The history of Rock and Roll cannot be reduced to any single tendency. But if one had to select the most frequent tendency that has forced the music's evolution, it would relate to the borrowing of black culture by white musicians. From Jimmie Rodgers to Elvis Presley to the Rolling Stones to the Black Keys, white artists have found something in black music that has mattered to them more than anything else in popular music's library.

Blue-Eyed Soul marks one more moment in this history. Artists such as the Rascals, the Righteous Brothers, the Spencer Davis Group, the Faces, and so many more based their aesthetic around voices that were informed by a black style. Soul and R&B had a lasting effect on the artists who came of age listening to Elvis Presley. The lessons in this chapter explore the many ways in which white musicians adapted a Soul sound.

Southern white Soul is connected to what is described above. What is different, however, relates to the institutions and practices that led to interaction between white and black musicians that was unique to its time and place. White songwriters such as Dan Penn, Spooner Oldham, and Eddie Hinton, together with white producers like Rick Hall and Chips Moman and white musicians including Duck Dunn, Steve Cropper, Jimmy Johnson, and Barry Beckett all worked with a range of black artists, producing some of the most respected Soul music ever made. Most often, these were the people behind the scenes, with black musicians in the fore. But the collaborations were such that these white artists are among the legends of Soul, and here they'll be studied as such. Sometimes it was in recording studios, and nowhere else, that America's racial divide simply stopped meaning anything. And what could mean more?

View More


View Lesson

Dan Penn

How did black artists and white songwriters and musicians interact in the Soul era, and what contributed to that interaction?