Walk With Thee (Mahlia Jackson & L. Armstrong, 1970)

Revered as one of the most important figures in American music, Mahlia Jackson remains known as the “Queen of Gospel” and a figure whose gravitas and formidable talents — and charm also — impacted genres of soul and R&B and shaped the way Americans conceive and understand popular music. Despite her gospel roots, Mahlia Jackson…

Fun Fact!

Prince was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2004. During the tribute performance for George Harrison, he and several other legendary guitarists including Tom Petty took the stage to cover While My Guitar Gently Weeps. They rehearsed it once the day before, and Prince didn’t even practice the solo then. He just…

No particular sign (Prince, 1986)

One of the most revered artists — not only singer but indeed artist in the consummate sense — of all time is Prince, a legendary guitarist whose stardom soared through the eighties. With a mix of pop, funk, soul and R&B, Prince defined an era of pushing genre and pop art boundaries that may have…

How I Got Over *cover* (John Legend, contemporary)

One of the most popular pop and R&B icons of the modern era, John Legend continues to find musical success through not only a distinct voice and some wonderful songwriting, but also collaborations with other leading artists, from The Roots and Ludacris to Mariah Carey and Common. On that very note, here is his tribute to the seminal…

For the whole round world to hear (Nina Simone, 1967)

While many know this classic line from Nina Simone’s 1967 rendition of I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free from her 1967 Silk & Soul album, few may know that this was in fact an adaptation of a 1963 spiritual by the jazz pianist and composer Billy Taylor. Originally recorded in November 1963 as…

Lonely and Feeling Blue (Otis Redding, 1964)

The discovery of Otis Redding by the then nascent Stax Records of Memphis Tennessee (named by combining the “St” of Jim Stewart and the “Ax” of Estelle Axton, the siblings and cofounders of the then neighborhood recording studio and what would be later known as Soulsville USA countering Motown’s Hitsville USA) remains a testament to the profundity of a series…

nothing more to say – Honey Cone, 1970

I considered debuting my return after a hiatus with a gospel song that drives at the heart of the soul genre, but I will save that for a later chapter, and instead, fast forward to the modern era. It’s wonderful to see modern takes of old school songs, especially when they’re done well, and especially if…

memories / of days that I once knew – Aretha Franklin, 1970

I often wonder what differentiates the good songs from the great. I imagine what accounts for greater notoriety is an essence that reaches the hearts of many over the few. I have also wondered if “good” music has inherent and timeless qualities, or always changes, subject to the zeitgeist and whims of human arbitrariness (read: a…

fun fact!

Oscar Peterson grew up practicing scales and etudes, including works by classical composer J.S. Bach. When his performing days quieted and he toured the world more as teacher and mentor to aspiring pianists, he advised all serious pianists to study Bach’s Goldberg Variations, Well-Tempered Clavier, and the Art of Fugue. Here is a rare photo of the great…

[Hymn to Freedom] – Oscar Peterson Trio, 1962

Today, we veer away from the predictable to feature a work of art that contributed just as much to American 20th century social movements as the most political of soul songs in the 1960s. We go astray because the work is not only distinctly not of the soul genre, but it also is by someone who isn’t…

fun fact!

Despite its success, The Temptations’ fourth number 1 R&B single Beauty is Only Skin Deep was never released on a regular studio LP; it appeared first on their first greatest hits collection.  

with true lovin every time – The Temptations, 1966

Candor can often be sweet, but also brutal, even humorously so. Such is the case with another number one hit by the Temptations. Released in 1966 by Motown Records, Beauty is Only Skin Deep went number 3 on the pop charts and number 1 on the R&B charts. It was a smash hit that had a…

back in your heart – The Jackson 5, 1970

Got to, got to, got to talk about this group today: the Legendary, the Iconic, the Timeless, Jackson 5. There has been much said and written about this group, anchored by the lead singer who would become the most recognized figure in modern music: the King of Pop, Michael Jackson. So, there isn’t too much more…

fun fact!

Taalib Johnson grew up in a strict Muslim household as the oldest of nine before dropping out of school to pursue music. After spending time emceeing and performing on the streets of his native Philadelphia, Taalib soon adopted the name he had come to be known as, Musiq.

sexy and i’m ready to change – MUSIQ Soulchild, contemporary

When I feature an artist for the first time, I generally like to start with the artist’s iconic or most popular hit. But today will be a day of changes. Musiq Soulchild is a contemporary neo-soul, soul, and R&B artist, best known for R&B ballads like Love from his debut album Aijuswanaseing (2000) and Dontchange from his second album Juslisen…

fun fact!

Released in 1932 and 1933, Try A Little Tenderness found a new home in Otis Redding’s soulful 1966 version: Otis’ idol Sam Cooke, though, had already begun to incorporate the song as a part of his regular live shows. Here it is from his seminal 1964 performance at the Copa in NYC:

my little bitty brother – Otis Redding (Sam Cooke), 1965

Ranked #74 in Rolling Stone magazine’s 500 greatest albums of all time, Otis Blue: Otis Redding Sings Soul is considered a masterpiece by the soul singer Otis Redding. The album — famed for having been cut in a span of 24 hours between July 9 and July 10 of 1965– contains original hits like Respect, I’ve Been Loving You…

fun fact!

Donny Hathaway and Roberta Flack often collaborated together, producing several successful duets. They were classmates at Howard University. Hathaway passed away in Chicago at age 33 from what was declared a suicide.

where there’s no space or time – Donny Hathaway, 1971

Donny Hathaway is remembered for many songs, though perhaps most often his duet with soul R&B singer Roberta Flack entitled Where is the Love (1972), and his solo rendition of A Song for You (1971), which happens to be a cover of a Leon Russell song released in 1970. A song about forgiveness and hope and a shot…