Soul Man (song)

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"Soul Man"
Single by Sam & Dave
from the album Soul Men
B-side"May I Baby"
ReleasedSeptember 1967
StudioStax (Memphis)
Songwriter(s)Isaac Hayes
David Porter
Producer(s)Isaac Hayes
David Porter
Sam & Dave singles chronology
"Soothe Me"
"Soul Man"
"I Thank You"

"Soul Man" is a 1967 song written and composed by Isaac Hayes and David Porter, first successful as a number 2 hit single by Atlantic Records soul duo Sam & Dave,[2] which consisted of Samuel "Sam" Moore and David "Dave" Prater. In 2019, "Soul Man" was selected for preservation in the National Recording Registry as "culturally, historically, and aesthetically significant" by the Library of Congress. It was No. 463 in "Top 500 Greatest Songs of All Time" by Rolling Stone Magazine in 2010 and No. 458 in 2004.[3][4]

Song history and background[edit]

Co-author Isaac Hayes found the inspiration for "Soul Man" in the turmoil of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. In July 1967, watching a television newscast of the aftermath of the 12th Street riot in Detroit, Michigan, Hayes noted that black residents had marked buildings that had not been destroyed during the riots – mostly African-American owned and operated institutions – with the word "soul".[5] Relating this occurrence to the biblical story of the Passover,[6] Hayes and songwriting partner David Porter came up with the idea, in Hayes's words, of "a story about one's struggle to rise above his present conditions. It's almost a tune kind of like boasting, 'I'm a soul man.' It's a pride thing."[5]

According to David Porter, the reference to "Woodstock" in the song does not refer to the 1969 counter-cultural music festival, but instead to a segregated rural vocational school in Millington, Tennessee called Woodstock Training School. Porter, who did not attend the school, said the line was included to stress the importance of getting an education. Woodstock Training School, which had been renamed Woodstock High School in 1963, was converted into an elementary school following desegregation in 1970.[7][8]

Sam sings the first verse, with Dave joining in the chorus. Dave sings the second verse, with Sam joining in the chorus. Sam sings the third verse, with Dave joining in the chorus, followed by a brief bridge section by Dave and then a coda, in which both Sam and Dave repeat the title phrase a half-step up, before the song's fade.

The exclamation "Play it, Steve" heard in the song refers to guitarist Steve Cropper of Booker T. & the M.G.'s, the house band who provided the instrumentation for it and other Sam and Dave singles. Cropper provided guitar for both the original Sam and Dave recording as well as the live and studio covers by the Blues Brothers.

Issued on the Atlantic-distributed Stax label for which Hayes and Porter worked, Sam and Dave's "Soul Man" was the most successful Stax single to date upon its release.[5] The single peaked at number one on the Billboard Hot Rhythm & Blues Singles chart.[9] "Soul Man" went to number two on the Billboard Hot 100 in the United States during the autumn of 1967.[10] Outside the US, it peaked at number two in Canada.[11] "Soul Man" was awarded the 1968 Grammy Award for Best Rhythm & Blues Group Performance, Vocal or Instrumental.[5]

Cash Box reviewed the single saying "Few enough acts pack the impact and terrific ability to attack a song with vigor that Sam & Dave have. Couple this drive with a solid slamming song like 'Soul Man,' add some groovy ork support and a readymade following and the result is an instant smash."[12] Record World predicted that it "will wow the pop and r/b fans in no time flat".[13]


Cover versions[edit]

"Soul Man"
Single by The Blues Brothers
from the album Briefcase Full of Blues
B-side"Excusez Moi Mon Cherie"
ReleasedDecember 1978
GenreBlue-eyed soul
Songwriter(s)Isaac Hayes & David Porter
Producer(s)Bob Tischler
The Blues Brothers singles chronology
"Soul Man"
"Rubber Biscuit"

Chart history[edit]

Weekly charts[edit]

