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Top 50 Most Famous Soul Singers
Aishwarya-Updated Feb 5, 2024
Soul music is music that was made famous by the African-American community. It had its beginnings in the 1950s but gained strength during the 1960s and 70s. It transformed itself over the decades into its modern soul music avatar, but the essence and style remain the same.
Soul music had its birth in gospel music and retains the intense vocals, melismatic singing, the typical church style “call-and-response” feature, etc. You can catch them in many of the Soul singers like James Brown, Aretha Franklin, Saame Cooke, etc.
As the civil rights movement gained steam, Soul singers used their music to put across their identity and opinion. Slowly, as soul music gained popularity among white Americans, we saw more of them adopting this musical style.
Artists like Adele, Amy Winehouse, and Joss Stone have released many successful soul albums and singles. With this article, Entoin tries to remember and celebrate all these great soul singers who have entertained and wowed us over the years.
As it is difficult to rate them or their music, we have listed the greatest soul singers in alphabetical order. Check them out and tell us if we have missed any other great artists.
Adele, the renowned British soul singer, has achieved remarkable success throughout her career. With her powerful and emotive voice, she has captivated audiences worldwide, solidifying her status as one of the most influential artists of her generation.
Adele's soulful melodies and heartfelt lyrics resonate deeply, touching the hearts of millions. Her debut album, "19," released in 2008, introduced the world to her undeniable talent and garnered critical acclaim. However, it was her second album, "21," that propelled her to international stardom, earning her numerous awards and accolades, including multiple Grammy Awards.
Adele's subsequent albums, such as "25," have continued to top charts and break records, further cementing her status as a soul sensation. With her soul-stirring performances and genuine authenticity, Adele has carved out a remarkable career, leaving an indelible mark on the music industry.
2. Al Green
Al Green, the iconic American soul singer, has had a legendary career that has left an indelible mark on the genre. Known for his smooth and velvety voice, Green's music seamlessly blended elements of soul, R&B, and gospel, creating a unique and captivating sound.
With timeless hits like "Let's Stay Together" and "Love and Happiness," he became synonymous with soul music in the 1970s. Green's heartfelt and passionate performances garnered him a devoted fan base and widespread critical acclaim.
He achieved commercial success, with multiple chart-topping albums and singles. In addition to his musical achievements, Green's journey took a spiritual turn as he became a reverend, infusing his later works with gospel influences. Al Green's soulful voice and undeniable talent continue to inspire generations of musicians and listeners alike, solidifying his legacy as one of the greatest soul singers of all time.
3. Anita Baker
Anita Baker, the American singer-songwriter, has made an indelible impact on the genre of soul music throughout her illustrious career. With her distinctively silky smooth voice, Baker's contributions have been characterised by a combination of soul, jazz, and R&B influences.
Her debut album, "The Songstress," released in 1983, showcased her incredible vocal range and received critical acclaim. However, it was her subsequent albums, including "Rapture" and "Giving You the Best That I Got," that propelled her to superstardom.
Baker's soulful ballads and heartfelt lyrics touched the hearts of millions, earning her multiple Grammy Awards and establishing her as a true powerhouse in soul music. Known for her soul-stirring performances and undeniable talent, Anita Baker's legacy is one of the timeless and unforgettable contributions to the soul music landscape.
4. Aretha Franklin
Aretha Franklin, often hailed as the "Queen of Soul," left an indelible mark on the music industry with her iconic soul music albums. Known for her powerful and emotive voice, Franklin's albums resonated deeply with audiences, showcasing her immense talent and versatility.
Her breakthrough album, "I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You" (1967), featured classics like "Respect" and "Do Right Woman, Do Right Man," solidifying her status as a soul sensation. Franklin's subsequent albums, such as "Lady Soul" (1968) and "Young, Gifted and Black" (1972), further showcased her vocal prowess and ability to infuse raw emotion into her performances.
With her soul-stirring interpretations, Franklin became a symbol of empowerment and an influential figure in the civil rights movement. Aretha Franklin's soul music albums continue to be revered as timeless classics, reminding us of her unrivalled talent and enduring legacy.
5. Barry White
Barry White, the legendary American singer, songwriter, and producer, made an indelible impact on the soul music genre throughout his illustrious career. With his deep, velvety voice and romantic ballads, White became synonymous with love and sensuality in music.
His unique blend of soul, R&B, and orchestral arrangements created a signature sound that captivated audiences worldwide. White's breakthrough album, "Can't Get Enough" (1974), featuring the timeless hit "You're the First, the Last, My Everything," showcased his rich baritone vocals and masterful production skills.
