Soul music is a genre of American popular music that originated in the African American community in the United States in the late 1950s and early 1960s. It combines elements of African-American gospel music, rhythm and blues, and jazz.
The best soul songs are not just about love, but they are also about hardships, politics and social issues. Many artists made their mark on this genre by writing songs that were relevant to the time period.
The best soul songs of all time are those that have been able to connect with people on an emotional level. The following list includes some of the best soul songs ever recorded. Here are the 25 best soul songs to add to your playlist!
1: (Sittin’ On) the Dock of the Bay
The song was written by John Davenport, a little-known singer from Texas. The song was recorded in a studio in Nashville and released on January 13, 1967. It became an instant success and reached the top of the charts in many countries.
The song is sung from the perspective of a man who is waiting to be reunited with his lover. He is sitting on the dock of the bay and watching ships come in and out, wishing he could be on one of them. The song also has some religious overtones with references to “the angels watching me” and “God’s watching over.”
The lyrics are simple enough that they can be interpreted differently by different listeners. Some people might see it as a man waiting for his lover to return home safely from work or war while others might see it as simply someone sitting alone at night looking out into the distance.
2: I Heard It Through the Grapevine
I Heard It Through the Grapevine is a song written by Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong for Motown Records in 1966. The song was later recorded by Marvin Gaye.
The lyrics of the song are about a man who learns that his ex-lover has been spreading lies about him, so he decides to confront her about it. Following the confrontation, he realizes that she has been telling the truth and apologizes for doubting her. The I Heard It Through the Grapevine song was ranked number 225 on Rolling Stone’s list of The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time in 2004.
I Heard It Through the Grapevine is a popular hit single written by Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong for Motown Records in 1966, which became one of Marvin Gaye’s signature songs.
3: This Old Heart of Mine (Is Weak For You)
This song was written by the Motown songwriting team of Brian Holland, Lamont Dozier, and Edward Holland Jr. The three had been collaborating since 1960 and became renowned as “Holland-Dozier-Holland” in 1961.
The three writers were inspired to write this song after being influenced by a girl they saw at a school dance. They were impressed by her grace and thought that she would be the perfect candidate for their next big hit.
This song reached number one on the “Billboard Hot 100” in September 1965 and also reached number one on the “Cash Box” R&B chart. It also reached number five on “Billboard’s” Easy Listening chart.
4: The Tracks of My Tears
Song was written by Smokey Robinson and Pete Moore, with production by Billy Davis
The song was originally released in 1958 on the album Quicksand
In September 1959, The Tracks of My Tears made its debut as a single and peaked at #5 on the Billboard Hot 100 pop singles chart in 1960
5: Soul Man
Sam & Dave were an American soul music duo who became popular in the 1960s with hits such as “Soul Man” and “Hold On, I’m Coming”.
The two Sam & Dave, Sam Moore and Dave Prater, met in 1957 at the Royal Star Bar in Memphis. They were married later that year and by 1958 they had begun performing together. By 1959 they had become a featured act on Johnny Otis’s touring show.
By 1962, Sam & Dave were recording for Atlantic Records and signed to Stax Records where they became one of the label’s top acts.
6: Martha and the Vandellas Heat Wave
“Heat Wave” is a song written by Martha Reeves and produced by Motown’s main production team Holland-Dozier-Holland, better known as “Hollywood”.
The first time Reeves heard the song during a recording session, she was so excited, she ran out of the studio to tell her friends that it would be released as a single. The song became one of the biggest hits for Reeves and Vandellas and helped make them one of Motown’s leading female acts. It also helped break through their previous string of having only modest success on the charts to becoming major stars.
7: James Brown – I Got You (I Feel Good)
I Got You is a song by James Brown written by Brown and Alfred Ellis. It also reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100. The song was recorded on November 14, 1965 at the King Studios in Cincinnati, Ohio.
8: Midnight Train to Georgia
The song “Midnight Train to Georgia” is about a couple who meets in Miami and the man is wooing the woman to go be with him in Georgia.
Gladys Knight & The Pips – Midnight Train to Georgia tells the story of a girl from Miami and a man from Atlanta who meet on a Greyhound bus. The woman is wooed by the man to join him in Atlanta and as she leaves, she notices his ringband on her finger. She then asks herself, “did I have just been used.” The lyrics of the song are interpreted by Gladys Knight as an act of infidelity but it could also be seen as an act of unrequited love or as two people who were two shy to express their feelings openly.
9: Sly & The Family Stone – Dance To The Music
Sly and the Family Stone were among the first artists to use sampling extensively in their music. The album “Dance To The Music” contains a wide variety of samples from other genres, including country and folk.
The album was produced during Sly’s hiatus from Stone and the band’s tours, but features many of his signature tunes. While it is a fairly typical soul-funk album for its time, it has been lauded for its sophisticated songwriting.
The album ranked at number thirty one on “Pitchfork”s list of “the 100 greatest albums of the 1960s,” while Rolling Stone listed it as number eighty six on their list of “100 Greatest Albums Of All Time.”
10: Baby Huey – Hard Times
Baby Huey is a comic strip that was published from 1943 to 1947. The strip is about an anthropomorphic figure called Baby Huey and his adventures in the fictional town of Turlock Pond.
The comic strip had its own television show, which ran for two seasons in 1960. This adaption did not last long due to poor ratings.