Dexy's Midnight Runners
Dexy's may be best known for their hit "Come On, Eileen," but they were punks deep into Northern Soul long before they had big hits. NME writer Mike Cordery said the band had no soul, writing the music possessed "no tenderness, no sex, no wit, no laughter," but it doesn't sound that way to me.
The Style Council
Paul Weller's time in The Jam demonstrated plenty of R&B influences, but with his post-Jam group The Style Council he brought the soul influences to the forefront. Not all the songs were perfect -- but songs like "Walls Come Tumbling Down" groove like a punk rock Van Morrison kicking over a stack of Tamla '45s.
Boasting an androgynous look on loan from New Wave and punk, Grace Jones' sound was all disco-tempo soul. Plus, she gets bonus points for being in Conan the Destroyer.
Daryl Hall, on a break from Philly soul-duo Hall & Oates, cut a record in 1977 with art-rock statesman Robert Fripp (King Crimson). As expected, tunes like the punky "NYCNY" got record execs freaking out. The album was finally released in 1980. It sold well, but got little promotion. Who knows where Hall might have went if he stayed on this path?
Not only did Betty Davis inspire her then-husband Miles to explore electric funk, but she issued three of the seventies nastiest soul-funk records, with a fourth effort, Is It Love or Desire?, recorded in 1976 but not released until 2009. Her primal, gutsy scream easily puts her in the league with Iggy and The MC5 as a proto-punk goddess.
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Sure, we all laugh at the Dave Chappelle skits, but James truly rocked. Read this brilliant article from Creem Magazine for the whole story. He called his music "punk funk," and he always gave great quotes: "Right now I got a few million dollars and I'm doing all right; I hope to have 20 million soon, so I can sit back real fat like Mick Jagger and Rod Stewart and all them other assholes who sit out there and talk shit and procrastinate and talk that hypocritical ass bullshit about their 'art'..."
Beth Ditto's got a truly great voice. The best soul music manages to perfectly combine emotion with melody, and she's got the trick down.