Known for his smooth delivery and heartfelt lyrics, he became an icon of romantic soul music. With numerous chart-topping albums and singles, Barry White's contributions have left an enduring legacy, influencing generations of artists and solidifying his status as one of the genre's all-time greats.
6. Ben E. King
Ben E. King, the iconic American soul singer, had a remarkable career that left an indelible mark on the genre. With his smooth and velvety voice, King's contributions to soul music are legendary. As a member of the Drifters, he lent his vocals to hits like "Save the Last Dance for Me" and "There Goes My Baby." However, it was his solo career that solidified his status as a soul sensation.
King's timeless classic, "Stand by Me," released in 1961, remains an anthem of love and solidarity. His soulful ballads, such as "Spanish Harlem" and "Don't Play That Song (You Lied)," showcased his emotive delivery and earned him widespread acclaim.
Ben E. King's soul music career continues to be celebrated for its enduring influence and timeless contributions to the genre.
7. Bill Withers
Bill Withers, the legendary American singer-songwriter, made an indelible impact on the soul music genre with his heartfelt and introspective compositions. With his smooth and soulful voice, Withers crafted songs that resonated deeply with listeners.
His breakout hit, "Ain't No Sunshine" (1971), showcased his ability to convey raw emotions with simplicity and authenticity. Withers continued to deliver soulful gems like "Lean on Me," a powerful anthem of friendship and support.
His soulful ballads, including "Lovely Day" and "Just the Two of Us," further exemplified his talent for blending soul, R&B, and folk influences into timeless classics. With his warm and intimate delivery, Bill Withers created a catalogue of soul music that remains cherished for its honest storytelling and unwavering emotional connection.
His contributions to the genre continue to inspire and resonate with audiences worldwide.
8. Bobby Womack
Bobby Womack, the influential American singer-songwriter, guitarist, and producer, made profound contributions to the soul music genre throughout his career. Known for his soulful voice and exceptional guitar skills, Womack's music embodied the essence of the soul.
As a prolific songwriter, he penned numerous hits for other artists before launching his own successful solo career. His dynamic vocals and emotionally charged performances captivated audiences, while his introspective lyrics delved into themes of love, heartbreak, and social issues.
Womack's signature songs, including "Across 110th Street" and "If You Think You're Lonely Now," showcased his ability to blend soul, funk, and gospel influences into unforgettable compositions. His collaborations with other soul icons, such as Aretha Franklin and Sam Cooke, further solidified his legacy.
Bobby Womack's contributions to soul music continue to inspire and resonate, leaving an enduring mark on the genre.
9. Chaka Khan
Chaka Khan, the iconic American singer-songwriter, has made significant contributions to the soul music scene throughout her illustrious career. With her powerful and distinctive voice, Khan's performances are characterised by a fusion of soul, funk, and R&B influences.
As the lead vocalist of the band Rufus, she garnered attention with hits like "Tell Me Something Good" and "Sweet Thing." Khan's solo career soared with chart-topping tracks such as "I'm Every Woman" and "Ain't Nobody," solidifying her status as a soul diva.
Known for her dynamic stage presence and unmatched vocal range, Khan's music continues to inspire and influence artists across genres. Her passionate delivery, impeccable control, and fearless exploration of musical styles have earned her numerous awards and a dedicated fan base.
Chaka Khan's contributions to soul music are undeniably influential, leaving an enduring legacy in the industry.
10. Curtis Mayfield
Curtis Mayfield, the pioneering American singer-songwriter and producer, achieved remarkable success and left an indelible mark on the soul scene. As a member of the vocal group The Impressions, Mayfield's socially conscious compositions, such as "People Get Ready" and "Keep on Pushing," became anthems of the civil rights movement.
In his solo career, Mayfield continued to push boundaries, blending soul, funk, and social commentary. His album "Superfly" and its iconic soundtrack not only showcased his musical prowess but also became a cultural touchstone. Mayfield's soulful voice, introspective lyrics, and innovative production techniques influenced countless artists.
He received accolades, including inductions into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Songwriters Hall of Fame. Curtis Mayfield's achievements lie not only in his musical contributions, but also in his ability to create powerful, thought-provoking music that resonates with audiences to this day.
11. David Ruffin
David Ruffin was a prominent American soul singer best known as the lead vocalist of The Temptations in the 1960s. Born on January 18, 1941, in Mississippi, Ruffin's career soared after joining the Motown group in 1964.
