Soul Man (song)

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"Soul Man"
Single by Sam & Dave
from the album Soul Men
B-side "May I Baby"
Released September 1967
Format 7", 45rpm
Recorded 1967
Genre Soul
Length 2:40
Label Stax/Atlantic
Songwriter(s) Isaac Hayes
David Porter
Producer(s) Isaac Hayes
David Porter
Sam & Dave singles chronology
"Soothe Me"
"Soul Man"
"I Thank You"
"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,[1] which consisted of Samuel "Sam" Moore and David "Dave" Prater.

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".[2] Relating this occurrence to the biblical story of the Passover,[3] 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 [where it's] kind of like boasting, 'I'm a soul man.' It's a pride thing."[2]

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. This is 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.

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.[2] The single peaked at number one on the Billboard Hot Black Singles chart, number two on the Billboard Hot 100 in the United States during the autumn of 1967,[4] and number two in Canada. "Soul Man" was awarded the 1968 Grammy Award for Best Rhythm & Blues Group Performance, Vocal or Instrumental.[2]

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 this and many 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.

Original and alternative recordings[edit]

During the same session, two versions of "Soul Man" were recorded, and both were subsequently released. The distinct difference between the two versions can be found within the first 30 seconds of the song. One version opens the tune with a trilling roll[clarification needed], an emphatic drum kick and a more enthusiastic Sam Moore singing the words "Comin' to you...," whereas the other version goes straight in from the intro with no roll, and the drum kick and opening lyrical line are not as enthusiastic. The latter rendition is the more readily available version in all formats; the former rendition, on original 45-rpm vinyl pressings, tends to be harder to find but is the version most often played on the radio. The different versions were recorded for the mono (single) and stereo (album) releases of the song.


Cover versions[edit]

"Soul Man"
Single by The Blues Brothers
from the album Briefcase Full of Blues
B-side "Excusez Moi Mon Cherie"
Released December 1978
Format 45rpm single
Genre Blues rock
Length 2:55
Label Atlantic
Songwriter(s) Isaac Hayes & David Porter
Producer(s) Bob Tischler
The Blues Brothers singles chronology
"Soul Man"
"Rubber Biscuit"
"Soul Man"
"Rubber Biscuit"

James Brown band member Sweet Charles Sherrell recorded the song for his 1974 debut solo album Sweet Charles: For Sweet People, on Brown's People Records label.

Los Quandos, a Spanish vocal group, released the first version with Spanish lyrics, written by Jose Manuel Vidal and included in a compilation, released by the Marfer Records label, titled Marfer Parade, published in 1968.

The Blues Brothers performed the song as the "cold opener" of the episode of the NBC comedy/variety show Saturday Night Live which Carrie Fisher hosted in late November 1978, and they later released the song as a single, which reached number 14 in February 1979 and number 19 in Canada in February 1979.

The song was performed by Lou Reed and Sam Moore on the soundtrack to the 1986 comedy film Soul Man, supported by a music video.

In 1989, the reggae band Los Pericos from Argentina made their cover of the theme for his album Maxi Brites.

In 2004, the song was performed by the comedy duo Drake Bell and Josh Peck on their sitcom, Drake & Josh, in the episode "Blues Brothers." The song appeared on the show's soundtrack, released in 2005.

In 2007, Australian singer Guy Sebastian covered the song for his fourth album, The Memphis Album, which featured Steve Cropper and Donald "Duck" Dunn, both of whom had performed on the original recording of "Soul Man" 40 years earlier, and both of whom were also members of the Blues Brothers's band.

Ted Nugent often performs "Soul Man" in his live shows, as did Prince during his Musicology tour.

Paul Revere & the Raiders covered "Soul Man" on their album Goin' To Memphis.

Howard Hewett covered "Soul Man" as a placeholder theme song for Season 2 of the ABC television series Hangin' with Mr. Cooper, starring Mark Curry. The song was a temporary replacement for the original theme song, which was performed by cast members Holly Robinson and Dawnn Lewis, who left the cast after the end of Season 1 and was ultimately a result of Lewis's departure.

It was also used as the theme for the late 1990s ABC sitcom Soul Man, which starred Dan Aykroyd.

The American alternative band Three Penny Ride recorded it in their song "R&B Triple Play" in 2010.

In 2012, Jermaine Paul, winner of the second season of The Voice, released it as a single in which he was joined by his mentor and winning coach Blake Shelton. The single reached number 108, appearing in the Bubbling Under Hot 100 Singles.[5]


  1. ^ 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. 
  2. ^ 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
  3. ^ 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. 
  4. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2004). Top R&B/Hip-Hop Singles: 1942-2004. Record Research. p. 510. 
  5. ^ "Bubbling Under Hot 100 Week of May 26, 2012". Billboard. Prometheus Global Media. Retrieved September 13, 2012. 

External links[edit]

Preceded by
"(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher" by Jackie Wilson
Billboard Hot R&B Singles number-one single (Sam & Dave version)
October 7, 1967
Succeeded by
"I Heard It Through the Grapevine" by Gladys Knight & the Pips