Natalie Cole, the daughter of legendary pop and jazz crooner Nat King Cole, was such a talented singer in her own right that she could have changed her name and still been a huge star.
R&B singer Ben E. King, who passed away April 30 at age 76 in Hackensack, N.J., had a smooth, unaffected baritone and soulful delivery that earned him a string of top 10 singles between the late 1950s and early 1960s, both as a member of the Drifters and as a solo artist.
Clarence Burke Jr., who died on May 26 at age 64 in Marietta, Ga., was the lead singer, guitar player, sometime songwriter, and choreographer of the Five Stairsteps, four brothers and a sister from Chicago who got their name because their mother said that when the siblings stood together, they looked like stairs.
If you grew up in the 1960s, when you think of R&B, you probably think of classic Motown - the earnest, energetic sound of Smokey Robinson, Marvin Gaye, and the Temptations, among others - or else the harder, funkier Stax/Volt Records sound from Memphis, exemplified by the Staple Singers and Isaac Hayes. But if you were a teenager a decade later in the mid-1970s, you probably got down at high school dances to what people called the Philadelphia Sound or Philly Soul - a musical genre that paired lush strings with the hard-edged honk of a horn section, topped with buttery vocals.
While this R&B icon isn't with us anymore, we felt the need to acknowledge that today is the great Marvin Gaye's birthday. For those of us who grew up listening to the sounds of his glorious hits, this one is for you:
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