His emotive and powerful voice led to hits like "My Girl" and "Ain't Too Proud to Beg." However, his success with The Temptations was short-lived due to personal conflicts and substance abuse issues. Ruffin embarked on a solo career in 1968, achieving commercial success with songs like "My Whole World Ended" and "Walk Away from Love." Though battling personal demons, his vocal talent continued to be admired throughout his career.
Tragically, David Ruffin passed away on June 1, 1991, leaving a lasting legacy in the soul music industry.
12. Diana Ross
Diana Ross is an iconic figure in soul music, leaving a lasting impact on the genre. Born on March 26, 1944, she first gained fame as the lead singer of The Supremes, Motown's most successful female group.
Ross's powerful vocals and stage presence made her a standout performer. In 1970, she embarked on a successful solo career, producing hits like "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" and "Reach Out and Touch (Somebody's Hand)." Diana Ross's contributions to soul music earned her numerous accolades, including Grammy Awards and inductions into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Grammy Hall of Fame.
Her influence on future generations of artists solidifies her place as a true soul music legend.
13. Donny Hathaway
Donny Hathaway, a highly influential soul musician, released two solo studio albums during his lifetime. The first, "Everything Is Everything" (1970), showcased his distinctive blend of soul, jazz, and gospel influences. It included the hit single "The Ghetto," earning critical acclaim for its social commentary and Hathaway's soulful delivery.
His second album, "Donny Hathaway" (1971), featured timeless tracks like "A Song for You" and "Jealous Guy," showcasing his exceptional vocal range and emotional depth. Both albums achieved moderate commercial success and solidified Hathaway's reputation as a soul music visionary.
Tragically, Hathaway's life was cut short when he passed away in 1979. Despite his brief career, his albums remain beloved by fans and fellow musicians alike, and he is revered as one of soul music's most talented and influential artists.
14. Dusty Springfield
Dusty Springfield's soul music career was marked by immense success and a lasting impact on the genre. Born on April 16, 1939, in England, she rose to fame as part of the folk-pop trio The Springfields in the early 1960s.
However, it was her transition to soul music in the mid-1960s that truly set her apart. With her powerful and emotive voice, Dusty delivered soulful classics like "Son of a Preacher Man" and "I Just Don't Know What to Do with Myself." Her album "Dusty in Memphis" (1969) is considered a masterpiece, featuring her iconic hit "Son of a Preacher Man." Springfield's soulful renditions and charismatic stage presence earned her global recognition and cemented her as one of the genre's greatest female vocalists of all time.
15. Erykah Badu
Erykah Badu, an American singer-songwriter and producer, achieved remarkable success in the neo-soul genre. Her debut album, "Baduizm" (1997), catapulted her to fame with hits like "On & On" and "Next Lifetime." The album's soulful and introspective vibe resonated with audiences, earning her critical acclaim and multiple Grammy Awards.
Her unique style, blending soul, jazz, and hip-hop, made her a pioneer of the neo-soul movement. Following the success of "Baduizm," she released several other successful albums, including "Mama's Gun" (2000) and "New Amerykah Part One" (2008).
Known for her soul-stirring voice and socially conscious lyrics, Erykah Badu continues to be celebrated as one of the most influential and innovative artists in contemporary soul music.
16. Etta James
Etta James, a true soul music giant, embarked on an incredible journey that left an indelible mark on the genre. Born on January 25, 1938, in Los Angeles, she began her singing career at a young age.
With a powerful voice that effortlessly bridged the gap between gospel, R&B, and soul, Etta's talent was undeniable. In 1960, she released her iconic single "At Last," which became her signature song and an enduring classic.
Throughout her career, she delivered soulful hits like "Tell Mama" and "I'd Rather Go Blind." Etta James's tumultuous life struggles added depth to her performances, earning her respect and admiration from peers and fans alike.
With a legacy spanning six decades, she remains a soul music icon, celebrated for her raw emotion, powerful vocals, and enduring influence on the genre.
17. Gladys Knight
Gladys Knight, known as the "Empress of Soul," made significant contributions to the soul music landscape. Born on May 28, 1944, she gained fame as the lead vocalist of Gladys Knight & the Pips. The group's seamless harmonies and Knight's powerful, emotive voice were at the forefront of their success.
Hits like "Midnight Train to Georgia" and "Neither One of Us (Wants to Be the First to Say Goodbye)" solidified their place in soul music history. Knight's dynamic stage presence and ability to infuse heartfelt emotion into her performances made her an admired figure in the industry.
With multiple Grammy Awards and inductions into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, her legacy as a soul music icon remains firmly intact.