Sam & Dave


  1. ^ Breihan, Tom (October 22, 2018). "The Number Ones: Lulu's "To Sir With Love"". Stereogum. Retrieved June 14, 2023. Sam And Dave's raw Southern R&B jam "Soul Man," written by Isaac Hayes and Dave Porter...
  2. ^ Gilliland, John (1969). "Show 51 - The Soul Reformation: Phase three, soul music at the summit. [Part 7] : UNT Digital Library" (audio). Pop Chronicles. University of North Texas Libraries.
  3. ^ Barnes, Mike (March 20, 2018). "Songs From Jay-Z, Cyndi Lauper, Neil Diamond Inducted Into National Recording Registry". Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved March 24, 2019.
  4. ^ "Rolling Stone - 500 Greatest Songs (Music Database :: Dave Tompkins)". Retrieved June 22, 2022.
  5. ^ a b c d Bowman, Rob (1997). Soulsville U.S.A.: The Story of Stax Records. New York: Schirmer Trade. ISBN 0-8256-7284-8. Pg. 128
  6. ^ Morgan Neville, Robert Gordon, and Mark Crosby [directors, writers, producers] (2007). Great Performances - Respect Yourself: The Stax Records Story (TV documentary). New York City: Tremolo Productions, Concord Music Group, Thirteen/WNET New York.
  7. ^ Weathersbee, Tonyaa J. "David Porter takes us to school". The Bitter Southerner. Retrieved September 6, 2023.
  8. ^ "Woodstock School celebrating 100 years". The Commercial Appeal. October 5, 2013. p. 3B. Retrieved September 6, 2023.
  9. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2004). Top R&B/Hip-Hop Singles: 1942-2004. Record Research. p. 510.
  10. ^ "Top 100 Songs | Billboard Hot 100 Chart". Billboard. November 4, 1967. Retrieved June 30, 2019.
  11. ^ a b "Item Display - RPM - Library and Archives Canada". November 18, 1967. Retrieved January 4, 2019.
  12. ^ "CashBox Record Reviews" (PDF). Cash Box. September 2, 1967. p. 32. Retrieved June 12, 2023.
  13. ^ "Single Picks of the Week" (PDF). Record World. September 2, 1967. p. 1. Retrieved June 12, 2023.
  14. ^ Larkin, Colin (2006). The Encyclopedia of Popular Music. Vol. 7. MUZE. p. 234.
  15. ^ "CashBox Singles Reviews" (PDF). Cash Box. December 2, 1978. p. 17. Retrieved January 1, 2022.
  16. ^ "Bubbling Under Hot 100 Week of May 26, 2012". Billboard. Prometheus Global Media. Archived from the original on July 27, 2012. Retrieved September 13, 2012.
  17. ^ "Sam And Dave: Artist Chart History". Official Charts Company. Retrieved May 15, 2018.
  18. ^ a b "Sam Dave Chart History (Hot 100)". Billboard. Retrieved May 15, 2018.
  19. ^ "Sam & Dave Chart History (Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs)". Billboard. Retrieved August 30, 2021.
  20. ^ "Cash Box Top 100 Singles, November 11, 1967". November 11, 1967. Retrieved June 30, 2019.
  21. ^ "Item Display - RPM - Library and Archives Canada". February 24, 1979. Retrieved January 28, 2019.
  22. ^ "Cash Box Top 100 Singles, February 17, 1979". February 17, 1979. Retrieved June 30, 2019.
  23. ^ "The Irish Charts – Search Results – Soul Man". Irish Singles Chart. Retrieved January 24, 2019.
  24. ^ "Official Charts Company". June 16, 1990. Retrieved January 24, 2019.
  25. ^ "RPM Top 100 Singles of 1967". Archived from the original on August 12, 2016. Retrieved January 28, 2019.
  26. ^ "Top 100 Hits of 1967/Top 100 Songs of 1967". Music Outfitters. Retrieved June 30, 2019.
  27. ^ "Cash Box Year-End Charts: Top 100 Pop Singles, December 23, 1967". December 23, 1967. Retrieved June 30, 2019.
  28. ^ "Top 100 Singles (1979)". RPM. July 17, 2013. Retrieved February 10, 2018.
  29. ^ "Cash Box Year-End Charts: Top 100 Pop Singles, December 29, 1979". December 29, 1979. Retrieved June 30, 2019.

External links[edit]