Soul music has its roots in traditional African-American gospel music and rhythm and blues, and the hybridization of their respective religious and secular styles, in both lyrical content and instrumentation, that began to occur in the 1950s. The term soul had been used among African-American musicians to emphasize the feeling of being an African-American in the United States.
Important innovators whose recordings in the 1950s contributed to the emergence of soul music included Clyde McPhatter, Hank Ballard, and Etta James. Ray Charles is often cited as popularizing the soul genre with his string of hits starting with 1954’s “I Got a Woman”.
Read more about the origins of Soul Music here.