Soul music or rhythm and blues?

Harlem Hit Parade

I was asked to describe the difference between soul music and rhythm and blues. Paraphrasing Potter Stewart, I know it when I hear it. But I indeed could not define it.

The site Music Fans indicates: “R&B (rhythm and blues) was a term popularized by the music charts coining as a way of describing Black-oriented radio hits without specifically referencing race. Over the course of the 80 years, the term has been in use, it has described many very different types of music. Its primary use has always been the contemporary music popular among black Americans.

“Starting in the 80s, hip-hop became the dominant musical genre in the Black American community, leading R&B to be redefined as the contemporary black music that was NOT hip-hop. In the 90s, that sound was heavily influenced by ‘neo-soul,’ a revival of the soul sound, but with modern influences.”

Conversely, Masterclass suggests that “various genres of popular Black-pioneered music—gospel, blues, R&B, and forms of jazz—are often grouped together in a category known as soul music.”

So is soul a subset of rhythm and blues or vice versa? I dunno.  Sweet Soul Music – Arthur Conley (1967) from Atlantic Rhythm and Blues, 1947-1974, a collection I recommend.

By the book

I have the book edited by the late, great Joel Whitburn called Top R&B/Hip-Hop Singles. It notes the synopsis of Billboard’s R&B Singles Charts. From 1942 to 1945, it was the Harlem Hit Parade. 1945 introduced the term Race Records with multiple charts for Juke Box and Best Sellers; this was also true for pop songs.

By 1949, the term was Rhythm & Blues. From 1952 to 1956, it used no designation at all, but it was understood. By 1956, R&B was the nomenclature, with multiple charts ending on 13 October 1958.

From 11/30/63 to 1/23/65, there was no Billboard chart in this category. It is thought that the magazine believed the R&B and pop charts were too similar.

I perused another Joel Whitburn book, Across the Charts: The 1960s. The Supremes dominated both the Billboard pop charts and the Cash Box R&B charts, which he used instead of Billboard.

But the Beatles never had a soul hit in the sixties. And some of the black artists of 1964, such as Solomon Burke, Jerry Butler, Ray Charles, Sam Cooke, and even the Temptations, had songs that did considerably better on the R&B charts than the pop charts.

When Billboard returned to precisely charting the category, they used Rhythm and Blues or R&B from 1965 to August 1969, when they chose Soul. In June 1982, it became Black, then in October 1900, R&B again. Finally, in December 1999, the category was R&B/Hip-Hop.

We want the funk

The conversation was initiated when I played the album Head Hunters by Herbie Hancock this month. I described how musically eclectic Hancock was and noted the funk elements of, e.g., Chameleon.

So what’s funk? I think, “Can’t you feel that bottom?” But okay, a definition: “a style of popular dance music of African American origin, based on elements of blues and soul and having a strong rhythm that typically accentuates the first beat in the bar.”

And rock and roll was built on country music and R&B. This is why I organize my music by artist, not the category. I won’t even get into jazz…

Music Throwback: Good Day Sunshine

Redmond’s Good Day Sunshine was in the middle of three Beatles songs on COOK BOOK.

In the early 1990s, Paul McCartney appeared on Later with Bob Costas, a late night program on NBC-TV. The host asked Paul what Beatles covers that he most enjoyed. We Can Work It Out by Stevie Wonder was named, as well it should be.

Paul also mentioned Roy Redmond’s version of Good Day Sunshine, which he acknowledged was a rather obscure track. In fact, the ONLY reason I know it is because it appears on one of those Warner Brothers Loss Leaders that I collected in the 1970s. COOK BOOK, from 1977, focused “on Warner’s black acts,” which were negligible only a few years earlier.

This version was released as Loma 2075 way back in July 1967. The B-side of the single was That Old Time Feeling. Oddly, It would appear that Roy Redmond recorded two 45s – both on Loma… – and then, mysteriously, nothing more.

The other single, from April 1967, was Ain’t That Terrible/A Change Is Gonna Come. Yes, the latter is the Sam Cooke song.

“Loma Records was established in 1964 in order for Warner Brothers to capitalize on the emerging soul market – but almost exclusively as a singles label. Bob Krasnow, who ran the San Francisco branch of King Records from 1958-1964, was tapped by Warner Brothers to run Loma Records from its founding until the label ceased operations in 1968.”

Redmond’s Good Day Sunshine was in the middle of three Beatles songs on COOK BOOK, codifying yet again that the effect black music had on the Beatles was reciprocated.

Randy Crawford’s version of Don’t Let Me Down appears on her 1976 album Every Must Change. The Long and Winding Road was a 1976 B-side to a song called Hurry, Hurry by New Birth, “the Detroit band that helped invent American funk music.”

