Tag Archives: Playlist

Happy Birthday Grandma Playlist

Probably more than half the reason I’m such a soul music junkie is that my late Grandmother, between reruns of Bewitched would spin her seemingly endless record collection that started in her teen years in the late 50s, and ended in the 1970s.

Half the time I feel like I’m chasing down every single sonic memory from the point in my life. Or reliving the thrill she had each time some song touched her soul as she heard it on a transistor radio in an Apartment on the south side of Chicago in 1965.

1) Estelle Brown – Stick Close (1965)

With this discovery this week, it becomes apparent that just about all of the women that were Drinkard Sisters/Sweet Inspirations/Gospelaires at some point released solo singles. Here’s Estelle Brown’s effort, the lovely cha cha “Stick Close” and

2) Sylvia Shemwell – “He’ll Come Back To Me” (1963)

One of those lovely woman scorned numbers, well, one of thousands really. So if you were looking to have a hit record with it, well… yeah.

3) Deena Johnson “The Breaking Point” (1965)

I think so far this is my favorite discovery of just hunting around this early summer for new old stuff to listen to. Turns out that “Deena Johnson” is singer-songwriter Josephine Armistead, who first got her start on the Top 20 Ikettes hit “I’m Blue (The Gong Gong Song)” and was the 3rd writing partner in the Ashford and Simpson writing team before they went to Motown in late 1966.

4) Jerry Butler “Whatever You Want” (1963)

Jerry Butler did some of the best string spliced Chicago Early soul, and this B-side released in 1963 lets his voice flourish and shine like many of his splendid productions in that time period, but is a rare treat to the ears

5) Laura Nyro – Stoney End (1966)

It still surprises people that growing up a lot of white artists of the 1960s were a staple in my listening diet, especially someone as cult figure-ish as Laura Nyro. But one listen to both sides of her first single, especially “Stoney End” with it’s gospel/girl group roots very visible and not too far from “Mama Said” it can be seen how this was always a favorite growing up. And yes, I think Barbra Streisand’s version is souless and sucks

6) Jackie Wilson – “Haunted House” (1964)

It’s weird not to see a Teddy Randazzo production credit on the label of this Jackie Wilson single, because it bears every imprint of concurrent Little Anthony & The Imperials/Royalettes singles, basically putting an R&B act in the most ornate quasi operatic settings possible. Of course I like the audible drama. And Jackie Wilson was as close as it got to an Opera singer in R&B at the time.

7) The O’Jays “Break Down (and Let It All Out)” (1965)

More than a half decade before they broke through big time with “Back Stabbers” The O’Jays were cutting uptown soul masterpieces like this version of this Van McCoy number mostly associated with Nina Simone.

8) The Drew-Vels – Creepin’ (1964)

See, “creepin'” isn’t something that T-Boz, Left Eye and Chili Created! This 1964 non hit for Patty Drew and her sisters follow up to “Tell Him” introduced the idea of creeping on the downlow 30 years prior.


9) The Supremes – “Too Much A Little Too Soon” (1965)

I remember one of the “new” releases my grandmother invested in during 1987 was Diana Ross and The Supremes: The Never Before Released Masters and this was one of the interesting songs recorded by the trio that was left in the vaults as they recorded and toured and rehearsed for 50 weeks a year at their peak.


10) Florence Ballard – “Forever Faithful” (1968)

Along with today would have being my grandmother’s 67th birthday, it would have also been Florence Ballard, founding member of The Supremes 67th Birthday also. Here’s one of the last songs she recorded for ABC records, and amongst her best, the flipside to her last solo single “Love Ain’t Love”

11) “Little” Peggy March – “Fool, Fool, Fool” (1966)

Apparently Peggy March made some Awesome Soul records after her early peak with her version of “I’ll Follow Him” in 1963. Sadly they’re pretty much neglected efforts now, like her version of “Fool, Fool, Fool” from 1966.

