Category Archives: SINGER

Singers: The Righteous Brothers

No song in music history has been played on the radio more often than the Righteous Brothers' 'You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin''. Uploaded by

The story goes that one night as Bill Medley and Bobby Hatfield sang as part of a group called the Paramours, an African-American in the audience shouted, “That’s righteous, brothers!” You believe that? I don’t know. But if it’s not true, it makes a good story, so it’s “virtually” true.

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The guys owed a lot of their success to the great producer/murderer Phil Spector. His famous “wall of sound” production technique helped propel their first mega-hits to the top of the charts. Medley was a quick learner, and after the Brothers split from Spector’s Phillies label, he copied the “wall of sound” for their recordings on the Verve/MGM label.

The Righteous Brothers’ biggest hits:

  • “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin'” (#1, 1964 – Great American Things, June 16, 2010)
  • “Just Once in My Life” (#9, 1965)
  • “Unchained Melody” (#4, 1965)
  • “Ebb Tide” (#5, 1965)
  • “(You’re My) Soul and Inspiration” (#1, 1966)
  • “Rock and Roll Heaven” (#3, 1974)

According to BMI, “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin'” is the most-played song in radio history. The Righteous Brothers joined the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2003.

Singer: Bonnie Raitt

Bonnie Raitt was well known inside the music community, but didn't experience commercial success until 1989's Nick of Time, which earned the Grammy for Album of the Year. Uploaded by

Exactly how did a white Quaker girl from Radcliffe College become an acclaimed blues guitarist? (No, the answer isn’t ‘Practice, practice, practice.) In Bonnie Raitt’s case, she became friends and then a protegé of blues promoter and journalist Dick Waterman. Waterman represented such artists as Mississippi John Hurt and “Lightnin'” Hopkins, and he took Raitt under his wing.

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Raitt, daughter of Broadway musical star John Raitt, didn’t need a whole lot of help. She was the total package. Great musician, great singer and, of course, great DNA. She received lots of recognition among musicians and insiders, but didn’t see commercial success until the release of the album Nick of Time, her tenth album, in 1989. Featuring some great songs (“Thing Called Love,” “Have a Heart,” “Nick of Time”), it earned the Grammy for Album of the Year, and Raitt won both Best Female Pop and Best Female Rock Performances.

But it was her follow-up, Luck of the Draw, that produced her signature song, the hauntingly beautiful “I Can’t Make You Love Me” (Great American Things, January 15, 2010). Raitt has now earned a total of nine Grammy awards. She was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2000.

Singer: Tom Petty

Tom Petty has never had a number one song on the Hot 100. In fact, he's only had one song in the top 10. But he's had an extended career of excellence, with The Heartbreakers, The Traveling Wilburys, and solo. Uploaded by

Whether he was fronting The Heartbreakers, singing with the Traveling Wilburys, or recording as a solo artist, Tom Petty has always experienced success. His first album, Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, wasn’t an immediate hit when released in 1976. But from the second album on, and all his solo and Wilburys albums, he’s at least achieved gold status. And his Greatest Hits is 10x Platinum.

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Several of the band’s songs are played regularly on classic rock stations, but didn’t make much of an impact on the singles chart: “Breakdown,” “Here Comes My Girl,” “Into the Great Wide Open,” and “American Girl.” Here are some that had more success on the Hot 100 Chart:

  • “Don’t Do Me Like That” (#10, 1979)
  • “Refugee” (#15, 1980)
  • “The Waiting” (#19, 1981)
  • “You Got Lucky” (#20, 1982)
  • “Don’t Come Around Here No More” (#13, 1985)
  • “I Won’t Back Down” (#12, 1989)
  • “Runnin’ Down a Dream” (#23, 1989)
  • “Free Fallin'” (#7, 1989)
  • “Learning to Fly” (#28, 1991)
  • “Mary Jane’s Last Dance” (#14, 1993)
  • “You Don’t Know How It Feels” (#13, 1994)

As you can see, Petty has enjoyed a career of sustained quality, but never been the flavor of the month. However, it’s a measure of the respect in which he’s held by his fellow artists that he was included with the Wilburys, a modest group that included George Harrison, Bob Dylan, Roy Orbison, and ELO’s Jeff Lynne.

