fun fact!

Jamesetta Hawkins was born in 1938 to a 14-year old single mother in Los Angeles. When Jamesetta herself turned 14, she met prominent singer and artist Johnny Otis, who would mentor her for years to come. Otis decided to give Jamesetta her stage and performer name by switching around her first name. Etta James was inducted into the…

life is like a song – Etta James, 1960

I can’t not talk about this song. Yes, it’s trite, overplayed, and overheard; it’s cliche and sentimental. But it is all these things because it has stood the test of time. At Last by Etta James was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1999 and remains the most memorable version of a composition…

fun fact!

Saadiq was born to a family of 13 children, several who passed from tragedies that ranged from street violence to suicide.  In an interview with The Guardian in London, he says that he continued to make music to “show people you can have some real tough things happen in your life, but you don’t have to wear it…

to be better than the rest – Raphael Saadiq, contemporary

CONTEMPORARY ( – present) One of my favorite contemporary artists is Raphael Saadiq (born Charles Ray Wiggins; went by Raphael Wiggins for a short time).  Unlike some of the other contemporary artists we have profiled, Raphael differs in his age and experience.  He has been in the industry for some time with a musicality that…

fun fact!

Timothy Bloom is yet another example of a singer who found soul music in the church. The son of two preachers, Bloom wasn’t even allowed to listen to secular music until he discovered the likes of Dylan, Hendrix, and Gaye the day he snuck away into a car and listened to pop radio.

remember me – Timothy Bloom, contemporary

CONTEMPORARY ( – present) Many artists begin not as starlit natural performers. Many spend years in other roles within the music industry before becoming discovered, or more often than not, forging their own path and breaking away independently. Isaac Hayes, who started as an instrumentalist, song writer, and producer for Stax is only one example of…

fun fact!

When Jerry Wexler of Atlantic Records first stumbled on Aretha Franklin, he knew Franklin would have the best chance of producing hits down south with his partner at Stax. He called Jim Stewart in Memphis and asked him if he would take Franklin’s contract. Jim Stewart, then busy trying to maintain a quickly growing label with…

ain’t gonna do you wrong – Aretha Franklin, 1967

Singers have been “covering” other singers’ songs for generations now. A cover song, or often colloquially just simply, “cover,” is a song that has already been released by a different artist, but has been renewed and reinvented by a different artist — or, “covered.” Historically and practically, cover songs offer practice and inspiration to developing artists, while, at best, they…

fun fact!

Dave Prater of Sam and Dave was the seventh of ten siblings who all sang in the church choir.  He was working in a bakery before he started singing with Sam Moore. (Sam Moore on left; Dave Prater on right)

don’t worry, ’cause i’m comin – etymology part 2

When one looks up the definition of “soul music” online, one finds various versions with some common elements. Google calls soul music a kind of music incorporating elements of rhythm and blues and gospel music, popularized by African-Americans, with an emphasis on vocals and an impassioned improvisatory delivery. Wikipedia traces the genre’s roots to the United States in the 1950s and…

fun fact!

  Stax writers Isaac Hayes and David Porter (above, from left to right) had been confounded for hours late into the night, trying to prepare for a recording session the next day. When Hayes finally found a groove on the piano, he yelled to Porter urging him to come quickly before he loses that melody….

the way you love me is frightening – STAX RECORDS: Memphis, TN

We are of course dedicated to capturing the people and spirits who give birth to the sounds we hear: the singers and instrumentalists. They, after all, embody the very musicality we admire and ultimately cling to, even though people in other positions — engineers, producers, and writers — play critical roles too. Yet these artists and their…

fun fact!

It isn’t much of a leap to guess where Hamilton’s spiritual showcasing comes from; like other soul singers, this native of Charlotte, North Carolina began singing in the church choir at age 10.

let me in, in on this mystery – Anthony Hamilton, CONTEMPORARY

Another singer who in recent years has made a name for himself is Anthony Hamilton, a singer whose vocal quality is as unique today as the voice of Nina Simone or Otis Redding was back then. He sings as if his vocal chords are sinuous extensions of a mountain of experiences, joy, sorrow, heartbreak, despair, all of…

just a little bit louder – Stevie Wonder, 1962

This child prodigy is no stranger to the big lights. He looked up to the great Ray Charles and in fact — in working with the Motown producers — released his first ever album as one dedicated to “Uncle Ray.” Born Stevland Hardaway Morris, he gained his stage name from one of the producers who…

fun fact!

Growing up, Aretha Franklin quickly befriended — and admired — another soul singer whose steps she would follow away from gospel and toward pop. His name was Sam Cooke.

without a word of warning – Aretha Franklin, 1960

Aretha Franklin is a nearly incomparable tour de force in the world of popular music. Her strength, versatility, and musicality remain a gold standard for female vocalists, especially in the world of R&B and jazz and soul. Contemporary artists like Alicia Keys, Adele, and even the late great Whitney Houston all can give a nod…

fun fact!

Contrasting Sam Cooke, Albert Greene dropped the letter “e” in his last name before releasing his first album. Al Green was inducted into the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame in 1995.

this old world will keep on turning – Al Green, 1972

Often called the last of the great soul singers, another artist left his indelible mark in the genre of popular and soul music who found his zenith in the 1970s. To dovetail our last discussion, it is interesting to note that the great “Reverend” Al Green found his success first and foremost in pop, then…

fun fact!

The genius of Gordy and Hitsville USA can be found in something so unimaginative: recycling songs. Gaye and Terrell released their hit Ain’t No Mountain High Enough in 1967 and won a Grammy with it. Three years later, Diana Ross and the Supremes — of the same record label — would release their own version…