The most popular style of soul music in the early-60s was Motown's pop soul. In 1959, businessman Berry Gordy started Motown Records in the northern city of Detroit, Michigan. His songwriters and artists created the "Motown sound" and produced dozens of pop-soul hits that young Americans loved. Motown had nearly eighty top-ten crossover hits from 1960 to 1969, and Motown's house band the Funk Brothers played on nearly all of them. They were jazz musicians who could also make great pop music. They made the rhythms on Motown songs easy for white listeners to hear and dance to by playing tambourine and on the second and fourth beats of each bar. They also had singers like Diana Ross and The Supremes use girlie pop-music voices instead of their natural bluesy voices, as blues great Etta James had done on her classic soul song I'd Rather Go Blind.
Some of Motown's best singles include You've Really Got a Hold on Me and The Tracks of My Tears by The Miracles, Uptight (Everything's Alright) by Stevie Wonder and I Heard It Through the Grapevine by Marvin Gaye, whose 1971 album What's Goin' On is now regarded as one of the greatest albums in the history of popular music. Motown's biggest hit was I'll Be There by The Jackson 5, featuring eleven-year-old Michael Jackson on lead vocals. With his talent, young Michael could sing in any style including soul, as in the song Who's Loving You.
A very different style of soul developed in Chicago, Illinois. Curtis Mayfield and his group The Impressions had been recording for Vee-Jay Records since 1956, but in the early-60s Curtis became involved in the civil rights movement. He began powerful songs about the problems African Americans were facing, such as poverty, racism and injustice. These songs included Keep on Pushing, We're a Winner and his biggest hit People Get Ready, now regarded as one of greatest songs ever written. In 1970 Curtis began his own record label, Curtom Records, and released a of soul albums including his soundtrack album for the film Superfly.
The two main styles of soul music that developed in the South were a powerful, dynamic style called "deep soul" and a smooth, beautifully-produced style called "Memphis soul". Both styles developed in Memphis, Tennessee, with Stax Records producing deep soul and Hi Records producing Memphis soul. Stax produced records with driving R&B rhythms played by their mixed-race house band Booker T. & the M.G.'s and funky brass riffs played by their horn section The Mar-Keys. As well as recording their own hits like the R&B instrumental Green Onions, the house band played on dozens of deep-soul hits like Wilson Pickett's In the Midnight Hour and Sam and Dave's Soul Man and Hold On, I'm Comin'.
Booker T. & the M.G.'s also played on the records of Otis Redding, Stax's biggest star. Otis had a strong voice that was perfect for up-tempo soul, but he could also use a softer voice in soul ballads. His dynamic performances on the Stax European tour and at the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967 made him a huge star worldwide with hits like I've Been Loving You Too Long and Respect. His greatest song was his last recording (Sittin' On) The Dock of the Bay. Like Sam Cooke three years earlier, Otis never saw the of his greatest song. He died in a plane crash in December 1967, just three weeks before its release. His death shocked the world, but Stax survived and artists like Isaac Hayes and The Staple Sisters continued to soul records.
The Memphis soul produced at Hi Records was some of the most beautiful soul music ever made. House band the Hi Rhythm Section provided a solid beat and a funky feel to which house producer Willie Mitchell added strings, horns and backing singers to create a rich soul sound. Hi Record's biggest star Al Green had many crossover hits in the early 70s including Let's Stay Together and Call Me. He also recorded the gospel-soul classics Take Me To The River and Love and Happiness.
Other soul artists from the South include Aretha Franklin, who brought styles to soul music in the mid-60s, and Percy Sledge, whose 1966 single When a Man Loves a Woman became one of soul's biggest-selling records. Both these artists, as well as many others, recorded some of their best music with a group of soulful white session musicians called the Swampers at FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama.