High School Yearbook Photo

"More than a place, the Shady Dell was and will forever remain a state of mind." - Shady Del Knight

"More than a place, the Shady Dell was and will forever remain a state of mind." - Shady Del Knight

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Deep..... Deeper..... Deepest! Counting Down to the Greatest Soul Ballad...Ever! (Part 1)

We're still in the midst of our year long spin-off to find
The Most Exciting Record... Ever! The winner of that competition will be crowned soon. In the meantime, I would like to add another contest - a deep soul showdown. From a list of 10 worthy contenders, I would like to name the song that is, in my humble opinion, the Greatest Soul Ballad...Ever!

What exactly do I listen for? What makes a soul ballad great?

First, I listen for the three S's: sweetness, sincerity and simplicity.

Qualities like honesty, decency, vulnerability and inner strength are also important.

There are other considerations. Is the song relevant? Are the vocals delivered not only with artistry but with feeling and passion? Does the song inspire me? Does it produce a profound visceral response? Does it move me to tears? Does the song stick with me long after I listen to it? Do I play the song over and over again in my mind? Do I dwell on the song's message and meaning and how it relates to my life?

Let the music play!
Here is my countdown of the 10 Greatest Soul Ballads...Ever!

#10 "I Got Everything I Need" - Sam & Dave (May 1966)

The killer bee side of "Hold On, I'm a Comin" is the only Stax/Memphis song to make my list. Why? Because bold, brassy, sizzlin' southern fried R&B/soul isn't exactly what
I'm listening for in a great soul ballad. This Sam & Dave
song, however, is truly something special.

"I Got Everything I Need," a song of praise and gratitude for a woman who stands by her man even though he is dressed in rags, resonated with Dell rats big time. It's rendered with so much honesty, sincerity, and humility that it deserves to make this list.

I invite you to compare "I Got Everything I Need" to the similar themed "Skinny Legs and All," an R&B number released the following year by Joe Tex. The song suggested that few women would want to be seen with a man who is wearing "raggedy clothes." Shucks, "the man just forgot to get his suit out of the cleaners, that's all." While the Joe Tex ditty was played for laughs, the Sam and Dave ballad you just listened to always brought a tear to my eye. Show me a
woman who is proud of her man even though he's got holes in his shoes and bus fare is all he can spare and I'll show you
a real keeper, my friend.

#9 "Everybody's Gotta Lose Someday" - Del-Chords (December 1964)

The transitional soul masterpiece by Dave Bupp, Buddy King and their integrated, pre-Mag Men vocal group nailed down the #2 spot on my list of The 200 Greatest Hits of the Shady Dell. With its decidedly melancholy tone and spine tingling harmonies, "Everybody's Gotta Lose" deserves to be a top contender for best soul ballad.

#8 "Close Your Eyes" - Five Keys (March 1955)

Sweet and innocent, simple and sincere, this tender ballad recorded in the mid 50's by one of the leading R&B vocal groups of the period was indeed a soul survivor.

"Close Your Eyes" by the Five Keys outwitted, outplayed and outlasted all other Dell songs!

While other records came and went at the Dell, "Close Your Eyes" remained a fixture on the barn's jukebox for a dozen years or more, earning it the coveted #1 position on the
200 Greatest Hits of the Shady Dell!

#7 "No Man is an Island" - Van Dykes (April 1966)

Simplicity, sincerity, sweetness - the qualities that spring to mind at the very mention of the Van Dykes, an exceptional vocal group from Texas.

"No Man is an Island" by the Van Dykes, easily one of the greatest soul ballads ever recorded, only managed to reach #94 on the Billboard chart! Shady's Law rears its ugly head!

Oh well, the world's loss was the Shady Dell's gain.
The rat pack made this one a huge hit!

With scant instrumentation that borders on a capella and glorious church-based harmonies, "No Man is an Island" is a song that brings out the best in us every time we listen to it. Sadly, it wouldn't be long before many popular recording acts adopted the belief that they had to sex U up to sell records. In my opinion the great ones never even go there.

We're off to a flying start but there's more soul searching ahead. The feeling goes from deep to deeper in my next post. Please join me when I continue my countdown of
The Greatest Soul Ballads...Ever!

Have a Shady day!


  1. I see that Sam and Dave sang, "Sittin on the Dock of a Bay." Love that song. I don't recognize the soul ballads. I listened to mostly rock. But like I said before, when I am home I am going to listen to all the songs and learn more about the old music. If I played it here at my mom's place it would drive her crazy.

  2. Some things never change. My mother always complained about the Beatles, telling me that the mop tops were a bad influence. Mom didn't even approve of the Dick and Dee Dee song "Thou Shalt Not Steal" because she considered it sinful to quote the bible in pop music. Needless to say gangsta rap was still light years away. Thanks for your comment, Belle!

  3. How could I disagree with any of the songs you selected so far. Just happen to have every 45 on the list. I also noticed that they are all from my Dell era. Looking forward to the rest of the list. Jerre

  4. Spoiler alert! Tiny Tim didn't make the cut this time around. Thanks for your comment, Jerre!

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