The 20 greatest soul tunes you’ve never heard

I’ve been listening to a lot of soul music lately, new and old. It’s like tea or a nice chianti — you’re never sorry to have a little. And you can serve it almost anytime.

The problem with soul is that people play the same Motown oldies over and over which (while great) no one really needs to hear again. (“My Girl” anyone?) Here’s a buncha soul or r&b tracks I love that I’d never heard of til recently. Got more? Please leave em in the comments! 

Raphael Saadiq — Stone Rollin’

My early vote for song of 2011. Sounds like it coulda been recorded 30 years ago, in a sweatier sexier Motown.

Sallie Ford and the Sound Outside — Danger

Don Covay — Mercy, Mercy

I love songs about guys who go see gypsies to get their fortunes read.

The Heavy — How You Like Me Now

From the soundtrack to The Fighter. (If you like this, check “Coleen.”)

Precious Bryant — The Truth

“I like the truth.”

Wilson Pickett — Ninety-Nine and a Half  (Won’t Do)

99.5% = uh uh! Probably one of my favorite “songs you’ve never heard of” of all time. Lost classic.

Betty Harris — What I Do Wrong

Five stars.

O.V. Wright — We’re Still Together

Charles Bradley — The Golden Rule

“How can we stop the changes goin’ in America today / Come back to the golden rule”

Merry Clayton — Gimme Shelter

She sang it with the Stones. This is her solo version.

Johnny Guitar Watson – Ain’t that a Bitch

Bunny Sigler — Sunny Sunday

Sunday late afternoon blues.

The Meters — Hand Clapping Song

Lee Dorsey — Yes We Can

This track’s famous, but I just discovered it recently for some reason. Before Obama said it, Lee sang it.

Aretha Franklin — The Weight

Such an amazing version. Way better than The Band’s.

Aaron Neville — You Can Give

Listen to it here.
“Well I’m glad you found out / just like I knew you would / that a sip of your own medicine / it don’t taste so good.”

Phoebe Snow — Shakey Ground

I’m not sure which I like better — her version or The Temptations version.

Aretha Franklin — You’ll Lose a Good Thing

Listen to it here.
Lotsa people play the same ole Aretha tunes over and over. Which is a shame cuz she’s got so many great tunes.

Nina Simone — To Love Somebody

Ok, maybe you’ve heard of this one — but it’s new to me.  Came across it through the Joe Strummer documentary on Netflix (“The Future is Unwritten”).

Al Green — I’ve Never Found a Girl

And maybe you’ve already got this one. But it’s awesome and it’s not “Let’s Stay Together.”

Lemme know what you’d add to this list?


  • love love love this list…
    specifically the wicked pickett and the sunny sunday songs. I would add Heart Full of Love by the Invincibles and Fairchild by Willie West and get rid of some of the more popular ones, (ie. Aretha and Al Green) 

  • Great list. My two cents: A Sad Shade of Blue (Geater Davis) and Reconsider Me (Johnny Adams). Two superb tracks with out of this world vocals.

  • Wow, I’m still only at the top few songs of the list, and it has already changed my life!

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