Saturday, November 5, 2011

Nowhere to Run

Soul Music: Part 3

Jumping back into our Soul Series, we'll continue with The Righteous Brothers, the 'blue-eyed soul' musical duo featuring Bill Medley (bass vocals) and Bobby Hatfield (tenor). From Los Angeles, California, they adopted their name while performing together as part of a five-member group called The Paramours, when at the end of one performance, an African-American Marine in the audience shouted, "That was righteous, brothers!" Beginning their career as a duo in 1963 and continuing to perform together until Hatfield's death in 2003, they are known for recording the most played song in radio history. Released in December 1964 (note: during Beatlemania), "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'" became a #1 hit single in the US and the UK, and has since been ranked #34 of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. One of the foremost examples of producer Phil Spector's "Wall of Sound" technique, this song was one of the most successful pop singles of its time, even though the song's length exceed the standard for radio airplay then. Unfortunately, I heard this song so many times during my childhood that I've kind of lost that lovin' feelin' for it.

One of the earliest African-American soul singing groups signed to Motown Records were The Contours, best known for their million-selling song "Do You Love Me?" Written and produced by Motown CEO Berry Gordy Jr., this rhythm and blues classic peaked at #3 on the pop charts and #1 on the R&B charts after its release in June 1962. Gordy had intended for The Temptations to record this song, but when he was unable to track them down at the moment, he turned to The Contours who were in danger of being dropped from the Motown label (their first two singles had failed to chart). After being offered Gordy's sure-fire hit, they immediately hugged and thanked him. In 1987, the song's popularity was revived after being featured in the film Dirty Dancing, resulting in the song's Billboard chart re-entry at #11. The lyrics name off many dance fads of the 1960s including the Mashed Potato and The Twist.
American musician Ray Charles was a founding father of soul music in 1950s by infusing R&B, gospel, and blues styles into his music, and racially integrated country and pop music in the 1960s. Due to glaucoma, he was completely blind by age seven, however, it was while attending a school for the blind where he developed his musical talent. With his career spanning several decades from 1947 till his death in 2004, this Georgian native is considered one of the greatest singers of all time. He was also one of the first African-American musicians to be given artistic control by a mainstream record company. Released in September 1960, Charles' blues version of "Georgia on My Mind" received national acclaim and a Grammy Award, reaching the #1 spot that November. This recording inspired many cover versions to follow, and in 1979, was declared the official state song of Georgia.

First featured during Motown Week, Martha and the Vandellas were one of the most popular performing acts from Motown Records during the mid-60s. With their hard-driving instrumentation sound, several of their songs are among the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time including "Nowhere to Run." Released as a single in February 1965, this pop/soul tune reached #8 on the pop charts and #5 on the R&B charts. Written by Motown main production team of Holland-Dozier-Holland, the Funk Brothers (Motown's studio musicians) used snow chains as percussion along side tambourine and drums to emphasize the heavy beat. Heavily played by the troops in the Vietnam War, its brass-heavy arrangement and chorus of "nowhere to run, nowhere to hide" have also made this a popular song at sporting events. Among many accolades over the years including one of the greatest artists of all time, these girls were awarded the Pioneer Award at the Rhythm & Blues Foundation in 1993.

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