Published on : 17/11/2020 – 22:43
After studying the genesis of Soul-Music in the first volume of his musicological study published in 2019, the journalist Christophe Delbrouck continues his story by publishing the second volume of “Soul-Music” (Éditions du Layeur) devoted to the 70s and 80. The discourse of African-American musicians has been refined, social demands are more explicit and proudly asserted. The Marvin Gaye, James Brown, George Clinton, Gil Scott-Heron, Prince, question their followers and question their determination on increasingly hopping and sparkling notes.
Difficult to date precisely the birth of Soul-Music… Musicologists believe that Ray Charles, at the dawn of the 1960s, knew how to combine sacred and secular repertoires, spirituals and blues, to invent a more popular form of expression and unitary. It should be noted, however, that stylistic mutations had already started ten years earlier when Ike Turner and Jackie Brenston composed “Rocket 88”, a major work halfway between swing and rhythm & blues. Was Soul-Music already included in these fiery notes that would transform the musical landscape of the time? It is, in any case, obvious that the progressive politicization of artists in the second half of the twentieth century will accelerate record production and identify Soul-Music as the vector of expression of the African-American rebellion.
While the fervor fueled by the civil rights movement gave way to disillusionment at the dawn of the 1970s, artistic and civic engagement remained intact. Sly & The Family Stone, in particular, continue to stir up anti-establishment minds in a psychedelic soul-funk mood that will inspire generations of musicians. While the recording industry is becoming more professional and structured, two options are available to the creators of the time: to remain faithful to their convictions or to bend willingly to the demands of a greedy economy. Easy money and compromises no longer frighten the new stars of Soul-Music whose disco accents seem to deny the social struggle of black America. Two parallel stories are being written and the ideological divide is emerging.
It will take the tenacity of George Clintons and Gil Scott-Heron to keep the flame from flickering. It will take the hammered verve of the Grandmaster Flash and SugarHill Gang for the resisting impetus to have an echo in the sanitized sound universe of the 80s. “Did the original Soul-Music live?”, Asks -on then … Two little geniuses of interpretation and production will manage to save the soul of a music rooted in black American culture. Michael Jackson and Prince reinject the thrill, dance, rhythm, inventiveness, daring, in a contemporary reinterpretation of black heritage. They reinvent the rebellious discourse of their elders by using the methods of communication mastered of their time. They give their expressiveness that little extra soul that moves and mobilizes. They give Soul-Music its flavor of yesteryear without altering its authenticity by too many artifices.