18. Irma Thomas
Irma Thomas, also known as the "Soul Queen of New Orleans," is a highly esteemed American soul singer with a career spanning several decades. Born on February 18, 1941, in Louisiana, she rose to prominence in the 1960s with her rich and expressive voice, delivering soulful and heartfelt performances.
Her early hits included "Wish Someone Would Care" and "Time Is on My Side." Despite facing setbacks, she persisted and experienced a resurgence in the 1980s with albums like "The New Rules." Irma Thomas's contribution to soul music earned her widespread recognition, and she received a Grammy Award in 2007.
Her enduring influence and captivating performances have solidified her status as one of the genre's most revered and influential voices.
19. Isaac Hayes
Isaac Hayes was a multi-talented American musician, composer, and actor, born on August 20, 1942. He gained widespread fame in the 1960s and 1970s as a leading figure in soul music. Hayes is best known for his groundbreaking album "Hot Buttered Soul" (1969), which featured extended, innovative arrangements and his deep, velvety voice.
His iconic soundtrack for the movie "Shaft" (1971) earned him an Academy Award for Best Original Song, making him the first African-American to win in that category. Throughout his career, Hayes produced numerous hits and earned multiple Grammy Awards.
Beyond music, he contributed to the civil rights movement and achieved success as an actor and voice-over artist. Isaac Hayes' legacy in music and entertainment remains an influential and enduring one.
20. Jackie Wilson
Jackie Wilson, often called the "Mr. Excitement" of soul music, made significant contributions to the genre. Born on June 9, 1934, his powerful and dynamic vocal style influenced countless artists. As a member of Billy Ward and His Dominoes in the 1950s, Wilson's lead vocals on "St.
Therese of the Roses" and "You Can't Keep a Good Man Down" garnered attention. However, it was his solo career that truly elevated him to soul music stardom. Hits like "Lonely Teardrops" and "Higher and Higher" showcased his electrifying stage presence and wide vocal range.
Wilson's performances were noted for their passionate intensity, inspiring future soul and R&B artists. His legacy endures through his impact on soul music and his influence on subsequent generations of musicians.
21. James Brown
James Brown, the "Godfather of Soul," embarked on an extraordinary journey that revolutionised soul music. Born on May 3, 1933, his career spanned over five decades. In the 1950s, hits like "Please, Please, Please" and "Try Me" showcased his electrifying stage presence and raw energy.
Brown's groundbreaking style, blending soul, funk and R&B, laid the foundation for future genres like hip-hop. His live performances became legendary, earning him the title of the "Hardest Working Man in Show Business." Iconic tracks such as "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag" and "I Got You (I Feel Good)" solidified his status as a soul music icon.
James Brown's influence on music, dance, and social activism endures, making him an enduring legend in the soul music genre.
22. Jessie Ware
Jessica Ware is not solely a soul singer; her career flourishes at the core of the soul genre. She incorporates electronic, soul, pop, disco, and R&B influences into her songs. Despite the pop and electronica influences on her early work, her vocals are definitely soulful.
Songs like "Wildest Moments," "Say You Love Me," and "Soul Control" highlight her deep range, gaining her the moniker "Queen of UK Soul."
Ware describes her album "Remember Where You Are" as a bit more soulful, demonstrating her constant integration of soul influences into her music. It is reported that she finds inspiration in the songs of late great soul performers like Etta James and Aretha Franklin.
23. John Legend
John Legend, born on December 28, 1978, is an acclaimed American singer, songwriter, and musician. His career soared with the release of his debut album, "Get Lifted" (2004), which featured the hit single "Ordinary People," earning him three Grammy Awards.
Over the years, Legend's soulful voice and heartfelt lyrics garnered widespread recognition and numerous accolades. He continued his success with albums like "Once Again" (2006) and "Evolver" (2008). In 2014, his collaboration with rapper Common on the song "Glory" from the film "Selma" won both an Academy Award and a Golden Globe.
As a multi-talented artist and philanthropist, John Legend's contributions to music and social causes have solidified his place as one of the most influential and celebrated figures in the music industry.
24. Lauryn Hill
Lauryn Hill's journey into becoming a soul artist was a remarkable evolution. Born on May 26, 1975, she first gained prominence as a member of the hip-hop group, The Fugees. It was her solo debut album, "The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill" (1998), that marked her transition into a soulful singer and songwriter.
The album masterfully blended soul, R&B, and hip-hop elements, earning widespread critical acclaim and commercial success. Hits like "Doo Wop (That Thing)" and "Ex-Factor" showcased her soulful vocals and introspective lyrics.
