Here we are at Spring Equinox, and the beginning of the Astrological New Year. If you’ve been paying attention, I started this little Astro-DJ experiment last Spring with the sign of Taurus. I hadn’t intentionally thought of continuing it through all 12 signs. By the time I got to Gemini and Cancer I started linking it up better to Soulful Astrological moments before completely switching it over to sign tribute by the time, of course, we got to Leo.
In that process I totally overlooked our fire (and allergy) starter, Aries. The sign of the Ram finally gets their due as things start to bloom anew. In the heart of this Venus Retrograde in Aries, it seems the appropriate thing to do.
Counter to the typical Aries narrative however, I start off by featuring our most fierce of fire sign vocalists in softer settings, in like a lamb if you will. Ballads dominate the earlier part of the playlist before we get into the true ass shakers that we’d expect out of a bevy of impatient belters.
We’ve got gems from R&B, Jazz and Blue Eyed bosses from both sides of the pond. Alongside the obvious like Diana Ross, Aretha, Marvin and Dusty, we have oft forgotten Rams like Nicholas Caldwell of The Whispers, Bobby Smith of The Spinners and cousin of Sam Cooke, Carolyn, before she went onto Disco fame as Carol Douglas.
Relax then fire up, you’re in for the best of Springtimes.
1) Marvin Gaye – Love’s More Precious Than Gold (1963)
Marvin Pentz Gay Jr., the crown’d prince of Motown Records, was born April 2, 1939.
2) Aretha Franklin – I Surrender Dear (1962)
Aretha Louise Franklin, none other than the Queen of Soul was born March 25, 1942
3) Billy Stewart – Strange Feeling (1963)
A D.C. native like Gaye, William Larry Stewart II gave us soulful body positivity before there was such a thing. He was born March 24, 1937.
4) The Supremes – You’re Gonna Come To Me (1963)
The Boss. I.E. Miss Ross. You’re best to call her that instead of *DIANE* Earnestine Earle Ross. Her birthday is March 26, 1944.
5) Major Lance – You Belong To Me My Love (1965)
A Majorly underrated soul singer that oft benefitted from the brilliance of Curtis Mayfield, Major Lance was born April 4, 1939* (year disputed).
6) Dusty Springfield – I Wish I Never Loved You (1964)
Mary Isobel Catherine Bernadette O’Brien did what a number of us Queer folks do: rise above our confines to redefine ourselves. She did so as Blue Eyed Soul Chanteuse Dusty Springfield at the end of the 1950’s. Dusty was born April 16, 1939.
7) Sarah Vaughan – Separate Ways (1959)
Although she’s one of the most beloved Jazz singers of all time, Sassy didn’t shy away from being contemporary to popular music trends for the bulk of her career. We’ll see her dabble in contemporary uptown soul, dance music and camp as we honor Sarah Lois Vaughan, who was born March 27, 1924.
8) Carmen McRae – Big Town (1960)
Like Vaughan, Carmen Mercedes McRae wasn’t one to let trends and styles pass her by. Her distinct voice and choice of phrasing kept her fresh with audiences throughout her 50+ year career. She was born April 8, 1922.
9) The Whispers – Take A Lesson From The Teacher (1966)
The Whispers legacy goes far back before their 1970’s-80’s heyday. Singer Nicholas Caldwell was there from the beginning, and was born April 5, 1944.
10) Ruby Johnson – Let Me Apologize (1965)
Ruby Johnson is possibly the most unheralded of all Stax Soulful Sisters, but her career extended far before the label as well. One of the finest belters assigned to the label, She was born April 19, 1936.
11) Al Green – Back Up Train (1967)
Sinner and Sanctified, Reverend Al has been giving up soul for more than 50 years. Albert Leornes Greene was born April 13, 1946.
12) Aretha Franklin – I Can’t Wait Until I See My Baby’s Face (1965)
13) Tony Orlando – She Doesn’t Know (1964)
Long linked to R&B trends, it’s oft forgot that Tony Orlando started as a one man Drifters Teen Idol hybrid giving you Frankie Avalon meets Ben E. King realness with hits like “Halfway To Paradise” and “Bless You.” Michael Anthony Orlando Cassavitis was born April 3, 1944.
14) The Supremes – Send Me No Flowers (1964)
15) The Spinners – Too Young, Too Much, Too Soon (1962)
The Spinners had 2 Ram Ready front men, but heading up the vast amount of their 60’s hit records was Robert “Bobby” Smith, who was with the group for 59 years up to his death. He was born April 10, 1936.
16) Solomon Burke – (Won’t You Give Him) One More Chance (1964)
Surely sanctified and deserving of so much more praise, The Bishop of Soul was born James Solomon McDonald on March 21, 1940.
17) Dusty Springfield – He’s Got Something (1964)
18) Major Lance – Rhythm (1964)
19) Sarah Vaughan – Dominique’s Discotheque (1965)
20) Aretha Franklin – Soulville (1964)
21) Don Covay – Sookie, Sookie (1966)
What I’ll really have to do is do a retrospective of all the gems Don Covay gave to other people while still occassionally churning out hit records for himself. His influence on all corners of R&B is something to marvel at. Donald James Randolph was born March 24, 1936.
22) Ruby Johnson – Weakspot (1966)
23) Rufus Thomas – Willy Nilly (1965)
“The World’s Oldest Teenager” is the best title for this titular figure of Memphis Soul. Rufus C. Thomas Jr. started off recording in the 1940’s alongside being a pionner Disc Jockey for WDIA and a newspaper columnist while raising a family of musicians in the form of Carla, Vaneese and Marvell Thomas. He was born March 26, 1917.
24) Marvin Gaye – Just Like A Man (1964)
25) Sarah Vaughan – Theme from Peter Gunn (Bye Baby) (1965)
26) The Spinners – Like A Good Man Should (1964)
27) Carolyn Cooke – I Don’t Mind (1965)
Using her famous cousin, Sam Cooke’s last name to get a boost, her teen pregnancy prevented her career from taking off in the 1960’s. She re-emerged as a influential Disco artist in the 1970’s. Carol Douglas was born April 7, 1948.
28) Diana Ross & The Supremes – Then (1968)
29) Solomon Burke – Keep Lookin’ (1966)
30) Dusty Springfield – Won’t Be Long (1965)
31) Goldie & The Gingerbreads – That’s Why I Love You (1965)
Genya “Goldie” Zelkowitz-Ravan fronted one of the first all female bands (vocalists and instrumentalists) to get a major record deal. Although it didn’t translate into big hits, it established Goldie as a pioneer regardless of what she chose to do. She was born Genyusha Zelkovicz on April 19, 1940.
32) Carmen McRae – Elusive Butterfly (1969)