The evolution of blue eyed soul music
In a nutshell, Blue Eyed Soul is described as Rhythm and Blues and soul music performed by white artistes. It is also known as White Soul with the phrase thought to have been coined by an American DJ in 1964. Georgie Woods, who is said to have coined the phrase, used it to refer to The Righteous Brothers. Also known as “my blue eyed soul brothers” by the disc jockey, Bill Medley’s group struck gold with You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling.
Soon, the sobriquet would refer to any white group or solo artiste that performed R&B and Soul music. For example, the Spencer Davis Group headed by a young Steve Winwood. Also Van Morrison, noted for the eminently singable Brown Eyed Girl and his much-lauded 1969 album, Astral Weeks.
Another fillup for blue eyed soul was David Bowie’s Young Americans album. Referred to as ‘plastic soul’ by the singer-songwriter, the album’s funk overtones won new friends. One of the tracks was Fame, a chart single in 1975 and 1984 (not to be confused with Irene Cara’s version based on the eponymous musical).
Throughout the second half of the 1970s and most of the 1980s, blue eyed soul was big. This was complemented by the rise of Adult Orientated Rock – radio-friendly music with soul and power-pop sensitivities. At the height of their powers were Daryl Hall and John Oates. In America, their first smash hits were Sara Smile, She’s Gone, and Rich Girl.
On both sides of the Atlantic Ocean, Maneater, and I Can’t Go For That (No Can Do) were huge hits for the duo. The radio-friendly sound of Hall and Oates would inspire George Michael’s Careless Whisper and Faith. Mick Hucknall also covered I Can’t Go For That (No Can Do) though his celebrated work was Simply Red’s Holding Back the Years.
Originally written for his previous band [The Frantic Elevators] as a punk/new wave tune, its transformation to blue eyed soul classic in 1986 paid real dividends. It peaked at Number Two in the UK Singles Chart and had a memorable promo video set in and around Whitby, North Yorkshire.
For many people, there is one blue eyed soul classic that is best known for an internet meme: the Rickroll. That of Rick Astley’s Never Gonna Give You Up. The Rickroll meme involves linking to the single’s promo video as a prank. Never Gonna Give You Up didn’t only reach the top spot of the UK singles chart in 1987: it was that year’s best-selling single.
Blue Eyed Soul music:
- Also Known As: White Soul;
- Associated Acts: Van Morrison, The Righteous Brothers, Hall & Oates, Simply Red, George Michael;
- Notable Chart Singles: Brown Eyed Girl, You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling, I Can’t Go For That (No Can Do), Holding Back The Years, Careless Whisper;
- Popular in: late 1970s to late 1980s.
Madison Heights Soul Band, 11 January 2017.