The 5 best soul songs of all time

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When it comes to packing in pure emotion, nothing quite compares to sweet soul music. Throughout the genre’s history, its most decorated artists haven’t been afraid to tackle big social issues, and most important of all, matters of the heart.

So, join us as we take a journey through the annals of soul, bringing you its very best songs throughout the decades.

Aretha Franklin - Respect

Penned by Otis Redding in 1965, this world-renowned track began life as a ballad. That was until Aretha Franklin flipped the song on its head with an upbeat re-imagining – ultimately turning it into the crossover smash-hit we know to this day. A defiant statement from a strong, confident woman, the all-conquering not only racked up two Grammy wins, but was also a landmark moment for the feminist movement in the 60s.

Otis Redding - (Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay

Nothing exudes summer quite like this gem, which was written by Redding while chilling on a rented houseboat in the picturesque surroundings of sunny California. The singer’s unmistakeable dulcet tones accompany a soothing, yet simplistic, guitar riff to glorious effect. Put simply, one of the greatest soul tracks of all time. And don’t deny the urge; it’s impossible not to whistle along to the outro!

Bill Withers - Ain’t No Sunshine

From the get-go of this ageless hit, it’s more than obvious that Mr Withers has quite the set of lungs on him. But what hits hardest is the man’s unbridled emotion as he rues a lost lover. This is one of soul music’s more wistful songs, but shows the utter power music can have when it tugs at the heartstrings. Now someone pass us a tissue please.

Ben E. King - Stand by Me

There have been over 400 recorded versions of this song, recorded by many artists. but none will ever top the original. Inspired by a well-known gospel hymn, this soul classic is underpinned throughout by a simple bass riff, before culminating with a wonderful string arrangement. But what really takes precedence here is King’s stirring vocal performance, which grips the listener with pure, undiluted emotion.

Amy Winehouse - Back to Black

Proving that modern-day soul can stand shoulder to shoulder with the classics, the late Amy Winehouse stunned the world of music with the title track of her sophomore album. Inspired by a destructive relationship, the song’s dark lyrical content deals with Winehouse’s history of depression and drug addiction. Despite these themes of anguish, the track lives on as a beautiful reminder of the singer’s phenomenal talent and her indelible legacy as a contemporary artist.  


Like what you’ve heard? Well you’re in luck, because we’ve made you guys a Spotify playlist of the above tunes and so much more! Listen from any device through Bluetooth and Spotify Connect on loads of our digital radios. Our Highway in-car entertainment adapters even let you take your favourite playlists on the road.

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