Results tagged “Soul”

DeepSoul Salutes Ashford and Simpson: "It Seems to Hang On"

The pair proved their worth as skilled composers and charismatic performers with this 1978 track.
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While the songwriting duo Nick Ashford and Valerie Simpson experienced great success at Motown as the creators of some of the label's biggest hits ("Ain't No Mountain High Enough," "Reach Out and Touch Somebody's Hand," and "You're All I Need to Get By"), by the late 1970s they were ready to reignite their performing careers. Although not their first album on their own, 1977's Send It proved to be their chart breakthrough. They grasped onto the flourishing disco trend, but the pair retained their unique chemistry and superb harmonies. The followup, Is It Still Good to Ya, produced their best-performing

DeepSoul: Johnny Nash - "Hold Me Tight"

Artists such as Rihanna can thank this Houston-born singer for bringing Caribbean music to worldwide audiences.
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Say the name "Johnny Nash," and one song comes to mind: "I Can See Clearly Now," the 1972 smash that found renewed success when Jimmy Cliff covered it for the 1994 Cool Runnings soundtrack. However, Nash should also be known for bringing reggae into the mainstream, combining it with American pop and soul to create crossover hits. In addition, he became one of the earliest American artists to record in Jamaica. While "I Can See Clearly Now" remains his chief legacy, the 1968 single "Hold Me Tight" became a crossover success four years before that classic song. Due to his

DeepSoul: Cameo - "Feel Me"

While best known for the electro-funk classic "Word Up," this slow jam reveals more dimensions of this unique band.
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Unlike other '70s funk outfits, Cameo successfully updated their sound to match the 1980s synthesizer era. After experiencing a dip in sales, the band came roaring back with 1986's "Word Up," a futuristic groove featuring Larry Blackmon's robotic vocals. The song served as younger listeners' introduction to the group, but in fact Cameo had been recording quirky funk since the late 1970s. Dipping into their earlier work, one can find stripped-down arrangements without the electronic sound. "Feel Me," a 1980 slow jam, typifies their first wave of success. Cameo began as a group of 13 New York City musicians led

DeepSoul Tribute: Yvonne Staples, "If You're Ready (Come Go with Me)"

The passing of the Staple Singers' Yvonne Staples reminds listeners of her important role in the legendary family group.
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In the 1970s, soul music took on a new conscience. Songs containing lyrics addressing social injustice such as Marvin Gaye's "Inner City Blues (Makes Me Wanna Holler)" and the Isley Brothers' "Fight the Power Pt. 1" filled the airwaves. While those artists tapped into energy fueled by the 60s Civil Rights movement, the Staple Singers focused on self-esteem and empowerment. The Stax legends scored a number of crossover hits in the 1970s fusing soul and gospel, with "Respect Yourself" and "I'll Take You There" becoming modern classics. While lead singer Mavis Staples has enjoyed a lengthy solo career, even collaborating

DeepSoul: New Birth - "I Can Understand It"

The group's cover of a 1972 Bobby Womack track proves that passionate funk never goes out of style.
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Funk never goes out of style, and no song proves that notion better than "I Can Understand It" by New Birth. Originally written by Bobby Womack, "I Can Understand It" transforms into a James Brown-esque soul workout, and while it performed well on the R&B and pop charts in 1973, it is inexplicably rarely played on the radio today. According to New Birth's website, the group was the brainchild of Vernon Bullock, a songwriter responsible for classics such as "If I Can Build My Whole World Around You" by Marvin Gaye and Tami Terrell as well as "What Does It

DeepSoul: Bob and Earl - "Harlem Shuffle"

The 1963 single has experienced an unlikely resurgence of interest through covers, samples, and an appearance in a 2017 summer film.
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With its prominent use in the Summer 2017 film Baby Driver, "Harlem Shuffle" by Bob and Earl has gained renewed attention. The Rolling Stones previously scored a hit with their hit 1986 cover (featuring Bobby Womack on backing vocals), accompanied by its humorous Ralph Bakshi and John Kricfalusi-directed video. The 1963 original features not only a more soulful vocal performance but also funky horns and drums. Over 50 years later the question remains: just who were Bob and Earl? The duo originally consisted of Bobby Day and Earl Nelson (aka Jackie Lee), two singers who had previously recorded classics still

DeepSoul Salutes Bill Withers: "Soul Shadows" (with the Crusaders)

The final entry in DeepSoul's salute to the legendary singer looks at one of the more obscure - and underrated - tracks in his catalog.
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By 1980, Bill Withers began collaborating with other artists; he subsequently scored one of the biggest hits of his career with 1981's "Just the Two of Us," a smooth track also featuring Grover Washington, Jr. A year before that single, however, Withers worked with the famed group the Crusaders on the track "Soul Shadows." The band's brand of smooth jazz-funk perfectly suits Wither's unadorned voice, resulting in a sophisticated song that should have received more attention upon its release. Due to ongoing disputes with his label Columbia, Withers was unable to record his own albums from 1979-1985. To remain in

