DAR Legends: 7 Legendary Soul Groups

By @TrueGodImmortal

Soul music is the basis of so much in our history and culture that it's always imperative to acknowledge the pioneers and the legends that paved the way for those of today. While solo artists were of central importance during the prime of soul music, the largest aspect seemed to be the camaraderie of usually four-man groups who were brought together by their love for harmony and singing soulful rhythms. Today, I wanted to take a moment and look back at the groups that enticed our ears and truly made soul music something special. Let's look at 7 of the all time greats.

*The O'Jays 

-One of the most popular groups of the 70's as well, this Ohio based group came onto the scene and the world instantly gravitated to their soulful sounds. After officially forming in 1958, it took the group a while before they would finally breakthrough but when they did, they left an impact on music that can't be duplicated by too many. There are so many anthems in the O'Jays catalog that have been very important to pop culture that it's not even funny. Whether we're talking about the classic "Backstabbers", the smooth "Love Train", the instant classic "I Love Music", or the iconic "For The Love Of Money", you've certainly heard a song from this legendary group before. For me, my favorite songs from The O'Jays aren't their biggest hits, but other classic songs in their catalog like "Darlin, Darlin Baby", "Cry Together", and "Brandy", which just goes to show their catalog is extensive. There aren't too many groups that can compete with the O'Jays catalog and legacy, And that's why they're so important to soul music.

*The Dramatics 

-I can remember the first time I heard the music of The Dramatics. I was young, maybe 5 or 6, and riding in the car with my mother. I was already invested in the music of artists like Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, and Marvin Gaye, so naturally I took to the sounds that I heard. The song that introduced me to The Dramatics is probably their biggest song ever, "In The Rain". With that song, they gained my attention and instantly, I was intrigued to hear more. After discovering their catalog, their singles, and what they brought to music, I found myself becoming a huge fan and eventually utilizing a number of samples from their work in my own music. In addition to the classic "In The Rain", they have other hits like "Whatcha See Is Whatcha Get", "Hey You, Get Off My Mountain", "The Devil Is Dope", "Be My Girl", and many more. They have a catalog that starts in 1963 and stretches all the way until the 90's, showcasing they have the type of longevity that makes legends in music.

*The Stylistics 

-When I look back at groups that gave us hit after hit after hit, and became influential to a newer generation, I think The Stylistics fit that mold perfectly. Their music was true to form Philadelphia Soul, and throughout the 70's, they would craft countless hits and classics that still live on today. Their influence is in the singing style utilized by their lead singer and how their music became heavy sample fodder for hip hop over the years. From songs like "Stop, Look, Listen (To Your Heart), "You Are Everything", "Hurry Up This Way Again", "You Make Me Feel Brand New", "People Make The World Go Round", and of course, the timeless "Betcha By Golly, Wow", The Stylistics brought true soul and smoothness to music in the decade that couldn't be rivaled. There's a list of legendary groups from the 70s, and I think The Stylistics are right there at the very top.

*The Isley Brothers 

-Of course, it's impossible to talk soul music without talking one of the most infamous groups of all time, The Isley Brothers. With a career spawning over 5 decades, they are a true model of consistency and longevity. With Ronald Isley as the lead singer, the rest of the group complements his voice and style very well. Since their arrival in music in 1954, the Isleys have remained a big fixture in the soul music over the years. Their catalog is undeniable and the hits just don't stop. They've had hits in just about every decade since they've arrived and their greatness is on a different level. From the iconic singles like "Shout", "Who's That Lady", and "It's Your Thing" to smooth ballads like "Summer Breeze", "For The Love Of You", "Voyage To Atlantis", "Groove With You" to their more modern hits and classics like "Busted", "What Would You Do", and of course "Contagious", The Isley Brothers staked their claim as one of the greatest to ever do it.

*Earth, Wind, and Fire

-One of my all time favorite groups in music history, EWF has been a consistent pillar in soul music throughout the years. One of the greatest things about their music is their instrumentation and how well they stack their sounds together. This is evident on classics like "September" and "Boogie Wonderland". However, my favorite songs from the legendary group tend to be the ones are smooth flowing like the ballad "Love's Holiday", the classic "Devotion", the inspirational "Keep Your Head To The Sky", "After The Love Has Gone", and a slept on gem "All About Love". They've remained a music force for over 40 years and show little signs of stopping, as they have released music this decade as well. EWF definitely has legendary status and one day, we may have to look deep into their catalog and discuss all of their greatest songs in more detail.

*The Spinners 

-I've always felt the Spinners were one of the more underrated groups of our time. They're legends without question, but it feels as if they go slightly underappreciated. They created some of the catchiest songs of their era, and their greatness should never be denied. Every single they released became a hit and they even have albums that took over the charts as well. After their debut in 1954, The Spinners managed to bring the world classics through the 60s and 70s, their most successful time period. Legendary songs like "It's A Shame", "Could It Be I'm Falling In Love", "One Of A Kind (Love Affair)", "Games People Play", "I'll Be Around", "Working My Way Back To You",  and of course "The Rubberband Man" are what make The Spinners such a legendary group. Their music, like the other choices on this list, is legendary and still sounds amazing today.

*The Jackson 5

-This isn't the first time we've discussed The Jackson 5 on this site and I'm sure it won't be the last, and rightfully so. The greatest musical family got their start in Gary, Indiana, and long before Michael Jackson become the greatest artist of our time, he was the lead singer and driving force of this group of brothers. They would officially arrive on the music scene in 1967, signing a deal with Steeltown Records after a few years of running the Chiltin Circuit. After two unsuccessful years on Steeltown, The Jackson 5 began to embark on what I consider to be one of the greatest journeys ever for a soul group, as we watched them grow from young kids with dreams to successful and ambitious legends. After signing with Motown in 1969, nothing was ever the same again. The Jackson 5 would take off, scoring hit after hit like "Never Can Say Goodbye", "I'll Be There", "ABC", "I Want You Back", "The Love You Save", and many more. While their Motown run was hugely successful and netted them big hits and sales, to me, their best period musically came when they left the label. Despite taking a bit of a hit commercially from leaving Motown, the group persevered and released some of the best albums of their career like Destiny, Goin' Places, and of course, their best work, Triumph. The 2nd chapter of The Jackson 5 story came with more hits and classics like "This Place Hotel", "Shake Your Body (Down To The Ground)", "Can You Feel It", and "Blame It On The Boogie", all of which cemented their standing in music history as true legends. While all of the groups on this list are legendary and pioneers, I think The Jackson 5 might be my favorite of them all.



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