Words have a way of getting repeated in song titles. This was certainly the case throughout the boomer years of the 1960s. Chief among the most repeated words is “love” (see Boomers Loved Their Love Songs), but other words rose to have their day in the limelight. One of those words-of-the-decade was “soul.” Here are a few of Mister Boomer’s favorite songs with “soul” in the title.
(You’re My) Soul and Inspiration
The Righteous Brothers had been performing together since the early ’60s, but in 1966 the release of this song marked the duo’s first venture after their split with producer Phil Spector. The duo co-authored this classic with Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil, who also co-wrote You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling. Like Loving Feeling, Soul and Inspiration was a monster hit, reaching Number 1 on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart.
A Little Bit O’ Soul
The Music Explosion, a garage rock band from Ohio, had a hit with this song in 1967. Written by John Carter and Ken Lewis (a songwriting duo who had hits with Herman’s Hermits and The Ivy League) in 1964, the song was first released by The Little Darlings (Fontana Records) in 1965. A Little Bit O’ Soul became The Music Explosion’s only Top 40 hit. It reached Number 2 on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart, which was enough to earn the band a gold record.
The Bar-Kays were another great band in the Stax stable of artists. Backed by instrumentation from Booker T. & the MGs, Soul Finger was the band’s first release (Stax Records/Volt label, 1967). Its upbeat, danceable, Memphis sound was an immediate hit at boomer parties and reached Number 3 on Billboard’s R&B Singles chart. An instrumental, the song starts out with horns playing Mary Had a Little Lamb, before it grooves into the boomer-familiar bass riff. Shouts of “soul finger” can be heard at various intervals throughout the song; this background chorus was composed of children who were hanging around outside the studio. The shouts were suggested by Isaac Hayes and David Porter, who were both Stax songwriters at the time. A good instrumental became great with a chorus of kids who were paid in Coca-Colas for their work. The B-Side of the 45 RPM was written by Booker T. Jones. In December of 1967, Ronnie Caldwell (electric organ), Phalon Jones (saxophonist) and Carl Cunningham (drums) perished in the same plane crash that claimed the life of Otis Redding. Ben Cauley (trumpet) survived the crash, and James Alexander (bass) was on a different plane at the time. The band reformed and continued to have hits through the ’80s.
Sam Moore and Dave Prater took this Stax/Atlantic Records “soul” song to Number 2 on Billboard Hot 100 chart in 1967. Written by Isaac Hayes and David Porter and with instrumentation provided by Booker T. & the MGs and the Mar-Keys Horns, how could this song be destined for anything but an “instant classic” rating?
Hayes has said he found inspiration for the song watching newscasts of the aftermath of the July 1967 riots in Detroit. There, he saw how black residents had spray-painted “soul” on the side of buildings where the business was owned by African Americans, thus saving them from destruction in a style reminiscent of the Passover story. Hayes took the phrase as a badge of pride, as “soul man” is definitively, if not defiantly and triumphantly, repeated throughout the song. Sam and Dave won the 1967 Grammy for Best Rhythm And Blues Group Performance, and were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1992.
The song was covered by numerous musicians, including James Brown, Paul Revere & the Raiders, Ted Nugent and, of course, The Blues Brothers with John Belusi and Dan Akroyd, who recorded it after first performing it in a Saturday Night Live skit in 1978. Their version was repeated in The Blues Brothers movie and hit the top 20 in 1979.
Stoned Soul Picnic
Written by singer/songwriter Laura Nyro, performed by the 5th Dimension, and released by Soul City Records, Stoned Soul Picnic reached Number 2 on Billboard’s R&B chart in 1968. The meaning of the song lyrics remain controversial to this day. While some say the lyrics describe a soulful, happy, party gathering fueled by alcohol, wine and moonshine, others suggest the song is rife with religious meaning. This school of thought describes a gathering of souls in a religious cleansing experience. Oblivious to all that in 1968, Mister Boomer just liked the melodic sound and harmonies.
The 5th Dimension had hits with several Nyro songs, and went on to record eight of them, including Wedding Bell Blues.
Sweet Soul Music
Arthur Conley had a Number 2 Billboard Hot 100 R&B hit with this 1967 release by Atco Records. Written by Sam Cooke, Arthur Conley and Otis Redding, the song is an homage to soul music. It names several soul masters in the lyrics, and includes songs by name: Going to a Go-Go by The Miracles; Love Is a Hurtin’ Thing by Lou Rawls; Hold On, I’m Comin’ by Sam and Dave; and Mustang Sally by Wilson Pickett. Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa by Otis Redding is referenced with a brief instrumental version of the chorus. Plus, James Brown is explicitly named as “the king of them all.”
More artists covered Sweet Soul Music than even Soul Man, including James Brown, Dusty Springfield, Ike and Tina Turner, Jose Feliciano, Sam and Dave, Rod Stewart, Hall & Oates, Bruce Springsteen and even The Jam.
What do these songs have in common? Released between 1966 and 1968, these “soul” songs are all highly orchestrated, feature horns and all the original 45 RPMs are in Mister Boomer’s personal collection.
What are your favorite songs with “soul” in the title from the 1960s and ’70s, boomers?