- “It’s all about feelings. You can’t get away from that fact no matter what you do.” [Aretha Franklin]
“Soul” is a word people use to describe our most deeply felt experiences. In this model, which is explicitly naturalistic, it does not imply or suggest dualism, which we explicitly reject. Here, as with the idea of spiritual rebirth, we offer a reinterpretation of a common and important experience.
A soulful person exhibits several qualities. Among the most notable of these are authenticity and self-honesty. The person who is in touch with her soul is in touch with herself. She can use that profound self-awareness that we might call “soulfulness” as a source of comfort and self-empowerment. The liberated soul, enlightened of and by itself, can then reach up to the spirit and begin to reach out to others.
As African-Americans progressively insisted on being treated with respect and dignity during the Civil Rights era of the 1950s and 1960s, the music of some African-Americans increasingly reflected their innermost feelings. No one captures this more fully than Ray Charles.
- Soul music:
- Gerry Hirshey, Nowhere to Run: The Story of Soul Music (Crown, 1984).
- Michael Haralambos, Soul Music The Birth of a Sound in Black America (Da Capo Press, 1985).
- Kevin Phinney, Souled American: How Black Music Transformed White Culture (Billboard Books, 2005).
- Brian Ward, Just My Soul Responding: Rhythm and Blues, Black Consciousness, and Race Relations (University of California Press, 1998).
- James Brown, James Brown: The Godfather of Soul (MacMillan, 1986).
- Robert Pruter, Chicago Soul (University of Illinois Press, 1992).
- Jacqueline Cogdill DjeDje and Eddie S. Meadows, eds., California Soul: Music of African-Americans in the West (University of California Press, 1998).
By no means is soul music limited to the music of Black America beginning in the 1950s. In a sense, all music is soul music because all music address our inner experience.
- Joel Rudinow, Soul Music: Tracking the Spiritual Roots of Pop from Plato to Motown (University of Michigan Press, 2010).
- Snoop Dogg, From Crook to Cook: Platinum Recipes from the Boss Dogg’s Kitchen (Chronicle Books, 2018).
- Adrian Miller, Soul Food: The Surprising Story of an American Cuisine, One Plate at a Time (University of North Carolina Press, 2013).
- Carla Hall, Carla Hall’s Soul Food: Everyday and Celebration (Harper Wave, 2018).
- Robbie Montgomery and Tim Norton, Sweetie Pie’s Cookbook: Soulful Southern Recipes, from My Family to Yours (Amistad, 2016).
- Pamela Strobel, Princess Pamela’s Soul Food Cookbook: A Mouth-Watering Treasure of Afro-American Recipes (Rizzoli, 2017).
- Edna Lewis, The Taste of Country Cooking (1976; Knopf 2006).
- National Museum of African American History, Sweet Home Café Cookbook: A Celebration of African American Cooking (Smithsonian Books, 2018).
Documentary and Educational Films
Film and Stage
- Cries and Whispers: “a testament to the strength of the soul”
- ‘Round Midnight, about a jazz musician: Dexter “Gordon plays the central role with an eerie magnetism. He is a musician, not an actor, and yet no actor could have given this performance, with its dignity, wisdom and pain. He speaks slowly, carefully considering, really making his words mean something. . .”
- The Sea Inside is about the right to die but it is also about life’s meaning at its core. According to The New York Times’ review of the film, the real-life protagonist’s writing may express the theme more effectively than the film does.
- The Red Turtle, an animated fable, is a metaphor for human life and soul.
Music: Composers, artists, and major works
Ray Charles sang and played from deep within. That is the essence of soul music.
- I Can’t Stop Loving You
- Crying Time
- Georgia On My Mind
- A Song for You
- Song for You (1994)
- They Can’t Take That Away from Me
- Your Cheating Heart
- A Tear Fell
- It Hurts To Be In Love
- You Don’t Know Me
- The Sun Died
- Drown In My Own Tears
- Fool for You
- I’ve Got a Woman
- Then I’ll Be Home
- Feels So Bad
- All I Ever Need Is You
- America the Beautiful (1972)
- America the Beautiful (1999)
- Live in France, 1961
- Live in Copenhagen, 1973
- Live concert, 1981
- Live in Miami with Diane Schurr, 1999
Here is the efflux of the soul, / The efflux of the soul comes from within through embower'd gates, ever provoking questions, / These yearnings why are they? these thoughts in the darkness why are they? / Why are there men and women that while they are nigh me the sunlight expands my blood?
Why when they leave me do my pennants of joy sink flat and lank? / Why are there trees I never walk under but large and melodious thoughts descend upon me? / (I think they hang there winter and summer on those trees and always drop fruit as I pass;)
What is it I interchange so suddenly with strangers? / What with some driver as I ride on the seat by his side? / What with some fisherman drawing his seine by the shore as I walk by and pause? / What gives me to be free to a woman's and man's good-will? what gives them to be free to mine?
- Hannah Sullivan, Three Poems (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2020): “She’s writing criticism of daily life – criticism of the state of her own soul.”
A trilogy of novels by Rachel Cusk: “All three are narrated in the first person by a writer named Faye whose former life has gone up in flames, but they’re not about how or why the fire started. Instead, the novels describe in precise and haunting detail what it’s like to walk through the world, trailing ashes behind you.”
- Rachel Cusk, Outline: A Novel (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2015): “While the narrator is rarely alone, reading “Outline” mimics the sensation of being underwater, of being separated from other people by a substance denser than air.”
- Rachel Cusk, Transit: A Novel (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2017): “There’s a constant sense of Ms. Cusk’s mind whirling, as if she were forever, in the background, performing an internal disk check.”
- Rachel Cusk, Kudos: A Novel (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2018): “Did the sound of the bells change? Or had she suffered sufficiently that she could now hear another kind of music? Cusk doesn’t answer such questions directly. She doesn’t need to. In the course of this unforgettable trilogy, she has proved they are the same bells.”