12) The Springfields – Island of Dreams (1963)

The Springfields biggest UK hit before Dusty Springfield went solo in the Fall of 1963 showcases why, well, Dusty didn’t need her older brother, nor needed to shackle her voice to being the British equivalent to Peter, Paul and Mary. The wistful soul that shines through on Dusty’s solos point to deeper emotions than you can tap into in Folk music, but a delightful postcard to what was and to become.

13) Wendy Rene – Bar-b-q (1964)

It’s the week before 4th of July, and you are so un-American if this song doesn’t at least want you to eat some BBQ Tofu and Potato Salad. Fewer songs are so gleeful about food.

14) The Secrets – The Boy Next Door (1963)

One of they few copy cat songs in the “My Boyfriends Back” genre was this surprise hit for The Secrets in 1963. The record was such a massive hit that when The Secrets played on the same bill as The Supremes in early 1964, the higher charting “The Boy Next Door” made sure they received higher billing compared to The Supremes, whose “Lovelight” had peaked 5 positions lower than The Secrets big, and only, hit.


15) The Cookies – Softly In The Night (1963)

And to round things out, a lovely b-side that was popular in Philadelphia for the oh so sweet Cookies that can be seen as the answer to the above Drew-Vels song. enjoy.

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Look! My Playlist is Moving


After possibly boring people with notes and blogs interwoven with my personal ramblings about how shitty my life is, how “colored folk” are hilarious and how politics makes me cry, oh, and cars too! I decided.. hey, maybe… now that I’m creating this shiny new soul music blog… I probably should do it here.

So in October, the songs that have held my attention, and demand a thought, a rethink, a ponder:


1) ” I Hear A Symphony”
The Supremes (Motown, 1965, #1 Pop, #2 R&B).

I normally ignore The Supremes string of #1 pop hits when I do these. But for some reason I’ve been playing this one (#6 from the fall of 1965) alot lately. I have to admit, the only part of the song I really like is the first 30 seconds: The vibe/triangle/electric guitar opening that bursts eventually into the “then suddenly I hear a symphony” … then I get over my disappointment that the sax solo comes in before a minute then after that it modulates to a climax and then, it ends. I wish it would have just exploded somehow. Like Diana Ross literally blew up, wig and rhinestones flying everywhere.

2) “Young Hearts Run Free”
Candi Staton (Warner Brothers, #1 R&B #20 Pop, 1976)

And it takes me no time to spool up some despair and depression. Trapped in a desperate marriage filled with cheating, lies and frustration… AND TWO KIDS! That of course what people wanted to be doing the hustle to in 1976. Really, this sad ode to NOT SETTLING DOWN AT 24! LISTEN TO CANDI Y’ALL! You don’t want nonedismess til your at least… 38… and not energetic as this tempo to really settle for love. I guess I always will like this principal, a song, by nature of tempo sounds really upbeat, but when you actually listen to the lyric, you wonder how you danced to this song, because it’s actually quite sad. Well… that’s soul music for ya….

3) “Is There Anything That I Can Do?”
The Four Tops (From The Four Tops Second Album, 1965)

Oh the realizations when you wake up to a bright sunny fall morning, that oh so awesome relationship you have concocted in your head, oh… isn’t really. Then you pour yourself a bowl of Cheerios, and you realize as you scratch your balls, oh yeah, umm, if I had someone, like that beautiful person that would fill your life with as much glee as you have in your dreams… how you’d be a little bit more content. Basically look at this as an equal to the sunny sadness given to us on an adjacent Motown Album (More Hits By The Supremes) on a song called “The Only Time I’m Happy” The misty region of ones mind is a spectacular place to play out the most wonderful alternate realities. Living in ones head didn’t get much more awesome.

