Our top 10 Bobby Bland songs list presents a legendary musician often referred to as the “Sinatra of the Blues,” thanks to his immense influence on the blues scene. Born in 1930, Bobby “Blue” Bland is one of the most decorated artists in the blues scene, second in stature only to B.B. King as per the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Part of his success in the blues and soul music scene results from his tempestuous storytelling style. The “Lion of the Blues” has cited often that Nat King Cole hugely influenced his passion and style of music. Bobby Bland captivated audiences with his vocal abilities that were cleary one of a kind.
Bobby Bland realized his music career after his mother moved to Memphis, where he sang in local gospel groups. Enthusiastic Bobby would later make tons of visits to Beale Street, where he would finally meet and get associated with the Beale Streeters. The Beale Streeters was the collective name of aspiring musicians Junior Parker, B.B. King, Johnny Ace, and Rosco Gordon. It didn’t take long to have Ike Turner spot Bobby Bland taking him to Modern Records. At first, they had Bobby Bland record “They Call It Stormy Monday,” a song by T-Bone Walker, owing to his illiterate nature (note that Bobby Bland never graduated from school). While this song was never released, Bobby Bland would later record and release it in 1961. Turner knew from the word go that Bobby Bland was an icon in the making hence backed him on the piano for his first two records.
While the records didn’t yield commercial success, they had Bobby Bland attract the attention of Duke Records, with whom he would sign a contract after his time in the U.S. Army. Bobby Bland recorded for Duke Records alongside bandleader Bill Harvey. Unlike many blues artists who play musical instruments, Bobby Bland’s only skill was his awe-inspiring vocals. Bobby Bland would achieve a commercial breakthrough after landing his first chart success in 1957 with the energetic hit “Farther Up the Road.” The song topped in the R&B chart while peaking at number forty-three on the Billboard Hot 100.
Since then, Bobby Bland released a lot of great blues, soul, and R&B vibes that made him the man he was until his death. His music has become a go-to place for musicians such as Van Morrison, Simply Red, Kanye West, Whitesnake, and Mick Hucknall, who covered and/or sampled the hits. Bobby Bland went on of tours alongside iconic blues artist B.B.King, with the two seeming to be more of friends than competitors in the blues scene.
Luckily, Bobby Bland is among the few old-school artists who received their flowers (read major accolades) while still alive. As early as 1981, Bobby Bland was already inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame. More Hall of Fame honors, Grammy Awards nominations, and lifetime achievement awards followed, making Bobby Bland a living legend. Bobby Bland would receive his last honor (inducted to the Memphis Music Hall of Fame) in 2012, a few months to his death in June 2013. Here are the top 10 Bobby Bland songs that cement his fame as a rare gem in the blues scene.
#10 – Farther Up the Road
Ushering us to the top 10 Bobby Bland songs is the dynamic record “Farther Up the Road.” Sometimes referred to as “Further On Up the Road,” the song is the roadmap to the transition from the 1940 blues to the blues-rock vibes of the 1960s. Blues singer Jonny Copeland revealed that the song’s lyrics were the work of Joe Medwick Veasey.
The song features Bobby Bland’s trademark melodic vocals riding over a bouncy shuffle. “Farther Up the Road” established itself as the perfect Texas blues ballad with its signature licks that demonstrate the lost link between T-Bone Walker and Eric Clapton. The song was Bobby Bland’s first charting single, topping the Billboard R&B chart while peaking at number forty-three on the Billboard Hot 100. Eric Clapton would later cover the song in his album E. C. Was Here.
#9 – Love to See You Smile
“Love to See You Smile” is a rip-roaring release from Bobby Bland’s album, Come Fly with Me (1978). Bobby Bland established himself as a master in expressive singing, thanks to his emotion-filled vocals that helped channel his message like in this love song. The song’s lyrics allude to a man who wishes to see his woman happy in love. This follows the woman coming into this man’s life and transforming him from a lonely guy to a man who feels treasured. “Love to See You Smile” is not like any mediocre love song that feels like flattery! Its lyrics feel like the kindest utterance a woman would ever need to hear a man confess in regards to the love he feels and wishes to repay. Randy Newman released a song with a close title to Bobby Bland’s version going under the name “I Love to See You Smile.”
#8 – This Time, I’m Gone for Good
On a scale of zero to ten, Bobby Bland would, without doubt, get the maximum score from many for his splendid vocals in “This Time, I’m Gone for Good,” from His California Album. Not only were his vocals on point and truly expressive, but also were the song’s lyrics relatable and striking. It happens that when human beings love something, they get quite attached to it. The culmination of this is a hard time trying to say goodbye.
