I recently listened to Solomon Burke’s 196 album Rock ‘n’ Soul. Definitely worth a listen if like me he’s been off your musical radar. I especially like Wikipedia’s account of how conflicts over branding and church propriety led Burke and his record label Atlantic to coin the term “soul music.”
Almost immediately after signing to Atlantic, Wexler and Burke clashed over his branding and the songs that he would record. According to Burke, “Their idea was, we have another young kid to sing gospel, and we’re going to put him in the blues bag.“As Burke had struggled from an early age with “his attraction to secular music on the one hand and his allegiance to the church on the other,” when he was signed to Atlantic Records he “refused to be classified as a rhythm-and-blues singer” due to a perceived “stigma of profanity” by the church, and R&B’s reputation as “the devil’s music.”
Burke indicated in 2005: “I told them about my spiritual background, and what I felt was necessary, and that I was concerned about being labeled rhythm & blues. What kind of songs would they be giving me to sing? Because of my age, and my position in the church, I was concerned about saying things that were not proper, or that sent the wrong message. That angered Jerry Wexler a little bit. He said, ‘We’re the greatest blues label in the world! You should be honored to be on this label, and we’ll do everything we can – but you have to work with us.’”
To mollify Burke, it was decided to market him as a singer of “soul music” after he had consulted his church brethren and won approval for the term. When a Philadelphia DJ said to Burke, “You’re singing from your soul and you don’t want to be an R&B singer, so what kind of singer are you going to be?”, Burke shot back: “I want to be a soul singer.” Burke’s sound, which was especially popular in the South, was described there as “river deep country fried buttercream soul.” Burke is credited with coining the term “soul music,” which he confirmed in a 1996 interview.