Soul music

Aretha Franklin

Daughter of Detroit’s acclaimed Baptist preacher, the Reverend C L Franklin, Aretha Louise Franklin was just into her twenties when she signed to Atlantic in November 1966, but had already experienced more than a dozen years in the music biz – most recently at Columbia Records, where she had lost the company a then-whopping $90,000 over six(…)

Barbara Mason

As an 18-year-old in 1965, Barbara Mason captured the innocent stirrings of adolescence on the self-penned Yes I’m Ready, a US #3 R&B hit which is widely acknowledged as the beginning of the Philadelphia sound, with its use of sweet, sweeping strings and the musicians who would go on to form the nucleus of the Philadelphia(…)

Berry Gordy Jr

Berry Gordy’s family, like thousands of others, had moved from the southern states of the USA to Detroit, whose automobile industry in the years between World War I and World War II was a massive honeypot to Americans keen for a good wage and the promise of a better life. After World War II, among(…)

Bessie Banks

Betty Everett

Born in Greenwood, Mississippi, in 1939, Betty Everett was playing piano and singing in church by the age of nine. In 1957, she moved to Chicago where she cut religious songs for small labels before being discovered by Calvin Carter of Vee-Jay Records in 1963. That same year her second single for Vee-Jay, You’re No Good,(…)

Bettye Lavette

Bettye Lavette

Bettye LaVette was born Betty Haskins in Muskegon, Michigan on 29 January 1946. Raised in Detroit, she was signed by a local record producer called Johnnie Mae Matthews and in 1962, aged sixteen, she recorded her first single, My Man He’s A Lovin’ Man. The song became a Top 10 R&B hit after Atlantic Records bought the distribution(…)

Bob & Earl

Bob & Earl had a massive hit with the often-covered Harlem Shuffle (reportedly George Harrison‘s favourite song of all time). Earl Nelson died in Los Angeles on 12 July 2008, aged 79.   Bob Relf Earl Nelson

Brenda Holloway

Perhaps the most beautiful woman to step in front of a microphone at the studio, there was never a greater, more unfulfilled talent at Motown than Brenda Holloway. Her idol was Mary Wells, but she developed a style that was all her own. She could be tender and seductive, or hot and steamy, but, on(…)

Chairmen Of The Board

The effervescent vocals of General Norman Johnson did much to secure Chairmen Of The Board a major hit with Give Me Just A Little More Time in 1970. The Virginian first tasted success with The Showmen in 1961, scoring a local hit in New Orleans with Allen Toussaint’s It Will Stand. When that band split in 1968 Johnson(…)

Chris Clark

Motown boss Berry Gordy Jnr signed Chris to his label after she walked into his office in 1963 and performed an impromptu version of the Etta James song, All I Could Do Was Cry. This resulted in her landing a receptionist’s job at the company for two years before finally recording her first single in 1965, Do(…)

Chuck Jackson

Chuck Jackson racked up a string of uptown New York soul monsters on Scepter’s subsidiary label Wand in the early 60s, but by 1967, the vastly experienced Jackson, who’d started out with the legendary doo-wop group, The Del-Vikings, in the late 50s, and also cut memorable duets with Maxine Brown and Doris Troy, was casting(…)

Clyde McPhatter

Clyde Lensley McPhatter was born on 15 November 1933 in the tobacco town of Durham, North Carolina. He was one of ten children for George and Eva McPhatter. His father preached at Mt Calvary Baptist Church and his mother played the organ. Clyde began singing in the choir at the age of five and was(…)

David Ruffin

David Ruffin, who Marvin Gaye characterised as “one of the true artists of Motown“, was among the most conspicuously gifted singers in all of soul music. My Whole World Ended (The Moment You Left Me), his first solo hit after departing The Temptations, should have been like a coronation. But as with the song’s doomed(…)

Don Covay

Born Donald Randolph in South Carolina in 1938, Don Covay moved to Washington in the early fifties where he performed with his family’s gospel group, The Cherry Keys and later joined Rainbows who often featured Marvin Gaye and Billy Stewart as guests. He worked as Little Richard‘s chauffeur before starting his solo singing career, scoring(…)

Edwin Starr

Charles Edwin Hatcher was born in Nashville, Tennessee, in 1942. He and his cousins, soul singers Roger and Willie Hatcher, moved to Cleveland, Ohio, where they were raised. In 1957, he formed a doo-wop group called The Future Tones and began his singing career as Edwin Starr. Based in Detroit, Michigan in the 1960s, he recorded(…)

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