Earth, Wind & Fire / Ramsey Lewis / Bobby Womack / Lamont Dozier / Roy C / Solomon Burke / Billy Ocean / Dennis Coffey
Born from a thought and willed into being by one man, Earth, Wind & Fire became one of the biggest acts of the 1970s. Enshrouded in the Mysteries, founder Maurice White was undeterred by closed-minded audiences and managed to break through by connecting with listeners on a higher level. But no matter how far he ascended, he continued to reach for the stars.
Ramsey Lewis always operated in the popular realm, even making people dance with his 1965 hit record “The ‘In’ Crowd,” which epitomized the soul-jazz sound. The pianist recorded an outrageous amount of jazz albums, many that successfully crossed over, including the Gold-winning fusion masterpiece Sun Goddess, featuring Earth, Wind & Fire. But more than the material alone, it was his very hands that evoked that unmistakeable soul from his piano.
Bobby Womack is a thread that runs through soul music. Perhaps more than any other artist of his era, he connects the major players in a six-degrees-of-separation game that keeps going until it seems that Womack must have known and played with everyone.
Lamont Dozier was a natural-born hitmaker. His famed songwriting team of Holland-Dozier-Holland gained unparalleled success in the R&B world, skyrocketing Motown past even the biggest labels of its day. As the threesome broke from the Berry Gordy machine and scored gold with their own record company, Dozier took the opportunity to start up his solo career. Ultimately parting ways with his runnin’ pals to dance with the majors, Lamont Dozier became a star in his own right.
Before finding international success and stardom with a string of well-known radio hits, Billy Ocean grinded on the U.K. circuit for well over a decade. The singer-songwriter released a handful of singles and four relatively unknown albums, which included a mix of ballads, Caribbean-influenced R&B, club-shaking disco, synth-filled boogie, and even country-inflected Southern soul.
Solomon Burke was born in the church—literally. So when he got his shot at Atlantic Records, he tried to reject Jerry Wexler’s notion of secular rhythm and blues, aiming to stick to his roots and make “soul” music. Despite recording and touring for five decades, and even having a bona fide late-life comeback, he never truly got the recognition he deserved in the genre he helped invent. But, however quietly, King Solomon remains the truth.
Roy C has written hits and cult classics, fought heads of labels and state. But he’s not just another R&B songwriter, and he should never be overshadowed by his record “Impeach the President.” His legacy goes beyond a single song. His oeuvre weighs a ton.