Singer: Carrie Underwood

From the time she first auditioned for American Idol, it was clear that Carrie Underwood was destined for stardom. She's won virtually every country music award, and has sold far more albums than any other Idol alum. Uploaded by

One of the cool things about watching Carrie Underwood rise to the highest heights of the country music industry is that those of us who watch American Idol have been able to follow her career since the very beginning. We saw the beautiful girl from Checotah, Oklahoma audition during Season 4, and it was evident from the very first that she was going to be a force. We’ve since learned that she dominated the voting each week, and she was crowned that season’s American Idol.

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Simon Cowell predicted that Underwood would outsell every other Idol, not a terribly bold prediction at the time. But he turned out to be prophetic. Her debut album, Some Hearts, entered the Country chart at number one, and made it to number two on the Billboard 200. Her next two albums made it to number one. She’s had ten singles reach the top of the Country chart, and as of January, 2011 she’s sold 1.6 million more albums than the nearest Idol winner, Kelly Clarkson.

I trust Underwood has a large trophy cabinet, because she’s earned a lot of awards in her short career. Five Grammys, including Best New Artist and Best Female Country Vocal Performance (3x). CMA Female Vocalist of the Year (3x). Academy of Country Music Awards Female Vocalist of the Year (4x) and Entertainer of the Year. And many more awards from Billboard, People’s Choice, CMT, BMI, and others. And here’s the exciting thing for country music fans – she’s done all this, and she just turned 28…

Singers: The Mamas & The Papas


Though they were only together for four years, 1965-68, The Mamas & The Papas had eleven Top 40 hits and a Grammy for Best Vocal Performance. Uploaded by

Popular music was heading down dual tracks in the 1960s. Most of the attention went to the band track, led of course by the Beatles along with the Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, The Who, and others. The second track was the vocal music trend, and I’d put most of Motown (Great American Things, August 9, 2010) in that camp, the Beach Boys (Great American Things, May 16, 2009) – and The Mamas & The Papas. For vocal harmony and fresh arrangements, this group was fresh and unique. When you first heard “California Dreamin'”, you knew you were listening to something special.

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They weren’t the most prolific group in the world, partly because they weren’t together all that long. They recorded as a group from only 1965-68, and released just five albums. Eleven songs hit the top 40. These aren’t particularly impressive statistics. But the quality of the music and the impact they had on future groups is disproportionately large to their output. Their major hits, and their top chart position, included:

  • “California Dreamin'” (1965 – #4)
  • “Monday, Monday” (1966 – #1)
  • “I Saw Her Again” (1966 – #5)
  • “Words of Love” (1966 – #5)
  • “Look Through My Window” (1966 – #24)
  • “Dedicated to the One I Love” (1967 – #2)
  • “Creeque Alley” (1967 – #5)
  • “Twelve-thirty” (1967 – #20)
  • “Dream a Little Dream of Me” (1968 – #12)

The four members of the group (John Phillips, Michelle Phillips, Cass Elliot, Denny Doherty) had complex interpersonal relationships that eventually made staying together problematic. While they were together, though, they earned four Grammy Nominations, and won for “Monday, Monday.”

Singers: The Rascals

The Young Rascals/Rascals had nine songs make the top 20, and three reached number 1 - Good Lovin', Groovin', and People Got to be Free. Uploaded by

Depending on when you first started listening to this band, you may either consider them a frenetic blue-eyed-soul group, or a mellow, almost jazz-influenced pop band. During their eight years together (1965-72), they were both. They even had two names that roughly correspond with their two eras. Initially, the band was The Young Rascals, then became just The Rascals in 1968.

