The term Soul Music was coined in America at the beginning of the 1960's. The music was an amalgamation of gospel and rhythm and blues, both very popular genres in America's black community. The music quickly became popular with white audiences too, thanks to the pop savvy of record labels such as Staxx, Atlantic, and mostly, Motown.
It is common to consider Ray Charles as the first singer to come up with the formula for Soul music, with his succession of hits in the mid 50's. Another key figure in the inception of the genre is Solomon Burke who scored a series of chart toppers in the early sixties. As the genre became more prevalent in the sixties, it became associated with singers and acts such as Sam Cooke, James Brown, Ottis Redding, Jackie Wilson, Aretha Franklin, Al Green, Wilson Pickett, Marvin Gaye, Diana Ross and the Supremes, The Four Tops, The Temptations and many others.
The music is characterized with big choruses, catchy hooks, uplifting rhythms and funky and secular delivery. The vocal part is usually intense, and brings the church-like pathos into the context of pop music.
As rock music, another descendant of Rhythm'n'Blues, moved away from these roots, soul music rebranded itself as R&B (or RnB). As the classic soul music of the 1960's pretty much lost momentum, it remained a vastly influential form of music throughout the 70's and beyond, as it vastly influenced diverse genres as top 40 pop music, Disco, Funk and even Hip Hop.
In the 90's, a new movement of soul music was established, as artists such as D'angelo, Erykah Badu, Jill Scott, Maxwell and others, turned their gaze onto the glorious past of soul music, and mixed it with the contemporary sound of Hip Hop and R'n'B. They laid the foundations for a later reincarnation of soul music, this time by young English such as Amy Winehouse, Duffy and Adele who brought the Motown sound back to the top of the charts.