The Best of 1970s Soul Music

This article is a collaborative effort, crafted and edited by a team of dedicated professionals.

Contributors: Andranick Tanguiane, Fred Lerdahl,


From Marvin Gaye to Stevie Wonder, the 1970s produced some of the best soul music ever. Join us as we take a look back at the decade that gave us some of the genre’s greatest hits.


The 1970s was a fruitful period for soul music, which saw the genre evolve and change in exciting ways. While the decade began with artists such as Aretha Franklin and Marvin Gaye continuing to dominate the charts with their brand of classic soul, the likes of Stevie Wonder, Al Green, Curtis Mayfield, and Isaac Hayes would help to take the genre in new directions.

With the rise of disco in the latter half of the decade, soul music would again adapt and change, giving birth to a new subgenre known as ‘disco-soul’. This sound would go on to dominate the charts in the early part of the next decade.

In this article, we’ll be taking a look at some of the best soul songs from the 1970s. We’ll be including both classic hits as well as more forgotten gems that deserve to be rediscovered. So whether you’re a fan of Aretha Franklin or Barry White, there’s sure to be something here for you

What is Soul Music?

Soul music is a genre of African American popular music that led to the creation of rhythm and blues and rock and roll. It developed in the USA in the late 1950s and early 1960s. It combines elements of African American gospel music, rhythm and blues, and often jazz. Soul music became popular for dancing and listening in the United States, where record labels such as Motown, Atlantic, Stax, and Warner Bros. released hit songs by artists such as James Brown, Aretha Franklin, Marvin Gaye, Wilson Pickett, Al Green, Stevie Wonder, Gladys Knight, The Temptations, Smokey Robinson, Diana Ross, The Supremes, Sly and the Family Stone, and Edwin Starr. Soul also became popular around the world in countries such as Britain (where it influenced the development of British blues), Australia (where it helped to develop local R&B styles),and continental Europe (especially Scandinavia).

Origins of Soul Music

The origins of soul music can be traced back to the African-American community in the early 1950s. At that time, the popular music styles were rhythm and blues and jazz. The term “soul” was used to describe the music that combined these two genres.

The first soul artists were James Brown and Sam Cooke. They both started their careers as rhythm and blues singers but quickly found success with a wider audience by adding elements of gospel music to their sound. Brown’s hit song “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag” is often cited as the first soul record.

Cooke’s seminal song “A Change is Gonna Come” is considered one of the greatest soul records of all time. It dealt with themes of social change and personal struggle in a way that had never been done before in popular music.

Other important early soul artists include Otis Redding, Aretha Franklin, and Marvin Gaye. These artists took the sound of soul music in different directions, but all three are considered legends of the genre.

The Best of 1970s Soul Music

The 1970s was a decade of great soul music. The decade started off with great promise, with influential musicians like James Brown,Aretha Franklin, and Marvin Gaye releasing classic albums. But by the end of the decade, the genre had become stagnant, with many artists recycling the same sound.

However, there were still some great soul albums released in the 1970s. Here are some of the best:

-Marvin Gaye, “What’s Going On” (1971)
-Aretha Franklin, “Amazing Grace” (1972)
-Al Green, “Call Me” (1973)
-Curtis Mayfield, “Super Fly” (1972)
-Maze featuring Frankie Beverly, “Joy and Pain” (1980)


The decade of the 1970s was an important one for soul music. With the release of groundbreaking albums such as Stevie Wonder’s “Songs in the Key of Life” and Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On,” soul music reached new heights in terms of both commercial success and critical acclaim. While the 1970s is often remembered as a decade of disco, it was also a decade that saw the continued evolution of soul music, with artists like Wonder and Gaye pushing the genre in new and exciting directions.

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