Saturday, September 13, 2008

Does Billboard's All-Time Hot 100 Have Soul?

The Hot 100 chart was founded in August 1958. This summer, for the 50th anniversary, Billboard put together a list of the chart's all-time hottest of the hot.

There's a complicated formula involved (outlined in this Globe and Mail article) since station reporting has changed so much over the years - and, as Billboard's charts director acknowledges, the list is imperfect: "This is simply a chronicle of how each of these songs performed in their era on the Hot 100," he told the Globe. "We're not saying these are the most memorable songs of your life. That would be something that's almost impossible to determine."

None of that really matters, though, right? What matters is how soul music ranked.

Here are the highlights:

#98 - Ray Charles, I Can't Stop Loving You

#87 - The Emotions, Best of my Love

#82 - Roberta Flack, Killing Me Softly With His Song

#65 - Marvin Gaye, I Heard It Through The Grapevine

#62 - Diana Ross, Upside Down

#61 Dionne Warwick and Friends, That's What Friends Are For

#59 - Stevie Wonder and Paul McCartney, Ebony and Ivory

#32 - Marvin Gaye, Let's Get It On

#27 - Bobby Lewis, Tossin' and Turnin'

#13 - Lionel Ritchie and Diana Ross, Endless Love

Not a bad haul, right? Admittedly, some of these tracks stretch (okay, smash) the definition of "soul" as generally used on this blog, but I had a complicated formula of my own: if the artist in question had, at one point, a viable soul career, then - for the purposes of this list ONLY - their later hits count too.

(I'm looking at you, Stevie and Diana. Don't think this means you're forgiven.)

Lists like these are always a little dispiriting - they remind me how popular some relatively inferior music has been, and how obscure, in comparison, some of the greatest of the greats are.

To wit: How did Andy Gibb score two separate entries (as a solo artist!), while Aretha Franklin doesn't appear even once?

But then I remind myself that if gems like Flack's Killing Me Softly and Marvin's Grapevine made the all-time Hot 100, there's a good chance that all is right with the world after all...

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