Whitney Houston, Chaka Khan, Etta James, Diana Ross, Aretha Franklin, Patti Labelle, Sade, Tina Turner, Roberta Flack. These are some of the greatest R&B and Soul singers in history. When you listen to music from the 50’s, 60’s, 70’s, & 80’s there is something that rings true about the music. The songs from those days were much more powerful, meaningful, and musical than the music we here today.
I remember my mom would put on old soul classics some nights and whether it was funk, soul, or ballads one thing was certain, you could feel the emotions of the music. The live instruments in the songs, the depth and richness of the sound, the lyrics that spoke of real love, it all helped create the perfect blend that made a song a hit. My mother’s favorite singer was Anita Baker and her favorite song was ‘No One In The World’. If it was the right night and she was in a certain mood, that song could bring her to tears. It wasn’t sad, it was just the power of the song would really touch her (well at least I think).
Now let me ask you this, does the music of today make you feel the same? Adele recently swept the Grammy Awards and I honestly believe it was because her music and songs were pure and deep. People could connect to them on a real level. But Adele isn’t R&B.
Today’s R&B and Soul isn’t about just about the music anymore. Today it’s about image. A female that has a pretty face and can hold a note can make it big, while the not-so-thin, not-so-pretty, but can sing her butt off type of singer has no where to go in this industry. It wasn’t about image back in the day, it was about talent. When you look at Aretha Franklin, Barry White, Luther Vandross, James Brown and bands like Earth, Wind, & Fire they weren’t your typical candidates for sex symbols. They were just super talented musicians that knew how to move you.
As the years go by and it seems like we lose more and more of these legends in music, what do we have to look forward too? Will music continue to lose the love and focus more on material needs, sex, and topics of superficial nature? Will there ever be another Whitney Houston who’s powerful voice transcended beyond race, gender, and class. Will there ever be another Stevie Wonder who created music for the generations? Will live instruments even exist in the future of R&B? Will an actual band even exist? If you look at the Billboard 100 for Hip Hop and R&B there isn’t one group in the mix. But if you look at Top 40 or Rock there are plenty of bands.
All we can do now is savor the flavor, because as the years go by and more of these legends pass, so will pure soul. ‘You Give Good Love’ will be replaced by ‘You Give Good Sex’ or something and the instruments will be created on you iPhone. Hm, can’t wait to hear it.