Original v. Cover — #61 in a Series

Dalai Lama Pictures, Images and Photos

This week’s selection was written in 1967 by the song’s producers, Isaac Hayes and David Porter, and performed by the most successful soul duo in history.  The song was inspired by the turbulence of the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s, and more particularly, after Hayes observed the news coverage of the July 1967 12th Street Riot in Detroit.  He noted that the locations spared in the riots were primarily African-American owned and operated businesses.  The word “Soul” was prominently displayed on the exteriors of those buildings and recalled the Biblical story of the Passover.  

This song was the most successful release yet for the Memphis-based Stax label, peaking at #1 on the Billboard Hot Black Singles chart and topping out at #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the United States in the autumn of 1967.  The single reached the coveted #1 spot on the Cashbox charts on November 11, 1967.  The recording duo was awarded the 1968 Grammy Award for Best Rhythm & Blues Group performance, Vocal or Instrumental.  

During the song, the exclamation, “Play it, Steve” referred to guitarist Steve Cropper of the Booker T. & the MGs, the Stax house band, who provided backing instrumentation for the duo’s songs and later for studio cover versions recorded by the Blues Brothers. The Stax horn section, aka the Mar-Keys, were an extremely valuable resource as well. The house band also provided backing instrumentation, ala the Funk Brothers at Motown, for such luminaries as Otis Redding, Wilson Pickett, Eddie Floyd, the Bar-Keys, and Albert King.  

There were two versions of the song recorded, one of which begins with a trilling roll, an emphatic drum kick and a more enthusiastic vocal intro, beginning with “Comin’ to you…”  The other version, which does not include the three previous elements is the one far more commonly heard.  

The Georgia-born duo performed together from 1961 to 1981 and was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, the Grammy Hall of Fame, the Vocal Group Hall of Fame, were Grammy award recipients, and scored numerous gold records.  They were credited with bringing the music of the black gospel church into the pop music mainstream, particularly with their call and response recordings.  

During the duo’s heyday from 1965-1968 no other artist or group, other than Aretha Franklin, were as consistently successful in placing songs on the R&B charts, which included 10 consecutive Top 20 singles and three consecutive Top 10 LPs.  Their songs also achieved thirteen consecutive appearances on the crossover charts, of which two were Top 10 hits.  Their work was an important catalyst leading to the eventual acceptance of soul music by white audiences.  

The duo was also referred to as “Double Dynamite”, “The Sultans of Sweat” and “The Dynamic Duo.”  They cited Jackie Wilson and Sam Cooke as two of their primary influences and in turn, impacted the work of artists such as Bruce Springsteen, Al Green, Phil Collins, Elvis Costello, Michael Jackson, Teddy Pendergrass, Billy Joel and Steve Winwood.

Beginning in 1979, the Blues Brothers, also borrowing extensively from this duo, helped to reintroduce soul, R&B and blues music into the pop mainstream.  In fact, their biggest hit, which reached #14 on the Billboard Hot 100 charts in 1979, was their cover of this week’s selection.  

This duo had a stormy, tumultuous relationship, and allegedly did not speak to each other offstage for nearly thirteen years. It was reported that the two never spoke to each other again after their final performance together on the evening of December 31, 1981.

Ironically, the last two single releases in 1977 by this duo, in chronological order, were a cover version of the Beatles’ “We Can Work It Out”, followed by their final single release, “Why Did You Do It?”  

Having now exhausted all available cues, without further ado, this week’s selection is the #2 megahit by Sam & Dave from 1967, their first Gold Record, entitled, “Soul Man.”  

“Soul Man” received Grammy recognition in 1999 as one of the most influential songs of the past fifty years, when the song was also inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.  

Here is a live performance of “Soul Man” by Sam and Dave at the Helsinki Culture House in Finland 1967.

Ramsey Lewis had a Top Ten hit in the late summer of 1965, “The In Crowd”, which peaked at the #5 position. Here is a 1967 cover version of “Soul Man”…

Here is a cover version from the 1967 album by the Chicago-based psychedelic soul band,”Rotary Connection”…

The American funk and disco Fatback Band (1973) turn in a lively, upbeat version…

James Brown band member “Sweet” Charles Sherrell included his cover version of “Soul Man” on 1974 debut solo album “Sweet Charles: For Sweet People.”  He appears here in a live television performance in 1974, transforming the mood of the song by performing it in a minor key…

The Blues Brothers’ cover version of “Soul Man” would become their greatest hit, first appearing on the Billboard Top 40 charts on January 6, 1979, peaking at the #14 position.  Here is an earlier performance during an episode of “Saturday Night Live” from late November, 1978.  

