Huey Lewis hasn’t performed live in nearly two years due to severe hearing loss caused by Ménière’s disease. But he did record an album’s worth of new songs before coming down with the condition that’s slated to finally come out sometime early in 2020. Thankfully, he’s still able to hear music and when we sat down with him recently, he shared his five favorite soul songs, occasionally even taking out his iPhone and singing along.
Ray Charles, “Hallelujah, I Just Love Her So”
This is a flat-out gospel song. It’s “Hallelujah I Love Him So,” but he just put “her” instead of “him” and boom! That’s where rhythm & blues comes from, the church. That song is ground zero, the beginning of R&B, I think. I’m a huge Ray Charles fan. He was my man. He could do everything. At the “We Are the World” session I couldn’t interact with Ray because I was so in awe of him. I stayed four feet away from him all night long. I just shadowed him all night. It was so cool!
Wilson Pickett, “634-5789”
Wilson Pickett was crazy; he used to carry around a gun. But wow, he could sing! He was such a great vocalist. One thing that is nice about this song is that it’s captured, it’s not created. You can tell it’s captured because it’s not perfect. It’s so nice to have those little rough edges that we miss today. The stuff we here today is so perfect and so Pro-Tooled that there’s no grittiness there for me. That one has all the grit in the world. There’s also a great horn chart.
Little Johnny Taylor, “Time After Time”
I think Johnny Taylor might be my favorite singer of all time next to Ray Charles. He could just sing the phone book. The neat thing about this is it’s a standard. It’s interesting the way it was done. I guess the tracks were cut in Memphis and he sang them in Texas and they sent it up to Detroit to put the horns and strings on it. It’s a funny record in a way because it’s not a captured record, but it’s a great version of that song. It’s not really Stax-ish, but it’s not Motown-ish either. It treads that middle ground, which is kind of interesting.
Jackie Wilson, “Lonely Teardrops”
Jackie Wilson might have been the most dynamic perfumer of all time. Supposedly you just couldn’t follow him. Even James Brown didn’t want to follow Jackie Wilson. He would come out and do a backflip and land on his feet. He could sing like an angel. The vocal on this song is just insane. It has that little Latin thing on there, too, which was all over early rock & roll. It’s a very New York song.
The Rance Allen Group, “Ain’t No Need For Crying”
Very few people have ever heard this song, but Rance Allen is the best singer you’ve ever heard and this could be my favorite song. The Rance Allen Group were a gospel group from Michigan. Rance plays keyboards and sings and he’s incredibly talented. His voice is amazing. He’s got a four-octave range. That song is so good and it’s funny because it never was a big hit, but where I grew up in the Bay Area we had a soul station called KDIA I used to listen to. I know now KDIA was the sister station of WDIA in Memphis. Stax had a gospel label called Truth Records and the Rance Allen group was on it. So in many cases, the first radio station that would play these songs — and in many cases the only station — was WDIA and KDIA. KDIA played Rance Allen “Ain’t No Need of Crying.” It was so huge they’d play it back to back. It’s just unbelievable. You have to hear it to believe it.