Listen to:

Don’t Let Me Down – Randy Crawford here or here

Good Day Sunshine – Roy Redmond here or here

The Long and Winding Road – New Birth here or here

Music Throwback Saturday: Then Came You

Then Came You became Warwick’s first ever single to reach number one on the Billboard Hot 100 and also became her highest-charting R&B record.

spinners-dionnePeriodically I have mentioned in this blog how irritated I was that certain black musicians were considered “not black enough” because of their genre. Charlie Pride singing country, or Jimi Hendrix doing rock and roll – and isn’t rock just blues and country mixed together? And I took some heat for listening to it.

Dionne Warwick got grief for being an MOR (middle of the road) artist, singing mostly Burt Bacharach/ Hal David tunes. So I was glad that she briefly got that particular monkey off her back when she teamed up with the legendary Spinners to sing Then Came You.

“Released during a time that Warwick’s chart fortunes were at an ebb after moving to Warner Bros. Records in 1972, the Philadelphia soul single was a rare mid-1970s success for the singer. Sung as a duet with Spinners main lead singer Bobby Smith and the Spinners, who were one of the most popular groups of the decade, the song became Warwick’s first-ever single to reach number one on the Billboard Hot 100 and also became her highest-charting R&B record reaching number two on that chart. It was also the first number-one pop hit for the Spinners. Spinners member Phillippe Wynne took over lead duties at the very end of the song.”

Dionne spelled her last name with an E at the end during this period but switched back.

Here are songs by the Spinners, who are NOT in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and, though nominated the last couple of years, not even up for consideration this season:

I’ll Be Around -#3 for two weeks pop, #1 for five weeks soul in 1972, here or here

Could It Be I’m Falling In Love – # 4 pop, #1 soul in 1973 here or here

One of a Kind (Love Affair) #11 pop, #1 for four weeks soul in 1973 here or here

Mighty Love, Part 1 – #20 pop, #1 for two weeks soul in 1974 here or here

Then Came You – #1 pop, #2 soul in 1974 here or here

They Just Can’t Stop It (Games People Play) – #5 pop, #1 soul in 1975 here or here

The Rubberband Man – #2 for three weeks pop, #1 soul in 1976 here or here; long, album version here or here

March rambling #1: wipe out cancer in a decade

Screen Shot 2016-02-14 at 10.52.08 PM

Louisville doctor says the breakthrough treatment could wipe out cancer in a decade. Even better, one of the subjects in the story is my friend Eddie, the Renaissance Geek!

Keefknight Cartoon: Colon. One of my brothers-in-law died from colorectal cancer in 2002, at the age of 41.

Why I Left the Right: How Studying Religion Made Me a Liberal.

The White House Welcomes Holler If You Hear Me: Black and Gay in the Church. See this powerful documentary in full (60 minutes).

The Disappearing Soldier.

Kintsugi: The Art of Embracing Damage.

K Troop: The story of the eradication of the original Ku Klux Klan.

Agrippa Hull, Thaddeus Kosciusko, and how Thomas Jefferson didn’t hold up his end of the agreement.

Nancy Reagan rejected Rock Hudson’s plea for help with AIDS treatment sent just months before his death.

Seattle Seahawks Kam Chancellor Wanted to Buy a Gym and Gym Employees Called the Cops on Him.

Formerly freewheeling Aubrey McClendon, now deceased.

Disney is screwing American families.

I was a telemarketer for four months back in 1977. If you hate telemarketers, you’ll love this robot designed to waste their time.

Dan Van Riper: Some crappy-looking old junk from my buildings.

Actor George Kennedy, RIP, who I remember from Cool Hand Luke, Earthquake, the Naked Gun movies, and a whole lot of episodic TV.

Making rubber bands and bagels. There’s a point in the processes where the two batters looks very much the same. Seriously.

TIME Magazine names male author Evelyn Waugh on female most-read list. (HT to Shooting Parrots.)

Why It Hurts So Much to Step On a LEGO. “Resistance, shiny hardness, and mega-strength.”

Study: Chocolate Makes You Smarter. Of course.

The long and tangled history of Alfred E. Neuman, of MAD magazine.

Russ Heath’s Comic About Being Ripped Off By Roy Lichtenstein.


Billboard: George Martin, and Beatles – She’s Leaving Home, Strings Only (1967) and Dustbury’s favorite George Martin production, other than Beatles material.

The five best soul albums of all-time, according to St Paul & The Broken Bones

When I was in college, I played that first Emerson, Lake and Palmer album a lot. I could do a fair representation of the Moog ending of Lucky Man, sans instrument. Also, listen to Karn Evil 9 2nd Impression. Now Keith Emerson, ELP Keyboardist, Dead at 71.

With “A Group Called Smith”, Gayle McCormick was best remembered for her release in AUGUST of 1969 of Baby It’s You. She lost her battle with cancer and passed away in ST. LOUIS, on MARCH 1st, 2016 at age 67.

