Retrospective: The R&B and Soul Artists of The 1980s

By @TrueGodImmortal 

Now, there are some decades that are truly timeless and revered. One of those decades is of course the 1980s. Pop music ruled the land, and although two of the biggest artists of the decade were Michael Jackson and Prince, there were so many legendary artists who released music and truly made their mark on the game and the industry period. Today, I wanted to look back at some of my favorite R&B artists from the 80s, or the artists who truly impacted the 80s and what they did for music during that time. Let's get into it.

*Rick James 

-If Michael Jackson and Prince ran pop in the early 80s to mid 80s, then Rick James owned the R&B side. The man, the myth, the legend is one who sometimes goes uncredited when talking the decade, but there could be no one greater than Rick. Flashy, funny, and a magnet for women of all races and ages, Rick continued to push boundaries through the 80s. Armed with amazing songwriting ability, raunchy lyrics and just an all around crazy image, Rick was the true rock star of R&B. With consistent hits, albums, and a life that spawned one of the greatest Dave Chappelle skits ever, Rick was without a doubt one of the greatest to ever grace the mic in the 80s. His best songs range from sexual to talking about that ghetto life, and he eventually brought in some artists himself to the game. One artist who ends up on this list herself. Rick is a legend, an amazing artist and he lives on forever. RIP to the legend.

Standout Songs: Give It To Me, Mary Jane, Fire and Desire, Super Freak, Ebony Eyes, Cold Blooded, etc.

*Alexander O'Neal

-My personal favorite and most slept on artist of the 80s, Alexander O'Neal was essentially part of the band The Time, but after disagreements with Prince, he was replaced by Morris Day as the lead singer. This worked out well for him, as he would end up having a great solo career and make classics all around. His biggest success would come in the UK on the charts, with his self titled album and his follow Hearsay both being classics, in this humble writer's opinion. One of my all time favorite songs is forever "If You Were Here Tonight" and it personifies why Alexander O'Neal was so great. A true unsung legend.

Standout Songs: Saturday Love (with Cherelle), If You Were Here Tonight, Fake, Never Knew Love This, A Broken Heart Can Mend, etc...

*Atlantic Starr

-A band that was truly rooted in turmoil and members leaving, Atlantic Starr is a great group, and one that spawned so much great music in the process. Officially debuting around the end of the 70s, the band would make a big impact on the 80s and still rank as one of the timeless groups in the entire world. With their big hit "Always" being a huge love song in the decade and still to this day, their legacy is solidified. My personal favorite Atlantic Starr is forever "Let's Get Closer", that song is amazing.

Standout Songs: Let's Get Closer, Always, Love Me Down, Secret Lovers, etc...

*Ready For The World 

-If you know the 80s, then you definitely know this group. Led by Melvin Riley, this band would strike gold in the middle of the decade with their classic song "Oh Sheila", and eventually garner even more love and attention for the bedroom anthem "Love You Down", which is still a great track for your late night playlist as well. While their run only lasted about 2 years and 2 albums, the band made a big enough mark to be considered for this list and their hits still live on to this day.

Standout Songs: Love You Down, Oh Sheila, So In Love, Long Time Coming, Baby(Let Me Love You), etc...

*Teena Marie

-The protégé and former lover of Rick James, Teena Marie shocked the world by showing that a young white woman could display so much soul in her voice and vocal range. During the 80s, there were very few that showed consistency and ability quite like Teena. Armed with Rick and his star power, Lady T would end up creating a legacy of her own and supplying us with countless hits, including my favorite song of hers, "Portuguese Love".

Standout Songs: Aladdin's Lamp, First Class Love, Square Biz, Portuguese Love, etc...

*Stacy Lattisaw 

-When talking about ladies of the 1980s, how could we forget Stacy Lattisaw? Blessed with a beautiful voice and a true talent, Stacy would see herself go on a run of sorts, even creating a collab album with Johnny Gill at some point. It seemed as if there was no stopping her, but her run eventually fizzled out before the decade closed. Regardless, Stacy is one of the most vital artists of the 80s and truly slept on.

Standout Songs: Let Me Be Your Angel, Dynamite!, Baby I Love You, Don't Throw It All Away, etc..

*Freddie Jackson 

-Personal lives be damned, Freddie Jackson is one of the most important artists of the 80s and I truly think he doesn't get enough credit for his music and what he contributed to everything. With his debut album tearing up the charts in 1985, Freddie set the tone for his success and he managed to see it continue beyond the 80s, enjoying some hits into the 90s and releasing albums in the 2000s. Regardless, he is without a doubt one of the most vital artists of the 80s.

Standout Songs: Rock Me Tonight, You Are My Lady, Jam Tonight, Have You Ever Loved Somebody, etc....

*Rene and Angela

-Rene Moore and Angela Winbush were an amazing duo in the 80s and one that is forever slept on. Heavily sampled in hip hop in the years following, the duo would release four albums before disbanding in 1986. Regardless, their music is still timeless and their impact is still felt even to this day.

Standout Songs: Do You Really Love Me, Your Smile, I Love You More, Imaginary Playmates, etc


-The family that faced mega drama and drug addiction, also made some timeless music and left their imprint on music over the years and specifically this decade. After the band Switch already acquired two Debarge family members during the late 70s, the family banded together and made some amazing albums, songs and great music overall without a doubt. I still listen to this band from time to time and with their falsetto driven vocals, it's still enjoyable even now. Legendary.

Standout Songs: All This Love, I Like It, Rhythm of The Night, Life Begins With You, etc....

*James Ingram

-While James Ingram was never what you would consider a huge star, his impact musically was still felt. In the 80s, he created classics and has some timeless music. He also wrote "P.Y.T." on the highest selling album of all time, Michael Jackson's Thriller, and I'm sure those royalty checks looked mighty lovely rolling in. Regardless, his impact was felt and his songs were always dope. Truly underrated.

Standout Songs: Just Once, Yah Mo B There, Party Animal, Baby Come To Me(w/ Patti Austin), etc...

*Jeffrey Osborne

-Originally a member of the great group L.T.D., and the leading voice behind their all time classic "Love Ballad", Jeffrey would see great solo success as he pushed forward and create gems for the 80s and beyond. He remains one of the most slept on artists of the 80s without a doubt.

Standout Songs: On The Wings of Love, You Should Be Mine (The Woo Woo Song), Soweto, Come Midnight, etc...

*Al B. Sure

-While Al was basically a late 80s bloomer, but his album In Effect Mode earns a spot on this list for him. With nothing but hits on that one huge album in 1988, Al made a name for himself and a career all in one.

Standout Songs: Nite and Day, Killing Me Softly, Off On Your Own, etc....

*Angela Bofill

-Though this beautiful singer debuted in the late 70s, her impact carried over to the 80s as well. With hits, solid albums, and a beautiful voice to match, Angela took her momentum to the top and while she wasn't a huge star, in the world of R&B, she was a known face, name, and voice. Without a doubt, she deserves to be mentioned with the best artists of the decade.

Standout Songs: Too Tough, Is This A Dream, Something About You, Break It To Me Gently, etc....

*Force M.D.'s

-In the 80s, one of the biggest hits for R&B was "Tender Love". The group that made this classic and many more stamped their name on the decade with just that one song and made sure to follow up with more success. Death and other troubles came between the group but they are still legendary to this day for their impact in the decade.

Standout Songs: Tender Love, Let Me Love You, Be Mine, Girl, Uh-Oh, etc...

*Phyllis Hyman 

-Little known fact: Phyllis Hyman was my cousin. While we only met twice in my entire life, I was well aware of her music and still to this day appreciate her music and what she brought to the table. Though she was troubled, her music still lives on to this day and she is a legend without a doubt. I wish she was still here to grace the world with her voice and her pain.

Standout Songs: Living All Alone, If You Want Me, Can't We Fall In Love Again, etc...

*Ray Parker Jr.

-Sure... we know him for his work on the iconic Ghostbusters theme song. I know. However, Ray had so much more to him than just a theme, as he would go on to see success and make great albums including his gold debut "The Other Woman". Making hits all during the decade seemed to come naturally for Ray and he never seemed to stop what he was doing. He was truly great at what he does and made his mark in the 80s.

Standout Songs: The Other Woman, Stay The Night, Girls Are More Fun, I'm A Dog, etc...

*New Edition

-Is there truly any other way to finish off this list than with the greatest group of the 1980s? We started with the greatest artist in R&B of the 80s solo wise in Rick James(Prince and MJ exceed the genre), so we will end off with the greatest group of the decade. Johnny Gill, Bobby Brown, Ralph Tresvant, members of Bell Biv Devoe and more all came from this collective. There are no groups in the decade that compared to New Edition, whether we are talking impact or music. Nothing could compare to the success and the quality they produced. With 5 amazing albums released in the decade, including the classic "N.E. Heartbreak", the group made their mark on the 80s and even watched some of their members go on to huge success in the same decade solo wise (word to Don't Be Cruel, the GOAT 80s R&B album). The greatness is still amazing. Period.

Standout Songs: Candy Girl, Is This The End, Cool It Now, Mr. Telephone Man, If It Isn't Love, Can You Stand The Rain, etc....

There are so many great artists from the decade. I tried my best to cover all those who we haven't already talked about and leave off those we will cover late on in the week for classic soul week on the site. Have any other artists you loved from the decade? Post your comments and favorites below.



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