State of Sound

The connection between Gospel music and Soul/R&B cannot be denied.

Some of Soul music’s mightiest figures came from the church: Sam Cooke, Curtis Mayfield, Lou Rawls, and the Staple Singers in Chicago. The Rev. Al Green in Memphis and Marvin Gaye in Detroit. Not without some controversy, they crossed over from the church to apply religious lessons in secular music. The music was filled with clarity and dignity. It played well in the mist of the morning but just as well as under the sheets at a candlelit bedtime.

When it came time to dance, Rhythm and Blues (R&B) took the stage. Rhythm and Blues was created as it sounds: a Funk bottom establishing rhythm, a shot of Blues for emotional measure, and later some electronic Disco for the party. Rhythm and Blues expanded on the faith of Soul music by adding spectral group vocals, fiery horns, and a sense of artistic anarchy that was open to Rock music, modern Jazz, and later, Hip-Hop.

Featured Artist:
Chaka Kahn

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 Biography Transcript

Chaka Kahn 

When it comes to musical influences, the name Chaka Khan is always in the forefront. As the hit making lead singer of the band Rufus she moved across the soul, funk, rock and jazz worlds with great success.

Born in the Hyde Park neighborhood of Chicago’s South side Yvette Stevens first went by the name Chaka during her time working with political activist party, the Black Panthers. A brief marriage to Hassan Kahn completed the legendary name.

By the early seventies Kahn had recorded the Grammy award winning track “Tell Me Something Good” on Rufus’ debut album. She went on to score several top ten hits both with her band and during her solo career. Most notably the anthemic “Im Every Woman” and the funky revamp of Prince’s “I Feel For You”.

A gifted singer and song writer Chaka Kahn has earned herself 10 Grammys, 3 gold albums, and a platinum album. 

Artists of the Sound

Lou Rawls
Sam Cooke
Ike & Tina Turner
Minnie Riperton
Five Stairsteps
The Staple Singers
Curtis Mayfield
Oscar Brown, Jr.
Terry Callier
Don Cornelius
Jennifer Hudson


Grammy Award for “Tell Me Something Good” by Rufus

The 1974 song “Tell Me Something Good” was written by Stevie Wonder and Rufus frontwoman Chaka Khan. It won the 1975 Grammy Award for Best R&B Vocal Performance by a Duo, Group, or Chorus. Rufus member Ron Stockert (keyboards and vocals) received the award.

Courtesy of Bruce Horn

Curtis Mayfield Grammy Nomination Plaque for Super Fly

Enigmatic singer and guitarist Curtis Mayfield, known as the Gentle Genius, wrote and recorded songs for the landmark soundtrack to the 1972 movie Super Fly. He received a Grammy nomination for the album and the song “Freddie’s Dead.”

Courtesy of the Curtis Mayfield Estate

Curtis Mayfield’s 1970s Paisley Pants and Vest Suit

Chicago native Curtis Mayfield displayed his tremendous fashion sense when he wore this pants and vest combination during the 1970s Super Fly era of his career. His uniqueness is embodied by the visuals, combined with his brand of socially conscious Soul and Funk music.

Courtesy of The Rock & Roll
Hall of Fame Collection

Portrait of Jennifer Hudson as Aretha Franklin from Respect Movie, Created by Alexa Holland

Academy- and Grammy Award-winner Jennifer Hudson stars and sings in the 2021 biopic of Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin, Respect. Alexa Holland created this digital portrait of Hudson as Franklin for use in the film.

Courtesy of Abraham Lincoln
Presidential Library and Museum

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