According to this document made available by the University of Michigan called, “What Is Soul?” and “What Is Soul Music;” “The word soul found its way into the discourse of American popular culture initially through music and spread out from there. African American essayist and playwright Amiri Baraka (LeRoi Jones) notes that in the 1950s the word was used by jazz musicians and critics alike to characterize a movement within jazz to reclaim and revitalize a musical tradition that had been repeatedly co-opted by mainstream and corporate culture.”
Song: Back Together Again
I’m pretty sure I remember writing extensively about the late Donny Hathaway on my old blog. However, I don’t believe I shared one of my biggest favorites by him. His amazing duet with Roberta Flack “Back Together Again,” was a megaton hit as far as the Black community growing up. This song was “Black barbecue” worthy music! Released in 1980, the song reached #8 on the Top 100 Charts. Interesting that (according to the billboard chart) the song also reached #8 on the R&B charts as well. I thought this should have been number one, as the song practically became an anthem in the Black community.
Duets Seemed To Have Been Her Specialty!
You know, in my opinion Roberta Flack is amazingly talented (at least in the studio, I’ve heard quite a few of her live performances and they were boring as hell (sorry to say)). However, I couldn’t help but to notice that about after her third album, a lot of her well known hits seem to have been duets. And she’s done quite a few of them! I find that interesting as well, because she must have had good professional relationships with people in the industry. Artists normally don’t get to do duets with huge names unless you’ve been in the industry for decades (with more than one or two major hits under your belt). I guess her three #1 singles “The First Time I Ever Saw Your Face (1969),” “Killing Me Softly (1973),” and “Feel Like Makin’ Love (1975)” were big enough to make everybody want to work with her! LOL Although, it doesn’t appear she’s written any of those 3 songs.
I’d Say, Roberta Has Sung Some Of The Most Romantic Music Of Her Time! Without Any Exaggeration!
You know…. Even today, when I listen to Donny’s old music, I’m still in complete shock that he lived with mental illness all those years! Performed for millions and millions of people, yet he was mentally impaired. In someways it’s fascinating to me how as an artist he was able to access the creative side of his brain, yet separate the mental illness (or at least kept it at bay for as long as he could). We truly lost a phenomenally talented man in my opinion. Imagine if medicine knew then what it knows now, I think he’d still be a live. No reason he wouldn’t be.
Sooooo Many Covers Of This Great Song Was Done!
“Back Together Again,” was such a great song, unless you had absolutely no talent, there was no way you could have messed up this song! 😜 So many covers by so many different artists it was not funny. Check out some of my favorite cover versions by Maxi Priest, Tony Mombrelle & Chantae Cann, Tony’s house remix of this song is hot too! Also check out the legendary Freddie Jackson, and finally, listen to this smooth jazz cover by Gordon James.
Song: It’s Mashed Potato Time
Artist: Dee Dee Sharp
Genre: Dance Grooves
Shamefully, although I remember this artist as though her music was out yesterday, however in the music world today, she has drifted towards the vacuum of obscurity. This woman was once one of the hottest acts of the 60s! She could have easily been another Mary Wells as far as I’m concerned! Her biggest hit came during the 50s-60s dance craze era. The song was called “It’s Mashed Potato Time!” The song was released in 1962, and became an instant hit! It reached #2 on the Top 100, and #1 on the R&B charts, making it the biggest song of her career! This song was so popular, she had the nerve to come out with another song called “Gravy (For My Mashed Potatoes).” Now that I think about it, it was completely hilarious.
Mashed Potato Time, Was The Biggest Hit Of Her Career!
Now, just think about it for a minute. This song was released more than 5 years before I was born, and remembering hearing this song even as a very young boy, tells me just how majorly popular this song was! Come to think of it, I never did learn how to do “The Mashed Potato.” Even if I wanted to, there were just too many dances goin’ on to keep up with all of them anyway. These dance crazes were so important for the Black community back then. It was one of the very few things that helped us deal with the massive racism.
I Never Did Learn How To Mash Potato! 😜
Despite her big dance hit, I think she was also extremely underrated as far as her other music. Dee Dee had an incredible voice! I am just dumbfounded that (at least when I examine the music charts) music lovers only responded to her dance music and not her ballads. I guess it is possible that fans were so moved (hard) by her dance music, they really didn’t want to hear any other type of music by her. However, I highly recommend that you check out some of her ballads. She’s made some incredible covers too!
I Highly Recommend That You Check Out Her Ballads!
