THE SALT OF THE EARTH

1970s
Soul & R&B contemporaries

The 1970s marked an important change over the 1960s in soul and R&B music as the control that labels like Motown had exercised over acts gave way to artists who had more creative control and wrote for themselves. Artists like Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder and Curtis Mayfield to name but those now expressed themselves artistically and built a career in a way that only white artists previously had.

It is harder to define what influenced the Stones from the 1970s onwards, because their main influences had been formed. The Stones have always been open to contemporary influences, but some of the styles that seem to have been particularly influential on the Stones were the advent of reggae and their new soul contemporaries of the 1970s. The Stones' tastes for soul ballads during this period (If You Really Want to Be My Friend, Worried About You, Fool to Cry) definitely speak of the influence of the latter.

Mick still likes this period's music. Check out his 1993 album Wandering Spirit for a few covers of early 1970s' soul music (Bill Withers' Use Me, Frederick Knight's I've Been Lonely For So Long.)

Of the twenty-odd records in the room, several Stones albums are the only white music in
an Al Green, Stevie Wonder and Jimmy Cliff collection.

                                                   - Barbara Charone, writer, attending a Stones
recording session for Black and Blue in 1974-75

 

AL GREEN  (1946-      )

Al Green was THE soul singer of the 1970s. During the time that he was associated with producer Willie Mitchell (1969-1977), Arkansas-born Al Green released soul albums that were the equivalent of Otis Redding's in the 1960s, filled with good songs, performances and recordings from track to track. Al Green kept the tradition of Southern soul alive (he was arguably its last true great representative), while updating it. His sound and singing were often sweeter and more in step with the pre-disco R&B music being made in cities like Philadelphia. Following a personal drama in the late 1970s, Green became a preacher and started devoting himself more to sacred music.

Jagger's soul experiments of the 1970s were definitely in tune with Al's singing. Keith has also expressed fascination with Green. On his first solo album, he paid tribute to Green with Make No Mistake, a song that used Willie Mitchell as arranger to recreate the Green sound and style.
 
 

CURTIS MAYFIELD  (1942-1999)

Unlike some of his contemporaries, though he has been acclaimed more and more, Mayfield never got the full praise he deserved. Not only a great vocalist, Mayfield was an extremely talented guitarist with a style all his own - one of the great soul guitarists -, and also an extraordinary songwriter. Born in Chicago, Mayfield helped create Chicago soul in the 1960s with The Impressions, a group that, though successful, was not as successful as Motown groups, but were perhaps even superior in talent. Mayfield founded the Impressions with another great vocalist, Jerry Butler, and they enjoyed success in 1958 with the classic For Your Precious Love. Butler quit the group afterwards, but Mayfield continued to write for, and record and perform with, Butler at the same time that he write and recorded great songs with the Impressions, great Northern soul recordings that often displayed a political bent (It's All Right, People Get Ready, etc.).

In the 1970s, Mayfield launched into a solo career that yielded great albums that, if never achieving the success of Stevie Wonder or Marvin Gaye, were just as innovative. Like them, he created "statement" or "concept" albums that fused soul with other genres (funk, late psychedelia) and always featured always his great guitar work. His career declined in the mid-'70s. In 1990, he was paralyzed following an accident and died nine years later.

The Stones recorded a version of For Your Precious Love for the Steel Wheels sessions which they did not release. Otherwise Mayfield's influence is especially apparent on the form and guitar playing in Stones soul ballads like Beast of Burden and Almost Hear You Sigh.
 
 

STEVIE WONDER  (1950-     )

Born in Michigan, Stevie Wonder was a child prodigy who was marketed that way by Motown Records starting at age 11. Wonder had hits throughout the '60s, but the 1970s were really the decade when, freed from his the label's control, he created his major accomplishments. As an artist who has produced very few, and frequently disappointing records in the 1980s and '90s, it is difficult to remember the extremely high level of critical esteem, as well as the popularity, that Wonder enjoyed in the 1970s. From 1970 to 1976, he released a series of albums which were not only groundbreaking for black music, but for pop music in general. An excellent tunesmith, Wonder also made artistically cohesive albums that featured innovative and complex arrangements.

In 1972, Wonder was invited by the Stones to open for them for the duration of their North American tour. Though the years, the Stones have occasionally also cut songs of his in the studio (I Don't Know Why wounding up on Metamorphosis).


Written by Ian McPherson, 2000.
Like all files on Time Is On Our Side, it is the exclusive intellectual property
of Ian McPherson and cannot be duplicated, in any form, without his authorization.

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