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It was their soulful sound that first caught my attention when I heard “I Ain’t Gonna Eat Out My Heart Anymore,” the band’s first single. Though it only made it to number 53 on the Billboard singles chart, it featured a distinctive sound and the promise of good things to come. Here’s a list of the band’s Top 20 singles, and the highest chart position for each:

  • “Good Lovin'” (1 – 1966)
  • “You Better Run” (20 – 1966)
  • “I’ve Been Lonely Too Long” (16 – 1967)
  • “Groovin'” (1 – 1967)
  • “A Girl Like You” (10 – 1967)
  • “How Can I Be Sure” (4 – 1967)
  • “It’s Wonderful” (20 -1967)
  • “A Beautiful Morning” (3 -1968)
  • “People Got to be Free” (1 – 1968)

The Rascals were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1997. To give you a feel for the group’s blues and mellow periods, here are a couple of videos. The first is a medley of “Mickey’s Monkey” and “Turn on Your Love Light.” Notice the great drumming by Dino Danelli. The second is the huge hit, “People Got to be Free.”

Singers: The Everly Brothers


Only Hall & Oates have more top 40 singles as a vocal duo than the Everly Brothers, who had 26 in the late 50s and early 60s. Uploaded by

It’s no secret that some of the best harmonies in recording history come from family groups. Chief among these are Don and Phil Everly, two Kentucky boys who began singing with their family from the time they were 7 and 5, respectively. Their first recording with Columbia Records was a flop, and the label dropped them. They then were picked up by the new Cadence Records, for whom they recorded most of their hits.

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The Everlys had 26 Billboard Top 40 singles, trailing only Hall and Oates for the most by a vocal duo. Among them (and their highest chart position) were:

  • “Bye Bye Love” (1957, #2)
  • “Wake Up Little Susie” (1957, #1)
  • “All I Have to do Is Dream” (1958, #1)
  • “Bird Dog” (1958, #3)
  • “Devoted to You” (1958, #10)
  • “Till I Kissed You” (1959, #4)
  • “Let It Be Me” (1960, #7)
  • “Cathy’s Clown” (1960, #1)
  • “When Will I Be Loved” (1960, #8)
  • “Walk Right Back” (1961, #7)
  • “Crying in the Rain” (1962, #6

The Everly Brothers influenced many of the most popular groups of the 1960s, including the Beatles. Their legacy is obvious from the Halls of Fame in which they’ve been inducted: Rock and Roll, Country Music, Vocal Group, and Rockabilly. They’ve earned a Lifetime Grammy, and Rolling Stone ranked them number 33 in their list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time.

Singers: Steely Dan


At a time when power guitar bands dominated rock, Steely Dan won fans with a jazzier, smoother rock sound. Uploaded by

Although other members have drifted in and out of the group, Steely Dan is essentially Donald Fagen and Walter Becker. Their music is strongly jazz-influenced, a little more cerebral than most pop, and self-consciously avoids the guitar-driven  rock that has proven to have more crowd appeal. Fagen and Becker don’t seem to mind; they strive for perfection in each song, and their fans would argue they come awfully close to achieving it.

The partners played background (Jay and the Americans), tried songwriting (Barbara Streisand recorded one of their numbers), and finally put together a band. Their first album came out in 1972, and though they’ve had some modest chart success, they’ve earned more of a cult following than mainstream success.

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Some of their top songs include:

  • “Do It Again” (1972)
  • “Reelin’ in the Years” (1973)
  • “My Old School” (1973)
  • “Rikki Don’t Lose That Number” (1974)
  • “Peg” (1977)
  • “Deacon Blues” (1977)
  • “FM” (1978)
  • “Josie” (1978)
  • “Hey Nineteen” (1980)

The guys broke up in 1981, but got back together and recorded again in 1993. One of the albums recorded after their reunion, Two Against Nature, received four Grammy Awards in 2001, including Album of the Year. Steely Dan was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (Great American Things, August 31, 2009) in 2001.

Singer: Jack White

Rolling Stone named him the 17th Greatest Guitar Player of All Time, more for his seeming endless wealth of foot-stomping guitar riffs and searing, almost spastic soloing, than for his technical prowess. Uploaded by

In a rapidly evolving music industry, Jack White, born John Anthony Gillis, has been a ubiquitous presence in the independent music scene, becoming a rock star in a system that no longer creates rock stars.  Between fronting the venerable White Stripes, playing lead guitar and sharing songwriting duties with Brendan Benson in The Raconteurs, and playing drums and singing with The Dead Weather, White’s distinctive style and voice are etched in much of the best rock music of the last 15 years.  When you consider his producer credits (Loretta Lynn, The Greenhornes, Wanda Jackson), the formation of his own record label, Third Man Records, and his steadily increasing film career, the clichéd term “hardest working man in showbiz” seems perfectly applied.

