Unit 1: Soul with Laiken
Soul music derives from Rhythm and Blues (R&B), a form of Black popular music that arose during the 1940s. R&B and soul are influenced by earlier genres of blues, gospel, and jazz. It is often characterized by vocal embellishments that aid in emotional connection to the music and lyrics. Celebrated soul musician Carla Thomas states, “This sound was just pulled from the Gospel roots and the Blues roots… and they tagged it “soul music” because people just stood and sang from their guts, you know whatever they felt, they just let it come out.”
Soul music became popular in the United States in the 1950s and 1960s, and record labels such as Motown (Detroit, Michigan) and Stax (Memphis, Tennessee) produced records by best-selling artists such as Aretha Franklin, Marvin Gaye, James Brown, and Georgia natives Ray Charles and Otis Redding. Soul music was an important part of the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s, as many songs expressed pride in a Black identity, and served as inspiration for those fighting for equal rights. The influences of soul music can be heard in the development of other popular musical genres such as rock and roll and hip hop.
Meet Laiken Williams
I’m Laiken and I sing a style of music called soul. I grew up in a musical household, as my dad was also a musician and my first music teacher! My favorite singer is James Brown, who is called the “Godfather of Soul” and grew up in Georgia—just like me! I grew up in a small town called Nicholls, and now I live in Savannah and sing for people all over the Lowcountry. My band and I are looking forward to seeing you—and singing with you at the Savannah Music Festival!
Students learn to sing and move along to “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” while deciphering beat and backbeat.
Go to Lesson 1: Learning “I Heard it Through the Grapevine” →
Students explore the idea of musical favorites by identifying, explaining and sharing opinions about some of their favorite songs.
Go to Lesson 2: Exploring a Soul Music Medley →
- Nelson George, The Death of Rhythm and Blues
- Summer of Soul (…Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised), dir. Questlove (streaming on Hulu). This documentary about the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival contains live footage of many of the soul artists featured in this unit.
- Soul (Disney Pixar Films – streaming on Disney+)
Additional Teaching Resources:
- “Respect: Aretha’s Anthem and What it Means in the Classroom,” Morningside Center for Teaching Social Responsibility
Unit 1: PDF Downloads
SG7 – Let’s Explore Soul ↓ Download File
SG8 – Meet Laiken ↓ Download File
SG9 – We Asked Laiken… ↓ Download File
SG10 – Find the Steady Beat ↓ Download File
SG11 – Let’s Find Out About Laiken’s Favorites ↓ Download File
SG12 – Let’s Find Out YOUR Favorite ↓ Download File
SG13 – Great Soul Singers ↓ Download File