Rhythm and Blues to the Rescue!

With the current heat wave in full effect, you might be looking for ways to avoid straining the state-wide power grid, as well as your financial resources! Going to a local pool, river, lake, or beach are usually good options, however in these strange times with a pandemic still plaguing us, you might want another option that allows for more physical distance. 

I’ve got the perfect solution: music! But, of course, not just any music, but 10 songs from the Billboard Rhythm & Blues charts, also known as the R&B charts. These are the charts that feature the classic soul, contemporary jazz, rap, and so many other types of music that resonate with so many. But, in keeping with the theme from my recent three-part blog on Adult Contemporary songs, this blog will feature songs that appeared on the R&B charts without crossing over to the Billboard Hot 100! As with with those other blogs, it’s a good chance to be introduced, or re-introduced, to some fantastic music that you may or may not have heard before. And, this music is so cool, that you won’t need your air-conditioning or that ice cold libation after all. It’s music that’s good for you, and for the environment!

So, let’s get started, here are 10 R&B songs that appeared on the R&B charts, without crossing over to the Billboard Hot 100, in chronological order in which they first appeared on the R&B charts.

Take It From Me by Dionne Warwicke. Many don’t realize that Dionne Warwick dabbled in disco music in the mid-1970's, nor do they know she added an “e” to her last name at the same time. Well, she did both, and although pop music fans might not have taken note, fans of R&B music seemed to resonate with these developments in Dionne’s music, allowing songs like this one to reach Number 30 on the R&B charts in 1975. It’s a groovy and infectious little song, and I have a feeling that you will like it, but, don’t take it from me, take it from Ms Warwick...with or without an extra “e” in her last name!

Lou’s Blues by Patrick Williams. I have long been a fan of the Mary Tyler Moore spin-off show, Lou Grant. The show was definitely ahead of its time in the late 70's and early 80's, addressing such topics as homosexuality, race relations, school violence, and other topics that continue to be important today. One thing I didn’t realize, until I started researching for this blog, is that the television show had an extended theme song. I always enjoyed the opening number for the show, and just found out yesterday that there is this 4 1/2 minute instrumental jazzy number that makes me remember all that’s wonderful about the program! This instrumental tune seems like it would have done well on the Adult Contemporary charts, but alas, it only charted on the R&B charts, peaking at Number 72. If this song has been released earlier than when it was in 1983, it might have done better on the charts, coinciding with higher viewership of the show.  Nonetheless, it’s another fantastic song, and cool enough for a heat wave!

Beat Box by Art of Noise. Beat boxing was all the rage back in the 1980's.  For better or worse, I can even remember friends asking me to do it. When they asked me though, they always had a smile on their face or laughter in their eyes, making me think they weren’t being serious. Sigh. In any case, although I never mastered the art of beat boxing, the fine group of musicians, collectively known as Art of Noise, definitely did so! This mostly instrumental song was a significant hit on the R&B charts in 1984, peaking at Number 15. I guess if you can’t beat the heat, you can always beat box it? And, Art of Noise did make appearances on the Billboard Hot 100 several times later in the 1980's, including with their biggest hit, the remake of the song Kiss, first popularized by Prince; their version brought Tom Jones back to the Hot 100 after an 11 year absence!

Hi, How Ya Doin’? by Kenny G. Several years before that infamous Songbird fluttered its way into our lives, Kenny G was making regular appearances on the R&B charts. In fact, his music did better on the R&B charts before it regularly started crossing over to the Billboard Hot 100. This song definitely checks all the boxes for that quiet storm ethos that was really catching on in the 1980's! This song featured vocals by Barry Johnson, and peaked at Number 23 on the R&B charts in early 1984. This song is so cool, you won’t even even need a thermostat!

Lady You Are by One Way.  Maybe it’s time to cool off now with a romantic love song? If so, this is just what the doctor ordered! It’s rather surprising that this gem of an R&B song did not chart at all on the Billboard Hot 100.  It may have been a victim of bad timing, as many pop radio stations were transitioning away from these well-crafted slow jams in the early 1980's, in favor of more rock and new wave music. In any case, R&B stations embraced it, and it peaked at Number Five on the R&B charts in 1984. Slow dance to this one with the one you love, and appreciate the beauty of the song...and your dance partner!

Hey D.J. by The World’s Famous Supreme Team.  If there is a song that pretty much sums up the world of rap music and pop culture in 1984, this hidden gem is probably it! Because rap wasn’t mainstream at this time, most pop stations weren’t likely to play it, but its infectious bass line and fun lyrics make it a real winner for a fan of rap music... or music historians. This song rapped its way to Number 15 on the R&B charts in late 1984. The video is quite the time capsule as well!

King Tut by Paul Hardcastle.  The comedian Steve Martin had a novelty hit on the Billboard Hot 100 with his tribute song to King Tut in 1976. Nine years later, in 1985, Paul Hardcastle brought the king back to the R&B charts, with an instrumental tune that worked its way to Number 32. This song definitely has elements of Hardcastle’s Rain Forest, which was released prior to this tune. That being said, it’s another great instrumental tune, very reflective of the time. In which it was released. Fans of heavily produced and synthesized 80's music will strongly resonate with this tune.

North on South St. by Herb Alpert.  The unmistakable trumpet playing by the legendary Herb Alpert dominates this fantastic instrumental tune that features music often referred to as “new jack swing.” Including elements of hip-hop, dance, and rhythm and blues, it’s music for everyone. Some might not have thought of Herb, when it came to this kind of music, but he’s able to seamlessly incorporate his trademark sound into contemporary music, allowing him to reach new fans, while continuing to entertain his long-time loyal fans. And, even better yet, this tune brought herb back to the R&B charts, peaking at Number 40 in 1991.

I Belong To You by Whitney Houston. For much of her musical career, the late, great Whitney Houston was often accused of being too “pop,“ and not “R&B” enough. The criticisms really seemed somewhat unfounded, as she had plenty of fantastic R&B songs in her repertoire, including standards like You Give Good Love, and Saving All My Love For You. In any case, her 1990 album I’m Your Baby Tonight, featured more tunes that would be classified as R&B, and less as pop. A good example of that is this tune, I Belong To You, which went to Number 10 on the R&B charts in 1991, without crossing over to the Billboard Hot 100. Whitney is in fine vocal control on the song and looks to be having so much fun in the accompanying video! For what it’s worth, if this song had been serviced to pop music radio stations, it likely would’ve been another big hit there as well. Good music is good music, regardless of what chart it appears (or doesn’t appear) on!

A Little More Love by Lisa Stansfield. This cool jazzy tune is the perfect one with which to end this list of R&B songs that did not cross over to the Billboard Hot 100.  But honestly, it should have crossed over! Almost 30 years later, and this music seems as contemporary as when it was first released in 1992. Lisa's voice is so smooth, and it allows her to display such a vulnerability, and power, at the same time. This tune peaked at Number 30 on the R&B charts in 1992.

And, there you have it, 10 songs that appeared on the R&B charts, that did not cross over to the Billboard Hot 100. Hopefully these cool tunes will help you chill out a bit during our current heat wave. But, the songs are also hot enough to warm you up on those upcoming cold winter nights! Like I said before, music is timeless, And always appropriate. Stay cool, my friends!