Archive for category Soul

“Kiss on My List” by Hall & Oates (1980)

Darryl Hall and John Oates hailed from Philadelphia and became one of the most successful muscial duos during the mid-1970s and especially during the early 1980s when they were among the most popular groups in the world. Early efforts used both voices in roughly equal measures, though Hall was always more comfortable as the frontman and was more prolific as a songwriter. During their 1980s heyday, Hall took a much more central role, with Oates relegated to backup vocals and “acting goofy” in the group’s popular music videos.

Hall & Oates (or, “Darry Hall & John Oates” or “Darry Hall John Oates”) scored a number of soul-inspired hits during the mid-1970s. Top ten hits included “Sara Smile”, “She’s Gone”, and the number one hit “Rich Girl” from 1977. For the next couple years, their success waned.

In 1980 the group recorded in New York for the first time, rather than Los Angeles, and took a more active role in producing. The group also added new synth sounds to make their “blue eyed soul” quite a bit more contemporary. The result was Voices, which featured two top 40 hits before their breakthrough number one smash “Kiss on My List.” That song was followed by the top five song “You Make My Dreams”. In an interesting footnote, the album also contained “Everytime you Go Away” which the group did not release as a single, but became a smash for Paul Young in 1985. Voices shot into the top 20 and went Platinum.

Kiss on My List” begins with a great piano riff, which makes the song very dancable. Jeff Southworth contributed a nice guitar solo and the song very much sent the template for the peppy pop that the group used for the next several years. The song was cowritten by Janna Allen, sister of Sara Allen (of “Sara Smile” fame), Hall’s love interest at the time. According to Hall, Eddie Van Halen ripped off the synth riff for this song for use in “Jump.”

Hall and Oates had massive success through the rest of the decade, and Hall had a few solo hits as well. After taking some time off apart from each other, the duo continues to tour and record.

“What a Fool Believes” by The Doobie Brothers (1978)

The Doobie Brothers were founded by guitarist/vocalist Patrick Simmons and singer/guitarist Tom Johnston in early 1970. The group scored several popular albums in the early-middle part of the decade, as their light but groovy brand of vocal-oriented rock was popular with songs such as “Long Train Running”, “China Grove”, and “Black Water” (a number one hit in 1974). However, Johnston had health problems and during the latter part of the decade new band members were added to the group and added new creative elements. Jeff “Skunk” Baxter was brought in from Steely Dan and brought avant garde and jazz elements, while keyboardist Michael McDonald added blue-eyed-soul sounds, and distinctive vocals.

The group’s 1978 album Minute by Minute was a comeback of sorts, and contained the number one hit “What a Fool Believes.” Though it is often cited as one of the few non-Disco songs to hit number one in 1979, I recall that many rock fans of the day derided it for it’s seemingly disco elements. True fans, however, were vigilant (“That’s not Disco… that’s Doobie” was an actual quote from that period). The song was cowritten by McDonald along with Kenny Loggins, who had recorded the song on his own solo album the year previous. That version wasn’t a hit, but the Doobie Brothers rode the wave of success as the song was a massive worldwide hit.

A follow-up album did okay, but tensions in the band were high. Simmons left the group in 1982, and McDonald decided to disband and focus on a solo career. The group reformed for a tour in 1987, featuring both McDonald and Johnston. An album in 1989 featuring Johnston was popular and included the top 10 hit “The Doctor.” The group has continued to record and tour with various lineups, Simmons being the only constant.

“What a Fool Believes”

In 1980, Robbie Dupree’s song “Steal Away” used a very familiar keyboard riff…

“Superstition” by Stevie Wonder (1973)

Stevie Wonder was born premature, which caused the blindness that is his visual trademark. A child prodigy of sort, he was discovered in Detroit and recorded his first album at the age of thirteen. “Fingertips (Pt. 2)” was a number one hit, and Wonder played most of the instruments as well as sang. This single and companion album carved a successful career for “Little Stevie Wonder.” But, as he reached adulthood, he felt trapped by the Motown formula and eventually was able to negotiate creative control of his music.

One of the first results of that new freedom was “Superstition,” a number one track from Wonder’s 1973 album Talking Book. Interestingly, the drum track was arranged by famed British guitarist Jeff Beck, who later recorded a version of the song. The clavinet riff was played by Wonder, and the song layers on sound after sound including horns to create a song which somewhat bridges Soul and Funk genres. The song also exposed Wonder to rock audiences who liked the song’s strong beat.

