Music Monday: Curtis Harding, Sharon Jones, Leon Bridges and Ruby Velle
This week’s Music Monday playlist is an homage to Sharon Jones and her incredible contribution to music. The brilliant soul singer died of pancreatic cancer last week at the age of 60. After decades of obscurity, the world found and embraced this incredible light and her tremendous talent, earning Jones and The Dap-Kings a Grammy nomination in 2015.
In the recent documentary about Jones’ career, Miss Sharon Jones, she lamented the lack of recognition for the soul genre. “The only thing I wanted to accomplish was to finally get recognized by the music industry. If you know the awards, answer me this question: Do you see an award for soul music? No. They have R&B, funk, hip-hop and all sorts of contemporary things.” As a nod of respect to Jones, this week we explore the soul genre, which is often overlooked or erased.
Notable musicians include other artists who have been long overlooked and are finally seeing well-deserved recognition, such as Charles Bradley, Lee Fields & The Expressions, Darondo and Naomi Shelton & The Gospel Queens. Others include Bilal, Raphael Saadiq, Michael Kiwanuka, Ruby Velle and Leon Bridges. This playlist is full of timeless gems. We think Miss Jones would have approved.
This modern soul queen has been making music since her childhood in South Carolina. Until the ’90s, she worked as a corrections officer at Rikers Island in New York, longing to make a carer of her music.
“Until the ’90s, major labels were looking for a certain look. This Sony guy told me I was ‘too black, too fat, too short, and too old.’ Told me to go and bleach my skin. Told me to step in the background and just stay back. I had the voice, but I didn’t have the looks.”
Sharon Jones and The Dap-Kings contributed to the recent revival of soul music. In 2013, she was forced to take a break when diagnosed with stage 3 pancreatic cancer. She fought it into remission and returned to making music until the cancer returned this year.
“I think the reason that God brought me back out here is because I want to prove to these people out there that soul music is not dead. Soul music did not end in ’69. It’s still here today, and we don’t want it to end.”
Jones may be gone, but her music and The Dap-Kings live on.
With talent and music depth well beyond his years, Leon Bridges creates incredibly beautiful soul ballads like “Coming Home” and “River.” Handsome, stylish, and incredibly talented, Bridges transcends generation gaps with timeless class.
Born in Atlanta, Georgia, but raised in Ft. Worth, Texas, this gem is 27 years old, though his tunes will never let you believe it. The album was produced by Austin Jenkins and Joshua Block of White Denim using solely vintage instruments and recording equipment for an authentic retro sound.
Ruby Velle and The Soulphonics
Featuring Ruby Velle’s soulful lyrics and a full horn section, The Soulphonics are heavy on retro swag. Formed in Gainesville, Florida, but now based in Atlanta, Georgia, the gorgeous Ruby Velle and The Soulphonics are on to something really good.
Their classic sound is simultaneously retro and modern, which has lent itself to landing gigs with artists from Erykah Badu to Animal Collective to Bombino and Kendrick Lamar.
“No matter how you feel before the song starts, you’ll feel great by the end of it,” Velle says, “I always have a renewed energy after singing it. It’s a real mood changer!”
Signed to ANTI, Curtis Harding knows how to distill the deliciously infectious pop essence of previous soul classics into modern earworms. Infectious beats, reverb and fun choruses pave the way for radio-friendly tunes that could easily find themselves on the shelves with The Temptations, Marvin Gaye and The Supremes just as easily as they could find themselves among Bruno Mars, Shannon and The Clams or John Legend.
Born in Michigan but raised in Atlanta (seeing a pattern here?), Harding found himself singing backup for fellow soul musician CeeLo Green and befriending garage rockers Black Lips (he plays with Cole Alexander in Night Sun).
Equal parts fuzz and soul, Harding will “Keep On Shining” within the record collections of true music fans for decades to come.
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