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Brown-Eyed Soul
Stylistic origins Soul music, Doo-wop, Blues, Rhythm and blues, Latin music, Italian folk music, Rock and roll
Cultural origins late 1950s United States mainly by Italians and Latinos
Typical instruments Guitar - Bass - keyboard - Drums - Horn section - Vocals
Mainstream popularity Significant from 1960s through early 1980s
Derivative forms Latin rap,
Other topics
Soul musicians

Brown-eyed soul is a subgenre of soul music or rhythm and blues created in the United States mainly by Italian Americans and Latinos during the 1950s and thriving into the 1980s. The genre of soul music occasionally draws from Latin and Italian folk music, and often contains rock music influences.[1]

Brown-eyed soul emerged from the 1950s simultaneously on the East Coast United States, in the large Italian American neighborhoods and smaller Hispanic communities, and on the West Coast, in the much larger Hispanic communities. Chicago soul and Motown hits were crowd favorites at dances and clubs during the late 1950s and early 1960s. Italian American and Latino artists began to imitated and draw from the Motown hits, and as a result, brown-eyed soul began sounding very similar to African American soul. Early brown-eyed soul artists owed little to traditional Latin and Italian music and rarely performed in Spanish or Italian.[2]

Ritchie Valens, one of the original pioneers of brown-eyed soul music, also became one of the first brown-eyed soul artists to bring traditional Latin music and rock and roll influences into the genre. Meanwhile, the popular Italian American crooner Dean Martin began to bring Italian and Hispanic influences into his soul records. The Italian American Newark soul group, Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons, as well as their fellow East Coast Italians, The Elegants, The Capris and The Mystics, brought Italian doo-wop influences to brown-eyed soul.[3] Still other Italian American and Latino groups on the East and West Coast drew from the funk-influenced Philadelphia soul, or "Philly" soul. The Italian-influenced Jersey Shore sound and West Coast Latin rock continued to influence brown-eyed soul artists as well.

Inspired by Ritchie Valens, 1960s and 1970s bands such as Cannibal & the Headhunters ("Land of a Thousand Dances") and Thee Midniters played brown-eyed R&B music with a rebellious rock and roll edge. Many of these artists drew from the frat rock and garage rock scenes. However, the large Hispanic population on the West Coast began gradually moving away from energetic R&B to romantic soul, and the results were "some of the sweetest soul music heard during the late '60s and '70s." (Allmusic Guide)

Despite the movement to smoother soul, War, Malo, El Chicano, and other brown-eyed soul bands of the 1970s continued to create soul more influenced by funk, rock, and Latin folk music. Funk-influenced brown-eyed soul anthems continued to breach the charts during the mid-1970s (e.g. Bloodstone's "Natural High"), but the genre began to waver during the 1980s.

Notable brown-eyed soul artists


  1. ^  Bennet, Bobby. The Ultimate Soul Music Trivia Book
  2. ^  Gregory, Hugh. Soul Music A-Z [4]
  3. ^  Marsh, Dave. The Heart of Rock & Soul: The 1001 Greatest Singles Ever Made


  • Unterberger, Richie. Music USA: The Rough Guide [5]
  • Morales, Ed. The Latin Beat [6]
  • Groening, Matt. Da Capo Best Music Writing 2003: The Year's Finest Writing on Rock, Pop, Jazz, Country, & More [7]
  • Gaar, Gillian G. She's a Rebel: The History of Women in Rock & Roll [8]


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