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Top 11 Blue-Eyed Soul Songs
Daryl Hall on the term “Blue-Eyed Soul”:
“I f****** hate it; it’s a racist term… if you’re a white guy and you’re singing or playing in a black idiom, it’s like: ‘Why is he doing that?'”
- “I Can’t Go For That (No Can Do)” by Hall & Oates
“I Can’t Go For That (No Can Do)” was the fourth No. 1 hit for Daryl Hall and John Oates when it reached the top in January 1982. “Most people think the song is about a relationship, and it is — but one with the music industry,” Hall explained in The Guardian. “I felt very manipulated at the time, by management and the record business. Like a pawn. ‘I can’t go for that — no can do.’ That was something I said a lot.
“The phrase ‘No can do’ is a common American expression and that’s what really inspired the song,” added Oates. “In the early ’80s, we’d had all these hits and been thrust into the upper echelons of pop stardom. There was no time for anything any more, there were so many demands on us. It was an amazing time to be popular, but there was a price. You lose any time for reflection or objectivity. We didn’t have personal lives.
“So the song was a cry of defiance, our way of saying: ‘Enough is enough.’ I don’t think the average person cares about all that music business stuff, but everyone has something they’ve had enough of. So because the song’s quite cryptic, it has universal appeal.
“Michael Jackson once came backstage after one of our shows in Los Angeles and told us: ‘I loved to dance to that song in my bedroom in front of the mirror.’ What can I say? It’s an amazing groove.”
- “Missionary Man” by Eurythmics
With Dave Stewart, Annie Lennox was one-half of the 1980s duo Eurythmics. “Missionary Man” was written by Lennox and Stewart for the 1986 album Revenge. “There’s no one fixed way that we work,” Lennox explained in the Chicago Tribune. ”Essentially, I write the lyrics and Dave edits them for me, but I usually don’t write songs completely. I’ll have a thread of an idea, and we both discuss what we think would be appropriate.”
Lennox was inspired to write the song by her 1984–85 marriage to a Hare Krishna devotee. ”Obviously, there is a personal meaning in that song for me, because of my past history. But I also think that there are a great deal of people in the media, in the form of politicians or religious speakers or philosophical people, people who are generally trying to have some power over other people, who I just don’t trust.”
Ann Wilson of Heart covered “Missionary Man” on her 2022 solo album Fierce Bliss. “I’ve never in my long life so far, have lived through a time that is more materialistic and more egotistical and more superficial,” Wilson told Forbes. “And the song ‘Missionary Man’ is right for the times. If you think of it, like the great big commercial evangelical mega-churches that exist now, with 10,000-person congregations, and all the money that changes hands and all that.”
“Missionary Man” by Eurythmics
“Missionary Man” by Ann Wilson
- “You Can’t Hurry Love” by Phil Collins
“You Can’t Hurry Love,” written and produced by Motown’s Holland-Dozier-Holland team, was a No. 1 hit for the Supremes in 1966. Phil Collins of Genesis recorded the tune in 1982 for his second solo album, Hello, I Must Be Going! It became a Top 10 hit.
“I have always recorded covers, from the Beatles to covers of songs that I love, like ‘You Can’t Hurry Love,’ ‘Groovy Kind Of Love’ and many more,” Collins explained in UK Music Reviews. “For me it was a case of trying to recreate the vibe of that Motown era.”
Collins saw the recording as a challenge for his longtime producer and audio engineer Hugh Padgham. “The idea of doing ‘Can’t Hurry Love’ was to see if Hugh Padgham and I could duplicate that Sixties sound,” Collins said in a 1986 interview in Hitmen. “It’s very difficult today because most recording facilities are so much more sophisticated than they were back then. It’s therefore hard to make the drums sound as rough as they did on the original. That’s what we were going after, a remake, not an interpretation, but a remake.”
“You Can’t Hurry Love” by Phil Collins
“You Can’t Hurry Love” by the Supremes
- “Don’t Pull Your Love” by Hamilton, Joe Frank & Reynolds
The early 1970s was a period when horn rock bands like Blood, Sweat & Tears and Chicago were popular and spawned bands like the Ides of March, Lighthouse and Chase. Hamilton, Joe Frank & Reynolds was a Los Angeles trio that incorporated the sound into “Don’t Pull Your Love,” a Top 10 hit in 1971.
“Don’t Pull Your Love” was first recorded by Country Store, a group produced by the song’s writers Brian Potter and Dennis Lambert. The pair later offered the song to the Grass Roots, who declined. Dan Hamilton, Joe Frank Carollo and Tommy Reynolds were at an audition at Dunhill Records when they were played the demo.