The rest of the Seventies were a fertile period for Wonder, when he won back to back Album of the Year Grammys and scored many top hits. In the 1980s his songs were much more mellow and pop oriented, including songs like “Ebony and Ivory” with Paul McCartney. Overall, Wonder has won 25 Grammys and 30 top 10 hits. He was instrumental in pushing for a National Holiday honoring Martin Luther King.

In 2006, an incredible mashup was created that combined “Superstition” and Destiny Child’s “Bootylicious.”

“Proud Mary” by Ike and Tina Turner (1971)

Ike Turner was one of the early pioneers of rock (his song “Rocket 88” is among the first Rock’n'Roll records). In the early 1960s he started touring with Tina Turner, the stage name of Anna Mae Bullock and soon to be Ike’s real-life wife. The musical revue with the Turners was popular with R&B fans, regularly gaining top hits throughout the decade. Acceptance by other audiences started to grow in the mid-Sixties, especially after their single “River Deep – Mountain High” was a big U.K. hit in 1966. The group opened for the Rolling Stones on several tours.

In 1971, the group scored an unexpected pop hit with their cover of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Proud Mary.” The song was a #2 hit for CCR in 1969, but the Turner version also was a top 5 hit. The song featured Tina Turner on lead vocals with Ike on bass vocals during the song’s extended, slow intro. The energetic live shows were a hit with both white and black audiences, as can be seen in the clip below.

The hits slowed thereafter, at least the kind on the charts. Ike, it turns out, regularly beat Tina Turner resulting in her departure from the group and marriage in 1976.  Tina Turner’s career was on a downward trajectory, apart from an appearance as the Acid Queen in the film version of Tommy. The singer made a huge comeback in 1984 with her Private Dancer album, and on subsequent singles and albums for more than a decade following. Ike and Tina Turner were inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, but neither attended the ceremony. Tina never spoke to Ike after she left him, and decided to leave the past behind. Ike might have wanted to attend, but was unable to considering he was incarcerated due to drug charges.

“Respect” by Aretha Franklin (1967)

Nicknamed the “Queen of Soul,” Aretha Franklin is well respected for her powerful vocals and songs of empowerment. The singer recorded for a number of years with little notariety, but found success after being signed to powerful Atlantic Records in 1967. One of her first Atlantic hits also became her signature song, “Respect.” The song was written by Otis Redding and originally recorded by him in 1965. The song about recognizing and respecting women worked equally well from a female singer, and the song went to number one after Franklin released it in the spring of 1967.

Franklin continued to score hits until the mid-1970s. In 1980, she memorably appeared in The Blues Brothers, which gave her career a second life. She had several hit singles throughout the 1980s, including “Freeway of Love,” “Sisters are Doing it For Themselves,” and “I Knew You Were Waiting (for Me).” She scored a gold album as late as 1998 and continues to make appearances to this day.

“Suspicious Minds” by Elvis Presley (1969)

After a decade of movies that were popular but not critically acclaimed, Elvis’ movie period was ending by the late Sixties. His “1968 Comeback Special” was a big hit on television and a brand new kind of Elvis was about to be born. After the TV special, the next step was a big hit record that didn’t sound anything at all like the Fifties or even the early Sixties. “Suspicious Minds” told the world that Elvis was still relevant.

Written by Mark James, “Suspicious Minds” featured several tempo changes as well as lyrics that took listeners on a journey as well. The song was produced with a new sound that blended rock with elements of soul and gospel, sounds that would be trademarks of the later Elvis period. James was the writer of “Always on My Mind” which Elvis recorded in 1972.  ”Suspicious Minds” was Elvis’ last number one hit during his lifetime, and was a hit in worldwide markets.

As with manu of Elvis’ songs, the song has been covered by a number of artists. Most notable of these were Fine Young Cannibals, who scored a top 10 UK hit in 1986.

This performance is from Aloha from Hawaii, a early 1973 live television event that is one of the most-watched events in history (said to have been watched by a billion people)

“(Sittin’ on) The Dock of the Bay” by Otis Redding (1968)

Otis Redding is another member of “Rock and Roll Heaven,” an artist who’s biggest hit and greatest acclaim came after his untimely death. Know by some as the “King of Soul” Redding’s modern take on Blues was certainly instrumental in the evolution of the new musical form starting in the mid-Sixties. Redding’s live performances were a mix of his own compositions along with soulful cover versions of songs from other artists, such as The Rolling Stones and The Beatles. Redding was another performer who made a big impact at the Monterey Pop Festival.

