Chart Watch Extra: White Artists With Soul
To celebrate Black Music Month, I have for you today a list of the biggest white artists in the history of Billboard's R&B chart. That may seem to be an odd way to celebrate Black Music Month, but it dramatizes that black music has influenced countless artists in a wide range of genres. Elvis Presley, whose hits "Hound Dog" and "Crying In The Chapel" were remakes of earlier R&B hits, is the most successful white artist in the history of the R&B chart, which is now called Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs.
Twenty-one white artists rank among the top 500 R&B hit-makers in chart history in chart researcher Joel Whitburn's indispensable book Hot R&B Songs 1942-2010. The roster includes numerous blue-eyed soul singers (George Michael, Daryl Hall & John Oates, Robin Thicke, Justin Timberlake), a rap icon (Eminem), disco stars (KC & the Sunshine Band), a pop provocateur (Madonna), funk stars (Teena Marie, Average White Band), Latino crossover stars (Lisa Lisa & Cult Jam, Fat Joe, Jennifer Lopez, Angela Bofill) and instrumentalists (Herb Alpert, Kenny G).
Here's a complete list of white artists who rank among the top 500 R&B hit-makers in chart history in Hot R&B Songs 1942-2010. At the end of each entry, I tell you where that act ranks among the top 500.
1. Elvis Presley. The king of rock and roll had 24 top 10 R&B hits, from 1956's "Heartbreak Hotel" to 1963's "(You're The) Devil In Disguise." Six of them, including "Hound Dog," reached #1. Blues singer Willie Mae "Big Mama" Thornton had a #1 R&B hit with "Hound Dog" in 1953. Top 500 ranking: #46.
2. Johnny Otis. Otis amassed 17 top 10 R&B hits, from 1948's "That's Your Last Boogie," a Joe Swift hit on which Otis and his orchestra were featured, to 1958's classic "Willie And The Hand Jive." Eleven of the hits were collabos with Little Esther and/or Mel Walker. Otis was born John Veliotes in Vallejo, Calif. to Greek parents. His son, Shuggie Otis, wrote the Brothers Johnson's 1977 smash "Strawberry Letter 23." Top 500 ranking: #141.
3. Teena Marie. Marie had seven top 10 R&B hits, from 1979's "I'm A Sucker For Your Love" to 1991's "If I Were A Bell." "Ooo La La La" reached #1 R&B in 1988. Rick James discovered Marie and sang a backing vocal on "I'm A Sucker For Your Love." Marie, who was born Mary Brockert, charted with collabos with Baby, Gerald Levert and Faith Evans. Top 500 ranking: #158.
4. KC & the Sunshine Band. The disco group included both black and white members, but leader Harry Wayne Casey is white. The group had seven top 10 R&B hits, from 1975's "Get Down Tonight" to 1979's "Do You Wanna Go Party." Casey co-wrote all seven songs with Richard Finch. (They also co-wrote three top 10 R&B hits, including "Rock Your Baby," for George McCrae.) K.C. was featured on Teri DeSario's hit remake of Barbara Mason's "Yes, I'm Ready" and on a chart hit by The 2 Live Crew. Top 500 ranking: #177.