A Blast From the Past: Legends of Rhythm & Blues

Feeling a little bored with your playlists right now? Dive right back into these iconic female voices.

We all get to that point sometimes where we have the same songs on heavy rotation for too long. This week we’ve got you covered; sometimes it helps to go back in time to get the goods. So here, we’ve laid out some treasured gems from just a few essential rhythm and blues icons…

Aretha Franklin – “(Sweet Sweet Baby) Since You’ve Been Gone”

The passing of Aretha Franklin hit us all this year with the difficult realization that this absolute icon had left the Earth that she graced so lovingly with unbridled emotion. Her form of expression was prolific and unstoppably moving. No matter what your mood is today, it’s like flipping a switch into joy mode when this song comes on. Dance it off y’all.

Dinah Washington – “Is You Is Or Is You Ain’t My Baby”

Dinah Washington is another legend who delivers thrills and chills with her crystal clear crescendos and sultry soulfulness. This bluesy tune will indulge your romantic impatience and make you long for shimmery evenings, afternoons with the newspaper and the days when everyone wore hats. Washington’s snappy sense of timing and overall energy transfers through seamlessly in every word. The song is a cover of Louis Jordan’s from 1943 and appears on her 1957 album The Swingin’ Miss D.

Nina Simone – “Four Women”

Nina Simone’s irresistible magnetism shines through in “Four Women”, an entrancing story about four women from different backgrounds, all linked intrinsically by a shared experience of “rare” femininity. The deliciously mellow rhythm and alluring melody are magnified by the unmistakable croon of the Nina Simone voice. The power behind this song builds to the very last line: “my name is Peaches!” If you can’t get enough Nina, watch the documentary What Happened Miss Simone, which really explores all the hardships and glory of her life.

The Rolling Stones – “Gimme Shelter”

Don’t be fooled; if you really listen to this song, there is a female voice that echoes through the decidedly rock anthem, eclipsing even Mick Jagger’s signature ragged vocals. That fiery voice belongs to none other than Merry Clayton, the daughter of a Baptist minister from New Orleans, Louisiana and the powerhouse backup vocalist who gave the epic level of soul to this iconic song. She famously turned up to this recording session pregnant AF, in curlers and a night gown only to bring the house down with an epic solo halfway through the song, complete with an in-tune vocal screech. Watch 20 Feet From Stardom to get some more knowledge about backup singers through the ages and on this particular track, which appeared on The Stones’ 1969 album, “Let it Bleed”:

Ella Fitzgerald – “Dream A Little Dream of Me”

Bringing the vibe back down just a tad… This soothing tune is a re-recording of the original by Ozzie Nelson in 1931, which has been adapted numerous times – perhaps most notably by Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong. Their distinctive silky smooth and gravely vocal qualities respectively melt together in a heavenly combo. Turn this baby right on and lull yourself into a lovely dream to escape this hellish week.