“Tommy had a connection at ABC-Dunhill so we got a chance to go over and do a little thing in the studio for them,” Carollo explained on Sandy Kaye Presents. “We didn’t do anything original, we actually did a Creedence Clearwater medley and while we were singing they brought us a demo of ‘Don’t Pull Your Love.’
“They played it for us three or four times and then they took us in the studio and we sang it and before we finished singing it, the president of ABC-Dunhill had come in there and wanted to sign us to a record deal that day. We were in there singing, they said ‘hold it.’ They brought us into the studio and said, ‘Here, would you guys be interested?’ Of course, we went, ‘Yeah.’ First we did ‘Don’t Pull Your Love’ to get a single out and we were working on the album about the same time. The song was released in April and by July it had sold a million copies.”
- “Good Lovin'” by the Rascals
An early version of “Good Lovin'” was recorded by doo wop group the Olympics in 1965. Their version was only moderately successful. It was the Rascals — Felix Cavaliere, Gene Cornish, Dino Danelli and Eddie Brigati, then known as the Young Rascals — who reworked the song into a No. 1 hit in 1966.
Brigati told Rock Cellar how the Olympics’ tune was discovered. “Dino and Felix were probably the most studious. They’d go uptown, they’d look at the Black charts and find out what was up and coming because Black charts, even back then, were in no-man’s land, they weren’t really featured.
“We had a rhythm and blues propensity, the singing and the rhythm and blues structure of a song. So they’d look and ‘Good Lovin” was by the Olympics. That was more of a Latin song. And when we got a hold of it, those guys just stuck the rock stick into it and that was the audacity, the young, ‘C’mon, let’s get outta here, let’s go!”
“Good Lovin'” by the Rascals
“Good Lovin'” by the Olympics
- “Lowdown” by Boz Scaggs
Growing up in Texas, Boz Scaggs received an education in blues and R&B listening to Nashville and Chicago radio stations. “I listened to a lot of hardcore R&B late at night,” Scaggs told the Houston Press. “And there was an extraordinary station out of Dallas that was practically like a master class in roots music, specializing in Delta blues.
“And at school we’d get together in a vacant classroom at lunch and listen to 45s. That’s where I heard people like Chuck Berry, Fats Domino, Elvis, and the doo wop groups.”
Scaggs came to national attention with his 1976 album Silk Degrees, which included “Lido Shuffle,” “We’re All Alone,” “What Can I Say” and “Lowdown.” The album was recorded with Jeff Porcaro, David Hungate and David Paich, who would go on to form Toto.
“It was suggested by the producer [Joe Wissert] that one of them, the keyboard player David Paich, was a terrific writer and arranger, and that we should go away for a few days and see what we could come up with between us,” Scaggs recalled in Songwriting Magazine. “We spent a weekend at a studio with a piano in it and we wrote ‘Lowdown.’ We brought that back to the band and recorded it, and that was the beginning of a great collaboration and one of the most fun records I ever made.”
- “Treat Her Right” by Roy Head
Roy Head‘s frantic stage moves have been favorably compared to the dazzling footwork of James Brown and Jackie Wilson. Head’s only big hit, 1965’s “Treat Her Right,” has been performed by Bob Dylan, Robert Plant and Bruce Springsteen, who told the audience, “That song has magic in it.”
“The song was a mistake,” Head told the Austin Chronicle. “I wanted to do ‘Ooh Poo Pah Doo’ by Jessie Hill, and the guitarist played the wrong riffs. So I made up a song about talking to a cow. ‘If you squeeze her real gentle, she’ll give you some cream.’ It was risqué, but in a hillbilly way. The dance floor packed.
“The real key to that song was that it had that push and pull that every little garage band in the world could play. You didn’t have to rehearse it for days. All you had to do was hit close to the tempo and melody, and people love it. It’s been recorded by Otis Redding and Mae West! Just one of them songs that hangs around. ‘Treat Her Right.’ That’ll be on my tombstone.”
- “Cry Baby” by Janis Joplin
“Cry Baby” was posthumously released in 1971 on Janis Joplin‘s album Pearl, which topped the Billboard album chart for nine weeks. Backed with “Mercedes Benz,” “Cry Baby” reached No. 42 on the Billboard Hot 100. “Cry Baby” was first recorded by Garnet Mimms and the Enchanters, who made it a No. 4 hit in 1963.
