When I was in the Army my black friends took me to a "Wicked" Wilson Picket show in South Carolina , was a bit scared because I seemed to be the only white guy in the club . Don’t think anyone would have bothered me but with 4 big Airborne soldiers at my side it was A-OK . Wilson was a force of nature and could slay any R & B song ever written ,
Damn, all great lists and nominees! Missing are Big Joe Turner, Howlin' Wolf, Muddy Waters, and Albert King, and if whites other than Van Morrison are okay (;-), Richard Manuel, Steve Winwood, and Bill Medley. Of course no one here would say Michael McDonald or Michael Bolton!
Otis Redding--On These Arms of Mine the recording engineer said he could, "hear the tears in his voice." And this was at the end of a long day of recording work by the band he was a roadie for...great story to hear.
Smokey Robinson--nothing else to say here.
Ray Charles--on those songs he did in soul music style.
James Brown--nothing else to say here.
Marvin Gaye, Sam Cooke, Jackie Wilson, Sam and Dave...we played all these artists' songs in bands in the '60's and '70's. MUSIC!!
Re those not yet mentioned: Although not at all a fan of disco, has anybody ever heard Jimmy Ellis scream "Satisfaction, came in a chain reaction"(Disco Inferno). Don’t know much else about the group but boy did that guy have lungs.
I'll add EARLY Lou Rawls. Check out his album with Les McCann and Les's trio. I just lent a copy to a new 'phile friend I met here on the 'Gon. He reluctantly borrowed it and told me when I visited him and his rig that it is amazing.
Please please do yourself a favor and listen to Lou Rawls & Les McCann Stormy Monday. The album is amazing. Listen to how well it's recorded. Listen to how Lou (I think he's in his 20s) handles these standards and develops them with great vibrato and that amazing Lou deep tone. He has such moxy in spots. Such attitude. Give Outskirts of Town a roll.
+1 for Jackie Wilson. I saw him in my home town of Detroit when I was a kid or young teen. What an extraordinary entertainer he was. He danced and danced well all over his stage and could do full splits as well.