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Negroes had always rigorously main tained a distinction between gospel and blues—the sacred and profane—despite the affinity of their sounds. But Charles boldly brought them together, blending foot-stamping orgiastic jubilation shouts with the abrasive, existentialist irony of "devil songs." He even carried over the original gospel tunes and changed the words to fit the emotion. "Lord" became "you," or "baby," and it didn't matter if the bulk of the prayerful text remained the same. Thus Clara Ward's rousing old gospel song, This Little Light of Mine, became Charles's This Little Girl of Mine. (A wonderful indemnification!) Oldtimers who had once been forced to choose between the two genres were offended. "I know that's wrong," said Bluesman and former Preacher Big Bill Broonzy. "He should be singing in a church."
But Charles's innovation brought waves of gospel talent into the blues field, and at the same time offered blues performers a chance to employ the climactic cadences and mythic ritual of black evangelism. Some of his more ardent followers adopted stage mannerisms in which they appeared to be seized by God; they tore off their clothes, called for witnesses, collapsed and rose up again. The bespangled James Brown's whirling, convulsive performances have even been analyzed as enactments of the Crucifixion.
Most important, once Charles broke the barrier between gospel and blues, the way was open for a whole cluster of ingredients to converge around an R & B core and form the potent, musical mix now known as soul—among them, in Critic Albert Goldman's words, "a racial ragbag of Delta blues, hillbilly strumming, gutbucket jazz, boogie-woogie piano, pop lyricism and storefront shouting."
Chitlin Circuit. It was not long before the soul sound began to move directly into the white market of pop music, and its purveyors started outstripping their white imitators. Charles was the first to reach a mass white public, starting as far back as 1955 with his hit record, I Got a Woman. In more recent years, a string of others have come along behind him. Lou Rawls, for example, is a former gospel trouper who spices his blues songs with reminiscences of his boyhood in Chicago's South Side slums. He used to work only in the Negro nightclub "chitlin circuit." As for radio, Rawls says, "I never got played on the top 40 stations because they said I was too, uh—well, not too 'limited,' but too . . ." Black? "Yeah." Now Rawls's albums sell upwards of 200,000 copies from coast to coast and are played throughout the radio band. He has filled Manhattan's Carnegie Hall three times in concert appearances.