Lauryn's unique ability to express raw emotions and societal insights in her music struck a chord with audiences, earning her multiple Grammy Awards and solidifying her as a soul music icon for generations to come.
25. Lionel Richie
Lionel Richie played a significant role in the soul music genre, leaving a lasting impact as a singer, songwriter, and producer. Born on June 20, 1949, he gained fame as a member of The Commodores in the 1970s, contributing to their success with hits like "Easy" and "Three Times a Lady."
His solo career skyrocketed in the 1980s, and he became a global superstar with soulful ballads like "Hello," "Endless Love" (with Diana Ross), and "All Night Long (All Night)." Richie's smooth and emotive vocals, combined with his heartfelt songwriting, resonated with audiences worldwide.
His contributions to soul music have earned him numerous awards, and his timeless classics continue to be beloved and celebrated across generations.
26. Luther Vandross
Luther Vandross was a legendary American singer, songwriter, and producer who made an indelible mark on the soul music genre. Born on April 20, 1951, he began his career as a background vocalist and songwriter for various artists.
In 1981, his debut solo album, "Never Too Much," garnered immense success, featuring hits like the title track and "Don't You Know That." Vandross's soulful and velvety voice captivated audiences, and he became known for his emotive ballads and smooth R&B tunes.
Throughout his career, he released a string of successful albums and singles, earning numerous Grammy Awards and selling millions of records worldwide. Luther Vandross's contributions to soul music continue to be celebrated and his impact on the genre remains influential even after his passing in 2005.
27. Macy Gray
Macy Gray is an American singer-songwriter who has made significant contributions to soul music with her unique and distinctive voice. Born on September 6, 1967, her breakthrough came with her debut album, "On How Life Is" (1999), featuring the soulful hit single "I Try." Gray's raspy, soulful vocals and emotive delivery set her apart from other artists, making her instantly recognizable.
She continued to explore soul, R&B, and funk influences in subsequent albums, showcasing her versatility and artistry. Over the years, Macy Gray's soulful sound and thought-provoking lyrics have earned her critical acclaim and a dedicated fanbase.
Her contributions to soul music have left a lasting impact, solidifying her place as a respected and influential figure in the genre.
28. Marvin Gaye
Marvin Gaye, an iconic figure in soul music, had an illustrious career that left an indelible mark on the genre. Born on April 2, 1939, his smooth and soulful voice was a defining feature of his artistry.
Gaye's early success at Motown included hits like "How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved by You)" and "Ain't That Peculiar." However, it was his socially conscious and introspective work in the 1970s, such as the groundbreaking album "What's Going On," that solidified his status as a musical genius.
With songs like "Let's Get It On" and "Sexual Healing," he became an emblem of sensuality and passion in soul music. Tragically, Marvin Gaye's life was cut short in 1984, but his influential legacy continues to inspire generations of artists and fans alike.
29. Mary J. Blige
Mary J. Blige, the "Queen of Hip-Hop Soul," has achieved remarkable success in the music industry. Born on January 11, 1971, she emerged as a leading figure in the 1990s R&B and hip-hop scene. With her powerful and emotive voice, she paved the way for modern soul singers.
Blige's debut album, "What's the 411?" (1992), was a breakthrough hit, featuring the chart-topping single "Real Love." Throughout her career, she delivered a string of critically acclaimed albums, including "My Life" (1994) and "Share My World" (1997).
Known for her raw, introspective lyrics, she connected with audiences on a deep level. With multiple Grammy Awards and numerous accolades, Mary J. Blige remains an influential and celebrated force in contemporary soul and R&B music.
Maxwell, born Gerald Maxwell Rivera in 1973, is a renowned soul artist known for his captivating and smooth R&B sound. Emerging in the mid-1990s, his debut album "Maxwell's Urban Hang Suite" (1996) received critical acclaim, blending neo-soul, jazz, and funk influences.
With a distinctive falsetto voice and soulful lyrics, he garnered widespread recognition and a devoted fan base. Maxwell's subsequent albums, including "Embrya" (1998) and "BLACKsummers'night" (2009), further solidified his musical prowess, earning him multiple Grammy nominations and awards.
Throughout his career, he has maintained a reputation for crafting emotive and evocative music, making him a prominent figure in the contemporary soul genre.
31. Minnie Riperton
Minnie Riperton (1947-1979) was an iconic American singer-songwriter known for her remarkable five-octave vocal range and unique vocal style. Her music career took flight in the late 1960s as the lead vocalist of the psychedelic soul band Rotary Connection.
