What You’ve Done: Sam Cooke, 1963

From the first three notes leading to the tonic F-major chord, Get Yourself Another Fool by Sam Cooke immediately places the listener in a setting that only the best soul and gospel songs can: a refuge where one can accept both relief and resignation, a quiet space where one can feel comfort in discomfort. The bluesy…

Walk With Thee: Mahlia Jackson & Louis Armstrong, 1970

Revered as one of the most important figures in American music, Mahlia Jackson is often referred to as the “Queen of Gospel,” a figure whose gravitas and formidable talents created the seeds for soul and R&B as musical genres 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. During the rehearsal the day before, Prince didn’t even practice his solo. He just told others that…

Your Extra Time: Prince, 1986

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

How I Got Over: John Legend, 2011

One of the most popular pop and R&B celebrities today, John Legend continues to find musical success through not only a distinct voice and wonderful songwriting, but also collaborations with other leading artists, from The Roots and Ludacris to Mariah Carey and Common. Here is his tribute to Nina Simone’s I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To…

Like A Bird: Nina Simone, 1967

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

Feeling Blue: Otis Redding, 1964

The discovery of Otis Redding by the then nascent Stax Records of Memphis Tennessee (see this post for more) remains a testament to the profundity of a series of fortunate events, as well as the contradiction-in-terms that luck is something one earns. When Stax Records was well on its way to regional prominence nurturing the house band Booker T and the…

My Last Tears: Honey Cone, 1970

It’s wonderful to see modern takes of old school songs, especially when they’re done well, and especially if there is a new twist  on it. Inspired by Motown’s Martha and the Vandellas as well as The Marvelettes, Honey Cone was formed in 1969 as a trio of singers who were in various singing and gospel…

Don’t Play It: 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 if the definition of “good” always changes, subject to the zeitgeist and whims…

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 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 icon…

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 soul songs in the 1960s. The work is not only distinctly not of the soul genre, but also by someone who isn’t even from the United States….

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.  

True Lovin’ Every Time: The Temptations, 1966

Candor can often be sweet, but also heart-wrenching, 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 timeliness, 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. There isn’t too much more a…

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.

Ready to change: Musiq Soulchild, 2011

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 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 (2002),…

fun fact!

Released originally 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:

Little Bitty Brother: Otis Redding, 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…

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.