|Stylistic origins||Soul music, pop, rhythm and blues|
|Cultural origins||1960s, United States|
|List of blue-eyed soul artists|
Blue-eyed soul (also known as white soul) is rhythm and blues and soul music performed by white artists. The term was first used in the mid-1960s to describe white artists who performed soul and R&B that was similar to the music of the Motown and Stax record labels. The somewhat controversial term was coined during racial segregation in 1960s America at the time of the music genre's emergence in popular music culture.
The term continued to be used in the 1970s and 1980s, particularly by the British music press, to describe a new generation of white singers who adopted elements of classic soul music. To a lesser extent, the term has been applied to singers in other music genres that are influenced by soul music, such as urban music and hip hop soul.
1960s and 1970s
Blue-eyed soul began when white musicians remade African-American music for white audiences. Often there was a perception that the music was diluted for its new audience, a move that angered some African Americans as cultural appropriation, but pleased others who felt the growth of their music genre was positive.
The regional beach music and Carolina shag trends that originated in the areas around North and South Carolina in the late 1950s were, at least partly, a manifestation of blue-eyed soul. Local white bands backed nationally popular black R&B artists during their tours, and performed on their own at fraternity parties and other college social events. According to beach band historian Greg Haynes, artists such as Bonnie Bramlett and The Allman Brothers (originally known as The Allman Joys) began their careers on this circuit. Bill Deal and the Rhondels and The Swinging Medallions are beach bands which have charted nationally.
Georgie Woods, a Philadelphia radio DJ, came up with the term blue-eyed soul in the 1960s to describe white artists who received airplay on rhythm and blues radio stations. In the early 1960s, one of the rare female blue-eyed soul singers was Timi Yuro, whose vocal delivery and repertoire were influenced by African American singers such as Dinah Washington. Perhaps one of the most famous duos to be associated with the term were The Righteous Brothers, due to their emotive vocal style; their 1964 LP Some Blue-Eyed Soul was named after the term. Groups such as The Rascals (originally The Young Rascals) had soul-tinged songs, but it was the soulful vocals of Felix Cavaliere that gave them the blue-eyed soul sound. By the mid-1960s, British singers Dusty Springfield, Eric Burdon and Tom Jones had become leading vocal stars of the emerging style. Other notable UK exponents of blue-eyed soul included The Spencer Davis Group (featuring singer-organist-guitarist Steve Winwood) and archetypal mod band The Small Faces, whose sound was heavily influenced by the Stax label's house band Booker T. & the M.G.'s. Blue-eyed soul singer, Chris Clark became the first white singer to have an R&B hit with Motown Records in 1966. Most of the leading UK pop groups of the period – including The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Kinks and The Who – regularly covered Stax and Motown tracks on record or in concert, and all of them have acknowledged the influence of Motown and Stax artists on their music. In 1967, Jerry Lee Lewis, whose latter days at Sun Records (1961–1963) had been characterized by R&B covers, recorded an album for Smash entitled Soul My Way. Delaney and Bonnie (Bramlett) produced the blue-eyed soul album Home on Stax in 1969.
Michael Sembello, who left home at 17 to tour with Stevie Wonder, wrote and performed on numerous blue-eyed soul hits for Wonder, Brian McKnight, David Sanborn, Bill Champlin and Bobby Caldwell. Todd Rundgren began his career in Woody's Truck Stop, a group based on the model of the Paul Butterfield Blues Band. He left the band to form the garage rock band Nazz in 1967.
Outside the Anglo-American scene, in Italy, Mina and Carmen Villani fused elements of soul music with the traditional Italian pop music. Carola and Doris were notable Scandinavian artists who were influenced by soul music.
On 1 February 1975, Tower of Power became the first white/mixed act to appear on Soul Train. Also in 1975, David Bowie, another early white artist to appear on Soul Train, released Young Americans, a popular blue-eyed soul album. It featured the funk- inspired "Fame", which became Bowie's first #1 hit in the US. Hall & Oates' 1975 Silver Album (real title Daryl Hall & John Oates) includes the ballad "Sara Smile", long considered a blue-eyed soul standard. "She's Gone", another soulful hit, was originally released in 1973 but did better as a re-release after "Sara Smile". Average White Band is a Scottish funk and R&B band who had a series of soul and disco hits between 1974 and 1980, their biggest two being "Pick Up the Pieces" from their 1975 best-selling album AWB, and "Cut the Cake" from their 1975 album of the same name. Boz Scaggs' 1976 "Lowdown", which featured Scaggs' laid-back vocals and a smooth funky groove, peaked at #3 on the Billboard Pop Singles chart (and reaching Top 5 on the R&B chart). In April 1976, The Faragher Brothers became the first all-white ensemble to make an appearance on Soul Train. In September that year, white funk band Wild Cherry released the billboard Hot 100 chart topping funk/rock single "Play That Funky Music" and also went to number one on the Hot Soul Singles chart. The single would eventually sell 2.5 million copies.
