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Greatest R&B/Soul Groups Ever

The Best of the Best ...

By

Hundreds of R&B and Soul groups have achieved varying forms of success in the music business over the decades, but only a relative few have had lasting success. And among those, even fewer have been able to have lasting careers -- ones that are either legendary or have the potential to be so. Using a calculation formula that includes vocal creativity, chart-topping songs and albums, awards won, name recognition, songwriting ability and other factors, your R&B/Soul Guide has crafted a list of picks for the dozen best R&B, Soul and Funk groups in music history.

1. The Isley Brothers

Who They Are: Funk-Soul group The Isley Brothers, which is led by buttery-smooth vocalist Ronald Isley, is one of the longest-lasting acts in music history. They formed in Cincinnati, Ohio in the 1950s and had their first hit song during that same decade. Since then, they've managed to have at least one hit song and album in six consecutive decades, a feat that no other R&B or Soul act can say they've accomplished.
Essential Songs: "Shout" (1959); "It's Your Thing" (1968); "Who's That Lady" (1973); "For the Love of You" (1975); "Between the Sheets" (1983).
Essential Albums: 3 + 3 (1973); Go for Your Guns (1977); Between the Sheets (1983).

2. Earth, Wind & Fire

Who They Are: Funk-Soul band Earth, Wind & Fire was formed in Chicago in 1969. The group, which has over a dozen members, has won six Grammys and is in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. EWF was most popular during the disco era of the 1970s and early '80s.
Essential Songs: "Shining Star" (1975); "Fantasy" (1977); "September" (1978); "Boogie Wonderland" (1979); "Let's Groove" (1981).
Essential Albums: That's the Way of the World (1975); Spirit (1976); All 'n All (1977).

3. The Jackson 5/The Jacksons

Who They Are: The Jacksons, who were known as The Jackson 5 early in their career, were a family act that first hit the music scene in the 1960s. The group, which was active until the early 1990s, was an R&B-pop sensation during most of their career, mostly thanks to the group's breakout star, singer-dancer Michael Jackson.
Essential Songs: "I Want You Back" (1969); "ABC" (1969); "Never Can Say Goodbye" (1971); "Dancing Machine" (1973).
Essential Albums: ABC (1969); Third Album (1970).

4. The Supremes (Diana Ross & The Supremes)

Who They Are: The Supremes are a legendary vocal trio from Detroit that was a sort of parallel of another act on this list, The Miracles. The group was renamed Diana Ross & The Supremes in the mid-to-late '60s, but changed back in 1970 when Diana Ross left for a solo career. The trio broke up in 1977, but has occasionally reunited for special appearances since the 1980s.
Essential Songs: "Baby Love" (1964); "Stop! In the Name of Love" (1965); "You Can't Hurry Love" (1966).
Essential Albums: Where Did I Love Go (1964); The Supremes A' Go-Go (1966).

5. The Miracles (Smokey Robinson & The Miracles)

Who They Are: The Miracles are a Hall of Fame vocal group from Detroit that's best known for numerous pop-R&B hits in the 1960s and '70s, led by singer-songwriter Smokey Robinson. The group, which was called Smokey Robinson & The Miracles from 1965 to 1972, split in 1983 but reformed 10 years later. They continue to perform today, but only two of the five original members are part of the modern version of the group.
Essential Songs: "Shop Around" (1960); "You've Really Got a Hold on Me" (1962); "Tears of a Clown" (1970); "Love Machine," (1975).
Essential Albums: Going to a Go-Go (1965); Tears of a Clown (1970).

6. Boyz II Men

Who They Are: Boyz II Men formed as a five-member group in Philadelphia in the late 1980s and is still active today, but as a trio. They're one of the best-selling R&B groups of all time, and to date have won four Grammys, including two for their signature tune, "End of the Road."
Essential Songs: "It's So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday" (1991); "I'll Make Love to You," (1994); "Hey Lover" ( with LL Cool J, 1995).
Essential Albums: Cooleyhighharmony (1991); II (1994).

7. Destiny's Child

Who They Are: Destiny's Child, which formed in Houston in the 1990s and prominently featured Beyonce and Kelly Rowland, was a modern equivalent of The Supremes. They ultimately received three Grammy awards, a high amount for a group with a relatively short history.
Essential Songs: "Bills, Bills, Bills," "Say My Name," "Jumpin, Jumpin", all of which were released in 1999 and reached No. 1 on the music charts; and "Survivor" (2001).
Essential Albums: The Writing's on the Wall (1999); Survivor (2001).

8. The Temptations

Who They Are: The Temptations, who are still active today, formed in Detroit in 1960. They were the first Motown act ever to win a Grammy award, and to date have received a total of three Grammys.
Essential Songs: "My Girl" (1965), "I Can't Get Next to You" (1969), "Just My Imagination (Running Away with Me)" (1971) and "Papa Was a Rollin' Stone" (1972), all of which reached No. 1 on the pop charts.
Essential Albums: Gettin' Ready (1966); Sky's the Limit (1971).

9. The O'Jays

Who They Are: The O'Jays are a long-lasting R&B vocal group that was formed in Ohio in the late 1950s. They took their current band name in 1963 as a tribute to Cleveland radio disc jockey Eddie O'Jay.
Essential Songs: "Back Stabbers" (1972), "Love Train" (1973) and "For the Love of Money" (1974). The trio's lead vocalist is the legendary Eddie Levert, father of another legendary singer, the late, great Gerald Levert.
Essential Albums: Back Stabbers (1972); Ship Ahoy (1973).

10. Kool & the Gang

Who They Are: Kool & the Gang started out as a pure Jazz band called the Jazziacs in the mid-1960s, but by the time the 1980s rolled around, they'd evolved into an R&B-pop-Funk group specializing in party songs. The group, which is still active today, is led by musician-singer Robert "Kool" Bell and his brother, saxophonist Ronald Bell.
Essential Songs: "Jungle Boogie" (1973), "Hollywood Swinging" (1974) and "Ladies Night" (1979).
Essential Albums: Celebrate! (1980); Something Special (1981).

11. Parliament-Funkadelic

Who They Are: The twin bands of Parliament and Funkadelic, aka Parliament-Funkadelic, aka P-Funk, is arguably the best Funk ensemble ever. The collective was originally two bands that had the same members, but recorded for different labels. The band's still active under the names the P-Funk All-Stars and Parliament-Funkadelic. Among the more famous past and present members: George Clinton, Bootsy Collins and Maceo Parker.
Essential Songs: Include "Flash Light" (by Parliament, 1977) and "One Nation Under a Groove" (by Funkadelic, 1978).
Essential Albums: Funkadelic (Funkadelic, 1970); Mothership Connection (Parliament, 1976).

12. En Vogue

Who They Are: En Vogue was one of the most successful R&B girl groups of the 1990s. The quartet, which formed in Oakland, California and is modeled after 1960s groups like the Supremes, went through some lineup changes over the years, but since 2009, original members Terry Ellis, Cindy Herron, Maxine Jones and Dawn Robinson, have been back together and touring extensively.
Essential Songs: Include "Hold On" (1990), "Lies" (1990), "Free Your Mind" (1992) and "Whatta Man" (with Salt-n-Pepa, 1994).
Essential Album: Their 1990 debut release, Born to Sing.

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