“L.A. it’s my hometown, it’s a funky town” From War’s LA Sunshine.
Los Angeles the City of Angels floats on the coast of the Pacific Ocean, a hop up from Mexico. It became United States land in 1848 and contains one of the largest Latino populations outside Latin America with close to two million. The Hispanic culture permeates most elements of the city-cuisine, language and Soul. Starting as proto Latin-Soul band Senor Soul LA musicians would team up with British Animals front man Eric Burden and form the genre busting War. War’s mixing of both Black Soul and those coming from the Barrio was as explosive as their name and define the sound of the city. El Chicano and northern brothers Carlos and Jorge Santana were the Spanish response to Soul and garnered listeners of all shades.
The Big Lebowski’s Dude represented the Sixties hippie refugee that fled the suburbian confines of Middle America to come to a more tolerant place. During the rise of Soul, LA was a musical mecca of Rock producing The Doors, The Beach Boys, Dick Dale, The Byrds, Richie Valens and The Beatles East LA opening band Cannibal and the Headhunters. Capitol Records and it’s stack of 45’s architecture towered and the music flowed. African American’s moved to LA during the great depression and suffered severe racism but World War II brought jobs and a middle class emerged. War’s 1972 album “The World is a Ghetto” would show change was slow to reach The City of Angels’ Black communities. And as white LA had it’s stereotypical “hippie” the Black community had it’s “Player” celebrated and imitated in it’s music. William De Vaughn epitomized the lifestyle in “Be Thankful for What You Got” with his “Diamond in the back, sunroof top, diggin the scene with the gangsta lean”. “Oldies” or 50’s and early 60’s pop and soul is preserved in the lowrider East LA culture that continues to keep the aesthetic alive, along with the pompadour and the classic cars of the era. The LA phenomenon of the Lowrider was brought to national attention in War’s 70’s hit. The sweet strings and doo wop vocals of the era provide the perfect soundtrack to cruising the endless California streets.
Soul’s most beloved poet would make Los Angeles his base after serving nine years in the Navy. Bill Withers was one of those artists that got an immediate response the minute his earnest voice was heard. Produced by Memphis legend Booker T Bill’s first record “Just as I Am” was a hit. Lean on Me, Lovely Day, Ain’t No Sunshine, Use Me are standards covered by artists from all genre’s and are played every day in America. Backing Bill Withers on Still Bill and his sublime Live at Carnegie Hall were the Watts 103 Street Rhythm Band. Also backing another famous Bill the Comedian Bill Cosby on his “Silver Throat” LP. With singer Charles Wright they would be LA’s most popular pure funk band. They recorded the theme song for The Magnificent Montague of KGFJ the Los Angeles Soul radio station. The influential station brought the Soul Generation’s sound to the city. Montague’s catch phrase would be “burn, baby burn!” which unfortunately became a rallying cry during the ’65 Watts riot-the station is now a Korean Language format. A new generation would discover the Watts 103 Street Rhythm Band in the music of N.W.A.’s Gangsta Rap remake “Express Yourself”. The late 80’s would see an explosion of Hip-Hop out of LA to rival New York’s output. It would overshadow all other music and make household names of reformed gangsters Snoop Dogg, Dr Dre and Ice Cube. On the other hand Los Angleles remains the nations thirstiest for the sounds of soul. The Breakestra who came about in the late 90’s earthy Hip-Hop LA culture are a band who play soul as a DJ in the Bronx would spin. The sounds of Soul never went out of style in The City of Angels, the continious evolution of War, the lowriding East LA culture and the birth of Hip-Hop into the retro soul movement keep the sounds of the Sixites preserved in LA like it’s famous tar pits.
New Orleans, Memphis, Chicago, New York, the Bay Area, Miami, Detroit and Philadelphia all had their own style and stamp on the formation of Soul. The Sound-Clash explores the cities that created Soul music, Friday nights at 10.