10 Totally Cool Classic Rock/Soul Songs

Jeff Beck and Stevie Wonder

The passing of Maurice White of Earth, Wind & Fire in 2016 got us thinking about how soul music and classic rock went from friendly cousins ​​in the early 1960s to brothers from different mothers over the years. decade and well into the 70s. If you were a rock fan in the 1960s, soul music was most likely part of your musical diet, starting with R&B which was revered by most British Invasion bands. In the mid-1960s, there was a convergence of musical and cultural consciousness that led to unmistakably classic soul music that could often be found in rockers’ album collections and should always be part of the musical lexicon. of any rock fan.

So here – in no particular order other than most personal preference, and by no means a complete list – are 10 damn fine songs by as many soulful artists that fall under the broad classic rock rubric.

“Love Who You’re With” – The Isley Brothers

Yeah, we could better quote “Fight the Power” or “That Lady”, but since the Beatles copied “Twist and Shout”, du Isleys, let’s represent them with a cover by rocker Stephen Stills. Admittedly, their take doesn’t deviate much from the original though it has a seductively loose charm. Hendrix played with this group; Ernie Isley became one of his main sidekicks (donning crackling guitar throughout the rock-shaking “That Lady”).

“Lady Marmalade” – Labelle

An utterly delicious and seductive slice of funk-rock from 1974. (Yes, the French chorus asks, “Will you sleep with me [tonight]?) And the best stage outfits this side of Kiss…. Bonus points for band member Sarah Dash, who sings with the Rolling Stones and Keith Richards’ X-pensive Winos.

“Love Train” – The O’Jays

If you don’t find this relentless statement of international brotherhood by The O’Jays quite contagious, check your pulse or see a shrink for some mood-enhancing drugs. Or both. These 2005 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees propelled this number to the top of the pop and R&B charts in 1973.

“Cloud Nine” – The Temptations

My way times change! It’s hard not to interpret this temptations hit – the first in a series of “psychedelic soul” songs by the Motown vocal quintet – as pro-drug song, praising the praises of what is believed to be marijuana to ease the pain of living in the ghetto in 1968. An unmistakable Sly and Family Stone influence can be heard on the track – particularly the round-robin trading round of vocals – and the way classic rock and soul moved on parallel tracks. It reached number six on the pop charts and won Motown Records its first Grammy for Best Rhythm & Blues Group Performance, Vocal or Instrumental.

“Sing a Song” – Earth, Wind and Fire

It’s a real draw between “Sing a Song” and “Shining Star”, two huge pop hits for Earth, Air and Fire in 1975 (#5 and #1, respectively). We’ll go with the former for its infectious groove and simple but unmistakable sentiment: “Sing a song, it’ll make your day…Sing a song, it’ll go a long way.”

“Superfly”-Curtis Mayfield

Yet another draw. “Freddie’s Dead” was the biggest single (#4 on the Hot 100) but “Superfly” (#8) sounds more like the signature song from the soundtrack album of the 1972 film of the same name. Everything brought mayfield in the mainstream.

“The Weight” – Aretha Franklin

From the late 1960s to the early 1970s, Aretha was not just “Queen of Soul”, but a reigning monarch among all singers of popular music. There are plenty of songs that could represent her here: “Respect”, “Think”, “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman”, hell, even 1985’s “Freeway of Love”. But her version of this song by The Band represents its classic rock crossover well, especially the presence of Duane Allman on guitar. And it’s a very cool rendition sung with the mastery and authority that makes Aretha such an icon.

“I Want You Back” – The Jackson 5

Yes, the Jacksons have always had aspirations to pop stardom that transcended soul and rock. But their broad appeal attracted the rock crowd. And for us teenagers in the late 1960s, they felt like peers with an incredibly talented little brother. The band’s 1969 debut “I Want You Back” wowed music lovers and was the first of a remarkable string of four consecutive No. 1 hits. The song was then pulled further into the classic rock canon when Graham Parker and The Rumor released a live version in 1989.

“Ordinary People” – Sly and the Family Stone

sneaky stone and its multiracial “family” of dudes and gals were emblematic of late 1960s soul/rock fusion, and nowhere more than on that populist plea for tolerance that reached No. 1 on the Hot 100 in 1968. Their rousing performance in Woodstock, Sly and counterculture heroes Family Stone; Sly would soon squander that stature by falling into a wormhole of ego and drug addiction.

“Superstition” – Stevie Wonder

This song was written for Wonder fan Jeff Beck, who helped develop it and played on its demo but not the track (although he did contribute guitar on another number on his album, talking book). It was to be released for the first time by the group Beck, Bogert & Appice. Their album was delayed, Motown sniffed a hit and released the song, and Wonder earned its second No. 1 single (and its first in nearly 10 years since 1963’s “Fingertips – Part 1 & 2”). A 1986 live recording of the Stevie Ray Vaughan song solidified its classic rock status.

Robert Patterson
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