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The rugged, deliberate blues of the White Stripes epitomize White’s hometown of Detroit, but when you explore his songwriting catalog past the bombast of tracks like “Seven Nation Army” and “Icky Thump”, you discover a more nuanced and gifted songwriter.  Deeper cuts like “We’re Gonna Be Friends” and “I Want To Be The Boy” show melody and songwriting chops on-par with the all-time greats.  Rolling Stone named him the 17th Greatest Guitar Player of All Time, more for his seeming endless wealth of foot-stomping guitar riffs and searing, almost spastic soloing, than for his technical prowess.  His axe of choice with the White Stripes is a JB Hutto Montgomery Airlines, a fiberglass and plastic guitar with a hollow body which was sold through Montgomery Ward catalogs in the 1960’s, an odd choice that furthers his legend as a guitarsman.

His captivating brilliance as a live performer is unmistakable no matter which of his bands he’s onstage with.  He attacks each song like a human blowtorch, squeezing every ounce of visceral energy as if he were simultaneously channeling the sad lives of every departed bluesman who ever strummed an E chord.  He twitches, yelps, howls and screams, delivering each line believing he literally can expel his heartbreak through a microphone.

Post written by Quinn Chalkley

Singers: Creedence Clearwater Revival


Characterized by the distinctive voice of John Fogarty, CCR had a string of nine consecutive top-10 hits between 1969 and 1971. Uploaded by

CCR didn’t have a long career – their first single (“Suzie Q”) made the charts in 1968, and they disbanded in 1972. But their lack of longevity was offset by the uniqueness of their sound and their amazing run of hits – nine consecutive top 10 songs from 1969-71.

Their musical genre is often called “swamp rock”, which is ironic considering that the band was from the San Francisco area. Their style was even more remarkable when you remember that San Francisco was ground zero for the

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psychedelic music that took the world by storm in the late 60s. But John Fogerty had a distinctive voice that was perfect for CCR’s music, and was  instantly recognizable on the radio. As his brother Tom said, “I could sing, but John had a sound.”

Creedence Clearwater Revival (a much better name than their original choice, The Golliwogs) received induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (Great American Things, August 31, 2009). The Hall of Fame’s website says this about CCR: “The term “roots rock” had not yet been invented when Creedence came along, but in a real way they defined it…”

Here are CCR’s biggest hits, with the highest position each reached on the Billboard chart. (Note: Creedence should have been more careful about releasing singles. Many of their most famous songs were B-sides.)

“Proud Mary” (2 – b/w “Born on the Bayou”) * “Bad Moon Rising” (2 – b/w “Lodi”) * “Green River” (2) * “Down on the Corner (3 – b/w “Fortunate Son”) * “Travelin’ Band” (2 – b/w “Who’ll Stop the Rain”) * “Up Around the Bend” (4 – b/w “Run Through the Jungle”) * “Lookin’ Out My Back Door” (2 – b/w “Long As I Can See the Light”) * “Have You Ever Seen the Rain” (8 – b/w “Hey Tonight”) * “Sweet Hitch-Hiker” (6)


Music: Johnny Mercer

As a businessman, he co-founded Capitol Records. As a singer, he had a number of hits. But his real strength was songwriting, particularly lyrics, at which he's one of the music industry's all-time best. Uploaded by

This Georgia boy brought a Southern sensibility to popular music in the 1930s-1960s, and became a noted singer as well. Primarily he was a lyricist, writing words for such composers as Hoagy Carmichael, Harold Arlen, Jerome Kern, Henry Mancini and, occasionally, himself.

Mercer first made his mark among the Tin Pan Alley songwriters of New York, but soon realized the future was writing music for films, causing him to move to Hollywood. His songs were recorded by Fred Astaire, Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, and many other prominent singers of that era.

