Last year, I posted on Facebook that I had gotten tickets to the Hall & Oates reunion tour and was going to see them at the PNC Bank Arts Center in New Jersey. The reactions following this post ranged from a simple to “like” to a “Wow! That’s great! They’re Amazing!” post. Then I got a comment from one of my white friends stating “Hall & Oates? I thought you were Black?!” Upon reading this, I thought to myself “Oh, you silly Caucasian! Do you not know that Black people love Hall & Oates?”
It’s true! In A world of white musicians, there are a handful of artists that have gotten a Black following unbeknownst to white people. Any karaoke night in a Black neighborhood might have a drop-in rendition from one of these tottally acceptable caucasian crooners. Now normally when you think of white artists who have black fans, you think of artists who either pander or got in with a co-sign from a black artist (ex. Rick James/ Teena Marie, Dr. Dre/ Eminem, RUN DMC/ Beastie Boys, Timbaland/ Justin Timberlake & Bubba Sparxxx, T.I./ Iggy Azalea). But there are a handful of artists who managed to get that audience just by being themselves and putting out music that just speaks to Black people.
Robin Thicke did it. Amy Winehouse did it. Ed Sheeran did it (who saw THAT coming?!?) and here are the top 5 OLD SCHOOL artists that were able to successfully do it:
1. Hall & Oates
Upon first glance, Hall & Oates is a goofy-looking pop duo that’s made goofy little pop songs like “You Make My Dreams” and “Out of Touch”. But if you look deeper, you’ll hear two guys from Philly who were heavily influenced by 70’s soul. Songs like “She’s Gone”, “Rich Girl” and “Sara Smile” could’ve TOTALLY been sung by The Delfonics, The Spinners or The Stylistics. Add that to the fact that “I Can’t Go For That” and “Maneater” are both funky as all hell (that bassline, tho’) and the fact that I’m preeeetty sure John Oates is, like, a quarter black (Wikipedia says he’s not, but I don’t buy it! Fake News!), how could Hall & Oates NOT have a black fan base?
who sampled: Donnell Jones “Cry”
2. Elton John
He’s performed on Soul Train, dressed up in loud, gawdy, pimp-like outfits in the 70’s and sang songs about fighting on Saturday night, island girls and Philadelphia freedom. Even though he’s a pasty white dude from England, you can’t deny that the guy’s got soul! I truly can’t put my finger on it, but there’s something in the way Elton sings with such heart, soul and earnest honesty that black people just vibe with. His music just speaks to the black community in ways that many singers can’t. I mean, he’s had his songs sampled by Kanye West, Tribe Called Quest and Aloe Blacc for a reason, people!
who sampled: Mary J. Blige “Just Mary”
3. Michael McDonald
There’s a very good chance that the main reason black people are totally down with Michael McDonald is because they though he was black when they first heard him and simply refuse to believe otherwise. Ever since his days in the Doobie Brothers, everyone has had a hard time believing that the St. Louis native with the voice as deep and smooth as a fine snifter of cognac is 100% Caucasian. Even when he performed on Soul Train, did a duet with Patti LaBelle and created “I Keep Forgetting”, which is one of the SMOOOOOTHEST bad-ass songs of the 80’s that Warren G sampled for “Regulate”, people were like “Nah….he’s GOT to have some black in him!” But alas, the singer is just a man whose soulful tones have had black people groovin’ for decades. From his days with the Doobies to his most recent appearance on the new Thundercat album, Mikey Mickey D can definitely get an invite to the cookout.
who sampled: Warren G. “Regulators”
4. The Bee Gees
Now when I say the Bee Gees, I’m not talking about the Bee Gees of the early 60’s, because that music is whiter than a marshmallow sandwich on Wonder bread. No, I’m talking about the 70’s Bee Gees. The funky kings of disco Bee Gees that had black people grooving, despite having those high-pitched, chipmunk-like voices. Again, I can’t put my finger on it, but there’s something about the mix of the dope-ass, disco rhythms and freakishly-high voices that has earned the respect of black people everywhere. Wyclef Jean knew what he was doing when he sampled “Stayin’ Alive” and “Nights on Broadway”, “More Than a Woman” AND “Night Fever” can get all the play at the cookout!
who sampled: Wyclef Jean “Stayin’ Alive”
5. George Michael
The movie “Keanu” would have you believe that listening to George Michael is something that white folks and lames dudes do and that’s a big old bag of baloney ‘cuz I fucks with the GM heavy and I’m cool as all hell (“bag of baloney” comment withstanding)! Much like Hall & Oates, your first thoughts of George Michael might be that of a pop star who sings about being woken up before you go-go, but if you listen a little deeper, you’ll hear a man whose clearly been influenced by R&B, jazz vocals and dance. Whether it was in the sheer dopeness of tracks like “Everything She Wants” and “Freedom ‘90” or the slow, smooth tracks like “Father Figure” and “One More Try”, George definitely had that soul. Any man that can do a duet with both Elton John AND Aretha Franklin can get the black nod!
who sampled: Estelle “Substitute Love”
Honorable Mentions: Adele, Lisa Stansfield, Amy Winehouse, Bobby Caldwell, Taylor Dane, Sam Smith