In 1978, The Bee Gees topped R&B album charts with their Saturday Night Fever soundtrack, along with several songs from the album, including "Stayin' Alive", "Night Fever", and "You Should Be Dancing", which originally charted back in 1976. The Bee Gees again had a hit album on the R&B charts in 1979 with the Spirits Having Flown album along with its three pop #1 singles, "Too Much Heaven", "Tragedy" and "Love You Inside Out".
Other blue-eyed soul of the decade include the hits "How Long" by Ace (Paul Carrack, lead vocals), three hits by Ambrosia, "How Much I Feel", "Biggest Part of Me", and "You're the Only Woman", and Bobby Caldwell's soul standard "What You Won't Do for Love".
1980s and later
George Michael brought soul influences into his pop music, and was the first white solo artist to sing a duet with Aretha Franklin, in their hit I Knew You Were Waiting (for Me). Michael was the first white male vocalist to hit #1 on the US R&B album charts, with his debut album Faith. His fourth single from the album, One More Try, hit #1 in the US Hot R&B/Hip-Hop charts. In 1989 he became the first white artist to win the American Music Award for Favourite Male Vocalist and Favourite Album (Faith) (Soul/R&B). Annie Lennox, of the Eurythmics, was often cited as possessing "soul", and went on to record Sisters Are Doin' It for Themselves with Franklin. Around the same time, audiences were struck by the soulfulness of Teena Marie, who exclusively wrote and performed R&B and funk, as well as Michael McDonald, who is also frequently described as a 'blue-eyed soul' artist.
Hall & Oates' chart success was at its highest when their singles got heavy airplay on urban contemporary radio, as was the case with I Can't Go for That (No Can Do), One on One, Say It Isn't So, Adult Education, Out of Touch, Method of Modern Love and Everything Your Heart Desires. Most of those singles charted on the R&B and dance charts, including some #1 hits. Simply Red scored one of the most successful blue-eyed soul ballads of all time in 1986 with Holding Back the Years.
Other blue-eyed soul hits of the 1980s include: Phil Collins' cover version of You Can't Hurry Love, Culture Club's Church of the Poison Mind (1983), Rick Astley's Never Gonna Give You Up, The Style Council's Speak Like a Child, (1983) Eurythmics' Missionary Man (1986), and Steve Winwood's Roll With It (1988). As the decade drew to a close, British artist Lisa Stansfield had considerable success on R&B radio, scoring three #1 R&B hits, the most popular being All Around the World.
A backlash ensued in the late 1980s as some black people felt that white people were cashing in on the popularity of their music. However, the extent of the backlash was not universally agreed upon. In 1989, Ebony Magazine published an article exploring whether white people were "taking over" R&B. The article featured various members of the music industry, both black and white, who believed collaboration was a unifying force, and there was agreement that the future of R&B was not compromised by the contemporary urban sound. A similar article in Ebony, written in 1999 highlighted conflicting opinions about the "blue-eyed" influence; however the source of contention was not about the artistic merit of blue-eyed soul, but rather the economic inequality that persisted in American life and within the music industry. In the late 1990s, artists such as Christina Aguilera, Jon B., Alex Baroni, and Jamiroquai have continued the blue-eyed soul movement.
In the 2000s, Amy Winehouse, Joss Stone, Duffy, and Adele have enjoyed success in the American charts, leading to talk of a "Second British Invasion", "Female Invasion" or "British soul invasion". After his departure from 'N Sync in 2002, Justin Timberlake emerged as a more R&B/blue-eyed soul artist taking on a more soulful sound on his debut solo LP, Justified. His following records have also followed through with the same sound establishing himself as a blue-eyed soul artist. In 2007, soul artist Guy Sebastian recorded The Memphis Album, a tribute album of soul classics, with many of the original Stax Records musicians, including Steve Cropper, Donald "Duck" Dunn, Lester Snell and Steve Potts. Other artists who are a part of the genre in the mid to late 2000s' have included Jonny Craig, Mayer Hawthorne, Remy Shand, Jamie Lidell, and Robin Thicke who enjoyed considerable success in the R&B charts with the 2007 hit Lost Without U, Sex Therapy in 2009 and again with his hit Blurred Lines in 2013.
- 1960s in music
- British soul
- List of blue-eyed soul artists
- Plastic soul, a somewhat derogatory term for this phenomenon
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