These are what we feel are the best soul music songs of all time. This list is based on personal opinion, and we hope you enjoy it.
Who doesn’t love soul music? The genre has produced some of the greatest singers and songwriters of all time, and its influence can still be felt today.
So, what makes a great soul song? It’s hard to say, but there are certain elements that seem to be essential: a deep, emotional vocal performance; aching, heartfelt lyrics; and a groove that just won’t quit.
Of course, there are endless debate over what qualifies as “soul” music. For our purposes, we’ve defined it as any song released after 1950 that significantly influenced the development of the genre. So while you won’t find any Motown or Stax classics on this list (they deserve their own ranking), you will find more recent songs that helped keep the flame burning bright.
So without further ado, here are the best soul songs of all time.
What is Soul Music?
Soul music is a genre that combines rhythm and blues, gospel, and blues. It originated in the African-American community in the United States in the 1950s and 1960s. The term “soul” refers to the African-American cultural and spiritual heritage.
The best soul songs combine elements of both gospel and rhythm and blues. They have a rich history and are often associated with social change movements. Soul music has produced some of the best singers and songwriters of all time, including Aretha Franklin, Marvin Gaye, Otis Redding, Smokey Robinson, Stevie Wonder, and many others.
The Best Soul Music Songs of All Time
“Respect” by Aretha Franklin
Aretha Franklin’s “Respect” is widely regarded as one of the greatest soul music songs of all time. The song was originally released by Otis Redding in 1965, but Aretha’s version quickly eclipsed the original and became an anthem for the Civil Rights Movement and feminism. “Respect” won Aretha two Grammy Awards and has been inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame. The song has also been named by Rolling Stone magazine as one of the 500 greatest songs of all time.
“A Change is Gonna Come” by Sam Cooke
“A Change is Gonna Come” is a song by singer-songwriter Sam Cooke. It was released on December 22, 1963, by RCA Victor as a single from Cooke’s posthumous album, Ain’t That Good News. The song was written in response to the racism and violence that Cooke and other African Americans faced in the early 1960s. “A Change is Gonna Come” is widely regarded as one of the most important songs of the Civil Rights Movement and has been covered by numerous artists, including Bob Dylan, Aretha Franklin, and Bruce Springsteen.
“I Heard it Through the Grapevine” by Marvin Gaye
I Heard it Through the Grapevine” is a song written by Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong for Motown Records in 1966. The recording by Marvin Gaye was released in October 1967, and became one of the most famous soul songs of all time.
The song was ranked at number 138 on Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time list. It was also inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame for “historical, artistic and significant value.”
“Stand by Me” by Ben E. King
“Stand by Me” is a song originally performed by Ben E. King and written by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller. The song was released in 1961 as a single by Atlantic Records. It reached No. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in the United States and No. 27 on the UK Singles Chart. In 1986, the song was performed by John Lennon on his posthumously released album, Menlove Ave.. In 1987, “Stand by Me” was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame. In 2012, the song was ranked at number 122 on Rolling Stone’s list of “The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time”. The original version of “Stand by Me”, sung by King, uses a different arrangement from later versions, notably in how it handles the opening guitar line, which veers from C to D-flat before resolving back to C; this trait is absent from Lennon’s cover and all other renditions of the tune.
“Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” by Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell
First released in 1967, “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” was written by the legendary Motown songwriting team of Ashford & Simpson. The song quickly became a hit, reaching the top of the R&B charts and crossing over to the pop Top 10. Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell’s version of the song has since become one of the most iconic duets of all time, with its message of eternal love proving timeless.
For all intents and purposes, the best soul music songs of all time are a perfect way to get into the genre and feel the passion and power that these musicians put into their work. From the heart-wrenching ballads to the upbeat anthems, there is a soul song out there for everyone to enjoy. What are your favorite soul music songs?
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