The Playlist Special: Top Artists Pick Their Personal Top 10

John Legend: Philly Soul

After Motown and Stax, the Philly Soul period was the next great period in R&B," says John Legend, who grew up in Ohio hearing classics by the O'Jays, Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes, and many other standard bearers. "It was very lush and the bridge between Motown and disco. There's also a socially conscious vibe in a lot of the songs that I really like."






Listen: John Legend's Top Philly Soul Songs

  • 1.
    "For The Love Of Money" | The O'Jays, 1973

    I first heard a version of this on the New Jack City soundtrack. It's one of those songs that paved the way for hip-hop, with the lyrics talking about money. Eddie Levert was a really powerful singer.

  • 2.
    "Me And Mrs. Jones" | Billy Paul, 1972

    It's the classic cheating song. It makes it sound so appealing. I've always thought of country and R&B as being connected in that way. I love that he names the woman in the song, too.

  • 3.
    "I Miss You" | Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes, 1972

    It's all about that pleading, down-on-your-knees thing, and Teddy Pendergrass did that so well.

  • 4.
    "Didn't I (Blow Your Mind This Time)" | The Delfonics, 1970

    It's really hard to sing falsetto, but they were really great falsetto singers. And I love the touch of arrogance in the chorus, like, "Damn, wasn't I good!"

  • 5.
    "I'll Be Around" | Spinners, 1973

    Just a great feel-good song, and the production is a big part of it. It still sounds so fresh to me.

  • 6.
    "Family Affair" | MFSB, 1973

    I love the idea of a soul orchestra. It was so rare. Barry White had one, and other people did too. But MFSB  did a great version of this song by Sly Stone. They were so much a part of Philly soul.

  • 7.
    "Be Thankful For What You Got" | William DeVaughn, 1974

    That song has such a cool vibe. I just heard it on the radio. I was dancing in the car.

  • 8.
    "Stairway To Heaven" | The O'Jays, 1975

    My dad used to play that song all the time on his record player, so I had to put it on for him. I've certainly played with the idea of love being like heaven in my own songs, so some of my writing has been influenced by this.

  • 9.
    "Ain't No Stoppin' Us Now" | McFadden & Whitehead, 1979

    If you're going to talk about that era, you have to include this. It's one of the classics. It's one of those songs with a motivational message of not giving up. It's timeless.

  • 10.
    "Break Up To Make Up" | The Stylistics, 1972

    You have to have a Stylistics song. They're another one of those falsetto groups. It's one of the quintessential songs about a certain subject, going in circles in a relationship. I've written a lot about that too, the idea of a volatile relationship.