I’ve been working with a lot of college-aged musicians and singers who are not well-versed in Motown and Soul music. So far, not one of them has asked me “what is soul music” and I’m relieved as I wouldn’t have a clue as to how to answer it without stammering and stating that soul music has, well, “soul”…
This hasn’t stopped me from thinking about just what is is that makes Soul music Soul music and how it differs from Rock and Pop. I think I’ve found a song that does a good job of illustrating the differences.
Let’s listen to Just One Look and hear how it differs in the hands of a pop group and a soul artist
The Hollies’ Version
Here’s a version of the song that was a monster hit for The Hollies in the UK in 1964.
Great song and great performance.
Doris Troy’s Version
Here’s the original version performed by its composer, Doris Troy. It reached number 10 on the US Singles chart. This version just oozes soul.
Which version do I prefer? I really enjoy both (and enjoy watching the baby-faced Graham Nash in the video) but the Doris Troy version really does it for me.
Chrissi Poland, Edlene Hart, and Keith Fluitt tearing it up on 25 or 6 to 4, our encore for the evening. Check out the Top Shelf horns (Tim Ouimette, Louise Baranger, Joe Meo, and Jon Saxon) and guitar work from Peter Calo.
Last year I wrote a blog post about how there’s been an onslaught of artists that are producing truly world-class R&B and soul, including Sharon Jones and The Dap Kings, Eli “Paperboy” Reed, and Shemekia Copeland (not to mention Adele and Bruno Mars).
There have been many discussions about which artist had the greatest influence on Michael Jackson. One name that pops up on many lists is Jackie Wilson. Consider this clip from the TV movie The Jacksons: An American Dream that dramatizes “Mr. Excitement” mesmerizing a young MIchael Jackson.
The actor here is doing a fine job, but readers should really check out the real deal. Here’s Wilson closing “Shindig” in 1964.
If you look carefully you’ll see the Righteous Brothers and a very young Bobby Sherman joining Wilson on stage. Willy Nelson was also on the show that night, but I’ve not been able to spot him during the show’s “dance off”.
Here’s another clip of Wilson performing the same song a year later (keep your eyes out for Fontalla Bass).
In addition to Wilson just killing it, I love the house band, which features the likes of Leon Russell, Billy Preston, and Glen Campbell.
(Note: It’s nice to know these folks were in fact mortal. Check out some problems with the form around 1:50 where only some people in the and move to the IV chord).
I’ll leave you with a clip of one of my favorite Jackie Wilson songs, “(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher” which Wilson recorded in 1967. The Top Shelf performs this from time to time.
And yes, that is James Jamerson on bass even though it’s not a Motown recording.