Back in the early Seventies, I remember riding in the car on the way back from the country club swimming pool and hearing on Indy’s big AM radio station some sophisticated sounding music that I later learned was called soul music. I absolutely LOVED this stuff I was hearing from the likes of Al Green, The Chi-Lites, The Spinners, Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder, to list but a few. For some reason this music was reaching into my pale, white boy’s heart and leaving an undeniable mark. All I could do was dream about slow dancing with my special woman to this type of music.
Well, like all musical trends, soul music fell out of favor as funk and disco started to grab the attention of listeners every where. As usual, I followed the current trends while leaving the past where it was – in the past. At least, that was until the New Romantic movement in London in the early Eighties, where these bands were reaching back to the past, particularly to Motown, in order to create a new sound. This was followed by my second favorite punk band, The Jam, recording their last album that was full of the sounds of soul. After The Jam’s Paul Weller broke up the band, he formed a new band, The Style Council, which was totally influenced Seventies soul music. For a brief moment, I was able to reconnect to this soul music, albeit by white artists. For a couple of years, those bands like Culture Club and Wham! filled that soul void. And, then again, like every other musical trend, it was over. And soul music lay dormant for the rest of the Eighties and much of the Nineties. Oh sure, we’d get a sprinkling of hits that reminded me of soul when Eddie & Charles hit with “Would I Lie to You” or Lenny Kravitz scored with “It Ain’t Over ‘Til It’s Over”. Additionally, Tony! Toni! Tone! attempted to fill the soul void during their brief career.
Now, in the Twenty-first century, music is experiencing a full-blown soul revival under the title of Retro-Soul. This new genre has been described in MOJO magazine this way:
“Retro-Soul is soul music that was made after the heyday of soul music had passed. Although deep soul had fallen out of the spotlight in the early ’70s, there were a number of artists that never stopped singing in that raw style. In the mid-’80s, a small but dedicated audience for new recordings by such masters as Johnnie Taylor and Little Milton had developed, and labels like Ichiban and Malaco began releasing new albums by these artists. Soon, they had found new vocalists that performed in the same style, and by the early ’90s the entire genre of retro-soul was flourishing.”
Now, we have artists such as Leon Bridges, Charles Bradley and Mayer Hawthorne making some sweet soul music that harkens back to the early Seventies heyday of the genre. In addition to the aforementioned three, I have 12 more artists that are keeping the soul flame alive. The first artist is no longer with us, but at least Amy Winehouse left us with three classic albums that are “must listens” for the soul lover.
The first artist to capture my attention is century was Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings. This band is like a musical time capsule, only containing modern lyrics. Although Sharon has been battling cancer, the band continues to record and tour, bringing their brand of soul music to the public.
Other notable artists include Maxwell, St. Paul & the Broken Bones, The Suffers, Anthony Hamilton, Andra Day, Michael Kiwanuka, Eli “Paperboy” Reed, Allen Stone, Lake Street Dive and Son Little, to name but a few that I am listening to. If you loved that Seventies soul music, these are the artists to check out. Of course, I have many more artists that I am ready to endorse, so just ask if you want to know some more artists after falling in love with the ones I have given you.
Fortunately, I married a woman who loves to slow dance, especially to soul music, since soul has that special groove to it that Eighties power ballads lacked. Go ahead, pop in a Mayer Hawthorne CD and tell me I’m wrong!