The 1986 cover version by Sam Moore & Lou Reed was included on the soundtrack to the comedy film, “Soul Man.”

In 2004, the comedy duo of Drake Bell and Josh Peck performed a parody version of the Blues Brothers’ rendition of “Soul Man” on their sitcom, “Drake and Josh”, in an episode entitled, “Blues Brothers.”  The song was included on the show’s soundtrack, released in 2005. The video quality is lacking, but the sound quality is pretty good…

English tenor Russell Watson is known as the “People’s Tenor”, having first performed in a working men’s club. Watson’s most recent album, “La Voce” was released on November 22, 2010, his first album since overcoming brain cancer.  Here is his cover version of “Soul Man” from November 17, 2008…

Australian singer Guy Sebastian covered “Soul Man” on his fourth album, entitled, “The Memphis Album”, which featured Steve Cropper and Donald “Duck” Dunn, two musicians who performed on the original 1967 recording with Sam & Dave more than forty years earlier.  The two were also members of the Blues Brothers’ band.

Here Sebastian performs with the Australian Army Band at Castle Hill in November, 2008.  

Here is a cover version by Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductee Isaac Hayes, the keyboardist, songwriter, and singer who co-wrote the song “Soul Man” with David Porter. His most successful hit as a performer was released in 1971, “The Theme from Shaft”, which peaked at #1. Posted August 3, 2008…

Bruce Springsteen performs a medley with Sam Moore of “Hold On”, followed by “Soul Man” at Madison Square Garden in NYC on October 29/30, 2009…

Is the Pony/Pie/Hide rating system too cutsie?

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  1. Here are a few more cover versions from the cutting room floor…

    Eddie Floyd performs with Booker T & the MG’s at the Stax party at Antone’s in Austin, Texas during SXSW in 2007…

    Steve Cropper (who co-wrote the song) performs with the Animals at the Colne Blues Festival on August25, 2008…

    Hard-core right winger Ted Nugent, formerly with the Amboy Dukes, contended in 1977 that he didn’t attempt to avoid the draft during the Vietnam years, but instead had a student deferment.  Shades of Dick (“Five Deferments”) Cheney?  Here Nugent performs “Soul Man” at the House of Blues in Orlando, Florida on June 26, 2010…

  2. It seems that sometime in the past 24 hours, the embed codes for Youtube videos now start with a < sign followed by iframe, then the remainder of the code.  Before the embed codes began with the < sign, followed by objectwidth=…”

    I had a couple of followup comments with videos by Sam & Dave, Booker T. & the MGs and the Mar-Keys, but I keep receiving an error code whenever I try to post one.  I’ve tried a number of different versions of each video, but they now all begin with “<” followed by “iframe…” now, a format that Soapblox seems to reject.  In fact, when I put the “<” sign and “iframe” together as they are in the embed code, this website rejected that designation even in this comment.

    Anyone know of any remedies?

    If not, posting Youtube videos on Docudharma may become a relic of the past.

    Might this be a symptom of our post-Net Neutrality world?

    • TMC on January 22, 2011 at 4:50 am

  3. After doing some sleuthing on the web, I think I’ve found the answer to the previously referenced problem.  When you click on the “Embed” option on Youtube, one of three boxes below provides you with the option to check the box that states, “Use old embed code.”

    Apparently, the new embed codes are more amenable to downloading on mobile devices.  After checking the box on one video, it seems that when checking other videos, the box remains checked, which is much better than having to take an additional step for each video.

    The hit song, “Hold On, I’m Comin'” was Sam & Dave’s first Top 40 hit, peaking at #1 on the R&B charts and #21 on the Top 40 pop charts.  The song was named the #1 song of the year in 1966 by Billboard magazine, and spent 20 weeks on the charts, where it reached the #1 slot in June, 1966.

    In 1988, Rolling Stone magazine designated it was one of the 100 best songs of the preceding 25 years. The single earned the Gold Record award for one million in sales in 1995, 29 years following its release.

    The tenor, Sam Moore sang the first verse as a solo. David Prater, baritone, with his deeper, grittier voice, was given the response role. Prater then took the lead on the second verse.  

