Psychedelic soul

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Psychedelic soul (sometimes called black rock[1] or conflated with psychedelic funk[2]) is a music genre that emerged in the late 1960s and saw Black soul musicians embrace elements of psychedelic rock, including its production techniques, instrumentation, effects units (wah-wah pedal, phaser, etc.) and drug influences.[3] It came to prominence in the late 1960s and continued into the 1970s, playing a major role in the development of funk and disco.

Pioneering acts working in the genre included Sly and the Family Stone, Jimi Hendrix, Isaac Hayes, and the Temptations. Mainstream acts that developed a psychedelic sound included the Supremes and Stevie Wonder. Acts that achieved notability with the sound included the Chambers Brothers, the 5th Dimension, Edwin Starr, Rare Earth, Arthur Brown[4][5][6] and George Clinton's Parliament-Funkadelic ensemble.



Following the lead of Jimi Hendrix in psychedelic rock, in the late 1960s psychedelia began to have a widespread impact on Afro American musicians, particularly the stars of the Motown label.[3] Influenced by the civil rights movement, it had a darker and more political edge than much psychedelic rock.[3] Building on the funk sound of James Brown, it was pioneered by Sly and the Family Stone with songs like "Dance to the Music" (1968), "Everyday People" (1968) and "I Want to Take You Higher" (1969), which had a sound that emphasized distorted electric rhythm guitar and strong basslines.[7] Also important were the Temptations and their producer Norman Whitfield, who moved from a relatively light vocal group into much more serious material with "Cloud Nine" (1968), "Runaway Child, Running Wild" (1969), and "Psychedelic Shack" (1969).[7]


Other Motown acts soon followed into psychedelic territory, including established performers like the Supremes with "Reflections" (1967), "Love Child" (1968), and "Stoned Love" (1970).[8] Psychedelic influences could also be heard in the work of Stevie Wonder[3] and in Marvin Gaye's socially conscious work from What's Going On (1971).[9] Acts that broke through with psychedelic soul included the Chambers Brothers with "Time Has Come Today" (1966, but charting in 1968),[8] the 5th Dimension with a cover of Laura Nyro's "Stoned Soul Picnic" (1968),[8] Edwin Starr's "War" (1970) and the Undisputed Truth's "Smiling Faces Sometimes" (1971).[3]

George Clinton's interdependent Funkadelic and Parliament ensembles and their various spin-offs, took the genre to its most extreme lengths, making funk almost a religion in the 1970s. Influenced by Detroit rock groups including MC5 and The Stooges, they used extended distorted guitar solos and psychedelic sound effects, coupled with surreal imagery and stage antics, especially on early Funkadelic albums such as Funkadelic (1970), Free Your Mind... and Your Ass Will Follow (1970), and Maggot Brain (1971); and Parliament album Osmium (1970),[1] producing more than forty singles, including three in the US top ten, and three platinum albums.[10]

Decline and influence[edit]

While psychedelic rock began to waver at the end of the 1960s, psychedelic soul continued into the 1970s, peaking in popularity in the early years of the decade, and only disappearing in the late 1970s as tastes began to change.[3] Isaac Hayes and Curtis Mayfield added orchestral instrumentation, creating cinematic soul, which ultimately led to disco.[11] Acts like Earth, Wind & Fire, Kool & the Gang, and Ohio Players, who began as psychedelic soul artists, incorporated its sounds into funk music and eventually the disco which partly replaced it.[12]

Modern artists[edit]

Modern psychedelic soul artists include Erykah Badu,[13] Bilal,[14] Janelle Monáe,[15] and Black Pumas.[16]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b J. S. Harrington, Sonic Cool: the Life & Death of Rock 'n' Roll (Milwaukie, MI: Hal Leonard Corporation, 2002), ISBN 0-634-02861-8, pp. 249–50.
  2. ^ Echard, William (2017). Psychedelic Popular Music: A History through Musical Topic Theory. Indiana University Press. pp. 123–125. ISBN 9780253026590. Retrieved 26 January 2018.
  3. ^ a b c d e f "Psychedelic soul", AllMusic, retrieved 27 February 2017.
  4. ^ "Arthur Brown: Fire: The Arthur Brown Story". Retrieved 25 February 2021.
  5. ^ November 2018. "The Crazy World Of Arthur Brown: Album Of The Week Club Review". Retrieved 25 February 2021.
  6. ^ "The Crazy World of Arthur Brown". Retrieved 25 February 2021.
  7. ^ a b R. Gulla, Icons of R&B and Soul: an Encyclopedia of the Artists who Revolutionized Rhythm, Volume 2 (London: Greenwood Publishing Group, 2008), ISBN 0-313-34046-3, pp. 278–81.
  8. ^ a b c G. Case, Out of Our Heads: Rock 'n' Roll Before the Drugs Wore Off (Milwaukie, MI: Hal Leonard Corporation, 2010), ISBN 0-87930-967-9, pp. 70–1.
  9. ^ J. Ankeny, "Marvin Gaye", AllMusic, retrieved 3 July 2010.
  10. ^ V. Bogdanov, C. Woodstra and S. T. Erlewine, All Music Guide to Rock: the Definitive Guide to Rock, Pop, and Soul (Milwaukee, WI: Backbeat Books, 3rd edn., 2002), ISBN 0-87930-653-X, p. 226.
  11. ^ Foley, Mark (December 23, 2014). "Musical Space: Cinematic Soul". KMUW. Retrieved September 17, 2018.
  12. ^ A. Bennett, Rock and Popular Music: Politics, Policies, Institutions (Abingdon: Routledge, 1993), ISBN 0-203-99196-6, p. 239.
  13. ^ Caramanica, Jon (February 11, 2011). "Lots of Beats, but No Drum in Sight". The New York Times. Retrieved August 20, 2020.
  14. ^ "Music". Willamette Week. April 13, 2016. p. 33. Retrieved August 20, 2020 – via Issuu.
  15. ^ Gundersen, Edna (October 24, 2013). "'Billboard' names Janelle Monáe its 2013 Rising Star". USA Today. Retrieved August 20, 2020.
  16. ^ Carras, Christ (November 20, 2019). "Who are Black Pumas, the Grammys' most mysterious new artist nominee?". Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles, California.