Ocean has written songs for Beyonce, Justin Beiber and John Legend; last year, his mixtape Nostalgia Ultra attracted mainstream attention. Now, Ocean has released his first major-label album, Channel Orange. Rock critic Ken Tucker has a review of Ocean's album and career thus far.
One capital of soul in the 1960s? Muscle Shoals, Ala., a fly-speck on the map which spawned some of the era's greatest recordings, via productions in Rick Hall's Fame Studios. Rock historian Ed Ward has their story.
Etta James, the legendary vocalist who is perhaps known for her version of the song "At Last," has died. She was 73. Fresh Air remembers the singer with excerpts from a 1994 interview about her lengthy career.
Bandleader and producer Johnny Otis, who launched and then nurtured the careers of many of R&B's greatest singers, died Tuesday at his home near Los Angeles. He was 90. Fresh Air remembers Otis with excerpts from a 1989 interview.
Anthony Hamilton's Back to Love was released late last year. Rock critic Ken Tucker says Hamilton's vocals "evoke predecessors ranging from Bill Withers to Teddy Pendergrass to Peabo Bryson," while also maintaining a contemporary sound.
For many years, the search for unknown or forgotten soul singers has dug deeply into music archives. But surprises still turn up. Music critic Milo Miles says this year's best discovery is a West African singer and bandleader named El Rego.
Before the Civil Rights movement, segregated American cities helped give birth to the Chitlin' Circuit, a touring revue that provided employment for hundreds of black musicians. Rock historian Ed Ward profiles two recent books which illuminate the conditions these musicians endured.
Tate made a string of hits in the '60s, but then disappeared from public view for more than 30 years. In 2003, he joined record producer Jerry Ragovoy on Fresh Air for a conversation about their collaborations.
This interview was originally broadcast on October 27, 2003.
Al Green wrote "Take Me to the River," but it was his labelmate Syl Johnson who first made it famous. Rock historian Ed Ward traces Johnson's early career, which started in Chicago blues clubs in the 1950s.
Rock critic Ken Tucker says that Beyonce's new album, titled 4, is something of a risk â it's not merely a collection of new songs, but a personal reassessment of the kind of pop star she wants to be.
The master of country soul, Percy Sledge crooned some of the genre's greatest hits, like "When a Man Loves a Woman." Rock historian Ed Ward says a new box set featuring all of Sledge's Atlantic recordings is certainly worth a listen.
Goldwax, a label which issued some of the greatest soul records ever made in Memphis, is almost completely unknown. Given the quality of what it released, it had very few hits, but its legend has lived on. Ed Ward reports on the label's impressive run from 1963 to '70.
The guitarist opens up about his music, his legendary journeys on the road with The Rolling Stones and his occasionally contentious relationship with lead singer Mick Jagger in a new memoir called Life.
Bruno Mars is a 25-year-old singer, songwriter and producer who's worked on hit singles for numerous hip-hop and soul artists. Rock critic Ken Tucker says Mars' new album, Doo-Wops and Hooligans, is "an impressive, varied and intense experience."
Solomon Burke, the Grammy Award-winning singer who wrote the hit track "Everyone Needs Somebody to Love," died Sunday at 70. Fresh Air remembers the "King of Rock and Soul" with excerpts from a 1986 interview.
Critic Ed Ward tells the story of one of the most unusual female soul singers to come out of the early 1960s. Sugar Pie DeSanto, who grew up with Etta James, rose to national prominence when her single "I Want to Know" reached the Billboard charts. Fifty years later, she continues to perform and do her signature move, a back flip, on stage.
Package tours in the early years of rock and soul were varied grab bags. But none were like The T.A.M.I. Show. Filmed in October 1964 in Santa Monica, the lineup included performers who weren't stars yet — like The Rolling Stones — and those at the peak of their fame, like Lesley Gore and Jan and Dean. Critic Milo Miles reviews the concert, just released on DVD.
Wilson Pickett helped define 1960s soul, along with Sam Cooke, Marvin Gaye, Otis Redding and James Brown. Critic Ed Ward reviews Funky Midnight Mover, a new six-disc compilation of Pickett's recordings, released by Rhino Handmade.