Three Records at the Intersection of Soul and Pop

by Administrator 26. January 2018 10:45

Pop and soul don’t have much in common, but there is one thing: they both originated in the United States around the 1950–1960s. Because of the widespread popularity of each, the genres blended together some. Pop music borrowed soul’s background chorus (which soul got from its gospel roots), and some soul songs borrowed pop’s verse-chorus structure and upbeat progressions.

Since soul with pop conventions isn’t something you hear every day, we wanted to share some of our favorite examples of the style.

Hey There You Girl by James Bryant – Renee 108 (Released 1964)

 

Label owners: Leo Austell & Bob Lee. Chicago, IL (1962–1964 & 1973).

Side A: Hey There You Girl
Side B: Three Step

Not to be confused with Jimmy Bryant, the singing voice of Tony in West Side Story, James Bryant is a little-known singer/songwriter who got his start in Wisconsin and later moved to Chicago. According to On That Wisconsin Beat, one of the only books that mentions him, his real name was James Bartleme, and he had several other releases under several different names. Unfortunately, not much is known about those other names or releases under them. His only release under the name “James Bryant” is the one we’re writing about now.

With his songs “Hey There You Girl” and “Three Step,” Bryant unknowingly became a member of an underground English music and dance revolution called northern soul. In fact, the northern soul movement as a whole tended to reject the more popular Motown releases and focused on a particular style of music that had a heavy beat and fast tempo, a style which Bryant embodies perfectly.

With its quick-but-danceable beat, subtle guitar riffs, and Bryant’s smoky voice, this record is sure to keep you humming along the whole way through.

Got to Get A Hold of Myself by Chuck Bernard – Zodiac 1050 (Released 1973)

Label owner: Ric Williams. 1345 Diversey Parkway Chicago, IL (1966–1976).

Side A: Got to Get A Hold of Myself
Side B: Everybody’s Got Their Own Thing

In an industry dominated by separate singers and songwriters, Chuck Bernard stands out as an artist who wrote most of the songs he performed. It was common practice during the time for producers or dedicated songwriters to write a song that would later be assigned to a singer. This might seem strange to some, since the tradition has since shifted to artists mostly performing their own original work.

Being from the 70’s, “Got to Get A Hold of Myself” has a much more electronic, synth-y sound than many of the other 45s we feature. Despite being classified as soul, “Got To Get A Hold Of Myself” is a balancing act between pop, soul, and funk. With the help of a nylon-string guitar (like the kind used in mariachi music), these three styles come together beautifully in Bernard’s hit.

“Everybody’s Got Their Own Thing,” on the other hand, kicks things up a notch. Immediately when you put on this record, you are punched with a blend of trumpet lines and electric piano/organ. With the power and energy that flows from this song, it’s surprising that it isn’t the record’s A-side.

No matter which side you prefer, Bernard’s record is certain to delight.

It Doesn’t Matter How I Say It by Florence Ballard – ABC 1104 (Released 1968)

 

Label owner: Samuel H. Clark. 1501 Broadway, New York, NY (1955–1979).

Side A: It Doesn’t Matter How I Say It
Side B: Goin’ Out of My Head

Florence Ballard is one of the few female soul singers that we feature on this blog. It was unfortunately the case that, in general, fewer women recorded records than men. Despite that, Florence is probably the most famous of any singer we’ve ever featured on this blog.

Ballard was a founding member of The Supremes. You’re probably familiar with them if you’re reading this blog, but The Supremes were national megastars. In fact, during their peak years in the mid-1960s, their worldwide popularity rivaled that of the Beatles.

As The Supremes went through their career, tension grew between Ballard and Diana Ross, another member of the group who producer Berry Gordy was presenting as the leader. Eventually, this tension lead to Ballard’s depression, alcoholism, and subsequent expulsion from the group. After she recovered, she went on to pursue an unsuccessful solo career, which spawned this record.

Ballard’s record was a commercial failure, true, but that had more to do with the changing tides of musical taste rather than bad singing or poor production. By the time this record hit the shelves, the world preferred more traditional gospel-inspired soul over soul-pop infusions. It was the shift in fads that made Ballard’s 45 a bust.

Despite the commercial failure, “It Doesn’t Matter How I Say It” features all of of Ballard’s soft-spoken, feminine singing that she was known for during her time with The Supremes. Many fans of the song refer to it as “cute,” and that’s exactly what it is. With lyrics like “If I was a pillow, I’d want to be the one you’d rest your head on / And dream on,” “It Doesn’t Matter How I Say It” oozes cuteness. With the right promotion, this one could have been a hit.

“Goin’ Out of My Head, on the other hand, is a slow tune with maracas and tambourines leading the pace. In this one, Ballard ditches the cutsey tone and lays down deep, sultry vocals that match the theme of the song.

This record showcases some of the best Ballard had to offer, and it’s a shame that it never got the attention it deserves.

Add Some “Pop” to Your Collection

Pricing, details (grade, side A/B, quantity) and sound clips for each of the above records can be found via the following links:

 

Hey There You Girl – James Bryant

Got to Get a Hold of Myself – Chuck Bernard

It Doesn’t Matter How I Say It – Florence Ballard

 

We provide a simple online ordering form for all  of our records. Enter your billing and shipping information, provide details about the record you’re requesting, hit submit, and sit back.

 

 

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