15 Best R&B/Soul Groups and Bands
Hundreds of R&B and Soul groups have achieved success in the music business over the decades, but only a relative few have had lasting success. Among those, even fewer have been able to have lasting careers. Here are some standouts of the R&B and Soul genre.
The Supremes were the most successful female group of all time, hitting number one on the Billboard Hot 100 with twelve classic songs in the 1960s, including “Where Did Our Love Go,” “Stop! In the Name Of Love,” and “Baby Love.” The original group included Diana Ross, Mary Wilson, Florence Ballard, and Betty McGlown. McGlown was replaced by Barbara Martin who left the act in 1962. In 1967, Motown Records founder Berry Gordy Jr. changed the name to Diana Ross and The Supremes, and Cindy Birdsong replaced Ballard. On January 20, 1988, the group was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. On March 11, 1994, The Supremes received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
The Jackson 5/The Jacksons
Originally made up of brothers Michael, Jermaine, Jackie, Tito, and Marlon Jackson, The Jackson 5 from Gary, Indiana launched their historic recording career on Motown Records in 1968. Their first official concert for Motown was on August 16, 1968, as the opening act for Diana Ross at the Forum in Los Angeles. Their debut album was titled Diana Ross Presents The Jackson Five.
The Jackson 5 made history in 1970 as the first recording act to reach the top of the Billboard Hot 100 with their first four singles: “I Want You Back”, “ABC”, “The Love You Save” and “I’ll Be There”.
In 1976, the group left Motown to sign with Epic Records, and Randy Jackson replaced Jermaine Jackson who remained at Motown as a solo artist. In 1984, The Jacksons (the name was legally changed from The Jackson 5) made history with their Victory tour, performing 55 shows in stadiums for nearly 3 million people. In 1997, the group was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Earth, Wind & Fire
Founded by Maurice White (who passed away February 3, 2016, at the age of 74) in Chicago in 1969, Earth, Wind & Fire has sold over 100 million albums, including three triple platinum and two double-platinum albums.
Earth, Wind, and Fire combines elements of African music, Latin music, R&B, jazz, and rock into a unique sound featuring the dynamic lead voice of Philip Bailey. Recording for over 40 years, the group has won six Grammy Awards, a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, four American Music Awards, and has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, NAACP Image Awards Hall of Fame, Songwriters Hall of Fame, and the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
The Isley Brothers
Recording for over 50 years, The Isley Brothers began as a vocal trio in the 1950s in Cincinnati, Ohio with Ronald Isley as the lead singer performing with brothers Rudolph and O’Kelly Isley.
The group expanded to six members in 1973 with their 3 + 3 album. Younger brothers Ernie lsley (guitar) and Marvin Isley (bass) joined the group along with Rudolph’s brother-in-law, Chris Jasper (keyboards).
The Isley Brothers have released four double platinum, six platinum, and four gold albums. Seven of their singles have reached number one on the Billboard R&B chart.
Two of their songs, “Shout,” and Twist and Shout.” were inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame. The Isleys were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1992. They have also received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, and a BET Lifetime Achievement Award.
Formed in 1960 in Detroit, Michigan, The Temptations were among the stars of Motown Records in the 1960s. The original lineup consisted of David Ruffin, Eddie Kendricks, Paul Williams, Otis Williams, and Melvin Franklin. Dennis Edwards replaced Ruffin as lead singer in 1968, and Kendricks and Williams left the group in 1971.
The Temptations achieved 15 number one singles on the Billboard R&B chart, and four songs reached the top of the Billboard Hot 100.
The group’s numerous honors include three Grammy Awards, two American Music Awards, and a Soul Train Music Award. The Temps were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1989, the NAACP Hall of Fame in 1992, and in 2013, they received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.
Their classics include “My Girl,” “I Can’t Get Next To You,” and “Just My Imagination (Running Away with Me).”
The Four Tops
The Four Tops began their Motown recording career with their self-titled number one album in 1964. They were among the core vocal groups for Motown and had unusual longevity, performing from 1953-1997 with the same lineup: lead singer Levi Stubbs, Abdul “Duke” Fakir, Renaldo “Obie” Benson and Lawrence Payton.
Their number one hits include “I Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie Honey Bunch)” and “Reach Out I’ll Be There.” Their honors include the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Vocal Group Hall of Fame, Hollywood Walk Of Fame, Grammy Hall Of Fame (“Reach Out I’ll Be There”), Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, and the Rhythm and Blues Foundation Pioneer Award.
Smokey Robinson & The Miracles
Smokey Robinson and The Miracles was the first Motown act to hit number one on the Billboard R&B chart, achieving that feat in 1960 with “Shop Around.” Twenty-six Miracles songs reached the Top Ten of the Billboard R&B singles chart, including four number one singles.
Their honors include the Vocal Group Hall Of Fame, Hollywood Walk Of Fame, and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Four of their songs were inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame: “You’ve Really Got a Hold on Me,” “The Tracks Of My Tears.” “The Tears of a Clown.” and “Shop Around.”
