Sunday, April 6, 2008

Boss Tracks; Soul Man, Sam and Dave

Another single already in my collection is the immortal "Soul Man" performed by Sam (Moore) & Dave (Prater). Springsteen's brand of R&R has always been more steeped in Soul music than Blues. That is part of what made him stand out from other R&R artists who tended to be more drawn to the Mississippi Delta and Chicago. In an interview for Old Grey Whistle Test available on YouTube Springsteen confessed he never cared much for the genre. The Boss is a Soul Man! Both his stage presence and his music as the themes he addressed were highly indebted to the genre. Looking at the Sam & Dave live videos shot during the European Stax/volt revue it is easy to see where Springsteen finds his inspiration for his stage antics.

"Soul Man" is written by Isaac Hayes and Dave Porter. According to Bob Bowman's excellent book on Stax records, "Soulsville U.S.A.: The Story Of Stax Records", Prater had lost all his money in a crap shoot game just before the recording sessions were about to start. "That's all right man, we'll just cut a hit record" Porter assured himself going into the studio. And he did. It became the label's biggest hit yet in the summer of 1968. The record was cut in the days of the civil rights era. '68 saw race riots across the nation. "The big thing was Soul Brother" recounts Hayes in Bowman's book, "Why not do something called Soul Man" he asked himself, "Kind of like boasting, a pride thing". Steve Cropper's rhythm guitar and Hayes' funky piano lick opening the record would assure that the song hit home hard in the first few bars. Added were the horn parts by the Mar-Keys, the Miami Horns of Memphis. The signature sound of Stax is oozing out off that smash hit, just like it later would of "10th Av. Freeze Out" when Little Steven arranged the horns with Springsteen copying Cropper on the guitar.

Prater would sadly pass away a few years after the record was recorded, a victim to his heroin addiction. Sam Moore would struggle to keep his career afloat. In recent years helped by Springsteen. Moore did a duet with Springsteen on the latter's "Soul Driver" for the "Human Touch" album. He would perform "Soul Man" with Springsteen in Phoenix during the Reunion tour and on the infamous 2003 Christmas show at the Convention Hall in Asbury Park with the Max Weinberg 7 & Friends (download here) in New Jersey. Springsteen also duetted on and wrote Better To Have And Not Need for what was to be Sam's come back album "Overnight Sensational".

"Soul Man" - Sam and Dave
"Soul Man" - Sam Moore with Bruce Springsteen & Friends in Asbury Park 2003

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