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A partial list of the songs Mercer contributed to the “Great American Songbook” include:

“Goody Goody” (1936) * “I’m an Old Cowhand from the Rio Grande” (1936) * “Hooray for Hollywood” (1937) * “Too Marvelous for Words” (1937) * “You Must Have Been a Beautiful Baby” (1938) * “Jeepers Creepers” (1938) * “And the Angels Sing” (1939) * “Fools Rush In” (1940) * “Blues in the Night” (1941) * “I Remember You” (1941) * “Tangerine” (1941) * “This Time the Dream’s On Me” (1941) * “That Old Black Magic” (1942) * “Skylark” (1942) * “One for My Baby (And One More for the Road)” (1943) * “Dream” (1943) * “Ac-cent-tchu-ate the Positive” (1944) * “Laura” (1945) * “Come Rain or Come Shine” (1946) * “On the Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe” (Academy Award, 1946) * “Autumn Leaves” (1947) * “In the Cool, Cool, Cool of the Evening” (Academy Award, 1951) * “Glow Worm” (1952) * “Something’s Gotta Give” (1954) * “Moon River” (Academy Award, 1964) * “Days of Wine and Roses” (Academy Award, 1964) * “I Wanna Be Around” (1964) * “Summer Wind” (1965)

As if songwriting weren’t enough, Mercer had a successful recording career, and sang with several big bands. And he was a co-founder of Capitol Records. He was nominated for 19 Academy Awards, and won four. He was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1971, and the organization presents an annual songwriting award in his name.

Singer: Loretta Lynn


She's had 11 number one hits, every major award a country singer can win, and a place in the Country Music and Grammy Awards halls of fame. Not bad for a coal miner's daughter. Uploaded by

Imagine growing up in a place called Butcher Holler, being married at age 13, having four children by the age of 19, and then deciding to pursue a music career. That’s an unusual background for success, but it gave Loretta Lynn, the coal miner’s daughter, an authenticity and an ambition that being born to money could never have provided.

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Lynn looked to Patsy Cline (Great American Things, November 16, 2009) as a mentor, and indeed named one of her children Patsy in the legend’s honor. Ironically, Lynn assumed Cline’s place as the leading lady of country music after Cline’s untimely death. Most of Lynn’s early successes were honky-tonk songs, and she had a string of hits in the 60s. In her career, she’s had 47 songs make the top 20 on the Country chart, with an amazing 11 make it all the way to number 1. She also had a dozen top 10 duets with Conway Twitty, the first five of which were also number one hits.

She’s won so many awards it’s not possible to list them here. Among the  highlights: CMA Vocalist of the Year (3x), CMA Entertainer of the Year (1972), Academy of Country Music Awards Top Female Vocalist (4x) and its Entertainer of the Year (1975), the Grammy Awards Hall of Fame, the Country Music Hall of Fame, CMT’s 40 Greatest Women of Country Music (no. 3), and Kennedy Center Honors (2003).

Singer: B.B. King

B.B. King has always been one of the hardest-working musicians in the country, playing an estimated 15,000 shows in his career. Uploaded by

What would the blues be without Riley King? He got his nickname from his time playing on Beale Street in Memphis (Great American Things, January 21, 2010), where he was “Beale Boy” or “B.B.” Today, King owns the popular B.B. King’s Blues Club that anchors that headquarters of the blues — and has other locations in cities from coast to coast.

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During his prime, King was one of the hardest-working musicians in the business, routinely performing 300 or more shows a year. He worked his way up playing the “chitlin‘ circuit,” the smoky blues clubs of the South. One night, two men got into a fight during one of his shows, knocking over kerosene barrels and setting the building on fire. Although two people died in the blaze, King rushed back in to get his favorite guitar. He later learned the two men were fighting over a woman named “Lucille,” and that’s been the name of his world-famous guitar ever since.

Only blues enthusiasts know most of King’s singles, though a few have become popular hits. His signature song is “The Thrill Is Gone,” which earned him the Grammy for Best R&B Vocal Performance, Male in 1971. King is in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, was selected by Rolling Stone as number three on its list of the 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time,” and he has won both the Kennedy Center Honors and the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Singers: The Four Seasons


Franki Vallie and Bob Gaudio are 50-50 partners in The Four Seasons. The other two guys made a nice living, but... Uploaded to Flickr by chaplinatra.