Redding recorded “(Sittin’ on) The Dock of the Bay” in late 1967. The song was written by Redding along with his guitarist Steve Cropper (who later joined The Blues Brothers). The song had more of a “pop” feel than some of his earlier songs, but Redding expressed pleasure in how the recording came out. Tragically, Redding died just three days later in an airplane crash in Wisconsin while on tour. The song was released in early 1968 and was an immediate hit, charting at number one, and also won two Grammy awards.

“I Got You (I Feel Good)” by James Brown (1966)

Known as the Godfather of Soul, James Brown was a popular yet innovative artist who extended the sound of Soul music and introduced elements that were hailed as the roots of funk. Brown started out playing straight-ahead R&B in the mid-50s with his band The Famous Flames. At the time he was friendly with Little Richard, who’s showmanship was a direct influence on Brown’s stage persona. The group scored several R&B hits in the late Fifties before breaking up.

A solo career started in the early Sixties, where Brown was one artist who shaped the migration of R&B to Soul. His 1963 Live at the Apollo album is still considered influential to this day. As Brown’s fame grew, so did his acceptance on the pop charts. In late 1965, Brown’s signature hit “I Got You (I Feel Good)” was released and followed Brown’s previous single “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag” into the top 5. Ultimately peaking on the charts in early 1966, “I Got You (I Feel Good)” features a sax and horn laden arrangement that some have called the first funk record. To this day, it is probably Brown’s best-known song.

Brown had many other hits in the late Sixties, experimenting with new sounds and even buying his own record station. Brown’s influence was directly demonstrated by Michael Jackson even at an early age, as well as with funk or soul-inspired groups such as Parliament Funkadelic, Sly and the Family Stone, and Booter T and M.G.’s. Many of Brown’s records were sampled in the 1980s-1990s hip-hop era. In the 1980s Brown appeared in a number of films including The Blues Brothers and Rocky IV, where his “Living in America” song was top 10 single.

Check out Ed Sullivan’s bigoted introduction of Brown:

“Baby Love” by The Supremes (1964)

The Supremes were the most popular of all the artists on Motown Records, and launched the long and multifaceted career of lead singer Diana Ross. Formed in Detroit in 1959, The Supremes started as a four piece but found their greatest success with the trio of Ross, Florence Ballard, and Mary Wilson. Many of the group’s songs were written and produced by Motown hitmakers Holland-Dozier-Holland, and during the mid-late Sixties the group was one of the most popular in the world. Due to the popularity of their lead singer, the group was billed as Diana Ross and The Supremes starting in 1967. Ross left the group in 1970 to pursue a successful solo career that included acting in films.  Thereafter The Supremes had a few more hits in the Seventies before finally disbanding in 1977.

Overall, The Supremes scored 12 number one hits on the pop charts.  ”Baby Love” from 1964 was an early example of their sound and song structure, as well as a very feminine image.  It was the second of five straight Supremes songs to hit number one, where it charted for four weeks.

The 1981 musical Dreamgirls was based on The Supremes’ story. The 2006 film featured more overt references to Motown and the group.

“Hit the Road Jack” by Ray Charles (1962)

Ray Charles was a musical legend who recorded in numerous genres, including rock’n'roll, gospel, soul, blues, pop, and even country.  In fact, Charles’ number one hit in 1962, “I Can’t Stop Loving You,” was originally a country tune and appeared on Charles’ album Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music. Charles had been recording for about a decade and was starting to fuse different musical elements together in the early Sixties. In this respect, he very much was a pioneer in soul music, thanks to his combination of R&B and gospel elements. He had numerous hits on many charts, including “Georgia on My Mind” and “Busted.”

Born Raymond Charles Robinson, he began to lose his sight at age five, and totally by age seven. As much as Charles had a very positive public persona, he battled many demons. He was addicted to heroin, famously nearly going to jain in 1965 on a third arrest for possession. He also fathered 12 children from nine different women (only two of which were his wives).

In later years, Charles was a sort of living treasure. He appeared at gala events with Presidents and was in demand for TV appearances, and was an audience favorite in The Blues Brothers. He died in 2004, but a record of duets with contemporary artists, Genius Loves Company, was released two months later to great acclaim and huge sales. The album won eight Grammy Awards, including Album of the Year.

For our countdown we’re going to cheat (at little) and pull “Hit the Road Jack” which was a number one hit for Charles in the Fall of 1961 and I guess technically could be attributed as a chart single for early 1962. The song features a signature moment when Charles sings “What you say?!?” and a great example of the vocal gymnastics that the singer often employed.