In the sixties, Soul music was the soundtrack of the lives of the American black man and woman. Blues centers around pain, loss and heartache while Soul and RnB touched on a wide variety of themes. Recurring subject matters seemed to be love, sex, relationships, dancing, partying and everyday life.
When I flip through my 45rpm collection preparing for a night of DJing, I sometimes see a theme emerge. You can read my posts on the Top 20 Soul and RnB Tracks About Monkeys and Top 15 Northern Soul Tracks About Dogs to give you an idea. This time, I'm tackling the whole mighty dollar. Yes, the greenback has made more than one appearance on vinyl. Heck, there's even a Money record label! Blues artists have certainly recorded their fair share of tracks about a fistful of benjamins but today we will tackle the Soul and RnB side of things. The songs mostly revolve around wanting more cash, not having enough, the evils surrounding it and everything in between.
Tommy Ridgley - I Want Some Money Baby - Johen
Tommy Ridgley is a New Orleans native and a local RnB legend. His career spanned 50 years without ever having a major hit. He did work with some of the biggest names on the New Orleans scene: Ray Charles, Fats Domino and Lloyd Price.
I just can't get enough of this track. Not a dance floor scorcher by any means, it's a true RnB number that you want to swagger too. I'm always surprised at how, even if it's relatively unknown, it always keeps the dance floor going, giving people a respite from a series of more uptempo tracks. My favourite lyric: "There's only one thing that I like better than the money I know and that's more, more, more".
Willie Mabon - I Got To Have Some - Formal
At first glance, you might expect this slow RnB burner to be about something else than money. Once you have steered your mind out of the gutter, you realize that it's all about chasing the buck. It came out in 1962 on the Chicago label Formal. Interesting fact, one year later Willie came out with the follow up track Just Got Some on USA records.
Willie Jones - Where's My Money - Mr Peacock
Speaking of Willies, this Detroit RnB singer recorded Where's My Money in 1961. This widely sought after 45 has undeniably attained the classic status and deservedly so.
Sister Cookie and the Soulful Orchestra came out with their own cover in 2014 on the Italian label Soulful Torino. Rare are the contemporary versions that come close to the original. This might be the exception.
Baby Washington - Money's Funny - Neptune
This 1961 RnB single was one of her early releases in a career that spanned a few decades. Move On has to be my favorite but this one certainly qualifies has an underrated single.
Elmore James - Shake Your Moneymaker - Fire
Technically, this 1961 release is not about money. But let's not get too hung up on formalities here, it's still a good song. This Mississippi native was a Blues musician that crossed over musical genres. A master of the slide guitar, you can hear his musical prowess and mastery on this very track.
Barrett Strong - Money (That's What I Want) - Anna
Since we're on a RnB binge, here's the most recognizable track of all. Covered by so many artists, it's hard to keep track: The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Kingsmen, The Sonics, The Surpremes, The Miracles, etc. In my opinion, nothing beats the original.
I may have one obscure cover that is worth mentioning. If you want a female version, may I recommend Jannell Hawkins. This is a great way to surprise a crowd with something they are all familiar with.
Marie Franklin - Don'tcha Bet No Money - Maverick
This 1968 Soul screamer has everything to get you fired up. More about love than actual money, West Coast singer Marie Franklin surely belts it out with conviction. The B-side is just as raw and powerful but with a slower, Blues driven vibe. For some reason I've seen the same record come out on a green label. Why? I could not tell you.
Young Holt Trio - Ain't There Something That Money Can't Buy - Brunswick
This band from Chicago came out with this classic exemple of pure Mod Jazz in 1966. If you want to talk about what the original Mods listened too, forget about The Who or The Small Faces, THIS is it.
Ramsey Lewis - Money In The Pocket - Cadet
Speaking of Mod Jazz, here's a little instrumental number, with a cool sax solo in the middle, that won't cost you an arm and a leg. In fact, if you buy this 45, you'll still have money left in your pocket. Plus, you have the added bonus of having an instrumental version of Uptight (written Up Tight) on the opposite side.
Cathy Lynn & Lou (Moondog) Lawton - Dollars and Cents - Heart & Soul
It's not a record that is impossible to find but not much is known about this one or the small New York City label it came out on. This track is a hard driving uptempo number that will make you dance and leave you breathless. You would assume by looking at the label that this is a duet. You would be mistaken. Unless Cathy is a musician, not a trace of her is on the track. She is credited as the producer though. Lou Lawton is better known for one of my all-time favorite singles, Nick Nack Patty Wack.
James Brown - Money Won't Change You - Delta (In Canada)
This list wouldn't be complete without a little Funk from the Godfather of Soul himself, James Brown. The thing is, James Brown had more than one 45 with "money" in the title. I've Got Money is a prime exemple. Money Won't Change You hit the air waves in 1966 and climbed to the #11 spot on the RnB charts and peaked at #53 on the Pop charts.
The Pleasures - If I Had A Little Money - Catch
Last but not least is this underplayed little Soul gem. Not much is known about The Pleasures or the Catch record label, aside from the fact that they were distributed by Era Records, based in LA. Brenda Holloway was the better known artist to also have a 45 come out on Catch.
If there's a song I haven't mentioned here and that is worth spending a little moolah on, please let us know. To hear all the tracks form this list, just shimmy over to the Parka Avenue Podcast right here.