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After all these years, James Brown’s “Please, Please, Please” remains one of the all-time greatest raw soul performances. And we are speaking of the original recording, the slow version, and the way he performed it on stage for so long, not the up-tempo way he sang it in later years.
“Please, Please, Please” is a begging song, pure and simple, and gets right to the point. Remarkable!
But a song can be soft and tender and still deliver soul in abundance.
A perfect example is “Something to Live For,” the Billy Strayhorn composition, a song of loneliness and yearning sung beautifully by Lena Horne on her wonderful album “We’ll Be Together Again.”
EVERYTHING Bettye LaVette sings is heartfelt and 100 percent “soul.” The same applies to everything Phyllis Hyman and Donny Hathaway sang.
LaVette is awesome and almost unbelievably passionate on a song titled “Talking Old Soldiers,” featured on her latest album, “Scene of the Crime.”
Hyman was at her best on “Living All Alone,” and Hathaway was extraordinary on “Someday We’ll All Be Free.”
These are just some of the classic soul performances. There are so many others.
Let’s close with a gospel song.
On her Grammy-winning, self-titled album, Jennifer Hudson sings “Jesus Promised Me a Home Over There” with so much feeling that you may get misty-eyed.
This amazing performance is, no doubt, influenced by Hudson’s horrendous tragedy (mother, brother and nephew all murdered). But it is also an affirmation of unconditional faith.
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