Home History What is Northern Soul? Unearthing Authentic Soul Music

What is Northern Soul? Unearthing Authentic Soul Music

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What is Northern Soul?

What is Northern Soul?

Northern Soul is a music and dance phenomenon that originated in Northern England and the English Midlands during the late 1960s. It grew out of the British mod scene and was heavily influenced by black American soul music, particularly from the mid-1960s. This genre is characterised by a heavy beat and a fast tempo, usually over 100 beats per minute. The music often features obscure artists and limited releases, mostly from American labels like Vee-Jay Records, Chess Records, Brunswick Records, Ric-Tic, Gordy Records, Golden World Records, Mirwood Records, Shout Records, and Okeh.

Northern Soul enthusiasts generally avoid Motown and Motown-inspired music that has achieved significant commercial success. Instead, they cherish the rarest and most obscure records, which are highly prized within the genre. The music is closely associated with a distinct dance style and fashion that originated in the underground rhythm and soul scene of the late 1960s. This culture spread quickly to other UK dancehalls and nightclubs like the Wigan Casino, Blackpool Mecca, and Golden Torch.

As the beat became more uptempo and frantic in the early 1970s, the dancing styles of Northern Soul became more athletic, resembling later dance styles like disco and break dancing. The moves, which included spins, flips, karate kicks, and backdrops, were often inspired by the stage performances of touring American soul acts like Little Anthony and the Imperials and Jackie Wilson.

During the late 1960s and early 1970s, Northern Soul records were mainly from the mid-1960s, meaning that the movement was sustained by DJs discovering overlooked and rare records. As time went on, certain clubs and DJs began to move away from the 1960s Motown sound and started playing newer releases with a more modern sound.