In part one of this tribute to the world’s best ever soul singers we focus on male solo singers, that changed the face of soul music from its first roots in the churches of the deep south of America to modern mainstream popular music. There is no particular order to the names, just that each and every name is a legend in their own right.
An original member of Motown, Marvin Gaye is without doubt one of the most soulful singers that ever recorded. His early hits “I Heard It Through the Grapevine”, “Ain’t That Peculiar” and “How Sweet It Is” cemented Motown as the leading soul label of its day. Perhaps Marvin will be best remembered for his ethereal hits of “What’s Going On”, “Let’s Get It On” and “Sexual Healing”. He died tragically, accidentally shot by his father, but his music will live on forever.
The “godfather of soul”, James Brown was the very inspiration that shook mainstream establishment and shouted out that black music was here to stay. The funky rhythms and blaring horn section were his trade mark, and James Brown bought showmanship into his performances. His eye catching crushed velvet suits, stack heels and coiffured hair style were new to the scene, and Brown was the first artist to bring dance routines into his act, his fans adored him.
Stevie Wonder must go down as one of the most prolific singer songwriters of all time. Starting as “little twelve-year-old Stevie” this incredible blind musician has been making music for over half a century and still tours today. Stevie is a wonderful musical genius, an incredible drummer, harmonica player, keyboardist and singer. And he has written and sang hits in five different decades: “My Cherie Amour”, Boogie On Reggae Woman”, “I Just Called”, “Superstition”, “I Wish”, “You Are The Sunshine Of My Life” and many, many more.
No list of Soul Singers could ever be complete without the legendary Sam Cooke, he singlehandedly shaped the transition of black music into mainstream American popular music. He was a prolific trailblazing recording artist that had a great business brain. Songs, like “You Send Me”, Chain Gang”, “Twisting The Night Away” forged the link between soul and pop, and his mixed audiences were white established Americans in 1950’s/60’s. His tragic death in 1964, has many conspiracy theories, and it is true he made many enemies during his rise to fame, mostly in the white dominated entertainment industry.
Bobby Womack was a disciple of Sam Cooke and even married his wife after his passing. Bobby was a prolific talent and that is why Cooke took him under his wing, his church background was a classic soul upbringing and Bobby blossomed into a huge talent. His gravelly voice was beyond compare and his followers admired him to cult status. He even wrote the Stones hit “It’s All Over Now”. These remarkable artists shook the popular world into recognizing the soul genre, and it is because of their legacy many R&B artists are so popular today.