    Speaking of humble beginnings, the song was reportedly the result of songwriter Isaac Hayes calling out to David Porter, who was in the bathroom.  Porter then responded with, “Hold on, man. I’m comin'” and as they say, the rest is history.  The song was reportedly written in ten minutes’ time.  

    Who would have thought that a simple trip to the john could end up being so lucrative?

    Perhaps we’ve discovered a new cure for writer’s block?

    Sam & Dave’s next R&B hit was “When Something is Wrong With My Baby”, their only ballad single, released in January of 1967. According to wikipedia, “…Stax author Rob Bowman called this ‘One of the most sublime records in soul music’s history’, and Mar-Keys trumpet player Wayne Jackson called it the greatest song he has ever heard…”  

    This was the only song on which Dave Prater sang the first verse solo.  In all other cases, either Sam Moore sang the first verse alone, or the two sang in harmony.

    The first single for Sam & Dave in 1968 was the gospel-inspired “I Thank You”, which peaked at #4 on the R&B charts and #9 on the pop charts.  

    Critics at the time contended that the “B” side, “Wrap It Up” could have been a successful single in its own right.  Indeed, the Fabulous Thunderbirds enjoyed considerable success with their recording of “Wrap It Up.”

    “I Thank You” would be Sam & Dave’s last single under the Stax label. Their work would be released under the Atlantic Records label from that point forward.

    “I Thank You” sold more than a million copies, earning it the Gold Record designation.

    Sam & Dave’s first 1968 single for Atlantic was “You Don’t Know What You Mean To Me”, written by Eddie Floyd and Steve Cropper.  Sam & Dave claimed that this was their favorite song, despite its moderate success (#48 on the pop charts and #19 on the R&B charts).

  4. After doing some sleuthing on the web, I think I’ve found the answer to the previously referenced problem.  When you click on the “Embed” option on Youtube, one of three boxes below provides you with the option to check the box that states, “Use old embed code.”

    Apparently, the new embed codes are more amenable to downloading on mobile devices.  After checking the box on one video, it seems that when checking other videos, the box remains checked, which is much better than having to take an additional step for each video.

    The hit song, “Hold On, I’m Comin'” was Sam & Dave’s first Top 40 hit, peaking at #1 on the R&B charts and #21 on the Top 40 pop charts.  The song was named the #1 song of the year in 1966 by Billboard magazine, and spent 20 weeks on the charts, where it reached the #1 slot in June, 1966.

    In 1988, Rolling Stone magazine designated it was one of the 100 best songs of the preceding 25 years. The single earned the Gold Record award for one million in sales in 1995, 29 years following its release.

    The tenor, Sam Moore sang the first verse as a solo. David Prater, baritone, with his deeper, grittier voice, was given the response role. Prater then took the lead on the second verse.  

    Speaking of humble beginnings, the song was reportedly the result of songwriter Isaac Hayes calling out to David Porter, who was in the bathroom.  Porter then responded with, “Hold on, man. I’m comin'” and as they say, the rest is history.  The song was reportedly written in ten minutes’ time.  

    Who would have thought that a simple trip to the john could end up being so lucrative?

    Perhaps we’ve discovered a new cure for writer’s block?

    Sam & Dave’s next R&B hit was “When Something is Wrong With My Baby”, their only ballad single, released in January of 1967. According to wikipedia, “…Stax author Rob Bowman called this ‘One of the most sublime records in soul music’s history’, and Mar-Keys trumpet player Wayne Jackson called it the greatest song he has ever heard…”  

    This was the only song on which Dave Prater sang the first verse solo.  In all other cases, either Sam Moore sang the first verse alone, or the two sang in harmony.

    The first single for Sam & Dave in 1968 was the gospel-inspired “I Thank You”, which peaked at #4 on the R&B charts and #9 on the pop charts.  

    Critics at the time contended that the “B” side, “Wrap It Up” could have been a successful single in its own right.  Indeed, the Fabulous Thunderbirds enjoyed considerable success with their recording of “Wrap It Up.”

    “I Thank You” would be Sam & Dave’s last single under the Stax label. Their work would be released under the Atlantic Records label from that point forward.

    “I Thank You” sold more than a million copies, earning it the Gold Record designation.

    Sam & Dave’s first 1968 single for Atlantic was “You Don’t Know What You Mean To Me”, written by Eddie Floyd and Steve Cropper.  Sam & Dave claimed that this was their favorite song, despite its moderate success (#48 on the pop charts and #19 on the R&B charts).

