This list is not based only on albums sales, nor pure vocal power, this list takes into account the artist impact. Each of these artist created music that represents how we look at life, how we deal with and cultivate relationships, and some of went so far as to show how we view the world. R & B is no longer the soulful rhythm genre of music it once was. It has now been co-opted by hip hop and pop. I am sure that many people will have issue with some of the people on my list. If you’re favorite artist doesn’t have enough material for a greatest hits albums, they’re probably not on this list.

1. Stevie Wonder  is pure musical genius! Mr. Stevie Wonder is a gifted musician who has one of the smoothest, melodic, and recognizable voices to every be heard on radio, hands down. Since the age of 13 Mr. Wonder and produced hit after hit and here it is four decades, 30 top ten hits and 22 Grammys later and his music still makes us smile. He was never one to sing easy song, he sung songs with difficult choruses, abrupt stops and unpredictable changes. His accomplishments and impact on the music world is unrivaled.

2.Michael Jackson  as a 10 year-old he blew most competition young and old out the water! M.J. wasn’t just a  talent, he was a true student of music. To Michael Jackson music is art and he used his versatility to navigate musical genres effortlessly. His songs went the extra mile, with sound and vocal effects to create a deeper ambiance. Through his voice you could hear the anxiety, sadness or stress of a song, it was Jackson’s musical experimentations that led to the creation of modern-day pop-music. Michael’s voice is as distinctive, his smooth harmonic sounds are timeless. He has been often imitated (Donnell Jones, Usher, Beyonce, Ne-Yo, Chris Brown and countless others), but never duplicated!  You can also credit him with the needless explosion of choreography in videos and stage performance.

3. Prince was musically and thematically ahead of his time. Compiling ten platinum albums and thirty Top 40 singles during his career. He infused dark funk, pop, gospel soul with R & B passion. It was Prince and Michael Jackson who and sustained Music Television and music video.  He is also the uncredited father of the “text message”. Prince is an ambitious, creative, inspired musician. His off-kilter, feminine voiced songs are not duplicate. From ballads, to love songs, to dance melodies Prince did it all.

4. R. Kelly  is an incredibly gifted versatile singer. Robert Kelly can bring you from high and passionate, to a playful sing-song flow with the greatest of ease. Kells, or the Pied-Piper of R & B manages to reinvent himself with each album. He has sung songs about topics that are relevant to the everyday man from finances, to love problems, to having faith in oneself. Billboard has acknowleded R. Kelly as #1 R & B artist of the last 25 years, go figure. His collaborations are legendary and the next time you are “Stepping”, or doing the “Slide” at a club or wedding reception remember that R. Kelly made it possible.

5. Ray Charles: His records were always filled with an expressed assortment of slurs, glides, moans, shrieks, wails, shouts, and hollers that were all beautifully controlled, disciplined and inspired by his musicianship. For over 40 years Ray Charles filled us with thought and empowerment. He composed, arranged and produced his music long before there was a corporate vehicle to do so. Whether he was tackling country music, putting in Latin-esque blues motif or call and responses with the back-up singer, Ray Charles was a musical explorer who pushed boundaries and the boundaries of race, a pioneer.  He had one of the most distinctive and powerful voices the industry has ever known and it’s a shame that more people don’t know his work.

Also in order and deserving to be mentioned for the great music and contributions to the R & B genre are James Brown, Luther Vandross, Lionel Richie, Sam Cooke, Marvin Gaye, Teddy Pentergrass, Al Jereau, Usher,  Ron Isley, Smokey Robinson,  Keith Sweat, Al Green,  Freddie Jackson, Baby Face,  Barry White, Jackie Wilson, Peabo Bryson, Frankie Beverly, Brian McNight, Maxwell, Howard Hewett, Jackie Wilson, Jeffrey Osbourne, James Ingram, Avant, Lou Rawls, Brian Mcknight, Musiq and Joe.

What’s  Your Top 5?

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