I’ve been told by fellow DJs on the soul scene, quite derisively sometimes, that the soul music that I spin is too *sweet.* Not Funky, nitty or gritty, I tend towards pretty melodies, and… frankly, string sections. Violins? Cellos? Upright Bass? Why?!?!
As I try to lean back into live DJing in a new town, I’ve had to also get acquainted with a theme of music I love. And that frankly in an activity (Vinyl DJing and record collecting) it’s fair to push back against the standards established by mostly white, mostly heterosexual, mostly CIS gendered men. As is the norm in American Society, still, for reasons unreasonable to me.
There is a lack of history and understanding for many artists of color, that having a record with gossamer strings in their discography was once a trading card in a world that only gave African – Americans some semblance of respectability politics on vinyl as a credit line to better nightclub gigs and recording contracts.
I start this collection of sweet, swinging soul with Dinah Washington, who was accused of selling out when her string laden cross-over smash “What A Diff’rence A Day Makes” landed in the Pop and R&B Top 10 in 1959. In actuality Washington’s discography included lush strings since the early 1950’s. As a pioneer of R&B and one of the first women to take ownership of both her songcraft and finances, I’m pretty sure The Queen loved bathing in strings in the studio and on stage.
With that, I take you on a 90+ minute journey of soulful strings. Some tracks blare the presence right away, some float in, some surprise you in the middle of the proceedings. I hope you find delight throughout.
2) Caterina Valente – Full Moon & Empty Arms