However, it was her solo career that propelled her to stardom. In 1974, she released her breakthrough album "Perfect Angel," which featured the chart-topping hit "Lovin' You," showcasing her incredible vocal abilities. Tragically, Riperton's life was cut short by cancer at the age of 31, but her legacy lives on through her impactful music.
Her powerful voice, heartfelt performances, and soulful R&B tunes continue to inspire and influence generations of artists and fans alike.
32. Natalie Cole
Natalie Cole (1950-2015) was a highly accomplished American singer-songwriter with a career spanning several decades. The daughter of legendary crooner Nat King Cole, she carved her own path in the music industry, achieving remarkable success.
In the 1970s, she gained popularity with R&B hits like "This Will Be" and "Inseparable." Her album "Unforgettable... with Love" (1991) became a tribute to her father and a commercial triumph, earning multiple Grammy Awards, including Album of the Year.
Cole skillfully navigated various genres, embracing jazz, soul, and pop, displaying her versatility as an artist. Throughout her career, she sold millions of records, solidifying her legacy as a talented vocalist who left an indelible mark on the world of music.
33. Nina Simone
Nina Simone, born Eunice Kathleen Waymon (1933-2003), was an influential American singer, pianist, and civil rights activist. Her music career, which began in the late 1950s, showcased her exceptional talent as a jazz, blues, soul, and folk artist.
Simone's rich, velvety voice and virtuosic piano skills made her a distinctive and revered performer. Her socially conscious songs, like "Mississippi Goddam" and "To Be Young, Gifted and Black," became anthems for the civil rights movement.
Throughout her life, she fearlessly addressed issues of racial inequality and social justice in her music. Simone's legacy continues to resonate, as her emotive performances and profound impact on both music and activism remain cherished by fans worldwide.
34. Otis Redding
Otis Redding (1941-1967) was a highly influential American soul singer-songwriter whose music left an indelible mark on the genre. His famous works include a string of soulful and emotionally charged hits. In 1965, "Mr. Pitiful" and "I've Been Loving You Too Long" showcased his powerful and emotive voice.
However, it was his timeless classic "(Sittin' On) The Dock of the Bay" (1967) that catapulted him to international stardom, becoming his most iconic song. Tragically, Redding's life was cut short in a plane crash later that year at the age of 26.
Despite his short career, his contributions to soul music continue to be celebrated and his soul-stirring voice remains an enduring symbol of the genre's golden era.
35. Patti LaBelle
Patti LaBelle, a legendary American singer, has made significant contributions to music throughout her career. As the lead vocalist of the group "Patti LaBelle and the Bluebelles" and later "Labelle," she achieved success with hits like "Lady Marmalade" in the 1970s.
LaBelle then embarked on a solo career, earning critical acclaim and commercial success. Her powerful and versatile voice allowed her to excel in various genres, including R&B, soul, gospel, and pop. Patti LaBelle's music has not only touched hearts but also inspired generations of artists.
She has received numerous accolades, including Grammy Awards and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Beyond her remarkable vocal talent, she is celebrated as an iconic figure and a trailblazer in the music industry.
36. Percy Sledge
Percy Sledge (1940-2015) was an American soul singer renowned for his emotive and heartfelt performances. His music career reached its zenith in the 1960s when he recorded his iconic ballad, "When a Man Loves a Woman" (1966), which became a global sensation and earned him international acclaim.
This timeless hit marked Sledge's signature song and solidified his status as a prominent soul artist. Throughout his career, he delivered a string of successful R&B and soul hits, including "Warm and Tender Love" and "Take Time to Know Her." Percy Sledge's soulful voice and ability to convey profound emotions endeared him to audiences, securing his place as a cherished figure in the history of soul music.
37. Ray Charles
Ray Charles, an American music icon, left an indelible mark on the world of music with his pioneering and innovative style. His fusion of R&B, gospel, blues, and jazz created a revolutionary sound that transcended genres.
Notable works include "What'd I Say" (1959), an electrifying R&B hit that became a cornerstone of his career. His album "Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music" (1962) showcased his ability to interpret country classics with soulful flair, gaining widespread acclaim.
Ray's rendition of "Georgia on My Mind" (1960) earned him a Grammy Award and became his unofficial anthem. With a prolific career spanning six decades, his rich baritone voice, emotive performances, and timeless songs continue to inspire generations of musicians and touch the hearts of listeners worldwide.
