Whilst the origins of soul music are still a matter for debate, there is no question that the Chicago soul style is what spurred on the development of this genre during the sixties and seventies. This style, often favoured by music lovers such as Tunde Folawiyo, has an unmistakably spiritual sound, having been influenced by the gospel music which was so prevalent in this city during the early 20th century. Bands who opted for a Chicago soul style were known for their sweet, simple harmonies, whilst solo artists tended to lean more towards a complex, catchy sound.
Softer and considerably less ‘gritty’ than its Memphis and Detroit counterparts, Chicago soul often featured string and horn instruments, which gave its songs a distinctly sonorous intonation. During the sixties, people like Riley Hampton and Jonny Pate were known for their complex and soaring orchestral arrangements.
Thomas Dorsey, often referred to as the ‘Father of Gospel Music’ is one of the main reasons why so many people believe Chicago to be the birthplace of soul music. He was a prolific songwriter, and served as the Pilgrim Baptist Church’s music director, often featuring hints of the Blues in his traditional spiritual songs.
The many African-American churches which emerged during this period of time meant that there was a great demand for fresh gospel music, and it was Dorsey’s songs whom the church-goers favoured. His subtle integration of blues into his music is what helped the genre of soul to blossom in the city of Chicago. However, for some unknown reason, Dorsey is rarely given recognition for his contributions to Chicago soul; more often than not, when this sub-genre is mentioned, it is Curtis Mayfield whose name pops up.
Mayfield was a musician whom virtually all soul fanatics, including Tunde Folawiyo, are likely to be familiar with. Born in Chicago in the 1940s, he was a young man when the Chicago soul style began to form. He is perhaps best known for his unique take on this sub-genre; he played using an open F sharp tuning on his guitar, and preferred to sing in a falsetto register, rather than the modal register which most Chicago soul singers opted for at this time. His method of interpreting the music of this genre, and his own songs, had a significant influence on other musicians and their performance styles.