pioneered the soul music genre during the 1950s by combining blues, rhythm and blues, and gospel styles
Soul music has its roots in traditional African-American gospel music and rhythm and blues and as the hybridization of their respective religious and secular styles – in both lyrical content and instrumentation – that began in the 1950s. The term "soul" had been used among African-American musicians to emphasize the feeling of being an African-American in the United States. According to musicologist Barry Hansen,
Though this hybrid produced a clutch of hits in the R&B market in the early 1950s, only the most adventurous white fans felt its impact at the time; the rest had to wait for the coming of soul music in the 1960s to feel the rush of rock and roll sung gospel-style.
According to AllMusic, "[s]oul music was the result of the urbanization and commercialization of rhythm and blues in the '60s." The phrase "soul music" itself, referring to gospel-style music with secular lyrics, was first attested in 1961. The term "soul" in African-American parlance has connotations of African-American pride and culture. Gospel groups in the 1940s and '50s occasionally used the term as part of their names. The jazz style that originated from gospel became known as soul jazz. As singers and arrangers began using techniques from both gospel and soul jazz in African-American popular music during the 1960s, soul music gradually functioned as an umbrella term for the African-American popular music at the time.
is acknowledged as one of soul music's "forefathers".
Important innovators whose recordings in the 1950s contributed to the emergence of soul music included Clyde McPhatter, Hank Ballard, and Etta James. Ray Charles is often cited as popularizing the soul music genre with his series of hits, starting with 1954's "I Got a Woman". Singer Bobby Womack said, "Ray was the genius. He turned the world onto soul music." Charles was open in acknowledging the influence of Pilgrim Travelers vocalist Jesse Whitaker on his singing style.
Little Richard, who inspired Otis Redding, and James Brown both were equally influential. Brown was nicknamed the "Godfather of Soul Music", and Richard proclaimed himself as the "King of Rockin' and Rollin', Rhythm and Blues Soulin'", because his music embodied elements of all three, and since he inspired artists in all three genres.
Sam Cooke and Jackie Wilson also are often acknowledged as soul forefathers. Cooke became popular as the lead singer of the gospel group The Soul Stirrers, before controversially moving into secular music. His recording of "You Send Me" in 1957 launched a successful pop music career. Furthermore, his 1962 recording of "Bring It On Home To Me" has been described as "perhaps the first record to define the soul experience". Jackie Wilson, a contemporary of both Cooke and James Brown, also achieved crossover success, especially with his 1957 hit "Reet Petite". He even was particularly influential for his dramatic delivery and performances.