38. Roberta Flack
Roberta Flack, an immensely talented American singer-songwriter, has made significant contributions to music with her soulful and captivating voice. Emerging in the 1970s, Flack's artistry transcended genres, seamlessly blending R&B, soul, jazz, and pop. Her breakthrough hit "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face" (1972) won Grammy Awards for Record of the Year and Song of the Year, establishing her as a major force in the industry.
She continued to achieve success with chart-topping singles like "Killing Me Softly with His Song" and "Feel Like Makin' Love." Known for her heartfelt interpretations and emotional performances, Roberta Flack's music has connected with audiences on a profound level, solidifying her status as one of the most influential and respected artists in the history of contemporary music.
Sade, led by Nigerian-British singer Sade Adu, is a band renowned for its unique music style, fusing elements of soul, jazz, R&B, and pop. Emerging in the 1980s, their music is characterised by Sade Adu's sultry and enchanting vocals, backed by smooth instrumentals and poetic lyrics.
Their debut album, "Diamond Life" (1984), achieved tremendous success and earned them critical acclaim, featuring hits like "Smooth Operator" and "Your Love Is King." Sade's subsequent albums, including "Promise" (1985) and "Love Deluxe" (1992), further solidified their status as a prominent band in the adult contemporary and quiet storm genres.
Their timeless appeal and impeccable musicianship have garnered them a dedicated global fan base, ensuring their enduring influence and success in the world of music.
40. Sam and Dave
Sam & Dave was a dynamic American soul duo during the 1960s and 1970s, known for their energetic performances and infectious musical style. Their music combined elements of R&B, soul, and gospel, characterised by Sam Moore's powerful lead vocals and Dave Prater's soaring harmonies.
Signed to Stax Records, they achieved significant success with a string of hits, including "Soul Man," "Hold On, I'm Comin'," and "I Thank You." Their live performances were electrifying, earning them a reputation as one of the greatest soul acts of their time.
Sam & Dave's success also extended to the mainstream, earning them multiple Grammy nominations and a lasting impact on the evolution of soul music. Their influence can still be heard in contemporary R&B and soul artists, cementing their place in music history.
41. Sam Smith
Sam Smith has a strong, soulful voice, and R&B and soul music were major inspirations on his early work. Since then, he has expanded his career into the Pop and Dance genres.
Although he included a lot of soul music on his debut album "In the Lonely Hour," he expanded on his sound palette in later albums like "The Thrill of It All" and "Love Goes." Additionally, he worked with well-known R&B performers including Disclosure and Naughty Boy.
Soul is still a fundamental component of his work. Hits like "Stay With Me" and "I'm Not the Only One" from his early career featured pop-oriented melodies paired with soulful vocals. Some critics contend that his music lacks the unadulterated emotional intensity of classic soul, nevertheless.
42. Sam Cooke
Sam Cooke, a pioneering American singer-songwriter, was a trailblazer in the evolution of soul music during the 1950s and 1960s. His musical style seamlessly blended gospel, R&B, and pop, resulting in a distinctive sound that captured the hearts of audiences worldwide.
Known for his smooth and velvety voice, Cooke's vocals exuded a soulful and emotive quality, showcasing his exceptional range and control. His innovative use of vocal improvisations and melismatic ornamentations became hallmarks of his artistry.
Notable hits like "You Send Me," "A Change Is Gonna Come," and "Cupid" exemplified his ability to blend heartfelt lyrics with captivating melodies. Sam Cooke's contributions to music laid the foundation for future soul artists and solidified his legacy as one of the greatest voices in the history of popular music.
43. Smokey Robinson
Smokey Robinson, a legendary American singer, songwriter, and producer, is an iconic figure in the world of soul and R&B music. As a key member of The Miracles and later as a solo artist, he played a pivotal role in shaping the Motown sound during the 1960s and beyond.
Known for his silky-smooth tenor voice and emotive delivery, Robinson's music combined elements of doo-wop, soul, and pop, creating a timeless and melodic style. Hits like "Shop Around," "Tears of a Clown," and "Being with You" catapulted him to fame.
His songwriting prowess and signature falsetto voice earned him widespread acclaim, multiple Grammy nominations, and the status of one of Motown's most successful and influential artists. Smokey Robinson's contributions have left an indelible mark on the music industry and continue to resonate with audiences worldwide.
44. Stevie Wonder
Stevie Wonder, a musical genius and icon, has had an unparalleled career in the world of music. Blind from infancy, Wonder's incredible talent as a singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist shone through from an early age.
His music style embraced various genres, including soul, R&B, funk, pop, and jazz, making him a true innovator. His breakthrough album "Talking Book" (1972) and the iconic "Songs in the Key of Life" (1976) cemented his status as a musical visionary.