Frankie Valli (or Frankie Tyler, Frankie Nolan, Frankie Valley, Frankie Valle as he was known before The Four Seasons) knew he wanted to be a pop singer. He struggled trying to establish an identity until he met Bob Gaudio, then playing with a group called The Royal Teens. (Old-timers might remember their one hit, “Short Shorts.”) Valli and Gaudio formed a partnership in 1961, and The Four Seasons took off.

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The Four Seasons were one of the few American acts able to still top the charts during the height of the British Invasion. Their popularity peaked in the mid-60s, but they continued to have songs make the charts as late as 1975.

Their Top 10 hits were: “Sherry” (1962, #1) … “Big Girls Don’t Cry” (1962, #1) … “Walk Like a Man” (1963, #1) … “Candy Girl” (1963, #3) … “Dawn” (1964, #3) … “Ronnie” (1964, #6) … “Rag Doll” (1964, #1) … “Save It for Me” (1964, #10) … “Let’s Hang On” (1965, #3) … “Working My Way Back to You” (1966, #9) … “I’ve Got You Under My Skin” (1966, #9) … “Tell It to the Rain” (1966, #10) … “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You” (1967, #2) … “C’mon Marianne” (1967, #9) … “Who Loves You” (1975, #3) … “Oh What a Night” (1975, #1)

The story of the Four Seasons has been successfully retold in the musical Jersey Boys, which won four Tony Awards in 2006, including Best Musical. The Four Seasons were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (Great American Things, August 31, 2009) in 1990.

Singers: The Supremes

They were originally called the no-hit Supremes around Motown because their songs couldn't make the charts. Then came Where Did Our Love Go, and that was that. Uploaded by

Okay, this fact shocked me: The Supremes are America’s most successful vocal group. Not the Beach Boys. Not the Temptations. This “girl group” that was  initially called the “no-hit Supremes” around Motown (Great American Things, August 9, 2010), because none of their first eight singles cracked the Top 40.

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Seeing his group struggling, Berry Gordy made an executive decision. No more sharing the lead vocals, Diana Ross would now be the primary singer. Shortly after that, “Where Did Our Love Go” became the first of twelve Supremes’ songs to make it to number 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.

Here’s a list of all their songs to make the Top 10, with their chart peak:

“Where Did Our Love Go” (1) · “Baby Love” (1) · “Come See About Me” (1) · “Stop! In the Name of Love” (1) · “Back in My Arms Again” (1) · “I Hear a Symphony” (1) · “My World is Empty Without You” (5) · “Love is Like an Itching in My Heart” (9) · “You Can’t Hurry Love” (1) · “You Keep Me Hangin’ On” (1) · “Love is Here and Now You’re Gone” (1) · “The Happening” (1) · “Reflections” (2) · “In and Out of Love” (9) · “Love Child” (1) · “I’m Livin’ in Shame” (10) · “Someday We’ll Be Together” (1) · “Up the Ladder to the Roof” (10) · “Stoned Love” (7)

The history of the Supremes is filled with drama. (See Dreamgirls, loosely based on the group.) There are romances, and alcohol abuse, and rampant ego stroking. Diana Ross eventually left the group to go solo, but that didn’t really affect the group as much as when the songwriting/producing team of Holland-Dozier-Holland (Great American Things, November 15, 2009) left Motown in a contract dispute.

Still, the Supremes’ legacy is a lasting one of great pop/soul music. They’re in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and three of their songs have been added to the Grammy Hall of Fame.

Singer: George Strait

No one, in any genre, on any chart, has more number one songs than George Strait. Uploaded by

He didn’t seek a crossover to rock, as Garth Brooks did. And he didn’t get caught up in his own persona, as Hank Williams, Jr. did. All George Strait has done is continue making pure country records that sell, sell, sell. He is one of the most-beloved of all country music artists.

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Look at these accomplishments: Strait had his first top 10 hit in 1981 (“Unwound”) and has had at least one top 10 hit every year since. He’s had 33 Gold albums, more than any other country singer. And he holds the record for most number one songs in any genre and on any chart – an amazing 57 chart toppers.

