I’m constantly playing a tug of music war with my 9-year-old son. He thinks my music is so lame, and I think his music is too pop. Recently on a car trip, I put on some classic soul/R&B and Motown, and we found a middle that we can agree on. That’s my inspiration for this week’s mix, a more mainstream grouping of classics. Maybe this weekend will be cool enough to roll down your car windows and sing along to this group of soulful, southern ladies.
Enjoy the videos below and the playlist.
Tennessee: Aretha Franklin, “Respect”
Aretha was obviously going to be on this list, so there’s no use in waiting. Written by Otis Redding, Aretha made “Respect” famous in 1967, and it’s been a feminist anthem ever since. Having been singing and performing nearly all her 74 years, Aretha Franklin more than deserves to be at the top of the list.
North Carolina: Nina Simone, “To Young Gifted Be and Black”
I’ve never been able to get through this song without tears. Released in 1970, Nina Simone claimed it was “the national anthem of the blacks in the United States.” Heartbreakingly, we are still dealing with the same racial divide, civil rights issues and inequality that Simone is expressing in song. “We must begin to tell our young, there’s a world waiting for you . . . ”
Alabama: Alabama Shakes, “You Ain’t Alone”
I recently listened to an interview with Brittany Howard and she mentioned growing up in a family-run junkyard that encircled her house, which I found fascinating. A self-taught musician, Brittany spent most of those junkyard days writing lyrics, scribbling in notebooks, and finding her classic sound.
Louisiana: Merry Clayton: “Gimme Shelter”
If you haven’t seen the documentary “Twenty Feet from Stardom,” stop what you’re doing (after listening to this AB Mix, of course) and watch immediately. It’s through this documentary, I learned that Merry Clayton has been featured on some the best known classics including The Stones’ “Gimme Shelter” and Skynard’s “Sweet Home Alabama.” Since then, she’s done backup vocals for artists such as Tori Amos and Coldplay – but one listen to Clayton’s powerful voice and you know she more than stands on her own.
Texas: Destiny’s Child: “Survivor”
Before Lemonade and being too good to dis anyone on the Internet, Beyonce was a part of a trio. I pretty much sing this song daily so it had to be included. Okay, ladies, now let’s get in formation.
North Carolina: Roberta Flack (Lauryn Hill): “Killing Me Softly”
So I’m kinda cheating. I really wanted to highlight Lauryn Hill but she’s not southern and Roberta Flack is! Aha!! So what do you do – you find a clip with both Flack and The Fugees!!
Georgia: Gladys Knight and the Pips: “I Heard it Through the Grapevine”
This list would be incomplete without Gladys Knight and her Pips. While there are various versions of this song, if you don’t love and miss Soul Train, bless your heart.
Tennessee: Tina Turner, “Proud Mary”
Written and originally performed by Creedence Clearwater Revival, “Proud Mary” has been covered by several artists but Tina Turner’s dynamic cover is my favorite. Turner isn’t only an amazing singer, musician, performer, artist – she’s a survivor.
Mississippi: Mary Wilson, “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You”
Mary Wilson is a founding member of a little known group called The Supremes, originally named the Primettes. Born in Greenville, Mississippi, Wilson moved to Detroit as a young child. It was in elementary school where she met another founding member, Florence Ballard and musical history was made.
Florida: Betty Wright, “Clean Up Woman”
It’s appropriate that I’d end this week’s list with Betty Wright who shares a birthday with my son, my tug of music competitor. Wright began performing at the age of 2 along with her siblings in the gospel group, Echos of Joy. By the age of 11, she had switched to R &B.