4) “The Kitchen”
Little Jackie (From the CD The Stoop, 2008)

Hey, you know what? Naggin’ can drive a man/woman craaazy! Jackie here has got some good advice. Sitting at the kitchen table, fightin in the hottest room in the house will send those that can’t stand the heat, of your fire, that might not necessarily be productive clearing away the brush (and preventing wildfires) between two people

5) “(You Don’t Have to Be) a Tower of Strength”
Gloria Lynne (Everest 19428, 1961)

This was an answer record to the massive Gene McDaniels hit “Tower of Strength” (lyric “cause a tower of strength” I’ll never be). Although lyrically it sounds a bit like (in the 1960s sex roles) poor Gloria will put up with anything and be a slave (gotta love Mad Men culture right on the vinyl) to her man, even if he’s a total pussy. But, if you take it in a contextual way, it’s nothing but someone showing that nobody makes it through the big bad world alone, you can’t be all *that* strong anyways. And it has that early 60s Sanka Percolating groove thats soo fun to bob your head to.

6) “See Saw”
Aretha Franklin (#9 R&B #14 Pop, 1968)

Ok, I’m stepping away from my advocate stance over Reefa’s Columbia years and well, enjoying the hell out of her Don Covay cover. Yes, I believe there was something lost when she went into her histronics ( why I’m never been a super big Aretha fan, she overbakes alot of notes for me, especially during her Atlantic years), but she grooves on this one the same way Martha & The Vandellas should have been grooving (and did on B-sides like “Show Me The Way”) and it’s a groove with more dexterity that is normally associated with her (and deep soul in general).

7) “I Want To Go Back There Again”
Chris Clark (VIP 25041, 1967)

“…you don’t treat me gentle, like ‘ya used to do” seems to be ever sentiment of every blue eyed soul record. Why are white people in the soul vein so scorned by their lovers? Umm… I’m seriously just drawing some serious comparisons to the Righteous Brothers “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin'” with Chris Clark’s 3rd single on Motown’s VIP level. Not sonically as Epic as that Phil Spector #1 but just as deliciously overwrought, with harpsicords and howling Andantes…Chris Clark, growling, whispering and “proto Fergie Rapping” I’ll call it makes this one of those awesome places between soul and camp. And Chris Clark is a Bay Area Native. Gotta give a Motown Diva from my own back yard a shout out.

8) “I Dig You, Baby”
Jerry Butler (R&B#8, Pop #60, 1966)

Oh… poor Lorraine Ellison, she did the original, and if I’m correct hers has the same backing track. Maybe it’s because can you imagine a woman saying ” I Dig you, Baby?” umm, I really can’t (even tho Kiki Dee did an exquisite version for the british market). It’s one of those songs that, well, is so charming because it’s sooo dated. It’s like a song with “Groovy” in it.

9) “I Don’t Know if I’m Coming or Going”
Kim Weston (1965, unreleased)

Sometimes a Motown song can vaguely have a slightly broadway-ish feel to it. This epic Kim Weston gem from her 2005 Anthology (and from what the liner notes is most likely a Four Tops handmedown) Swells with voices during the chorus then gets claustrophobic during the verses. Some of Kim Weston’s most Streisand/Garland like affectations come through clearest here (one of the reasons I really have always loved her voice, in one woman you had a tabernacle burner and a lounge/broadway standards singer). More of a study of “Motown for Masters in Fine Art-Drama” kinda song than for your strict Motown purist.

10) “I’ve Got You”
Stevie Wonder (From the LP For Once In My Life)

Can I say I really don’t like much of Stevie Wonder after 1969. Because I’m a classic Motown fan, and after “Sign, Sealed, Delivered” it was over. No Andantes playing off of the tender pockets in his delivery and his way with a lyric, “political consciousness” that I think Curtis Mayfield did better, and crap like “Isn’t She Lovely” (hey at the same time Diana Ross was cranking out giggle factories like “Muscles” and “Work That Body”). On this 1968/69ish album track you see where Stevie could write a beautiful ballad that makes you just sway… something he forgot once he added a healthy dose of corn syrup to his ballads as an adult….

Moral of the Playlist this time? Remember to stay “with a childs heart”

Defacto song #11

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