Though he’s in his fourth decade in music, his popularity isn’t waning. He had the CMA Album of the Year and Single of the Year in 2008. And he’s nominated for Male Artist of the Year in 2010 and album of the year for Twang.

He’s genuine, and authentic. If you want to know the essence of true country music, get his CD 50 Number Ones. It’s there. It’s all there.

Singer: Linda Ronstadt

Linda Ronstadt tackled the mostly male rock and roll culture of the 1970s, and became one of the biggest stars of the decade. And, by the way, she was quite the babe. Uploaded by

There are those who are just good singers. “Just” isn’t meant to be pejorative; certainly we welcome all the good singers we can find. Heaven knows there are enough bad ones. But the true artists, the people we return to year after year know how to interpret songs. They make us feel them as well as hear them. That’s what I love about Linda Ronstadt.

Ronstadt has excelled in several musical genres. She made her name as a rock singer, but she’s also excelled interpreting standards, in country-rock, in Latin, and in Gilbert and Sullivan on Broadway.

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The first we heard of her on the national stage was with her band The Stone Poneys. They had one top 20 hit, “Different Drum.” She went solo in 1969, and became the leading female pop singer of the 1970s. Her hits included “You’re No Good,” “When Will I Be Loved,” “Heat Wave,” “That’ll Be the Day,” “Blue Bayou,” “It’s So Easy,” “Ooh, Baby Baby,” and “Hurt So Bad.”

She then took what was an unusual leap at the time, recording songs from the Great American Songbook with the Nelson Riddle Orchestra. She recorded three albums – What’s New, Lush Life, and For Sentimental Reasons – that combined to sell more than 7 million copies in the U.S. alone.

Then in 1987 Ronstadt drew upon her family’s Mexican heritage to record the album Canciones di me Padre. Though she was born in Arizona and lived all her life in America, Ronstadt has described herself as a Mexican-American. The album was well received, and achieved double platinum status.

She has won Grammys and an Emmy, and been nominated for a Tony and Golden Globe. Two of her albums were selected among Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. And VH1 had her at number 21 in the 100 Greatest Women of Rock & Roll.

Singer: Sam Cooke

Sam Cooke's first hit was You Send Me, in 1957. His last was A Change Is Gonna Come, released after his death in 1964 at age 33. Uploaded by

Smooth, distinctive, soulful. Words just don’t exist to explain the sound that Sam Cooke brought to rhythm and blues in America. Virtually every major singer of the past 30 years has claimed Sam Cooke as an influence. And once you’ve heard him, you know why.

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As with many African-Americans, Cooke had his roots in gospel music. He performed with the legendary gospel group The Soul Stirrers until he felt the time was right to establish a secular solo career. He recorded one single while still singing gospel, released under the name “Dale Cooke.” As if that voice could be hidden under another name.

Cooke’s first song to make a splash on the Billboard pop chart was “You Send Me.” He went on to release about two dozen songs that made the top 40; even more made the R&B chart. His biggest hits, with their top chart position, included:

“You Send Me” (1, 1957) • “Only Sixteen” (28, 1959) • “Wonderful World” (12, 1960) • “Chain Gang” (2, 1960) • “Cupid” (17, 1961) • “Twistin’ the Night Away” (9, 1962) • “Bring It on Home to Me” (13, 1962) • “Another Saturday Night” (10, 1963) • “A Change Is Gonna Come” (31, 1964) • “Shake” (7, 1964)

The amazing thing about that list is that “A Change Is Gonna Come” (Great American Things, April 7, 2010), one of the greatest songs of the rock and roll era, didn’t even make the top 20 at the time of its release. It came out just after Cooke’s premature death, ruled a “justifiable homicide,” at the age of 33.

Cooke was inducted as a charter member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (Great American Things, August 31, 2009), and was named the fourth greatest singer of all time by Rolling Stone.

Singer: Stevie Wonder

What an incredible career. Thirty top 10 songs. Two albums of the year. Oscar for Best Song. Two halls of fame. Pretty good for a blind kid from Saginaw. Uploaded by

Who has won more Grammy Awards than any other male solo artist? Why, that’s right, it’s Stevie Wonder. It’s amazing that you knew that! What gave it away?

