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Sweet Soul Music

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“Do you like good music, that sweet soul music?”

That was a question posed by Arthur Conley on his 1967 classic single ‘Sweet Soul Music’ and it’s as valid today as it’s ever been. But what is ‘Soul Music’…well we all know what it is when we hear it, but maybe a little more precision is called for in the definition.

One online definition says this… “A kind of music incorporating elements of rhythm and blues and gospel music, popularized by American black people. Characterized by an emphasis on vocals and an impassioned improvisatory delivery, it is associated with performers such as Marvin Gaye, Aretha Franklin, James Brown, and Otis Redding.”

Well, we’re on the right track because all of those artists feature in our list of 45 of the greatest soul 45s ever.

According to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, soul is “music that arose out of the black experience in America through the transmutation of gospel and rhythm & blues into a form of funky, secular testifying”

Again, we have some of the bases covered here with a number of tracks that are straight out of the gospel tradition, including Aaron Neville, Sam Cooke and The Staple Singers for starters.

Anyway, there’s no point in spending too much time explaining it, just listen to our playlist and you’ll hear 45 of the greatest soul records of all time. But of course we’d like to hear from you as to what you think. We’ve limited ourselves to one track per artist and these are in alphabetical order… Listen on Spotify here

Aaron Neville – Tell it Like It Is
Al Green – Let’s Stay Together
Ann Peebles – I Can’t Stand The Rain
Aretha Franklin – Respect
Arthur Conley – Sweet Soul Music
Barrett Strong: Money (That’s What I Want)
Barry White – Can’t get enough of Your Love, Babe
Billy Paul – Mr & Mrs Jones
Brothers Johnson – Strawberry Letter 23
Diana Ross – Ain’t No Mountain High Enough
Earth, Wind & Fire with the Emotions – Boogie Wonderland
Edwin Starr – Stop Her on Sight (SOS)
Etta James – At Last
Funkadelic – One Nation Under A Groove
Gladys Knight and the Pips – Midnight Train To Georgia
Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes – If You Don’t Know Me By Now
Isaac Hayes – The Look of Love
James Brown – It’s A Man’s Man’s Man’s World
James Carr – The Dark End of the Street
Johnnie Taylor – Who’s Making Love
Judy Clay & William Bell – Private Number
Luther Vandross – Never Too Much
Martha & The Vandellas: Dancing In The Street
Marvin Gaye – I Heard It Through The Grapevine
Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell – Your Precious Love
Mary Wells – My Guy
Maze featuring Frankie – Back In Stride
Michael Jackson – Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough
Otis Redding – Try A Little Tenderness
Percy Sledge – When A Man Loves a Woman
Ray Charles – What’d I Say
Rufus & Chuka Khan – Ain’t Nobody
Sam & Dave – Soul Man
Sam Cooke – A Change Is Gonna Come
Sly And The Family Stone – Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Again
Smokey Robinson & the Miracles – Tracks of My Tears
Stevie Wonder – Superstition
Teddy Pendergrass – Love TKO
The Commodores – Still
The Four Tops – Reach Out I’ll Be There
The Impressions – People Get Ready
The Main Ingredient = Rolling Down A Mountainside
The Staple Singers – Respect Yourself
The Temptations – My Girl
Wilson Pickett – In The Midnight Hour

55 Comments

55 Comments

  1. niige

    November 26, 2015 at 10:57 pm

    wherever i lay my hat..marvin gaye…….marv johnson..rose for my rose
    papa was a rolling stone the temptations. too busy thinking bout my baby..marvin gaye

    just a couple..move on up….curtis mayfield…i spy [for the fbi] Jamo Thomas
    shame…evelyn king
    Etta James…anything by her,
    come on guys this list should read the 200 greatest….dunno tho could be loads more

    • walter

      May 2, 2016 at 12:03 am

      wish it would rain-the temps.

  2. Alma Wiliams

    November 26, 2015 at 11:11 pm

    there is also Freddie Hughs oooh we baby i love you, Freda Paynesend the boy’s home Impressions finally got myself to gether , Jackie Moore perious perious , you have a very good list like

  3. C

    November 26, 2015 at 11:36 pm

    What a lollis list. Hardly any hi stuff. Where is goldwax? Lol.

  4. paul carpanini

    November 27, 2015 at 11:53 pm

    where`s Curtis Mayfield!

  5. Peter Jenkins

    November 29, 2015 at 2:22 pm

    Tami Lynn – I’m gonna run away from you
    Eddie Floyd – Knock on wood

    • Brian

      April 11, 2016 at 9:01 pm

      Yes and yes

    • gary McC

      October 24, 2016 at 11:32 pm

      I agree about Eddie Floyd (I never found me a Girl).

