Playing Favorites: A Top 40 Selection of Your DJ’s Favorite Singers

Here we are, winding down the mixes and the decade that brought them to life. For the penultimate mix in the old format, we’re gonna go with voices that have brought me the most joy over the years. In our current world, people aren’t really allowed to ‘play favorites.’

I’m sorry. But not. I do.

If it weren’t for these for these voices included here, I wouldn’t have been inspired to share this wonderful music in the first place. I wouldn’t have a sense of envy at the way they blend and bend words common along common themes of humanity with passion and oft perfection within their imperfections. All of them somehow teach us more about the human condition than we understood before.

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As a person that loves the midcentury, we sprightly start the proceedings in the upper half of the 1950’s and end in the early 70’s, as tends to be my interest in music. I sadly didn’t know how to cull the list to include voices from my immediate childhood in the 80’s and 90’s.

gettyimages-503901962As shown before however, plenty of the voices I cherished as a kid were still making massive hits during my childhood. Diana Ross, The Temptations, Gladys Knight, Patti Austin & Dionne Warwick were still scoring Top 40 hits during my childhood. Not far behind were people like Martha Reeves, Gladys Horton, Mary Wilson and Della Reese still making appearances all over television and film. We’re also still lucky to have a number of them gracing the stages and touring regularly even as I approach 40 years old. It’s logical that I would be enthusiastic about their lengthy careers, and come to know their sterling peers.

I didn’t rank them in any way. I am a Gemini with a Sagittarius Moon after all. Ask me for a favorite one day, you’ll get one answer. Ask tomorrow get another and in 3 weeks I’m like this one person partnered with others. I’m not a “They Have The Range” type either. Although this mix features, as all of the mixes I’ve done over 4 years, prominently CISgender women, not all of them are belters (tho a good number of them are).  For example, I still love The Supremes at their 3 part harmony best, Mary Wilson’s tugboat Alto and Florence Ballard’s vinegary Soprano making a beautiful hammock for Diana Ross’s girlish, slightly aloof musings of Holland Dozier Holland lyrics.

5e62b5e55d5b39683e9099f22e47e138I like the gentlemanly statesmanship of original Temptations Frontman Paul Williams over Eddie Kendricks’s admittedly swoonworthy Falsetto; my favorite Falsetto still being a dead heat between Little Anthony Gourdine’s yelp and strive to match William “Poogie” Hart’s falsetto in karaoke settings across the globe. There’s so many ways these folks knew (or still know) how to light a candle without a match, and I’m forever gonna marvel at their ability to do so.

Kim Weston is my Barbra Streisand, and still an activist for the arts as she approaches 80 years old. Martha Reeves in a class all her own, being an ambassador for The Sound Of Young America nearly 60 years after being one of the primary speech givers and after years of investment in community building on stage and off.  Queer legends Dusty, Lesley and Ronnie taught me more about loading desire into the cracks and crevices of understanding before I really understood what it meant to love as someone outside the boundaries of extreme conformity.

I do have to say, there’s favorites here that I’ve had to contend with the artist versus the person. People would definitely question me leaving off Sam Cooke and Marvin Gaye, but I can’t help but think about the privilege of their handsome looks allowing them to sexually assault women. It’s a reason why childhood favorite Jackie Wilson isn’t on this list. It’s definitely why I can’t bring myself to listen to Dee Dee Warwick at all unless she’s doing background vocals.

Time teaches you that the pain that you identified with in some music comes from very dark, visceral places. So much so that it becomes harder, as you seek out more joy, to find the ability to remove the harm the very real human caused others while creating beautiful art.

It’s been a decade of learning and reflecting on art being the primary teacher of how I connect with the world around me. Be it people, place or time, a tune and an image really ground me to where I am, where I’ve been and where I’m going. As I start to close out this particular run of the journey, I thank these voices for continually giving me life, and for y’all for coming along for the ride.

  1. Dinah Washington – Soft Winds
  2. Blossom Dearie – Rhode Island Is Famous For You
  3. Barbara McNair – What A Day
  4. Nancy Wilson – When Sunny Gets Blue
  5. Lou Johnson – Thank You Anyway, Mr. DJ
  6. Chuck Jackson – I Wake Up Crying
  7. Sylvia Shemwell – Funny What Time Can Do
  8. Jerry Butler – Moon River
  9. Dionne Warwick – I Smiled Yesterday
  10. The Shirelles – What Does A Girl Do?
  11. Judy Clay – Do You Think That’s Right?
  12. Mitty Collier – Pain
  13. Martha & The Vandellas – In My Lonely Room
  14. The Four Tops – Where Did You Go?
  15. The Supremes – The Only Time I’m Happy
  16. Patti Austin – I Wanna Be Loved
  17. Dusty Springfield – Some Of Your Lovin’
  18. Clydie King – Missing My Baby
  19. Della Reese – A Hundred Years From Today
  20. The Dells – The Change We Go Thru For Love
  21. Walter Jackson – My Ship Has Come In
  22. The Marvelettes – Keep Off, No Trespassing
  23. Little Anthony & The Imperials – Gonna Fix You Good
  24. Marie Knight – You Lie So Well
  25. Lesley Gore – Brink of Disaster 
  26. The Temptations – I Now See You Clear Through My Tears
  27. Tammi Terrell – My Heart
  28. Lorraine Chandler – Ease My Mind
  29. Brenda Holloway – Love Line
  30. The Young Rascals – Find Somebody
  31. The Royalettes – Can’t Stop Running Away
  32. Ronnie Dyson – I Just Can’t Help Believin’
  33. Maxine Brown – I Can’t Get Along Without You
  34. Ruby & The Romantics – Baby, I Could Be So Good At Loving You
  35. The Delfonics – Every Time I See My Baby
  36. The Intruders – (Love Doctor) Doctor, Doctor
  37. Kim Weston – By Myself A Man
  38. Gladys Knight & The Pips – Here I Am Again
  39. Betty Everett – Maybe
  40. Jackie Ross – Don’t Change Your Mind

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