Berry Gordon is regarded to have been the founder of Motown music. This was way back in early 1959. Then a songwriter, Gordon founded the subsequent Motown Records after being convinced by his compatriot Smokey Robinson. Motown music is characterized by having a combination of lovely melodies, tambourines and clapping of hands. It also made use of horns, drums, bass lines and the interplay between the lead singer and the backup band. Artistes and music groups that became identified in the 1960’s include The Vandellas, The Miracles, The Four Tops, The Supremes, Gladys Knight, The Jackson 5, Stevie Wonder ( signed at the age of 11) and Marvin Gaye, now deceased (Cruz, 2009).
Soul music is also believed to have emerged in the 1950’s. It fuses gospel (very popular at the time) and Rhythm and Blues (R & B). In fact, it differentiates itself from R & B by its usage of gospel themes and its heavy reliance on vocalists (Nero). The pioneer artistes of Soul music of the 1960’s are Hoagy Carmichael, Percy Mayfield, Don Gibson, Fred Rose and the legendary James Brown (Scaruffi, 2003).
The pioneer artistes of the two genres of music, Motown and Soul, were mostly of black origin. In fact, both the genres became mostly identified as black music although they were appreciated by all the races, whites alike. Blue eyed soul is a term that was coined to describe Soul and Motown-related music that was being made by white artists (Nero). These white artistes became known as Blue eyed soul singers. These included the widely celebrated groups such as The Four Seasons, The Righteous Brothers, The Rascals et al and artists such as Mitch Ryder, Eric Burdon, Stevie Winwood and many more others (Unterberger).
It is widely accepted that music is a universal language that knows no boundaries. However, the racial background of a person at times plays a part in how that person will be treated, especially by persons of a different race. Race, and racism, especially in the 1960’s was a volatile issue. This was also the time that the black people were fighting for their civil rights in The US. Therefore, many black artists dedicated many of their songs in helping to fight racism that mostly affected the black community. As a result of this, many newsgroups and websites (nowadays) were quick to laud these efforts. These songs were not only limited to tackling racism, rather some songs were composed to highlight the social problems affecting the whole society in general. These songs included classics such as Respect (Aretha Franklin), Say It Loud, I’m Black And I’m Proud (James Brown), What’s Going On (Marvin Gaye) and many more. Their main aim was to raise the social consciousness (Munoz). These efforts did not go unnoticed to the newsgroups and right groups that were also in this fight. As a result, these artistes were held in high esteem then and even now.
As we have already seen, the birth and advance of Soul and Motown music is credited to the black artists. Many people came to love the then new beat. As a result of this, newsgroups were quick to honor these artists with such superlatives to express their deepest adoration. For example, Aretha Franklin was affectionately christened “The Queen of Soul” and this title persists until now (So damn happy). The prince of soul, as Marvin Gaye is known, clearly shows their reverence of him. Stevie Wonder, though blind, is regarded as one of the best musicians of all time and also a crusader for human rights. His status was even enhanced further after the election of Barack Obama as president of the U.S. This is because he is Obama’s favorite artist and as a result he has received many awards from the president, and the media alike. His standing in the newsgroups and websites nowadays is unparalleled among his peers.
Music genres like funk owe their birth to soul. Specifically, James Brown is credited with the birth of soul (Scaruffi, 2003). Thus fans and sites that love this genre continue to glorify him as a result.
One of the most respected music media houses, Rolling stone, released in 2008 a list of what it had settled upon as the 100 greatest singers of all time. According to Rolling stone, the greatest singer of all time is Aretha Franklin. The list also includes Ray Charles (2), Sam Cooke (4), Marvin Gaye (6), Otis Redding (8), Stevie Wonder (9) and James Brown in the top ten (Brandon, 2008). The dominance of these Motown and Soul artists from the 1960’s era clearly indicates their long held standing as the cream of the music industry.
As I had introduced earlier, Blue Bird soul singers was a term coined to describe white artists who had taken up Soul music as their genre. This is because, at the time, soul was predominantly recognized as black music. The phrase white artist with ‘black’ voices has been used extensively (Nero). What this means is that the white artists were described in terms of their black colleagues. This in essence places them at a much lower level than the black artists at that time.
To be honest, the list by Rolling stone has only two white singers from that generation in the 1960’s. However, the same music outlet rates them very highly in its list of the greatest artists of all time. This list is headed by The Beatles, Bob Dylan and Elvis Presley in that order. The first black soul artist is James Brown at number 7(Rolling Stone). This implies that although the white artists are good singers, their all round artistic qualities are so much superior when compared to the black counterparts. Since the list was made after consultations with journalists and other music personalities, we can conclude that most newsgroups believe that the white artists of that generation are superior to the black artists from the same generation when it comes to all round artistry.