Thursday, October 20, 2011


Soul Music: Part 2
Today, we'll begin with one of the greatest singers of all time, Aretha Franklin, "The Queen of Soul," and the one female with the most million-selling singles ever. Beginning her music career in the late 1950s, it wasn't until the release of her single "Respect" in August 1967 when she reached international stardom. Written and originally released by Otis Redding, Franklin's cover version is considered to be one of the best songs of the R&B era, earning her two Grammy Awards in 1968 for "Best Rhythm & Blues Recording" and "Best Rhythm & Blues Solo Vocal Performance: Female." Also featuring Aretha's sisters, Carolyn and Erma, as backup singers, this song became a crossover hit when it reached #1 on both pop and R&B charts. It was also a landmark song for the feminist movement, and is included among the Songs of the Century. The last line of the song "Take care...TCB" was often misunderstood, however, it was an abbreviation for "taking care of business" which was widely used in the African-American culture are the time. Here's a classic performance of a song that helped shape music history.

First featured during the "Songs for Each Day of the Week" Week, Sam Cooke was the first "King of Soul" and founding father of soul music, who paved the way for all soul singers that followed. With his distinctive vocal abilities and influence on the modern world of music, he was also an entrepreneur, forming a record label and publishing company in addition to his singing-songwriting career. Among his 29 Top-40s, one of his most popular was "Wonderful World," written by Cooke with his producer Lou Adler and Herb Alpert (yeah, the trumpet guy). Hitting #12 on the pop charts and #2 on the black charts in the spring of 1960, this bouncy love song was also thought to possibly have a political message, asking white listeners to forget about African-American history (slavery) and of course biology. With so many major hits in a short amount of time, one can only imagine what else Cooke could have accomplished if he hadn't been shot to his death in 1964.

Another extremely influential artist of his generation was American singer Jackie Wilson, also known as "Mr. Excitement." One of the most dynamic performers in R&B and rock history, Wilson was important in the transition from rhythm and blues into soul. Beginning his career in the mid-1950s, he recorded over 50 hit singles, and his electrifying live performances inspired many other artists including James Brown, Elvis Presley (who dubbed him "The Black Elvis"), and Michael Jackson. However, during a 1975 benefit concert, he collapsed onstage from heart attack and fell into a coma for nine years until his death in 1984. Released in August of 1967, one of his final pop hits was the Chicago soul song "(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher," which reached #1 on the R&B charts and #6 on the pop charts. Here's one (#68) of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time performing one (#246) of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.

Active from 1966 to 1983, the San Francisco-based band Sly & the Family Stone was crucial in the development of soul, funk, and psychedelic music. Led by singer, songwriter, producer, and multi-instrumentalist Sly Stone, and including his family members and friends, this band was the first major American rock band to have an "integrated, multi-gender" lineup. Released in February 1968, the psychedelic soul single "Dance to the Music" was a widespread, groundbreaking hit for the group, reaching #8 on the charts, and in late 1968, "Everyday People" became their first #1 hit single on both R&B and pop charts. The latter was a plea for peace and equality between different races and social groups (a major focus for the band), and popularized the catchphrase "different strokes for different people." Both written and produced by Sly Stone, as well as both included on the list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time, this performance by Sly & the Family Stone features "Dance to the Music" and "Everyday People."

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