The Best of Soul Music from the 60s and 70s

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Contributors: Andranick Tanguiane, Fred Lerdahl,


The best of soul music from the 60s and 70s. Featuring artists like Marvin Gaye, Aretha Franklin, and Stevie Wonder.

The Motown Sound

The 60s and 70s were a golden era for soul music, and the Motown sound was a big part of that. Motown artists like Marvin Gaye, Smokey Robinson, and Stevie Wonder created some of the most timeless soul music of all time. In this article, we’ll take a look at some of the best Motown songs from the 60s and 70s.

The Supremes

Formed in 1959, The Supremes were a trio of talented young women who went on to become one of the most successful vocal groups of all time. Diana Ross, Mary Wilson, and Florence Ballard were the original members of the group, and they were soon joined by Cindy Birdsong.

The Supremes scored their first hit in 1961 with “When the Lovelight Starts Shining Through His Eyes,” but it was their 1964 single “Where Did Our Love Go” that made them international superstars. From 1964 to 1969, The Supremes had twelve number-one hits on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, including “Baby Love,” “Come See About Me,” and “Stop! In the Name of Love.”

In 1970, Diana Ross left The Supremes to pursue a solo career, and she was replaced by Jean Terrell. The group continued to enjoy success with hits like “Up the Ladder to the Roof” and “Stoned Love,” but they never quite regained the same level of popularity after Ross’ departure. The Supremes disbanded in 1977, but they remain one of the most beloved groups in soul music history.

The Temptations

One of the most successful acts in music history, the Temptations began their career as a quintet of young men in Detroit,MI with a shared love of singing and harmonizing. Over the years, they grew to become one of the most iconic groups of all time, with their unique mix of R&B, Soul, and Pop. The group has seen many line-up changes over the years, but the current members are still touring and making great music. Hits like “My Girl,” “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg,” and “Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone” are just a few of the Temptations’ classics that have stood the test of time. If you’re a fan of soul music, you can’t go wrong with the Temptations.

Smokey Robinson and the Miracles

Smokey Robinson and the Miracles were an American R&B group from Detroit, Michigan, notable as the first successful African-American/mixed group in pop music history. The Motown Sound played a significant role in the crossover of African-American music into mainstream pop during the 1960s. smokey Robinson was the group’s leader and main songwriter, and with Warren “Pete” Moore, he also wrote many of the group’s biggest hits.

The Miracles recorded twenty-six Top 40 hits for Motown between 1960 and 1970, including three Number One singles: “Shop Around”, “The Tears of a Clown”, and “The Tracks of My Tears”. On April 19, 1988, Robinson was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a solo artist, becoming only the second member of The Miracles (after Bobby Rogers) to be so honored. In 1989, The Miracles were inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame as Smokey Robinson & The Miracles.

The Philadelphia Sound

The Philadelphia sound was a music scene that developed in the city of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The sound was a fusion of soul music and R&B that was created by producers Gamble and Huff. The sound was defined by its use of the string arrangements of Thom Bell and the drumming of Bernard Purdie. The Philadelphia sound was popularized by groups such as The Stylistics, Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes, and The O’Jays.

The O’Jays

The O’Jays are an American R&B group from Canton, Ohio, formed in 1958 and formerly known as the Mascots. The O’Jays originally consisted of Walter Williams (b. August 25, 1942), Bill Isles (July 3, 1940 – January 16, 2013), Bobby Massey (b. May 5, 1941), and William Powell (January 20, 1942 – May 26, 1977). Paste magazine called The O’Jays “the best soul group of all time.”

Harold Melvin and the Bluenotes

Harold Melvin and the Bluenotes were an American R&B/soul vocal group, one of the most popular Philadelphia soul groups of the 1970s. They are best known for several hits including “The Love I Lost”, “Bad Luck”, and “Wake Up Everybody”. The group’s name referred to lead singer Harold Melvin’s blue-colored eyes.

The group was formed in 1972 by Harold Melvin, who had previously been a member of The Intruders. The original lineup also included Lawrence Brown, Theodore Mills, Bernard Williams, and John Atkins. Williams was replaced by Kenny Smith, and Atkins by Lloyd Parks; these two changes would be the only ones made to the group’s lineup during their decade-long tenure together.

The Bluenotes’ first release was “I Miss You”, a song originally recorded by The Intruders; it peaked at #19 on the Billboard R&B chart in 1973. This was followed by their debut album, I Miss You (1973), which reached #21 on the Billboard R&B chart.

The group’s next two singles, “The Love I Lost” (1973) and “Bad Luck” (1974), both reached #1 on the Billboard R&B chart and were certified Gold by the RIAA. “The Love I Lost” also crossed over to the Billboard Hot 100, peaking at #36; it remains the Bluenotes’ only single to chart on that chart.

Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes went on to have several more hits on the R&B charts throughout the 1970s, including “Wake Up Everybody” (1975), “Don’t Leave Me This Way” (1976), and “Today I Sing the Blues” (1977). The group continued to record and perform together until Melvin’s death in 1997; they reunited briefly in 2006 for a performance at Philadelphia’s African-American Festival.

The Stylistics

The Stylistics were a Philadelphia soul group in the 1970s. They formed in 1968 and consisted of lead singer Russell Thompkins Jr., Herman Stephens, John Smith, Airrion Love, and James Dunn. The Stylistics were known for their smooth, soulful sound and their romantic ballads. They released their debut album, The Stylistics, in 1971. The album peaked at #2 on the Billboard 200 and included the hit singles “You’re a Big Girl Now” and “Betcha by Golly Wow.” The Stylistics went on to release eight more albums, all of which were successful. Their final album, Send It to Me, was released in 1984.

Other Notable Soul Artists

Although there are many great soul artists, the 60s and 70s is often considered the golden era of soul music. This was the time when legendary artists like Otis Redding, Marvin Gaye, and Aretha Franklin released some of their greatest work. Here are some other notable soul artists from this era.

Aretha Franklin

Aretha Franklin (1942-2018) was an American singer, songwriter and pianist who started her career as a gospel singer before achieveing massive success in the world of soul music. Her 1967 album, “I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You”, was a breakthrough moment in her career, instantly shooting her to fame with the help of its lead single, “Respect”.

With a string of hit albums and singles throughout the late 60s and 70s – including the legendary “I Say a Little Prayer” – Aretha Franklin quickly established herself as one of the most popular soul artists of her generation. She won 18 Grammy Awards over the course of her career, including the prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award, and was also awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2005.

Marvin Gaye

Marvin Gaye (born Marvin Pentz Gay Jr.; April 2, 1939 – April 1, 1984) was an American singer, songwriter, and record producer. He helped to shape the sound of Motown in the 1960s, first as an in-house session player and later as a solo artist with a string of hits, including “Ain’t That Peculiar”, “How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You)” and “I Heard It Through the Grapevine”. He recorded singles in a wide variety of genres for Motown until his untimely death from a gunshot wound in 1984.

In 2002, Gaye was posthumously inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame with the album Whats Going On being inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2004. In 2010, his 1971 album What’s Going On was ranked number four on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. His album I Want You was ranked number 20 on Rolling Stone’s list of The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.

Stevie Wonder

Stevie Wonder is a singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist who released his first album when he was just 11 years old. He has gone on to release more than 30 albums, including such classics as Talking Book, Innervisions, and Songs in the Key of Life. Wonder has won 25 Grammy Awards and is widely considered one of the greatest musicians of our time.

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