This past weekend a Los Angeles radio station had a countdown of the 500 most popular R&B songs of all-time. A few days passed before I found out that the list was comprised of votes from listeners. This isn’t a bad thing but it also skews the results to the taste and experience of radio station’s demographic. Now, I say this with the full understanding that I am a soul music elitist… a purist some might call me. Meaning that greatness of soul music is rooted in the spirit of the music, vocals, lyrics, and spirit.
So, with the next few post I'd like to take you folks through some R&B history that I'm sure other soul music elitist will enjoy. The first stop: 1970.
I was just turning one in 1970. My mother and father were still married and we were living on 47th street in the Hyde Park neighborhood of Chicago. I don't remember much about this time except what I was told. My father and his brothers had a band called "The Masters of Music". They were still playing the blues and touring local clubs.
Although Motown still dominated the scene, the music was changing. Vietnam, Black Power and social change dominated the music. Chicago dominated the music spectrum with artist like Curtis Mayfield, Gene Chandler, The Chi-Lites, The Dells, Jerry Butler and Tyrone Davis. And it was the year that Minnie Riperton, a little known artist from the south side of Chicago with a five octave range, released her first ablum. But more on her when we get to 1975. Another Chicago product, Donny Hathaway, released his first album as well.
Sly & the Family Stone
The Number One Songs
Someday We'll Be Together/ Diana Ross & the Supremes
I Want You Back/The Jackson 5
Thank You /Sly & the Family Stone
Rainy Night In Georgia/Brook Benton
Call Me/Aretha Franklin
ABC/The Jackson 5
Turn Back the Hands Of Time/Tyrone Davis
Love On a Two-Way Street/The Moments
The Love You Save/The Jackson 5
Signed, Sealed, Delivered I'm Yours/Stevie Wonder
Don't Play That Song/Aretha Franklin
Ain't No Mountain High Enough/Diana Ross
I'll Be There/The Jackson 5
Super Bad (Part 1)/James Brown
The Tears of a Clown/Smokey Robinson & the Miracles
A Tribute to Jack Johnson - Miles Davis
Bitches Brew - Miles Davis - Pharroh’s Dance (For you jazz purist this is not the album for you because Miles threw some funk in the flavor. It’s worth a listen.)
Ella in Budapest, Hungary - Ella Fitzgerald
The Isaac Hayes Movement - Isaac Hayes – I Stand Accused (I love this song. Isaac talks for some time but he jams it. If you have 12 minutes to spare, it would be worth you while to fill the time with this song.)
Sex Machine - James Brown
Spirit in the Dark - Aretha Franklin
ABC - Jackson 5
Psychedelic Shack – The Temptations – Take A Stroll Thru Your Mind (This is a complete departure from what the Temptations were known for. This wasn’t a single but it is the best song on the album)
Portrait – The Fifth Deminsion – On the Beach (This was a semi-hit but I think it’s the best song on the album)
Check Out Your Mind – The Impressions – If There’s A Hell (This was Curtis Mayfield’s last album with the group and this song was another part of the social commentary that set the tone for the entire album. “People Get Ready” is the song that most folks know, but you have to hear the entire album to appreciate it.)
Struttin – The Meters
The Delfonics – The Delfonics – When You Get Right Down To it (I’m sure everyone is familiar with this group. “Didn’t I Blow Your Mind” was the biggest hit but the rest of the album is worth a listen.)
Sign, Sealed, Delivered – Stevie Wonder. – Every song on the album. Listen to it and become a better person.
Turn Back the Hands of Time - Tyrone Davis – Turn Back the Hands of Time (A lot of people are not familiar with Tyrone so you might as well start with his hit)