DeepSoul Salutes Bill Withers: "Hello Like Before"

The 1975 ballad typifies the soul singer's deeply personal songwriting and vocal style.
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By 1975, Bill Withers was at a professional crossroads. His previous record label, Sussex, had collapsed, forcing him to sign with Columbia. While he subsequently released albums containing hits such as "Lovely Day" and "I Want to Spend the Night," Withers was unhappy with the label. He felt he had lost control over his material, thus in the late 70s/early 80s he focused on collaborations with the Crusaders and Grover Washington, Jr. After the unhappy experience recording 1985's Watching You Watching Me, Withers would depart Columbia and struggle with career direction. Before that stage, however, Withers seemed to be off

DeepSoul Salutes Bill Withers: "Who Is He (and What Is He to You)?"

Infidelity, jealousy, and pain never sounded so good in this 1972 classic.
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Bill Withers may be known for feel-good hits such as "Lean on Me" and "Lovely Day," but he could also speak of the darker sides of love, namely jealousy and betrayal. His 1972 cut "Who Is He (and What Is He to You)?" stands as one of the finest in the soul genre, with an unforgettable bass line and guitar riff (along with quivering strings) creating a sense of paranoia along with sorrow. For his masterpiece album Still Bill, Withers wrote most of the material. One exception is "Who Is He," a collaboration with lyricist Stanley McKinney. McKinney may have

DeepSoul Salutes Bill Withers: "I Want to Spend the Night"

DeepSoul celebrates the organic soul of the "Lean on Me" singer, beginning with this sensual slow jam.
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Few artists embody the very essence of soul as much as Bill Withers, a consummate singer, songwriter, and musician. His lyrics are highly personal yet universal in theme, addressing romantic, political, and familial topics. Never oversinging, his voice can soar, only to descend into a grittiness that expresses deep emotion. He implemented his gospel roots, into his blending of soul and R&B (with a touch of folk), making Withers a standout among his peers in the 1970s. While Withers has largely retired from performing, his music is everywhere, still played on the radio, used in commercials, and incorporated into films.

DeepSoul, Sampled Edition: Timmy Thomas - "Why Can't We Live Together"

This 1973 hit features a one-man-band, and has inspired numerous covers and hip hop samples.
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AllMusic's Andrew Hamilton labels it "the cheapest Top Ten hit ever made." Regardless of its minimalist production, the 1973 single "Why Can't We Live Together" by Timmy Thomas ranks as one of the most unlikely and influential hits of the 1970s. Its hypnotic beat, Latin percussion, and heartfelt lyrics retain timeless appeal, with artists such as MC Hammer, 3rd Bass, Leaders of the New School, and (more recently) Drake sampling its distinctive elements. Born in 1944 in Evansville, Indiana, Thomas gradually honed his keyboard skills and later performed with jazz legends Donald Byrd and Cannonball Adderley. After a brief stint

DeepSoul: Al Jarreau - "Mornin'"

Celebrate the singer's legacy through classic tracks such as this perfect blend of jazz, pop, and soul.
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On the same day as the Grammy Awards, the music community suffered a great loss. Al Jarreau, a gifted artist that seamlessly blended jazz, pop, and R&B, passed away February 12 at the age of 76. The only vocalist to win Grammys in the jazz, pop, and R&B categories, Jarreau never stopped exploring different musical genres while maintaining his distinctive singing style: rapid-fire scat and using his voice as a percussive instrument. Even when he charted crossover hits such as "We're in This Love Together" or even the Moonlighting TV theme, he never lost sight of his jazz roots. Such

DeepSoul: The Cadillacs - "Gloria"

This 1950s doo-wop group pioneered combining soul and pop to reach mass audiences.
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Soul music has produced so many subgenres including doo-wop, its close harmonies still impacting acts such as Manhattan Transfer and Pentatonix. The 1950s act The Cadillacs were pioneers of the tradition, introducing soul to wider audiences with their smooth harmonies and heartfelt delivery. While best known for their 1955 hit "Speedo," the gorgeous ballad "Gloria" perfectly represents the doo-wop genre's unique blend of lush vocal arrangements, soul, and just a touch of jazz. The Cadillacs began in New York's Harlem in the early 1950s under a different name: The Carnations. Teenagers Earl "Speedy" Carroll, LaVerne Drake, Robert Phillips, and "Cub"

DeepSoul: The Spellbinders - "For You"

