One of the big questions in the 1960s was “Can white men play the Blues?”, beautifully parodied by the Bonzo Dog Band.
However, by the end of the decade the next big thing wasn’t so much as the authenticity of white people doing blues music. It was a phenomenon that came to be known as Blue-Eyed Soul. OK, so white musicians had been covering soul and R ‘n’ B songs for the previous decade or so and the influence of Motown in particular was massive.
What we had in the ’70s was a bit different though. It was a conscious thing, a kind of White Soul Boom to mirror the ’60s Blues Boom. Plenty of people jumped onto the bandwagon but there were those whose music was rooted in soul, Hall and Oates had been backing singers in the Philadelpha Soul scene, Van Morrison had long been using black music as a stepping off point and, in a reverse cross-over, Seals and Crofts were responsible for writing one of The Isley’s biggest hits, Summer Breeze.
The sound of Blue-Eyed Soul in my mind is closely linked with big wide flared denims, the smell of Charlie (the perfume! Naughty people), bubble perms, platform soles and that time between the end of glam and the start of punk. It was HUGE in the mid 1970s, before disco came along and even David Bowie turned his hand to some soul grooves on his Young Americans album. Some quite unlikely people turned to soul, the feverish preppy, art school punk of Talking Heads took a turn towards the funk after their first album and, without blue-eyed soul as a forerunner, a lot of ’80s music might not have happened.
Anyway, here are some of my favourites;
Boz Scaggs – What Can I say
The Doobie Brothers – What A Fool Believes
Kokomo – I Can Understand It
Talking Heads – Take Me To The River
Hall and Oates – Sara Smile
Laura Nyro – Stoned Soul Picnic
Seals and Crofts – Diamond Girl
Todd Rundgren – I Saw The Light
Van Morrison – Domino
Average White Band – Work To Do