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Aretha Franklin (Getty Images)

'Summer of Soul' Melded Music, Cultural Change

Jul 20, 2007 (Tell Me More)

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They called it the Summer of Love. Nostalgia for the summer of 1967 and its impact on American pop culture is spawning a string of ceremonial retrospectives, from New York's Whitney Museum of Art to an entire issue of Rolling Stone magazine. The season of "free love" rocked traditional norms of morality, strengthened the mainstream women's movement and fueled a newfound sense of independence among youngsters.

But many of the 40-year retrospectives have taken only a quick glance at one element of pop culture that forever changed communities of color: soul and R&B music.

The Summer of Soul was about music that was more hot-buttered than groovy. The songs were a soundtrack for a period of racial tension and political change that still resonates in many black communities.

In 1967, while her own community was going up in flames during the Detroit riots, a woman who wanted only one thing — respect — was introduced to the world.

"Literally, she just explodes. It's difficult to think of 1967 as not just simply the year of Aretha," says Duke University professor Mark Anthony Neal, author of Songs In the Key of Black Life: A Rhythm and Blues Nation.

Later dubbed the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin, a preacher's daughter, made an impressive mark on both music and the civil rights movement as she fused her gospel roots with the sounds of rhythm and blues.

"By 1968, she was, like, the most popular black woman ever," Neal adds.

But there were others who made the Summer of Soul one to remember forever: Diana Ross and The Supremes, the Bar-Kays and the Temptations, to name a few.

Hear the full interview by clicking the "Listen" button in the upper left corner of this page.

Web material written and produced by Lee Hill.

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