The vocal quintet may have released only one album, but the 1965 single remains an underrated soul gem.
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What do the 1960s R&B group the Spellbinders and disco have in common? "For You," the Spellbinders' biggest hit, boasts a producer/songwriter who is today best known for the 1975 dance classic "The Hustle": Van McCoy. "For You" was a modest hit, and the Spellbinders released only one LP before splitting in the late 1960s. This 1965 soul confection, however, is an unfairly negelcted track that merits more attention. Founded circa the early 1960s in New Jersey, the Spellbinders consisted of Robert Shivers, James Wright, Ben Grant, McArthur Munford, and Elouise Pennington. Little is known about the Spellbinders except that

DeepSoul "Behind the Scenes": Kashif

A pioneer of modern R&B, Kashif's multi-genre sound paved the way for New Jack Swing and dance/hip hop fusion.
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Kashif may not be a household name, but he virtually defined early 1980s R&B. His blend of layered vocals, smooth keyboards, and modern beats appealed to both pop and soul audiences, and set the stage for musical potpourri genres such as New Jack Swing. Born in Brooklyn, NY in 1959, Kashif endured a rough childhood. Both parents died when he was quite young, and he subsequently endured abuse in a variety of foster homes. Music was his salvation, however, and keyboards became his chosen instrument. His first break occurred at 15 years old, when he joined B.T. Express (best known

DeepSoul "Behind the Scenes": James Mtume

Remember the 1983 hit "Juicy Fruit"? Writer/producer James Mtume was the man behind that song, but he also worked with R&B's most sophisticated singers.
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One of the classic early 80s R&B hits, "Juicy Fruit" has been sampled by numerous hip hop artists, most notably the Notorious B.I.G. (1994's "Juicy"). The group, Mtume, scored several soul hits until their 1986 breakup, but founder James Mtume boasted an impressive resume both before and after the group as a musician, songwriter, and producer. He co-penned and produced hits for major artists such as Phyllis Hyman, Donny Hathaway, Stephanie Mills, Teddy Pendergrass, R. Kelly, and Mary J. Blige. While he made his name as an R&B dynamo, Mtume brought a jazz background to the genre. Born to legendary

DeepSoul: LeVert - "(Pop, Pop, Pop, Pop) Goes My Mind"

An underrated singer, Gerald Levert demonstrated his impressive vocal range in this 1986 LeVert single.
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LeVert had a head start on their successful run of singles in the 1980s and 1990s. After all, two of its members--Gerald and Sean LeVert--boasted an impressive pedigree, notably their father Eddie Levert. The founder and lead singer of the O'Jays, Eddie was initially not on board with his sons following in his musical footsteps. Yet Gerald's powerful voice could not be denied, and his charisma led the trio to chart a number of hits, including the 1986 crossover smash "Casanova." To fully appreciate Gerald's impressive range and emotional quality, however, one need only hear their first R&B hit, "(Pop,

DeepSoul: The Platters - "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes"

Pioneers in early rock and roll, the Platters successfully bridged pop standards with modern R&B and soul.
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The Platters may seem like unlikely early rock and R&B heroes. Their polished appearance and string-laden covers of standards may not sound rebellious today. Yet their soulful harmonies added a new edge, signaling a transition in pop music. The group proved that the great American songbook could peacefully coexist with modern soul, forging a new sound that paved the way for rock and roll. "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes," the Platters' 1958 reimagining of the Jerome Kern composition, perfectly exemplifies the group's elegance, originality, and the exquisitely dramatic voice of lead singer Tony Williams. The story of the Platters begins

DeepSoul Salutes Maurice White: "I Need You"

Honor the Earth, Wind & Fire founder by listening to his 1985 solo debut and a powerful ballad.
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On February 3, the music world suffered yet another unimaginable loss: Maurice White, the founder and chief force behind the pioneering group Earth, Wind & Fire. DeepSoul pays tribute to this tremendous talent by revisiting a column from 2013 profiing his underrated (and too brief) solo career. Maurice White may be best known as the founder of Earth, Wind, and Fire. What some fans may not remember, however, is that he launched a solo career in the mid-eighties that produced three moderately successful singles. One such song, "I Need You," showcases his powerful voice and stands as an underrated soul

DeepSoul: Atlantic Starr - When Love Calls

Best known for the ballads "Always" and "Secret Lovers," Atlantic Starr's earlier roots lay in funk and soul.
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Say the name "Atlantic Starr," and most people think of their two best known hits: "Always" and "Secret Lovers," both from 1986. The tracks defined the band as a "quiet storm," ballad-driven act. However, their roots lay solidly in R&B, their earlier material balancing ballads with dance and funk. Anchored by original lead singer Sharon Bryant, the 1978-1983 Atlantic Starr lineup still wins over fans such as Erykah Badu, who covered their 1983 single "Touch A Four Leaf Clover" on her debut album. Their breakthrough track "When Love Calls" combines funk, the lingering effects of disco, and smooth R&B, proving
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