Soul II Soul
About Soul II Soul
Best known for their 1989 hits “Keep on Movin’” and “Back to Life,” the UK collective Soul II Soul combined elements of British, African, Caribbean, and African American music. Their motto: “a happy face, a thumpin’ bass, for a loving race.”
• Soul II Soul originated with DJ Jazzie B, a Britain-born son of Antiguan immigrants. Jazzie and his crew operated sound systems throughout London beginning in the early ’80s and eventually landed a Sunday night residency at the venue African Centre in Covent Gardens.
• In 1987, Soul II Soul made the jump to recording original music. The demo single “Fairplay,” produced by Jazzie B and member Nellie Hooper, earned them a deal with 10 Records, a Virgin subsidiary. The following year, “Fairplay” and “Feel Free” made the lower reaches of the UK charts.
• With the addition of singer Caron Wheeler—who’d performed on hits by Elvis Costello and The Special AKA—Soul II Soul broke through in 1989 with “Keep on Movin’.” The single reached No. 5 in the UK and No. 11 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the US. It also topped the Billboard dance charts.
• Soul II Soul fared even better with the follow-up, “Back to Life,” which topped the UK pop charts and reached No. 4 in the US. It hit No. 1 on the US dance and R&B charts.
• Both singles appear on the group’s 1989 debut album, Club Classics Vol. One, which reached No. 1 on the UK charts.
• At the 1990 Grammys, Soul II Soul won two awards: Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal for “Back to Life” and Best R&B Instrumental Performance for “African Dance.”
• Soul II Soul notched a second chart-topping UK album with their sophomore effort, Vol. II: 1990 - A New Decade, which features the Top 10 UK singles “Get a Life” and “A Dream’s a Dream.”
• Hooper left prior to the recording of 1992’s Volume III - Just Right. Jazzie B handled production duties himself and brought in several male singers—a first for the group. The album reached No. 3 in the UK and yielded the Top 5 hit “Joy.”
• Soul II Soul disbanded after the release of their fifth album, 1997’s Time for Change. A decade later, Jazzie B was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire.
• The group reunited in 2007 and has performed sporadically ever since. In 2016, they released the live album Origins: The Roots Of Soul II Soul.