow jams and sexual healing, and mid-70s disco became a lucrative side-line for female singers such as Candi Staton and Millie Jackson.
From the 17th century slavery drove the economy of the American south for 200 years, and when slavery was finally abolished in 1863 its gospel tradition lived on. As the black American church grew in strength and popularity, so did its singers. A network of black performers and venues emerged - known as the gospel highway.
In the 1950s, in living memory of the Emancipation Proclamation, soul music's first generation of stars would emerge, including Aretha Franklin. Soul came from a higher place, but it would land in the carnal world of Rhythm & Blues. Ray Charles' What'd I Say crystallised soul, combining Saturday night R&B with Sunday morning call and response.
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