We all have a “blue-eyed soul” artist or two we’ve been digging on for a minute. Some of us have taken a liking to some new school members of that crew. And for the sake of clarity (for those two people who have no idea what I’m talking about), “blue-eyed soul” is a term in Blackworld that describes white musicians and singers whose works resonate with us. In other words, Black people are “feeling” them.
Here’s my humble list of the Top 10 Blue-Eyed Soul Artists the Blacks have embraced over the years. Holla.
#10: Doobie Brothers – I realize George Clinton and Parliament/Funkadelic mentioned in one of their songs that they listened to some “Doobie Brothers, Blue Magic, David Boo-Wee” and said, “It was cool, but can you imagine doo be in yo funk?” Well, according to the Blacks, yes we can. Because we’ve been jammin’ with the Doobie Brothers since before they made that classic cameo appearance on What’s Happenin’ and Rerun got busted for trying to bootleg their music at that concert (young folk, ask your parents… or go to Google, YouTube, etc.). Check out Listen to the Music, Takin’ It to the Streets, Long Train Running (better known by the Blacks as Without Love, Where Would You Be Now), It Keeps You Runnin’, Minute by Minute, What a Fool Believes, and my favorite, Black Water. Doobie Brothers member Michael McDonald, who sang lead on many of their songs, could arguably make this list via his solo career, but we’re gonna keep him with the group that gave him his start.
#9: Christina Aguilera – In my mind, Aguilera was a child pop star, and nothing more. So, I never really listened to her music. But one day, years into her adult self, I heard back-to-back songs played by one of my children and had to ask, “What’s the name of that sister who’s singing? She can blow!” And I’ll be damned if it wasn’t that former child pop star. For Gen Xers like myself, we may not realize, but she has a loyal squad of fans among our children and younger siblings. I still haven’t checked out her entire catalog of music, but what I’ve heard is impressive. I’m including her for the youngfolk.
#8: Bobby Caldwell – Caldwell is one of the rare artists to make this list because of one song. Well, it’s not just because of one song. It’s also because most of the Blacks still don’t realize that one of their favorite back-in-the-day songs, What You Won’t Do, Do For Love, was sung by a member of the non-melanated clique. In fact, I’ve been knowing this fact for a good minute, but every time I’m reminded of it, it’s like I’m hearing it for the first time. “What? What You Won’t Do, Do For Love was a blue-eyed soul product? What?”
#7: Fleetwood Mac – Dreams. Go Your Own Way. Sara. Dreams. Gypsy. Rhiannon. Hold Me. Fleetwood Mac wasn’t playing around.
#6: Justin Timberlake – I know we’re still pissed at Timberlake for bouncing on Janet Jackson and letting her take ALL the blame for that Super Bowl halftime show “malfunction” (I can hear all the Millennials and Gen Zers saying, “What the hell is he talking about?”). But even in our pissed state, when he teamed up with producer Timbaland, tell me your head wasn’t rocking with those tunes. Can’t do it, can you? Check out The 20/20 Experience to see what’s up. You’ll still be pissed at Timberlake, but you’ll be pissed while jamming to that CD from start to finish.
#5: Hall & Oates – For a good minute, Hall & Oates was the dynamic duo who had fans in every corner of the country, including every square inch of Blackworld. I’m talking NYC’s Boogie-Down Bronx & Do-or-Die Bed Stuy, Cali’s Compton & Inglewood, Dallas’ Oak Cliff (especially those who frequented Red Bird Mall), Cincinnati’s East End, H-Town’s Acres Homes & South Park, Detroit’s… hell, all of Detroit and all the HBCUs. I could give you just one of their songs and it’s a wrap: Sara Smile. But for those who need more convincing, check out She’s Gone, Rich Girl, Maneater, You Make My Dreams, I Can’t Go for That, Kiss on My List and/or Private Eyes.
#4: Phil Collins – Phil Collins makes this list for one song… and all y’all know what song I’m talking about. Because without even saying the name, you’re already hearing that classic drum solo in your head (which was played on wax by a brother, by the way, even though Collins is a drummer by trade and does play the solo in his concerts). Some of y’all, like me, are old enough to remember when Miami Vice premiered and they played darn near the entire song in one long, dramatic scene that set the tone for the entire series. That right there made Miami Vice THE show of the mid-80s and cemented Phil Collins as someone we could turn up the volume on in darn near any crowd of Blackfolk and be sure to receive that silent head nod of approval. Okay, for those who don’t know, I’ll give you the name of the song: In the Air Tonight.
#3: Elton John – C’mon now. Bennie and the Jets. Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds. Goodbye Yellow Brick Road. Rocket Man. Philadelphia Freedom. Daniel. Can You Feel the Love Tonight. Your Song. Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me. Need I continue?
#2: Average White Band – Young folk don’t know nuthin’ ‘bout that Average White Band. But lookie here, lookie here. They came with so much unapologetic funk and soul back in them 70s that they had all the bruhs and soul sisters rockin’. And unlike some white artists who stole their sound from Black artists and acted like they themselves founded funk, the AWB let er’body know that they forever bowed down to the real creators of funk, soul, R&B, rock, jazz and the blues. And the fact that they’re from Scotland still blows my mind. And if you don’t know, check out some of their classics: Pick Up the Pieces, Cut the Cake, School Boy Crush and A Love of Your Own. It was hard for me to choose who was #2 on this list between Elton John and the AWB. But I based my decision on the fact that I have an entire crew of die-hard, super Black, Pan-African revolutionary homies who rock Pick Up the Pieces and School Boy Crush on the regular with zero damage to their “down-for-the-cause” street cred. Oh yeah. And they were on Soul Train!
#1: Teena Marie – This barely 5-foot somebody had a sound so big she had the entire hood rockin’. Square Biz. Lovergirl. Fire and Desire. Out on a Limb. Portuguese Love. Déjà Vu. Ooo La La La. I Need Your Lovin. Dear Lover. Cassanova Brown. If I Were a Bell. Her duets with Slick Rick alone qualify her for this list. But it’s the depth of love and respect Blackfolk had and still have for her that has Teena Marie at the top.
Others – I know many of y’all are feeling Snoh Aalegra. And Adele has an entire legion of bruhs and soul sisters who swear by her. Depending on who you talk to, David Bowie would surely be on a lot of lists. The Rolling Stones had so much respect for the Blues, and more specifically, Blues legend Muddy Waters, that they named their group after one of his songs, Like a Rolling Stone. Also, there’s The Police. Don’t hold their name against them, they had some jams. And they may not have developed a huge Black following, but Black musician friends I know swear by their music and musicianship with songs like Voices Inside My Head, Message in a Bottle, Spirits in the Material World, Every Little Thing She Does is Magic, Don’t Stand So Close to Me, etc. And this list wouldn’t be complete without De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da. And I’m gonna include a solo song by Sting under The Police umbrella, Shape of My Heart. Check’em out. And don’t sleep on The Beatles. Not only do they have one of the most incredible catalogs in history, not only have countless Beatles tunes been covered by Black artists, but the Beatles were also one of those groups who would tell anyone who cared to listen that everything they were was because of the music and artists that inspired them—Black music and Black artists.
Please let me know what you think of the list and feel free to share the names of artists you feel I had no business leaving off. But be forewarned: If you’re thinking about sending me the name Elvis, let me remind you what Public Enemy (PE) said: “Elvis was a hero to most but he never meant sh*t to me, you see straight up racist, the sucker was simple and plain. Muthaf*ck him and John Wayne.”