Formed in Canton, Ohio in 1958, The O’Jays have recorded ten number one Billboard R&B hits with five platinum and four gold albums. Five of their albums have reached number one on the Billboard R&B chart.
The group began as a quintet consisting of lead singer Eddle Levert, Walter Williams, William Powell, Bobby Massey, and Bill Isles. Massey and Isles left the group, and as a trio, The O’Jays achieved their greatest success after signing with Philadelphia International Records in 1972.
Powell left the group in 1976 and was replaced by Sammy Strain from Little Anthony and the Imperials. Powell passed away from cancer in 1977. Strain left The O’Jays in 1992 and was replaced by Nathaniel Best. When Best departed in 1995, he was replaced by Eric Nolan Grant.
The O’Jays’ honors include a BET Lifetime Achievement Award, and induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the NAACP Image Awards Hall of Fame. Their greatest hits include “Love Train,” “Backstabbers,” and “For The Love of Money.”
George Clinton is the legendary leader of the bands Parliament and Funkadelic which record separately and perform together in concert. Parliament began in the 1960s in New Jersey as a doo-wop vocal group called The Parliaments, and Funkadelic served as their band. The Parliaments eventually evolved into a mainstream funk group under the name Parliament, and Funkadelic assumed its own identity as a psychedelic soul group.
Known collectively as Parliament-Funkadelic, P-Funk became the most outrageous African-American band of the 1970s and 80s, famous for landing the “Mothership” onstage during marathon concerts.
Parliament-Funkadelic hit number one five times on the Billboard R&B singles chart, including “Flash Light” (1978), “One Nation Under A Groove” (1978), and “(Not Just) Knee Deep” (1979). P-Funk was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1997.
Kool & The Gang
Formed in 1964 in Jersey City, New Jersey, Kool & The Gang has been performing for over 50 years. Led by bass player Robert “Kool” Bell, the group began as a jazz instrumental band before transitioning into R&B and funk.
Kool & The Gang has sold over 70 million records, including five platinum, three gold, and one double platinum album (Emergency in 1984). Its eight number one singles include “Celebration” (1980), “Ladies’ Night” (1979), “and “Joanna” (1983).
Their honors include five American Music Awards, a Soul Train Legend Award, and a Grammy for Album of the Year for Saturday Night Fever (which included their song, “Open Sesame”).
Destiny’s Child is one of the most honored female groups of all-time, winning three Grammys, three NAACP Image Awards, five American Music Awards, four Soul Train Music Awards, and ten Soul Train Lady of Soul Awards. The group was also recognized with the Soul Train Quincy Jones Award for career achievement in 2006 and the Soul Train Sammy Davis Jr. Award for Entertainer of the Year in 2001.
The trio’s hits included “Bootylicious,” “Say My Name” and “Jumpin Jumpin.” Lead singer Beyonce launched her solo career in 2004, and she reunited with group members Kelly Rowland and Michelle Williams for a performance during halftime of the 2013 Super Bowl in New Orleans.
Sly and The Family Stone
Formed in 1967 in San Francisco by Sylvester Stewart, Sly & The Family Stone were the leaders of the “psychedelic soul” movement, combining R&B and rock into their own unique sound. The group gave an unforgettable performance at the historic Woodstock Festival in 1969.
The group released three platinum albums, including the five times platinum Greatest Hits in 1970. They also recorded four number one singles including “Everyday People” (1968), “Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)” (1969), and “Family Affair” (1971). The band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1993.
Boyz II Men
Boyz II Men released their debut album, Cooleyhigharmony, in 1991. It was an instant success and was certified nine times platinum. The group from Philadelphia consisted of Nathan Morris, Shawn Stockman, Wanya Morris, and Michael McCary (who left the act in 2003 due to health reasons).
Boyz II Men has sold over 64 million albums worldwide. The group has achieved five number one hits on the Billboard R&B chart, and four singles have reached the top of the Hot 100. They have seven platinum and three gold singles. Their list of awards includes three Grammys, three NAACP Image Awards, six American Music Awards, ten Soul Train Music Awards, and three Billboard Music Awards.
Their hits include “One Sweet Day” with Mariah Carey, “I’ll Make Love To You,” and “End of the Road.”
TLC sold more than 65 million records in their brief reign atop the charts. Tionne “T-Boz” Watkins, Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes and Rozonda “Chilli” Thomas recorded ten top ten singles, four number one hits, and four multi-platinum albums.
TLC has won numerous honors, including five Grammys, five Soul Train Music Awards, three Soul Train Lady of Soul awards (including Entertainer of the Year), three Billboard Music Awards, and one American Music Award. The group suffered from financial problems and disbanded before the death of Lopez in 2002.
The Pointer Sisters
The Pointer Sisters from Oakland, California have won three Grammys, three American Music Awards, and received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
The trio achieved thirteen top 20 Billboard hits between 1973 and 1985, including “I’m So Excited,” “Jump (For My Love),” “Automatic,” “Fire” and “Fairytale.