Stevland Morris recently celebrated his 60th birthday. He began recording for Motown at the age of 11. During that 49-year (so far) career, he’s had more than 30 top ten hits (pop/R&B charts), and won 22 Grammys. That’s pretty good for the third child of Calvin Judkins and Lula Mae Hardaway, born blind in Saginaw, Michigan.

He was dubbed “Little Stevie Wonder” by Motown impresario Berry Gordy, Jr. when he signed his first contract at age 11. He had his first hit, “Fingertips, Part 2” (recorded live) the following year. Before he turned 16 he’d co-written a chart smash (“The Tears of a Clown”) with Smokey Robinson, and he was skilled not just at harmonica, but also on piano, organ, and drums.

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Stevie Wonder’s career has featured one hit single after another, one powerful album after another. Two of his albums, Innervisions and Songs in the Key of Life received the Grammy for Best Album of the Year. He’s won an Academy Award for Song of the Year. He is in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the Songwriters Hall of Fame, and he has a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. Here are the Stevie Wonder songs that reached the top 10 on the pop chart:

1963: “Fingertips, Part 2” • 1966: “Uptight (Everything’s Alright)”, “Blowin’ in the Wind”, “Place in the Sun” • 1967: “I Was Made to Love Her” • 1968: “For Once in My Life”, “Shoo-Be-Doo-Be-Doo-Da-Day” • 1969: “My Cherie Amour”, “Yester-Me, Yester-You, Yesterday” • 1970: “Signed, Sealed, Delivered, I’m Yours”, “Heaven Help Us All” • 1971: “If You Really Love Me” • 1972: “Superstition” • 1973: “You Are the Sunshine of My Life”, “Higher Ground”, “Living for the City” • 1974: “You Haven’t Done Nothin'”, “Boogie On, Reggae Woman” • 1977: “I Wish”, “Sir Duke” • 1979: “Send One Your Love” • 1980: “Master Blaster” • 1981: “Happy Birthday”, “That Girl” • 1982: “Do I Do”, “Ebony and Ivory” • 1984: “I Just Called to Say I Love You” • 1985 “Part-time Lover” • 1986: “Go Home”

Singers: The Eagles

The Eagles have the second-best-selling album of all time -- Greatest Hits 1971-1974 -- and another, Hotel California, in the top 20. Uploaded by

Someone may point out an exception that hasn’t occurred to me, but to the best of my recollection, The Eagles have never recorded a bad song. This group that began as a backup band for Linda Ronstadt is one of the most talented and most successful of the rock era.

Certainly, the music-buying public has given its hearty approval. The Eagles have had five number one singles and six number one albums. Two of their albums (Their Greatest Hits [1971-1975] and Hotel California) are among the twenty best-selling of all time. Their Greatest Hits (1971-1975) ranks as the number two album of all-time, behind Michael Jackson’s Thriller.

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The Eagles found a perfect country-rock sound in their earliest music, with songs like “Peaceful Easy Feeling” and “Take It Easy.” The band at that time consisted of Glenn Frey, Don Henley, Bernie Leadon, and Randy Meisner. Don Felder joined the band for the On the Border album in 1974. That coincided with the group’s trending toward rock and away from country, which caused a disillusioned Leadon to quit. Joe Walsh, formerly of The James Gang, took his place.

The Eagles have had more than their share of infighting during their history. The band broke up for 14 years, but reunited for the “Hell Freezes Over” tour in 1994. Today’s Eagles are Frey, Henley, Walsh, and Timothy B. Schmidt.

The Eagles hits that made the top twenty (with their highest position on the Billboard chart) are:
“Take It Easy” (12) • “Witchy Woman” (9) • “Best of My Love” (1) • “One of These Nights” (1) • “Lyin’ Eyes” (2) • “Take It to the Limit” (4) • “New Kid in Town” (1) • “Hotel California” (1) • “Life in the Fast Lane” (11) • “Please Come Home for Christmas” (18) • “Heartache Tonight” (1) • “The Long Run” (8) • “I Can’t Tell You Why” (8)