There is another genre of Chi-town music that needs representing at least as much as the blues, and we have already shared much of the great blues music that came from the Windy City. I'm talking about Chicago Soul. The tradition of great soul music from Chicago may not be as long as the blues roots, but it is every bit as storied and diverse. Chess records not only produced many of the great blues artists from Chicago, they also produced these soul luminaries:
and, of course, this amazing voice:
I can't imagine a discussion of Chicago soul that wouldn't start and likely finish with Curtis and his band, they were the definition of the sound of that city and very much the precursors of Funk as well.Before the Impressions would provide backing for Curtis on ABC/Paramount, they recorded as backup for another soulman from Chicago who was less widely known:
Jerry recorded on the Vee-Jay label along with Gene Chandler. The label was the first Chicago soul record company but never had a song go to the top of the charts and were bankrupt by the mid-sixties. Interestingly, they had, as one of their last signings, this english mop-haired group whose "Introducing The" record Vee-Jay didn't have enough funds left to promote properly. John,Paul,George and Ringo took their talents elsewhere and that is history.
Curtis Mayfield certainly didn't have the sort of voice that would lead you to believe how influential he was in the industry, but it is often true that singer/songwriters without great voices often are better writers to compensate. Here is evidence of Curtis's writing talents:
And here with the Impressions, he shows that he can write a chart-topper:
Curtis wrote many of the songs for the artists of another great Chicago soul label; Okeh Records. Their stable of artists were mostly singles singers, but Major Lance was an exception, as he had several charted hits in the six years he recorded with Okeh. Here is his first: Monkey Time. This video didn't give me the option to copy the embedded HTML, as the workaround that SlowBreak was kind enough to clue me into for not being able to directly copy and paste the youtube URLs. Thanks agains for your suggestion SB. Klawitter, I deeded all my Klawitter coins to him in gratitude; I'm sure you can appreciate what a wealthy man he now is!
I could never leave out of this discussion the group that incorporated the city's name into theirs: The ChiLites. They recorded on a New York label, Brunswick Records, as did local soulsters Barbara Acklin, Gene Chandler, and Tyrone Davis. Brunswick did eventually move to Chicago in the early seventies. Here are the Chi-Lites doing Oh Girl:
I'll cap out at my 10 link limit by posting a song by a soul singer that caused at least as many teen aged boy crushes in her day as Rihanna and Beyonce do today. I have no way to verify it and google does not confirm it, but somehow I've always linked the Commodores song "Brick House" to Chaka. I may still have a crush on her, now that I think about it. Here she is with Rufus doing "You Got The Love".
That wraps it up for this foray into Chi-Town soul, I look forward to all the great links you folks will post on this path or any other road that that wind off the lake may take you.