A successful popular music style, soul music is derived from black gospel music, with its highly decorated, emotional singing style, fervent backup choruses, and rhythmic instrumental backing. In the late 1940s and early 1950s, blues singers such as Bobby Bland, and vocal groups like the Ravens, used a gospeltinged sound. Church singers bagen to record popular music in 1950s, among them The Dominoes, led by Clyde McPhatter, and Sam Cooke, who was well known as a gospel singer before he “crossed over.” The most important names in 1950s “Please, Please, Please” had all the raw urgency of black preaching, and Ray Charles, whose 1959 “What’d I Say?” took the new sound to a wide audience.
The soul style was greatly popularized in the 1960s by the success of the Marrown group of record labels, and by Aretha Franklin, the doughter of a well known Detroit preacher, many of whose recordings became national hits. Other important soul singer of the 1960s included Otis Redding and Wilson Pickett, who were practitioners of the so-called Memphis sound. Throughout the 1960s the soul style was smoothed and softened to make it more acceptable to mass audiences. This tendency continued during the 1970s and 80s, when “soul music” became an accepted element of American popular music, growing increasingly sophisticated by retaining its basic church elements: decoration, drive and verve.