  6. Ian

    December 16, 2015 at 7:28 am

    A good list, but where do you stop? Where’s ‘What’s become of the broken hearted’? When a man loves a woman?

    • Lynn M Campbell

      March 17, 2016 at 8:05 pm

      Oh yeah – “What becomes of the broken hearted” should definitely be there. Also, & I can’t remember the artist – “Stay” — just a little bit longer, ….

      • Janet Cooper

        August 28, 2016 at 10:10 pm

        Jimmy Ruffin…brother of David Ruffin of The Temptations…

      • Bob

        October 23, 2016 at 3:35 pm

        Maurice Williams & the Zodiacs. Great choice

  7. Lawrence Roberts

    January 30, 2016 at 2:19 pm

    Great list, but so many other tracks & artists could be added……Bill Withers, Whitney Houston, The Isley Brothers….could go on for ever

  8. Terry Franklin

    March 16, 2016 at 9:52 pm

    I suppose white people that did not grow up in the 60s made out this list. It looks like it. For example no Curtis Mayfield. Duh!

    • Paul

      March 18, 2016 at 5:15 pm

      Guess you’re right 🙂 This folks just saw (heard) the light

    • gary McC

      October 24, 2016 at 11:38 pm

      The Impressions (People Get Ready) Curtis Mayfield is lead singer. I had to look back on the list to find it.

  9. rudy

    April 10, 2016 at 5:32 pm

    C’mon people, no Curtis Mayfield, who do you think sang “People Get Ready”? It should have been labeled as Curtis Mayfield & The Impressions! But what about Larry Graham: One In A Million. Define your list.

  10. Chris

    April 11, 2016 at 4:43 pm

    How can I take this list seriously, it is spelled Chaka, not Chuka!

    • RealNeGorilla

      May 4, 2019 at 3:15 am

      Thats what I said brother.
      They have a lot of nerve to leave out Curtis Mayfield

  11. Brian

    April 11, 2016 at 8:59 pm

    Great tracks, great comments , but, Dock of the Bay ????

    • gary McC

      October 24, 2016 at 11:47 pm

      Otis Redding (I’ve been loving you too Long, can’t stop now).

  12. randy newburn

    April 27, 2016 at 5:32 pm

    who ever made that list up was not around n the sixties

  13. Jim Tierney

    April 27, 2016 at 6:37 pm

    The Righteous Brothers?

  14. Walt

    April 27, 2016 at 10:04 pm

    Can tell that whomever compiled this is younger than 50 and never lived the golden age of soul… WHERE IS SOLOMON BURKE?, Righteous Brothers? and so many other soul hits. Whomever did this list doesn’t even know the raw Emotion of Soul!! Start over…! Being Black in America, Being Poor in America, losing your true love all combines to form the crucible of soul.

    • gary McC

      October 24, 2016 at 11:43 pm

      Solomon Burke (Hanging up my Heart).

  15. Karen Veltman

    April 27, 2016 at 10:29 pm

    I wouldn’t change a darn thing!

  16. Gregory Henry

    April 28, 2016 at 12:52 am

    You leave out “sitting on the dock of the Bay” –Otis Redding? No No No.

  17. Gregory Henry

    April 28, 2016 at 12:54 am

    Where’s “Ain’t No Sunshine”

  18. Nancy

    April 28, 2016 at 1:43 am

    The Isley Brothers, the OJs, E.W.& F., “hello, it’s me” – “reasons”, & WHY is “the King of POP” on a SOUL list? Perhaps you should add a folk singer. ? Yes, do the Top 100.

  19. jim huston

    April 28, 2016 at 2:56 am

    1) what becomes of the brokenhearted,2) ooh girl, 3) under the boardwalk, 4) up on the roof, 5) have you seen her.

  20. Nick Santangelo

    April 28, 2016 at 5:31 am

    Nina Simone.

  21. Douglas

    April 28, 2016 at 5:47 pm

    why not 100

  22. Graham Watkin

    April 28, 2016 at 7:06 pm

    Eddie Holman Hey there lonely girl.

  23. Graham Watkin

    April 28, 2016 at 7:14 pm

    nearly forgot Delfonics or the Chilites have you seen her.