Joe Cuba – Bang Bang. #63 in 1966.

I think Rossini’s overture to William Tell is underrated because it’s so familiar.

Sam Moore of Sam & Dave is 80 (tomorrow)

Sam Moore was blown away, and uttered “Play it, Steve” spontaneously.

sam-and-daveSamuel David Moore (born October 12, 1935) and the late Dave Prater (May 9, 1937 – April 9, 1988) comprised, inarguably, the most successful and critically acclaimed soul-singing duo, Sam & Dave, from 1961 to 1981. They are members of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame (1992) and the Vocal Group Hall of Fame. Sam Moore has continued his career as a solo performing and recording artist.

They had a complicated recording situation, signed to Atlantic Records, but leased to the soul label Stax for a time in order to get the Memphis feel. Their working relationship was also strange; “according to Moore, they did not speak to each other offstage for almost 13 years.”

A Place Nobody Can Find, written by David Porter, was their first STAX single, b/w Goodnight Baby (Isaac Hayes/Porter), both sides featured Dave Prater singing lead. It failed to chart. That would soon change.

Many of the song description narratives are from the great book Soulsville U.S.A.: The Story of STAX RECORDS by Rob Bowman. Links to all songs.

10. I Take What I Want (Hayes/Mabon Hodges/Porter), 1965 – another early song that failed to chart. Note that many of these songs were written by the team of Isaac Hayes (of “Shaft” fame), and David Porter, who also produced these and many future songs. They also wrote hits for other STAX artists.

9. You Got Me Hummin’ (Hayes/Porter), #77 pop, #7 r&b in 1967 – such nice rhythmic humming, it wasn’t the bawdy song that the writers had envisioned.

8. You Don’t Know Like I Know (Hayes/Porter), #90 pop, #7 r&b in 1965 – their first hit, due in no small part to the promotional skills of STAX’s Al Bell. It was inspired by the gospel song You Don’t Know Like I Know What the Lord Has Done for Me. Sam Moore hated the song, and about half the tunes presented to him at STAX because Hayes and Porter made him sing high in his vocal range. Dave sings the first verse, then they trade lines. Instead of a solo, Hayes and Porter put in a horn ensemble, inspired by Otis Redding’s In the Midnight Hour.

7. You Don’t Know What You Mean to Me (Eddie Floyd/Steve Cropper) #48 pop, #20 r&b in 1968 – I’m not a great fan of talking in pop songs. But when Sam & Dave do it – “Eddie FLOYD wrote the song” – it’s different. Steve Cropper is best known as the guitarist of the Stax Records house band, Booker T. & the M.G.’s.

6. Soothe Me (Sam Cooke), the live version went #56 pop, #16 r&b, #35 UK – smooth like Sam Cooke was.

SamMoore 5. Soul Man (Hayes/Porter), #2 pop for three weeks, #1 r&b for seven weeks, 24 UK in 1967. A Grammy Hall of Fame song. Isaac Hayes suggested Steve Cropper play a slide guitar lick, and Cropper, not having a proper slide, used a cigarette lighter. Sam Moore was blown away and uttered “Play it, Steve” spontaneously, which was kept in the mix. The success of the Blues Brothers’ cover, for some reason, made me irritable.

4. Wrap It Up (Hayes/Porter) – B-side of I Thank You, 1968. The lead vocals were recorded in Paris while the duo was on tour, because the label thought, correctly, that the A-side was going to be a big hit.

3. I Thank You (Hayes/Porter), #9 pop, #4 r&b, #34 UK in 1968 – more talk that works. Sam’s “I want everybody to get off your seat, And get your arms together, And your hands together, And give me some of that old soul clapping” sounded like church, especially the word “old.” Also love the clavinet, played by Hayes. It features background vocals by Ollie and the Nightingales.

2. Hold On, I’m Comin’ (Hayes/Porter), #21 pop, #1 r&b in 1966 – the first Sam & Dave song I was aware of. Hayes had yelled to Porter to hurry, and finish up in STAX’s washroom. Porter responded, “Hold on, man, I’m coming.” Sam is on lead vocals from the start. Little mistakes, such as Wayne Jackson missing a trumpet entrance, were left in. Often covered, never surpassed.

1. When Something is Wrong with My Baby (Hayes/Porter), #42 pop, #2 r&b in 1967 – this song, a rare ballad for the duo, is gorgeous. Inspired by Porter’s bad marriage and his fantasies about what would feel like to be in love. Sung primarily by Sam, with harmonies by Dave. Also covered a lot, notably by Linda Ronstadt and Aaron Neville.
Coverville 1096: The Villes are alive with the sound of Covers. And Sam & Dave. And Indie Hodgepodge!

Social media & sharing icons powered by UltimatelySocial