One badass song I think you should check out, is a song called “I really Love You (1965),” the musical arrangements for this song was perfect! As far as I’m concerned, this was an ignored gem, barely reaching #78 on top 100. Also listen to her cover of Jerry Butler’s 1958 hit “For Your Precious Love (c.’60s),” a lot of people refuse to believe we are losing our culture; her cover of this song doesn’t appear to be listed anywhere on Wikipedia. Even on discogs I had trouble finding (had to use advanced search! WTF?). So sad, it’s an amazing song. Listen to her cover of 10CC’s 1974 hit “I’m Not In Love (1975),” you know the way she sings this song, she reminds me a lot of the late Nancy Wilson. Lastly, check out her cover of Jackie Wilson’s 1958 hit song “To Be Loved (1963).” At the age of 74, she is still performing!
Song: When You Are Who You Are
Artist: Gil Scott-Heron
Another forgotten phenomenal musician! Well, perhaps forgotten in the mainstream world, but in the world of Funk and Jazz, I think he’s well remembered. In my opinion, in terms of musical status (or popularity if you will), I considered him among the same ranks as Jimmy Hendrix. Keep in mind, I mentioned “popularity,” not meaning to infer that their music are similar. I think their paths were obviously very different.
Gil Scott Was Very Politically Conscious!
The late Mr. Gil was very politically conscious. Growing up, none of my family (that I can recall) had any of his music. However, if I heard him on the radio or on TV I savored the moment and just enjoyed what I heard. I was too young to fully understand half the sh*t he said, but some how I knew there was some serious messages in his music. I admired him so much because he wasn’t just a politically conscious Black musician, he was one of the few well known music figures that actually went in to the communities and literally showed you the challenges of the Black communities. Very few musicians I can think of right now that were that passionate about educating the Black community. The only person that comes to mind at this moment is James Brown. And even then I wonder? Mind you, not saying James did nothing for the community, but there’s a difference between showering the Black community with money, and actually being in the Black community. Not to disrespect the late entertainer, but the more I reflect as I get older, I felt that James was motivated by pure fear (after the assassination of MLK) rather than “helping the community.” Fear in a selfish way. After the assassination of MLK, I felt that he was more concerned that it would have effected his ability to perform in the Black neighborhoods. I could be completely wrong about that, but….. Just my opinion.
Well, enough of my soapbox. During America’s political climax of the 60s-70s in regards to Black Americans, probably (I think) the most well known song (or perhaps technically not really a song) was called “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised (1971).” I know some of my young readers may not like to pay attention to lyrics, but I do recommend that you take the time to listen to that song. It is a true direct representation of what Blacks were going through in the seventies, and in many ways still going through. Shifting the topic a little, there’s a song Gil did that became one of my favorites, and it’s called “When You Are Who You Are.” I think what attracted me to this song was, lyrically speaking, it was one of the very few songs I’ve heard where the male artist sings loving someone for who they are, and not having the need to try so hard to impress him. The lyrics are just beautiful, as well as the music being nice and funky!
Song: Kiss And Say Goodbye
Artist: The Manhattans
Album: Kiss And Say Goodbye (1982)
You know, The Manhattans were such a major popular group in the seventies, I didn’t even realize they only had a couple of hits during their entire career. This amazingly talented group was born in NJ, about 1962. An interesting fact I never knew about The Manhattans, was that each and every one of them joined the armed forces. To my understanding, the pretty much formed the group almost immediately after they were discharged.
They All Listed In The Armed Forces!
Their signature song “Kiss And Say Goodbye,” reached popularity beyond all expectations. I can’t even begin to find the words as to just how popular this song was. I don’t think I can describe to even if I tried. This song cemented their names in music history. It appeared that almost every house party we had growing up, had to end with that song playing. Almost every person of color had this album, or the 45rpm (bear minimum). If you didn’t own this album back in the day, people would look at you in total shock! Yet, at the same time, this was one of those weird things I never understood about my elder generation. Because this is really a breakup song, yet people danced to this as if it was a happy romantic song. Maybe it was all in the rhythm? I have absolutely no idea! 🤣
“Kiss And Say Goodbye” reached #1 in 1976 on the Top 100, and stayed on the charts for about 25/26 weeks. The song also hit #1 on the R&B category, #1 in Canada, and #1 in Netherlands, and #4 in both Australia and the UK. That’s how significant this song was, everyone from every age and walk of life responded to this amazing song! Their next and last huge hit was a song called “Shining Star (1980).” The song peaked at #5 on the Top 100, #2 in New Zealand, #6 in Canada.
Artist: Checkmates, Ltd.
