Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The best soul and jazz Divas?

Diva's are a dime a dozen in music these days. I've just read an article describing the likes of Madonna, Cher, Britney Spears, Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston as some of the best divas of all time and it got me thinking about my favourite soul and jazz divas. No disrespect to the above mentioned pop stars, who have all had their moments and are certainly divas, but the women i've chosen today have got soul in abundance and have made music that will always mean a lot to me personally. One of them, Candi Staton, is on town for a gig at Jam tomorrow night and it's a rare chance to catch one of our finest living soul and gospel stars up close and personal.

1-Aretha Franklin

She could sing anything and make it sound soulful. Her early gospel material is incredible, while her celebrated Atlantic recordings saw her finally achieve the music to match the voice, which was rightly claimed to belong to the "Queen of Soul"
2-Dinah Washington
Very much a personal favourite, she remains under-rated historically but her voice could cut you like a knife. Amazing diction and a heavy emotional quality to her voice, she was a big influence on Aretha Franklin, and despite not reaching 40 before she died, she managed to fit seven husbands into an eventful life.
3-Amy Winehouse
Sharing the troubled lifestyle of some of her jazz heroes has not harmed her songwriting and music, but it's unfortunate that it may lead her to an early demise unless she looks after herself. She would be delighted to be included in list of soul and jazz legends, and I for one think she is the real deal; probably my favourite modern soul star alongside Erykah Badu.
4-Nina Simone
Where to start? She did it all. Soul, jazz, blues, folk, classical, gospel, and whatever else took her fancy, she was perhaps the most influential singer of the 20th century. I will never tire of her music, which I could listen to all night any night.
5-Candi Staton
Another singer who ignores musical boundaries, she is still relevant today and her latest two albums are as good as anything being released these days. Known to many for "Young Hearts run free" and "You got the love", she has had a terrific career, and will appear at the Pavilion tomorrow night with a full live band.
6-Chaka Khan
Another soul legend who did well in the disco era, Chaka Khan remains an important singer in black music, and she still tours and releases good music too.
7-Gladys Knight
Unbelievably under-rated, a singer who's mainstream success often obscures her impact on soul music, which was immense. From her huge hits with the Pips in the 60's right up to a later career that included a more razzmatazz media profile, she is without doubt an important voice in music, and indeed is widely regarded as the best female voice to record for Motown.
8-Billie Holiday
Lady Day is another blues and jazz singer who could rip you to shreds with her vocal style, which helped change popular music forever. I should also include Bessie Smith, Ella Fitzgerald, Odetta and Sarah Vaughan, but I'm running out of time!
9-Jocelyn Brown
I'm a disco freak and was considering Loleatta Holloway, Gwen Guthrie, Rochelle Fleming and Evelyn King and the like, but settled on this one time visitor to Cork for an amazing gig in the late 90's, Jocelyn Brown.
The salsa singer who is best known round these parts for her house classics, deserves a mention here. I've left out many more r&b, soul and jazz singers and apologise, but house music is important in Cork and a song like "I can't get no sleep" could easily be described as one the biggest ever anthems to grace the clubs of this city.

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    I'm a DJ from Cork in Ireland. I work with RedFM, presenting Red Drive, The Hitlist and my specialist show, Black on Red. I'm probably best known for being one of the main hip-hop/soul DJ's in Cork and Ireland. I've been DJing in Cork since the early 90's in legendary clubnights such as Sweat in Sir Henrys, Mor Disco, Free La Funk, Yo Latino and also Jam and Jam Junior at the Savoy and the Pavilion. I've also held down long term residencies at clubs around Ireland such as Brown Sugar at the Kitchen in Dublin, U-Turn at Ri Ra in Dublin, Jazz Juice at the GPO in Galway, Thompson Garage in Belfast, the Soul Clinic, Dee-Bop, Meltdown and Mo Bounce in Limerick and i've played abroad in the United States and the U.K. on numerous occasions. I also write a music column for the Evening Echo and i'm a regular contributor to the U.K.'s Blues and Soul, the longest running black music magazine in the world. These days i run the Pavilion, a music venue in Cork, which hosts my Jam night every few Fridays http://www.pavilioncork.com also you can catch me at http://djstevieg.podomatic.com