Sam & Dave – Soul Man

Sam & Dave – Soul Man

‘Soul Man’ is a 1967 song written and composed by Isaac Hayes and David Porter, first successful as a number 2 hit single by Atlantic Records soul duo Sam & Dave, which consisted of Samuel "Sam" Moore and David "Dave" Prater. In 2019, "Soul Man" was selected for preservation in the National Recording Registry as "culturally, historically, and aesthetically significant" by the Library of Congress. It was No. 463 in "Top 500 Greatest Songs of All Time" by Rolling Stone in 2010 and No. 458 in 2004.

Co-author Isaac Hayes found the inspiration for ‘Soul Man’ in the turmoil of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. In July 1967, watching a television newscast of the aftermath of the 12th Street riot in Detroit, Michigan, Hayes noted that black residents had marked buildings that had not been destroyed during the riots – mostly African-American owned and operated institutions – with the word "soul". Relating this occurrence to the biblical story of the Passover, Hayes and songwriting partner David Porter came up with the idea, in Hayes's words, of "a story about one's struggle to rise above his present conditions. It's almost a tune kind of like boasting, 'I'm a soul man.' It's a pride thing."

When this song was written, there was no clear definition of a "Soul Man." After Isaac Hayes came up with the title, David Porter wrote the rest of the lyric based on what he thought a Soul Man would be. To Porter, he was:

  • Rural: "Comin' to ya on a dusty road."
  • Hardscrabble: "Got what I got the hard way."
  • A great lover: "I learned how to love before I could eat."
  • Monogamous: "Give you hope and be your only boyfriend."

Describing this guy, Porter said: "He didn't have the fancy big-city slant, but had the emotional thing happening inside of him that made people really love him."

The exclamation "Play it, Steve" heard in the song refers to guitarist Steve Cropper of Booker T. & the M.G.'s, the house band who provided the instrumentation for it and other Sam and Dave singles. Cropper provided guitar for both the original Sam and Dave recording as well as the live and studio covers by the Blues Brothers. Cash Box reviewed the single saying "Few enough acts pack the impact and terrific ability to attack a song with vigor that Sam & Dave have. Couple this drive with a solid slamming song like 'Soul Man,' add some groovy ork support and a ready-made following and the result is an instant smash." Record World predicted that it "will wow the pop and r/b fans in no time flat".

Label – Stax/Atlantic
Songwriters – Isaac Hayes, David Porter
Producers – Isaac Hayes, David Porter


[Verse 1]
Comin' to you on a dusty road
Good lovin', I got a truckload
And when you get it, you got something
So don't worry, cause I'm coming
I'm a soul man
I'm a soul man
I'm a soul man, come on!
I'm a soul man
That ain't all, look
[Verse 2]
That's what I got, the hard way
And I'll make it better each and every day
So honey, don't you fret, heh
'Cause you ain't seen nothing yet
I'm a soul man, oh lord
I'm a soul man, play it, Steve
I'm a soul man, ha!
I'm a soul man, oh
[Verse 3]
I was brought up on a side street, listen now
I learned how to love before I could eat
I was educated at Woodstock
When I start lovin', oh, I can't stop
I'm a soul man, yes I am
(I wanna tell you)
I'm a soul man
I'm a soul man, yeah
I'm a soul man, look!
Grab a rope
And I'll pull you in
Give you hope
And be your only boyfriend
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah
I'm talkin' about a soul man
(I'm a) Soul man
(And you a) Soul man
(I'm a) Soul man, oh no
Soul man, I'm a soul man
(And you a) Soul man
(And you're a) Soul man...
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