Social Conscience Soul

Soul music often deals with love. In this collection however, stories of oppression and brutality are told through the medium of soul, reflecting the socio-political atmosphere of America at that time.

This playlist features the best social conscience soul music around: soul music might have begun dealing with the relatively simple issues in life – love and more love – by the late sixties, artists such as James Brown, Sly & The Family Stone, The Staple Singers, Curtis Mayfield, even Motown’s The Temptations and The Supremes, began recording and releasing songs that dealt with problems faced by the African-American community: poverty, inequality, and racism. Soul became the music of the civil rights era, providing the soundtrack for the March on Washington and beyond. The music sought to situate African-Americans within the wider American society, investigating and highlighting the inequality they endured on a daily basis, whilst giving the community inspiration and hope. James Brown lead the charge, urging his followers to ‘say it loud, I’m black and proud’.

In 1971 Marvin Gaye released his seminal album What’s Going On, a brilliant album charting the civil unrest of America at the turn of the decade. Inspired by his own brother’s experiences in Vietnam, Gaye, along with Motown’s superior musicians The Funk Brothers, crafted what is truly one of the best albums of all time. Building on his success of such social consciousness, other artists were inspired to follow suit: Stax’s Isaac Hayes’ lead the Memphis artists with his soundtrack to the pioneering blaxploitation film Shaft; George Clinton lead his army of P-Funksters to the Chocolate City and beyond; and Gamble and Huff at Philadelphia International Records combined their sophisticated soul with the problems of the day.

This playlist seeks to highlight some of the best social conscience and protest soul, with classics and rarities from across the soul and funk spectrum.