This is an EXTREMELY rare, obscured indeed! The Checkmates, Ltd., to my understanding was a group discovered by the late Nancy Wilson. This was a very talented group in my opinion, it was such a shame that they broke up just barely a year after forming the group. Their biggest hit was a song called “Black Pearl (1969),” which was written and produced by the infamous Phil Specter. The song reached #13 on the pop charts. The also had some success with a cover of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Proud Mary.” BTW, no….. Everybody assumes this was Tina Turner’s original, it’s not. Around 2008, Universal Studios suffered a major fire, and many original recordings were completely destroyed. Unfortunately, that included almost all works by the band, and many more artists as well. Check out this lost treasure album, I think it’s really nice piece of forgotten history.
Song: You Sexy Thing
Artist: Hot Chocolate
Album: Hot Chocolate (1975)
Ok guys, I have to be honest. The only Hot Chocolate I liked actually came from Nestle! But when it came to the band, not so much. Unfortunately, despite having several hits under their belt, I have to put them in my “one hit wonder section.” Simply because for whatever reason, I wasn’t attracted to their music. I don’t know what it was. Their style, their voice, the equipment they’ve used? It just sounded like most of the music I’ve listened to them all sounded like cheap karaoke songs. I hate karaoke music, especially since most of us had to pay for our music back then.
Unfortunately, I Had To Place Them In My One Hit Wonder Section!
The only song throughout their entire career I felt was solid (in my opinion), and it also turned out to be their biggest hit of their career (numbers wise), was called “You Sexy Thing (1975).” The song shot up to #3 on the Top 100 Chart in 1976. This song played EVERYWHERE! And that included many commercials too. The only other song I somewhat had feelings for, was a 1973 cover they did from a band called Story. The song was called Brother Louie, from on their 1974 album called Cicero Park. I loved the Blaxploitation feel of the song. It’s a shame that it doesn’t appear anywhere on the charts. It was a decent reinterpretation. The group has changed a lot. Some have moved on, and others have died. Although the group is still performing to my understanding, they haven’t had a major hit since the late 70s.
Song: Touch Me In The Morning
Artist: Marlena Shaw
Album: Go Away Little Boy (1977)
Now, I don’t mean to offend any Marlena Shaw fans out there, but her music really didn’t lit my fire back in the day. It wasn’t because I thought she couldn’t sing, she had an amazing voice. I guess it was one of those things I believed she was singing the wrong music for her type of voice (again, just my opinion). However, I do acknowledge she did some really, really good cover songs throughout her career.
She Did A Lot Of Talkin’ In Her Music
Marlena is one of those performers that did a lot of talking in her music. She kind of reminded me of artists similar to Linda Clifford (in that respect). As far as my memory goes, I think some of her best covers came from the disco genre. Her cover of Diana Ross’s “Touch Me In The Morning,” was awesome in my opinion. I don’t have access to the numbers, but I know that it was pretty big on the dance charts. I think this cover matched with her voice perfectly. It’s not easy turning a song (that was originally slow paced) into a disco hit.
Now, she did another cover of a song I thought was originally by Angela Bofill (1978), ’cause that’s who I heard my grandpa play a lot growing up. But it turns out that it was originally sung by legendary Martha Reeves (1975). The cover song Marlena sung was called “This Time I’ll Be Sweeter (1976),” from her “Just A Matter Of Time,” album. I love all three versions of the song. But, honestly guys…. This is such a beautiful song, unless you have a voice of a freakin’ frog, I think it’s pretty hard to mess up this song. For real 🤣. You know what? While I’m on the same album, check out her song “Brass Band,” it has a really nice smooth jazzy, disco beat to hit.
Artist: Toussaint McCall
Genre: True Soul
Sooo many forgotten artists. Toussaint McCall is in that pile of many who’s been forgotten; even more so because he was a one hit wonder. It’s bad enough his music is obscure, almost nothing is written about this man. Honestly I’m not even sure if the McCall is still alive. It seams I can’t even figure out who written today’s song choice. It’s a shame because I do believe the man could sing, although there were a couple of songs I’ve heard from him that sounded like his voice wasn’t strong enough or something. He kind of had that “first starting out church voice,” where it almost sounds unstable in the beginning. However, with “Nothing Takes The Place Of You,” his voice seemed to be on point. Not sure if that means he written the song, or he developed an emotional connection to this song. Either way, it became one of the most romantic heart felt songs I’ve heard in a really long time back then.
He Kept Recording Despite Only Having One Hit!
McCall’s song “Nothing Takes The Place Of You,” hit #5 on the R&B chart, and #52 on the Top 100. In terms of TV and radio, it seemed as though he literally vanished after the success of his first album. It wasn’t until he made a cameo appearance in the Johnathan Waters crazy comedy “Hairspray (1988),” starring the late Divine and Rickki Lake, did people remembered once again who he was. Despite only having one major hit song, he kept recording several records after that. He must have had very good connections in the music industry, because even back then, if you did not produce any sales after the third album or so, the label would have usually dropped you (contract or no contract).