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.
5. Eminem. The rap icon, a protégé of Dr. Dre, has had three top 10 R&B hits: the Oscar-winning "Lose Yourself," Drake's "Forever," on which he was featured along with Kanye West and Lil Wayne, and "Love The Way You Lie" (featuring Rihanna). Eminem was born Marshall Mathers. Top 500 ranking: #205.
6. Lisa Lisa & Cult Jam. The group had eight top 10 R&B hits, from 1985's "I Wonder If I Take You Home" (with Full Force) to 1991's "Let The Beat Hit 'Em." Three of these hits featured Full Force, which assembled and produced the act. Two reached #1 on both the pop and R&B charts: 1987's "Head To Toe" and "Lost In Emotion." Lead singer Lisa Velez, a Latina singer/actress, was born in Harlem. Top 500 ranking: #244.
7. Fat Joe. The Latin rapper and actor had three top 10 R&B hits: 2001's "We Thuggin" (featuring R. Kelly), 2002's "What's Luv?" (featuring Ashanti) and 2007's "Make It Rain" (featuring Lil Wayne). In addition, as a member of Terror Squad, he topped the pop and R&B charts in 2004 with "Lean Back." Fat Joe was born Joseph Cartagena in the Bronx to parents of Puerto Rican and Cuban descent. Top 500 ranking: #281.
8. George Michael/Wham!. The British artist has had six top 10 R&B hits, from Wham!'s 1985 hit "Careless Whisper" to 1989's "Heaven Help Me," a Deon Estus song on which he was featured. The tally includes a Grammy-winning duet with Aretha Franklin, "I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me)." "One More Try" reached #1 on both the pop and R&B charts in 1988. Michael, who was born Georgios Panayiotou, also charted with a collabo with Mary J. Blige. Top 500 ranking: #307.
9. Daryl Hall & John Oates. The duo had two top 10 R&B hits in 1982-1983: "I Can't Go For That (No Can Do) and "One On One." "I Can't Go For That" reached #1 on both the pop and R&B charts. In 1985, the pair charted with a collabo with David Ruffin & Eddie Kendrick of the Temptations, which was recorded at the Apollo Theater in Harlem. (In addition, Tavares' cover of Hall & Oates' "She's Gone" hit #1 R&B in 1974.) Top 500 ranking: #334.
10. The Everly Brothers. Brothers Don and Phil Everly had six top 10 R&B hits, from 1957's "Bye Bye Love" to 1960's "Cathy's Clown." "Wake Up Little Susie," "All I Have To Do Is Dream" and "Cathy's Clown" all reached #1 on both the pop and R&B charts. Top 500 ranking: #353.
11. Robin Thicke. Thicke has had three top 10 R&B hits: 2007's "Lost Without U," 2008's "Magic" and 2010's "Sex Therapy." The first and third reached #1 R&B. Thicke has also charted with collabos with Pharrell, Faith Evans, Snoop Dogg and Lil Wayne. Thicke's mother, Gloria Loring, cracked the R&B chart in 1986 with her pop smash "Friends And Lovers," a collabo with Carl Anderson. Top 500 ranking: #354.
12. Herb Alpert. The trumpeter had four top 10 R&B hits, from 1979's "Rise" to 1987's "Making Love In The Rain." The tally includes 1987's "Diamonds," a #1 R&B hit which featured a red-hot Janet Jackson. Alpert co-wrote Sam Cooke's 1960 hit "Wonderful World," which reached #2 R&B. Alpert first cracked the R&B chart as an artist in 1978 with a collabo with fellow 1960s vet Hugh Masekela. Top 500 ranking: #367.
13. Jennifer Lopez. J.Lo has had four top 10 R&B hits, from 1999's "If You Had My Love" to 2003's "All I Have" (featuring LL Cool J). The tally includes two collabos with Ja Rule. Lopez's other collabo partners include Nas and Pitbull. Lopez was born in the Bronx to Puerto Rican parents. Top 500 ranking: #385.
14. Average White Band (AWB). The funk band from Scotland had two top 10 R&B hits in 1975: the instrumental "Pick Up The Pieces" and the double-entendre-laden "Cut The Cake." AWB later charted with a pair of collabos with the great Ben E. King. Top 500 ranking: #398.
15. Ricky Nelson. Rock and roll's first teen star had five top 10 R&B hits, from 1957's remake of Fats Domino's "I'm Walking" to 1958's "Poor Little Fool." Nelson was 18 by the time of the last-named hit. Nelson was a co-star of The Adventures Of Ozzie And Harriet, which aired on ABC-TV from 1952 to 1966. Top 500 ranking: #423.
16. Angela Bofill. The singer, who was born in the Bronx to a Cuban father and a Puerto Rican mother, had a top 10 R&B hit in 1983 with "Too Tough." She also made the top 15 with "Tonight I Give In" and a cover of Gino Vannelli's "I Just Wanna Stop." Top 500 ranking: #432.
17. Lisa Stansfield. The English artist had three top 10 hits from 1990 to 1992: "All Around The World," "You Can't Deny It" and "All Woman." All three topped the R&B chart. Stansfield later charted with a collabo with Babyface. Top 500 ranking: #441.
18. Kenny G. The saxophonist amassed three top 20 R&B hits: a cover of Jr. Walker & the All-Stars' "What Does It Take (To Win Your Love)," "Don't Make Me Wait For Love" and "We've Saved The Best For Last" (with Smokey Robinson). Kenny G (real name: Kenneth Gorelick) also charted with collabos with Kashif and Peabo Bryson. Top 500 ranking: #445.
19. Jon B. The artist (real name: Jonathan Buck) had three top 10 R&B hits from 1995 to 1998: "Someone To Love" (featuring Babyface), "Are U Still Down" and "They Don't Know." Babyface also wrote "Someone To Love," which was featured in the hit movie Bad Boys. Top 500 ranking: #459.
20. Madonna. The pop icon hit the top 10 on the R&B chart with 1985's "Like A Virgin." Nile Rodgers of Chic produced the smash. Madonna's other top 20 R&B hits are "Into The Groove," "Like A Prayer" and "Vogue." Top 500 ranking: #463.
21. Justin Timberlake. The former *NSYNC star has had three top 10 R&B hits, two of which were collabos with T.I.: "My Love" and "Dead And Gone." The third was "Until The End Of Time" (featuring Beyonce). Timberlake's other collabo partners include Timbaland, the Black Eyed Peas, 50 Cent, Ciara and Jamie Foxx. (*NSYNC had two top 20 R&B hits, but no top 10s.) Timberlake is, hands down, the coolest former member of The Mickey Mouse Club. Top 500 ranking: #488.
Disclaimer: The R&B chart didn't really find its groove until January 1965, when it was re-launched after a 14-month absence. Until then, pop smashes with little R&B content routinely climbed high on the R&B chart. As a result, the top 10 tallies for Presley, the Everly Brothers and Ricky Nelson are probably inflated.
Though they aren't ranked in the top 500, Bee Gees deserve mention. The brother trio had four top 10 R&B hits, from 1976's "You Should Be Dancing" to 1979's "Too Much Heaven." Barry, Maurice and Robin Gibb co-wrote all four songs.
If you enjoyed this report, you may be interested in two of Whitburn's books: Hot R&B Songs 1942-2010 and Top 10 R&B Hits 1942-2010. Whitburn's website is www.recordresearch.com.