© 2024 Louisville Public Media

Public Files:
89.3 WFPL · 90.5 WUOL-FM · 91.9 WFPK

For assistance accessing our public files, please contact info@lpm.org or call 502-814-6500
89.3 WFPL News | 90.5 WUOL Classical 91.9 WFPK Music | KyCIR Investigations
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
Stream: News Music Classical

The Cities of Soul: New York City

What a long strange trip Soul has taken in New York City. Starting with the Harlem Renaissance as African Americans in the Country's largest Black neighborhood created art, literature, dance and drew the attention of the world to Uptown Manhattan.  New York was the base of all the top Jazz performers of the era Louis Armstrong, Charlie Parker, Duke Ellington, John Coltrane all called NYC home.  The integrated Savoy, Duke's Cotton Club, Parker's Birdland all were venues where Black music was able to develop and set the stage for most American music of the last half of the century.  The architecture of the city helped sculpt it's sound.  From brownstone steps to packed street corners groups of young men competed in contests of vocal one upmanship eventually called Doo-Wop.  Blacks, Puerto Ricans, and Italians merged in overlapping neighborhoods of the Bronx, Brooklyn and Harlem singing in groups of 4 to 6 harmonizing and became the template for Soul groups to come. At the start of 1934 the Apollo Theater opened and has become legend ever since and performing on it's stage has become a right of passage for any soul singer.  Ahmet Ertegun son of the Turkish ambassador to the US started innocently releasing music on his small label Atlantic.  With the help of producer Jerry Wexler who dubbed the music Rhythm & Blues the two would bring the world Aretha Franklin and Ray Charles.  Partnering with Memphis based Stax records Atlantic helped bring the world the wealth of Southern talent.  New York always a step ahead of the rest of the country was conducting it's own musical experiments under the noses of the major labels.  The distinct sound of New York Soul would get it's roots from a place more south than the South.  Latin Americans were streaming into the city and in this population was hundreds of musicians.  Latinos of all shades grew in numbers to where a new neighborhood began, dubbed Spanish Harlem.  Their proximity to African Americans influenced their sound through radio and osmosis as well as wanting the mixed audience to understand the lyrics.  Boogaloo or Latin Soul was born Tito Puente, Ray Barretto, Harvey Arverne, Joe Bataan, and many more recorded for a diverse audience and the music they created still influences to this day. They combined Latin Rhythms with English lyrics and Doo-Wop singing wearing the style of the Soul crowd. Labels Fania, Tico and Cotique in recent years have been re-releasing their catalogs for an insatiable new audience.  The success of Boogaloo influenced the Black American Soul bands and created an uptempo complex rhythmic structure not seen elsewhere, The Pazant Brothers, Jimmy Castor Bunch, and Beufort Express created a fiery brand of Soul.  As the 70's began the New York sound took diversions no one could have seen coming.  In night clubs The Loft and The Paradise Garage a highly danceable druggy sound was emerging in hedonistic settings.  Disco would signal the end of the Soul era and to some take the soul out of Soul.  The Bronx, Uptown and Queens would basically reinvent music in it's own image.  Hip-Hop born of the poverty so deep instruments were a luxury cut and pasted recorded music into new and exciting sounds.  The Doo-Wop of the 50's was replaced by freestyle cyphers on corners and brownstone steps and a new generation began rapping to the beat.