10 Steamy Soul Classics (Volume I)


Ohio Players, Skin Tight  © Mercury

So R&B artists of the day get the devil because of the explicit sexual nature of their material. It’s a fair assessment as sometimes the question has to be asked, is there any more ‘emotional’ components to relationships besides just hooking up. Listen to Trey Songz’s latest album Trigga, and finding something centering around genuine, passionate love is hard to come by.

Even with the newfound love of slang to describe the physical components of ‘love’ or the redefined definition of how love is supposedly perceived, sensuality in music is nothing new. Sure, in the past, the lingo was different, but look at the old school and the freakiness firmly planted. Sure, those songs are classics and many have more enduring value than contemporary songs (no shade, just truth), but that doesn’t mean the bedroom was lacking of activity. Here are 10 steamy soul classics… with any number of omissions.

1) Marvin Gaye, “Let’s Get It On” (Let’s Get It On, 1973)

Marvin Gaye, Lets Get It On © Motown

This one is obvious – Marvin Gaye was singing about sex, period. Today, “Let’s Get It On” still possesses rawness about it; even if it doesn’t go so far as to use the present trendy f-word to supplant the phrase “get it on.” He wanted to hook up, period!

 

2) Teddy Pendergrass, “Turn Off the Lights” (Teddy, 1979)

Teddy Pendergrass, Teddy © Legacy

“Turn Off the Lights” screams pleasure – in an orgasmic way. Whether it’s the growing intensity as the late, great Philly soul singer sings, “let’s take a shower,” or “rub me down in some hot oils baby,” “Turn Off the Light” definitely has physicality in mind. Teddy Pendergrass puts ‘oomph’ into this one. “I’m lying here, waiting my dear / you can get what you want / anytime…” – Yep key words; it’s free!

3) Donna Summer, “Love to Love You Baby” (Love to Love You Baby, 1975)

Donna Summer, Love to Love You Baby ©  ISLAND MERCURY

Soul classics are timeless ‘creatures,’ but sometimes songs considered racy back when are tame in the current age. Donna Summer’s “Love to Love You Baby” is still pretty ‘hot’ even years later. It’s not even the lyrics so much as it is Summer’s performance itself – those moans and the breathy vocals. Summer truly indulged here. Don’t listen to it with your parents… it’s rather uncomfortable, no matter what age you are.

4) Diana Ross, “Touch Me in The Morning” (Touch Me in the Morning, 1973)

Diana Ross, Touch Me in the Morning © Motown

Sure, she sang the thoughtful “Reach Out And Touch Somebody’s Hand” that crossed over into the church services, but “Touch Me in the Morning” definitely has no place in the sanctuary… “I need to lie here and / think about the last time /you’ll touch me in the morning / then just close the door / leave me as you found me / empty like before.”

To Ross’ credit and not to sell this classic short, there is a relationship component and deeper meaning to this song.  When examined from that perspective, it almost doesn’t fit the mold of this list.  Additionally, the lyrics are poetic. That said,  that touch still is “not that innocent.”

5) Ohio Players, “Skin Tight” (Skin Tight, 1974)

Ohio Players, Skin Tight  © Mercury

Choose any number of Ohio Players song and they exemplify all things risqué and cutting edge. Here, a number of lyrics are quite suggestive, not to mention the song title itself. “You are a bad, bad misses / in them skin tight britches / runnin’ folks in ditches / baby about to bust the stiches.”

Things grow even more suggestive when the band describes the lady’s walk as “a little shady,” followed by “step on the strip on time / there’s money you’re bound to find.”

 

6) Marvin Gaye, “Sexual Healing” (Midnight Love, 1982)

Marvin Gaye, Midnight Love ©  Columbia/Legacy

This is another obvious, must-include on this playlist. The title expresses all the listener needs to know: sex is therapeutic. If “Sexual Healing” itself isn’t enough, just listen to the entirety of Midnight Love – Marvin Gaye definitely was still fueled from “Let’s Get It On.” “Rocking After Midnight”… yeah, it was going down.

7) The Isley Bros., “Between the Sheets” (Between the Sheets, 1983)

Isley Bros, Between the Sheets © T-Neck

Hmm, wondering exactly what was happening “between those sheets.” Enough said – you can visualize/see the picture clearly.

8) Etta James, “Something’s Got A Hold On Me” (Etta James, 1962)

Etta James - Her Best © Geffen

Etta James was not singing about Jesus’ mercifulness on this classic. Furthermore, don’t get this one confused with the Rev. James Cleveland song where gospel innovator was praising the most high. Sure, James claims it’s “love” that’s got a hold of her, but she definitely sounds like she’s being fulfilled by it in all facets. Sure, she’s tame compared to Marvin, Teddy or Donna, but there’s more than just emotional going down.

9) Jean Knight, “Do Me” (Mr. Big Stuff, 1971)

Jean Knight, Mr. Big Stuff © Stax

Jean Knight’s classic “Do Me” should have everyone assessing how innocent her greatest hit “Mr. Big Stuff” really is. Only one word describes, “Do Me” perfectly: sex. “Pop that thing…” She’s definitely not talking about bubblegum or a balloon… The song is called “Do Me” after all, and is definitely one sinful, sensual listen.

10) Barry White, “It’s Ecstasy When You Lay Down Next To Me” (Barry White Sings for Someone You Love, 1977)

Barry White Sings for Someone You Love © Island Def Jam

One of the definitions that Merriam-Webster provides for the word ecstasy is “a state of overwhelming emotion; especially: rapturous delight.” So basically, Barry White is singing how great…it…she… the experience is. Steaminess exemplified once more.

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