Mimms began his career as a gospel singer in Philadelphia. In the early 1960s he joined songwriters Bert Berns and Jerry Ragovoy, who were adapting gospel tunes to soul music. “Cry Baby” features a young Dionne Warwick performing backing gospel-style vocals.
By the time Joplin covered “Cry Baby,” she had left Big Brother & the Holding Company and the Kozmic Blues Band to be backed by the Full Tilt Boogie band. Joplin adopted the “talking blues” segment of the Mimms original.
“I never met Janis Joplin,” Mimms told WXPN. “I think Janis Joplin did a great job on ‘Cry Baby.’ As a matter of fact, I know she sold more copies than I did — I only sold a million, I think she sold about ten [million]!”
“Cry Baby” by Janis Joplin
“Cry Baby” by Garnet Mimms and the Enchanters
- “Holding Back the Years” by Simply Red
Frontman Mick Hucknall of Simply Red based “Holding Back the Years” on his early life. Hucknall was raised by his father; his mother left the family when Hucknall was three. “I wrote the song in 1978, while I was a teenager,” recalled Hucknall in The Guardian. “At art school, a teacher said: ‘The best paintings are when you get lost in a piece of work and start painting in a stream of consciousness.’ I wanted to do music, not art, so started writing lyrics that way. The first song I wrote was called ‘Ice Cream and Wafers.’ The next was ‘Holding Back the Years.’
“I didn’t realize what it was about until I’d finished it. It’s about that moment where you know you have to leave home and make your mark, but the outside world is scary. So you’re holding back the years.”
After “Holding Back the Years” became a No. 1 hit in 1985, Hucknall’s mother contacted him but was rebuffed.
- “Little Latin Lupe Lu” by the Righteous Brothers
Bill Medley and Bobby Hatfield, the Righteous Brothers, became stars with the release of monster hits like “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling” and “Unchained Melody.” But in 1962, the pair were in an Orange County, California band called the Paramours.
Medley was inspired to write “Little Latin Lupe Lu” by a girl named Lupe Laguna. “Ray Maxwell, who owned Moonglow Records, came in to see us one night because I’d done some background vocal recording for him,” Medley recalled in his book The Time of My Life. “I asked him to listen to ‘Little Latin Lupe Lu’ because the audience really seemed to dig it. ‘Let’s record it,’ he said, and we did– me and Bobby and some of his studio guys.”
“Little Latin Lupe Lu” did not become popular until the pair, newly named the Righteous Brothers, performed it for the teenage crowd at the Rendezvous Ballroom, a surf rock club in Newport Beach. “They went nuts! They probably wondered, ‘What the hell is this and why do we like it so much?'”
Moonglow Records pressed a stack of singles and brought them to a local record store. When the duo returned to the Rendezvous and told the audience where to buy the record, 1,500 copies were sold in a week. Radio station KRLA picked up on it and “Little Latin Lupe Lu” became a regional hit that launched the duo’s career.
- “Feeling Alright” by Joe Cocker
As a member of Traffic, Dave Mason wrote and first recorded “Feelin’ Alright?” — with a question mark — for the 1968 album Traffic. Joe Cocker retitled the tune as “Feeling Alright” when he released it as a single in 1969 and 1972. Cocker’s track became the best-known version of the song.
Mason told Rock Cellar that when he wrote it, the song did not have the same meaning that evolved when Cocker covered it.
“The song is, it’s not “feelin’,” it’s “feeling.” “Feeling Alright?” with a question mark. It’s a question. And the answer is, I’m not feeling too good myself, that’s the answer. So that’s what the song is about. It’s just another of those unrequited love songs. One of those thousands of unrequited love songs.”
It became a feel-good song, said Mason, when Cocker recorded it. “Well, that’s Cocker. I owe him a huge debt of gratitude. He’s the one responsible for all those many, many cover versions and the fact that it’s took on a life of its own, it’s gone on so long. I owe that to Cocker.”
Cocker, who died in 2014, told Lehigh Valley Music in 2012 that he rarely performed his hits from the Woodstock era.
“Yeah, I don’t do too many of them, you know? I mean, I’ll do like ‘Bathroom Window,’ the Beatles song, and ‘Feeling Alright,’ which is like I know it so well that it’s a part of my soul [laughs]. So I have no problems going back and singing older material, but some of it doesn’t … I mean, some of it travels better than others. I mean, for some reason a song like ‘Feeling Alright’ sounds as fresh today as it did back in ’67, when I recorded it.”
“Feeling Alright” by Joe Cocker
“Feelin’ Alright?” by Traffic
September 14, 2022
August 31, 2022