  24. Tom

    August 28, 2016 at 1:56 pm

    No Stylistics, Delfonics, a few written by Smokey but only ONE sang by him and anybody who things that Strawberry Letter is more soulful then the Rightous Brothers “Just Once in My Life” must be related to the Brothers Johnson

  25. Angela

    August 28, 2016 at 4:17 pm

    “Across 110th Street” – Bobby Womack

  26. Doris Rotolo

    August 28, 2016 at 4:58 pm

    Anything by Lou Rawls…but Unforgettable….definitely. I sang with him at the Old Overland in Jack London Square in Oakland a few times when he visited…..and would drop by to open mic….

  27. Alan

    August 28, 2016 at 7:26 pm

    What happened to Bettye LaVette’s “Let Me Down Easy” and Syl Johnson’s “Is It Because I’m Black”? Using the definition cited above these two songs would be towards the top of the list. Also, shouldn’t it be “I’ll Take You There” or “Uncloudy Day” for the Staples? Yes, thank you…..

  28. darbroo

    August 28, 2016 at 8:42 pm

    No Marvin Gaye “Let’s Get it On”? That was a seminal soul record if ever there was one.

  29. Richard

    August 28, 2016 at 9:00 pm

    Billy Paul record is me and Mrs Jones not Mr..

  30. Hughie

    August 28, 2016 at 9:55 pm

    Every song mentioned and more deserve to be in the top of someone’s list thanks for mentioning so many fantastically brilliant songs and the best era of music

  31. Danny

    August 29, 2016 at 11:29 am

    Gave jelly bob Marley

  32. Alfred Stoddart a

    October 23, 2016 at 12:44 pm

    I agree with the other dudes. This list is a Joke

  33. mkmChicago

    October 23, 2016 at 1:13 pm

    This list is lacking. The great soul groups on the 60’s and 70′ are sadly underrepresented. The Chi-lites, Stylistics, Delfonics, The Dells, The Moments/Ray Goodman & Brown, The Whispers…. The greatest era of music in history, but this list .looks like it was taken from a Kasey Kasem hit parade.

  34. phyllis c

    October 23, 2016 at 5:10 pm

    We’re a winner. Curtis Mayfield and the Impressions

  35. Kris

    October 23, 2016 at 7:05 pm

    A rather loose definition of soul. Boogie Wnderland? Superstition?

  36. Will Greene

    October 23, 2016 at 11:24 pm

    FOLKS… I am 79, White but I enjoyed all kinds of Music but was exposed to a lot of Soul Music… Now here is your Problem… Someone wrote this up and knew they would have to limit the amount
    of songs… One of my Favorites is not on there but I will not make a FUSS about it… I happen to Loe “TRY A LITTLE TENDERNESS” Otis Redding and Several others…~!!~

  37. Donald

    October 24, 2016 at 3:31 pm

    I have to agree there should be at least a list of two hundred songs

  38. Terry Jones

    December 20, 2016 at 9:43 pm

    Did we also forget The Staple Singers’ “I’ll Take You There”?…….Maze featuring Frankie Beverly’s “Before I Let Go”…..and you have nothing by the Temptations……what’s up?!!

  39. JEFFREY LAWTON

    February 25, 2017 at 12:10 pm

    all about opinions……only two on that list i aint got on one format or another………no roy hamilton….louu johnson….the gospel classics…….etc etc the list goes on

  40. Ilkka Tarjavaara

    February 26, 2017 at 6:14 am


    Whats going on’ here This list is probably flawed by the fact that radio in the era did not play many less known greats , Jimmy Holiday- ‘Turning point ‘ I still love you Jean Stanback Bessie Banks, Go now, Lee Moses ‘How much longer [must I wait]The Knight brothers Larry Banks .Its a ‘soul lite’ list and sadly commercial in its content .James Carr, Arthur Alexander , Otis Clay ,OV Wright ??

  41. mrbio

    March 15, 2017 at 10:15 pm

    where are Joe Tex, Chris Kenner, Candi Staton, Rufus Thomas, Booker T and the MGs, Carla Thomas?

  42. Mikael Rennerhorn

    March 16, 2017 at 1:58 pm

    This is mainstream Soul, and I don´t considere it to be relevant as a list of the best Soul Music. The list must be composed by someone who aren´t familiar with Soul what so ever. Thumbs down.

  43. denis truby

    May 4, 2017 at 7:29 am

    what no Garnet Mimms,Oscar Toney Jnr,Drifters,Howard Tate Arthur Alexander and so many more i could think off.

  44. RealNeGorilla

    May 4, 2019 at 3:12 am

    You list the greatest of all time and have the NERVE
    to leave out Curtis Mayfield? Subtract 50 points of credibility right there.

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