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Top Ten Tunes

The Proprietor (II)

The Prop's Essential Classic R&B

Yes, the Prop is back exercising Droit de Seigneur as today's DJ. Again. And it's back to the days when R&B meant what it said. It never got better than this. Truth to tell, some of the following great s may have had one or two better songs, but this is what the Proprietor is playing this week. Because he loves 'em! So tonight ... in the Two Paddocks Disco INFERNO! A little Soul Train action! Get Up and Get ...Down!

  1. Can I get a Witness? - Marvin Gaye

    Look at the flair and sheer elegance of the great but ultimately doomed Marvin Gaye here. Always loved this song which I first heard (wrong way round) by the Stones. Reminds you of the gospel roots of R&B. The go-go dancers on this clip are also an hilarious reminder of how dead-on the Muppets were.

  2. Money - Barrett Strong

    Another fab number I first heard white boys sing -- the Beatles -- and sing well, too. But this, the original, can't be beat -- Motown's first ever hit. Love the perverse anti-sentimentality of the lyrics. Contrast this with the kind of stuff the Bobby Vees, etc. were doing about that time. It's also , curiously, hard to argue with the Flying Lizards' version.

  3. Respect Yourself - Staple Singers

    They define authenticity. Mavis Staples still going strong. Check her last album.

  4. I Believe to My Soul - Donny Hathaway

    Another doomed and unhappy genius -- nobody sang better. Graceful, seemingly effortless vocals.

  5. Love Letters - Ketty Lester

    Timeless. Loved it ever since I heard it on 3ZB in 1964.

  6. Heard It Through the Grapevine - Gladys Knight & the Pips

    Many people have covered this (cowritten by the above Barrett Strong)and perhaps Smokey Robinson or Marvin Gaye's versions are the classics. But Gladys is the one for me. And this clip -- Fro City! And who exactly dressed The Pips?

  7. Your Good Thing (Is About End) - Lou Rawls

    The strangest video imaginable, with a weird joke, and unsurprisingly even the suave Lou Rawls looks mortified. Nevertheless an utterly compelling song and who better to handle it. Great horn arrangement.

  8. Spirit in the Dark - Aretha Franklin

    Any number of Aretha's songs would do me: she is the undisputed Queen of Soul. Dr Feelgood, Spirit in the Dark, Do Right Woman ...

  9. Use Me Up - Bill Withers

    I never knew what Bill looked like until we dug this clip. It's almost hypnotic this song, and speaks of obsession. I think so anyway. I never really take in words in music, a good song for me is a kind of visceral experience and the words hardly ever impinge. This is probably a failing, but that's how it is.

  10. Higher Ground - Stevie Wonder

    Again, so many great songs, but for me the golden period for Stevie comprises three transcendent albums -- Innervisions, Music of My Mind, and Songs in the Key of Life. Best to try and forget I Just Called to Say I Love You , and don't even mention Ebony & Ivory.


PLUS, a special bonus just in case you thought great soul/R&B was dead ... the fabulous Janelle Monae with Tightrope! PLUS, another bonus - a little bedtime story ... the Prop was sitting behind a bloke with cornrows on a plane once who was shaking his head, and rattling his beads, in time with his iPod. The bead rattling had been a tad annoying and went for hours, and the prop wanted to strangle him.

Until he realized it wasn't some random guy pretending to be Stevie Wonder, it WAS Stevie Wonder. At which point he wanted, instead, to kiss the great man's feet.

Hey ... why have you stopped dancing?

As a footnote, it's amazing what you can find on YouTube these days ... all of the above. For instance, there is Ketty Lester on Shindig, black and white, 1964 -- it'll make you weep. Was there ever a more beautiful singer?

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Central Otago
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