  5. After doing some sleuthing on the web, I think I’ve found the answer to the previously referenced problem.  When you click on the “Embed” option on Youtube, one of three boxes below provides you with the option to check the box that states, “Use old embed code.”

    Apparently, the new embed codes are more amenable to downloading on mobile devices.  After checking the box on one video, it seems that when checking other videos, the box remains checked, which is much better than having to take an additional step for each video.

    The hit song, “Hold On, I’m Comin'” was Sam & Dave’s first Top 40 hit, peaking at #1 on the R&B charts and #21 on the Top 40 pop charts.  The song was named the #1 song of the year in 1966 by Billboard magazine, and spent 20 weeks on the charts, where it reached the #1 slot in June, 1966.

    In 1988, Rolling Stone magazine designated it was one of the 100 best songs of the preceding 25 years. The single earned the Gold Record award for one million in sales in 1995, 29 years following its release.

    The tenor, Sam Moore sang the first verse as a solo. David Prater, baritone, with his deeper, grittier voice, was given the response role. Prater then took the lead on the second verse.  

    Speaking of humble beginnings, the song was reportedly the result of songwriter Isaac Hayes calling out to David Porter, who was in the bathroom.  Porter then responded with, “Hold on, man. I’m comin'” and as they say, the rest is history.  The song was reportedly written in ten minutes’ time.  

    Who would have thought that a simple trip to the john could end up being so lucrative?

    Perhaps we’ve discovered a new cure for writer’s block?

    Sam & Dave’s next R&B hit was “When Something is Wrong With My Baby”, their only ballad single, released in January of 1967. According to wikipedia, “…Stax author Rob Bowman called this ‘One of the most sublime records in soul music’s history’, and Mar-Keys trumpet player Wayne Jackson called it the greatest song he has ever heard…”  

    This was the only song on which Dave Prater sang the first verse solo.  In all other cases, either Sam Moore sang the first verse alone, or the two sang in harmony.

    The first single for Sam & Dave in 1968 was the gospel-inspired “I Thank You”, which peaked at #4 on the R&B charts and #9 on the pop charts.  

    Critics at the time contended that the “B” side, “Wrap It Up” could have been a successful single in its own right.  Indeed, the Fabulous Thunderbirds enjoyed considerable success with their recording of “Wrap It Up.”

    “I Thank You” would be Sam & Dave’s last single under the Stax label. Their work would be released under the Atlantic Records label from that point forward.

    “I Thank You” sold more than a million copies, earning it the Gold Record designation.

    Sam & Dave’s first 1968 single for Atlantic was “You Don’t Know What You Mean To Me”, written by Eddie Floyd and Steve Cropper.  Sam & Dave claimed that this was their favorite song, despite its moderate success (#48 on the pop charts and #19 on the R&B charts).

  6. Still can’t get the iframe version of Youtube videos to work, but by checking on the “Use old embed code” option, that seems to do the trick.

    Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees Booker  T & the MGs turned out some great music, of particular interest to fans of the Hammond B-3 sound.  

    “Green Onions” was their first and greatest hit, making its initial appearance on the Billboard Top 40 charts on September 1, 1962, peaking at the #3 position.  If any of you have seen the film “American Graffiti”, this song provided background music during the lead up to a drag race near the end of the film, between Paul LeMat, accompanied by passenger Mackenzie Phillips and a youthful Harrison Ford along with “co-pilot” Cindy Williams.  

    “Hang ‘Em High” first appeared on the Top 40 charts at the close of 1968, and would become a #9 hit for the group.  This was one of the first songs the curmudgeon learned to play by ear on keyboards, after several years of traditional instruction.  

    The group’s last Top 10 hit was “Time Is Tight”, which peaked at #6 in 1968…

    The Mar-Keys, represented in the Musician’s Hall of Fame, were the Stax house band horn section, backed by musicians who were part of their sibling, Booker T & the MGs. They had one Top 40 hit, “Last Night”, which peaked at #3 in 1961…

  7. Green Onions, a favorite of mine since I first heard it, is memorable not only for the Hammond but for the sparse guitar playing.

    In the first half minute you only hear strummed chords on the beat, then again later in the song as short lead bursts.

    I always liked this tune.

    It reminds me of The Lovin` Spoonful playing Night Owl Blues.

    It doesn`t want to embed but here`s the link.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v

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