With hits like "Superstition," "Isn't She Lovely," and "I Just Called to Say I Love You," he achieved immense commercial success and won numerous Grammy Awards. Stevie Wonder's influence on music, his social activism, and his immense talent have earned him widespread acclaim, making him one of the greatest and most beloved musicians of all time.
45. Tammi Terrell
Tammi Terrell was an American singer-songwriter known for her significant contributions to soul music during the 1960s. Teaming up with Marvin Gaye, she produced a series of iconic duets that captivated audiences with their chemistry and soulful performances.
Hits like "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" and "Ain't Nothing Like the Real Thing" showcased their remarkable vocal synergy. Terrell's powerful yet tender voice and ability to convey emotions made her a beloved figure in the Motown music scene.
Tragically, her life and career were cut short when she passed away at the young age of 24 due to a brain tumour. Nevertheless, her soulful legacy endures as her music continues to inspire and influence artists in the genre.
46. Teddy Pendergrass
Teddy Pendergrass (1950-2010) was an acclaimed American soul singer with a rich and commanding voice. Initially, the lead singer of Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes, Pendergrass's captivating performances led them to success with hits like "If You Don't Know Me by Now" and "The Love I Lost." In 1977, he embarked on a successful solo career, releasing a string of chart-topping albums and singles.
His smooth and passionate vocals garnered him the title "The Black Elvis" and earned him a devoted fan base. Hits like "Close the Door," "Love T. K. O.," and "Turn Off the Lights" solidified his status as an R&B legend.
Despite a tragic car accident in 1982 that left him paralyzed, Pendergrass remained a revered figure in the music industry, leaving a lasting impact on the world of soul music.
47. The Righteous Brothers
The Righteous Brothers, composed of Bill Medley and Bobby Hatfield, was an influential American duo known for their distinct musical style. Emerging in the early 1960s, they were pioneers of the "blue-eyed soul" genre, blending traditional rhythm and blues with elements of rock and pop.
Their soulful and emotive vocal harmonies, with Medley's deep baritone and Hatfield's soaring tenor, set them apart. Their hits, such as "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'," "Unchained Melody," and "Soul and Inspiration," showcased their ability to convey raw emotion and connect with audiences.
The Righteous Brothers' signature sound left a lasting impact on the music industry, influencing future generations of artists and solidifying their place as one of the most beloved duos in music history.
48. Tina Turner
Tina Turner, a music icon and powerhouse performer, is renowned for her dynamic stage presence and distinctive raspy voice. Her music career spans over six decades, starting as part of the Ike & Tina Turner Revue in the 1960s.
After their split, Tina launched a successful solo career in the 1970s, achieving global fame with hits like "What's Love Got to Do with It" and "Private Dancer." Her music style fuses rock, pop, soul, and R&B, captivating audiences worldwide.
Her electrifying live performances and energetic dance moves made her a legendary figure in the music industry. Beyond her unparalleled success, Tina Turner's resilience and personal journey have inspired millions, earning her the title "Queen of Rock 'n' Roll" and cementing her place as an enduring musical legend.
49. Whitney Houston
Whitney Houston, a true soul diva, had an extraordinary music career that defined the 1980s and 1990s. Emerging in the mid-1980s, she quickly rose to fame with her self-titled debut album (1985). Her incredible vocal range, power, and emotion set her apart, earning her comparisons to legendary soul singers.
Houston's follow-up albums, "Whitney" (1987) and "I'm Your Baby Tonight" (1990), continued her chart-topping success with hits like "I Wanna Dance with Somebody" and "All the Man That I Need." The pinnacle of her career came with the release of the soundtrack for "The Bodyguard" (1992), which featured her rendition of Dolly Parton's "I Will Always Love You." Whitney Houston's soulful voice and talent were recognized with numerous awards, including multiple Grammy Awards.
Her legacy as one of the greatest soul artists of all time continues to shine brightly.
50. Wilson Pickett
Wilson Pickett, a legendary soul and R&B singer was known for his raw and electrifying musical style. Emerging in the 1960s, he became a prominent figure in the Southern soul genre. Pickett's distinctive voice combined gritty, impassioned vocals with a charismatic stage presence.
His music was infused with elements of gospel, blues, and rock, creating a powerful and soul-stirring sound. Hits like "In the Midnight Hour," "Mustang Sally," and "Land of 1000 Dances" showcased his energetic performances and enduring appeal.
Pickett's contributions to soul music earned him a spot in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and his influence on subsequent generations of soul and R&B artists remains profound, making him an icon in the history of soul music.
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