We know you got soul but are you ready to dig a little deeper than Stevie Wonder, Sly Stone, and James Brown? Then check our tip sheet for five essential old school soul men who’ll make you weak in the knees.
Leaving his early gospel roots behind, Pickett hit the 1960s in full-throttle rhythm and blues mode, knocking out rock and roll classics like “Mustang Sally,” “Land of 1,000 Dances,” and his signature tune, “In the Midnight Hour.” Not afraid to straddle genres, he worked with high-profile guitarists like Steve Cropper and Duane Allman but always maintained his raw soulful wail, which he used to great effect on distinctive covers of songs by the Beatles, Steppenwolf, and Randy Newman. He embraced the rock and roll lifestyle with such vigor he earned the nickname Wickett Pickett, which proved less than helpful when he began having frequent brushes with the law before his death in 2006.
Listen: “In the Midnight Hour”
Having unexpectedly passed away in 1967, Redding never got to see the impact he made with his biggest hit, the omnipresent “(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay.” No matter, he was still recognized as one of the most compelling soul singers of his era, winning over mainstream crowds with a show-stopping appearance at the Monterey Pop Festival. Even now hits like “These Arms of Mine” and the pounding “I Can’t Turn You Loose,” driven by his impeccably smooth voice, have a way of making time stand still.
Listen: “Try A Little Tenderness”
Unlike his peers on Atlantic in the 1960s, Burke never connected with rock audiences in his prime. Only in recent years have people gotten around to appreciating his top-shelf material and blues-inflected baritone. Appropriately enough, Burke’s biggest hit was called “Just Out of Reach.” No more. Bob Dylan, Elvis Costello, and Tom Waits all contributed songs to his 2002 comeback album, Don’t Give Up On Me, while Van Morrison penned the liner notes to 2005’s Make Do With What You Got, calling the singer, “the teacher and preacher of soul and R&B and country & western.” Who are we to argue?
Listen: “Everybody Needs Somebody to Love”
Despite the efforts of countless American Idol contestants, Hathaway remains an elusive soul icon for most. Best remembered for his sentimental ballads with Roberta Flack, such as “The Closer I Get to You” and “Where Is The Love,” his own material gave far greater insight to his tortured soul. Too much of the work suffered from over-production but that didn’t diminish the quality of the voice?warm, distinctive, crystal clear?or the singer’s despondency. Just listen to “A Song for You” and attempt to keep the hairs on the back of your neck down. The chill gets even stronger knowing he committed suicide in 1979 by jumping out of the window of his 15th story hotel room in New York.
Listen: “Put Your Hands in the Hand”
There’s a good reason What’s Going On regularly rises to the top of those lists of the best albums of all time. It packs in everything you could possibly want?great singing, great songs, great music?plus the kind of spine-tingling emotional reaction you would never expect. And that’s not even taking in all his other studio accomplishments, from the Motown-ready “How Sweet It Is” through the exquisite “Let’s Get It On.” His popularity only increased with 1982’s crossover hit, “Sexual Healing,” but just two years later his life was cut short when his father shot and killed him after a trivial argument.
Listen: “What’s Going On”
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