In one way or another, we all have to say goodbye to what we hold dear in life when it’s lost or gone. However, a goodbye to someone you love is not something that comes easily. Bobby Bland expresses how it feels to walk away from a toxic relationship where the guy keeps getting back owing to his attachment to a lady who does him wrong each time. You can feel the pain in his vocals as well as the determination in his exclamations when he says, “This Time, I’m Gone for Good.” Freddy Cole covered the song in his album Singing the Blues.
#7 – Cry Cry Cry
“Cry Cry Cry” is a transition from a man who’s caught in moving on from a relationship (see our number eight song in this list) to a man who’s made an assertive decision to see a woman cry after its over. The song finds Bobby Bland with no sympathy to a woman who made him cry in a relationship. He seems to have moved on swift compared to the back-and-forth on-and-off situation experienced in “This Time, I’m Gone for Good.”
At this juncture, the woman realizes what she has lost, but all the singer wishes to see is the woman shed tears as he did earlier in the relationship when she took him for granted. Sounds like torture to the woman, but this is more of facing the consequences of treating a man ill when he was dedicated to the relationship. Johnny Cash and Coldplay have released their version of “Cry Cry Cry,” with different lyrics.
#6 – I Pity the Fool
Number six on our top 10 Bobby Bland songs list is the soul-blues hit “I Pity the Fool.” The song was penned by Joe Medwick and released in the album Two Steps from the Blues. “I Pity the Fool” has its lyrics alluding to a gentleman who knows he is also shamed while pitying other guys for falling for a certain lady. The song gave Bobby Bland fame having it become one of his most identifiable ballads. “I Pity the Fool” oozes great musicianship thanks to its blending of pulsing instrument playing and awe-inspiring vocals. Other artists to cover the song include The Manish Boys and Ann Peebles.
#5 – I’ll Take Care of You
“I’ll Take Care of You” is a composition of Brook Benton that Bobby Bland originally released in his album Two Steps from the Blues. The song’s lyrics depict a man trying to show love and compassion to a woman who seems to be from a hurtful relationship. Thanks to Bobby Bland’s smooth vocals that the song possesses a catchy vibe. Other than Bobby Bland’s soulful stamp on this ballad, other artists who covered this song include Etta James, Van Morrison, Gil Scott-Heron, Elvis Costello, and Irma Thomas. The song was also sampled by Drake, who featured Rihanna in his song “Take Care.”
#4 – That’s The Way Love Is
While many struggle to explain what love feels like, Bobby Bland only took the song “That’s the Way Love Is” to elucidate the feeling. In a nutshell, Bobby Bland tells of how being in love involves a rollercoaster of emotions. One day you are good with your partner, the other, it is sour between you two. While you might laugh and cherish it today, there’s a big chance that you will cry tomorrow. At a time, you’ll be begging the lady, and soon after, it will be the lady pleading with you. “That’s the Way Love Is” topped the Billboard Hot R&B Sides chart while peaking at number thirty-three on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. In 1969, Marvin Gaye released his version of the song “That’s the Way Love Is,” a cover of The Isley Brothers 1967 song (different from Bobby Bland’s version).
#3 – Members Only
Bobby Bland released one of his most humorous and stirring blues hit “Members Only.” The song calls people to a party whose entrance requires no money or social status. All you need is a broken heart to be among the “Members Only.” Here no one will judge you for saying that you lost your woman/man since all these souls have counted their losses too. In some way, the song calls for self-acceptance after the worst has happened in a relationship. Written by Larry Anderson, the song was released in 1987 in Bland’s album First Class Blues. Many artists to have covered the song include Duane Stephenson, Lee Towers, and Tyrone Taylor.
#2 – Ain’t No Love in the Heart of the City
“Ain’t No Love in the Heart of the City” is a song penned by Michael Price and Dan Walsh for Bobby Bland’s album Dreamer. While the song is allegedly a love ballad, some take it as a lament on hopelessness, struggles in achieving goals in a lone path, and urban poverty. Despite the song peaking at position ninety-one on the Billboard Hot 100, “Ain’t No Love in the Heart of the City” was a favorite for many blues fans. The song was covered by many artists, including Whitesnake, and sampled by Jay Z in his release “Heart of The City (Ain’t No Love).”
#1 – Turn On Your Love Light
Number one on our top 10 Bobby Bland songs list is the hit “Turn on Your Love Lights.” The song was written by Joe Scott and released in Bobby Bland’s album Here’s the Man! “Turn On Your Love Light” finds Bobby Bland desperate for loving a woman having him beg the lady to ‘turn on her love light.’ The song peaked at number two on the Billboard R&B chart while still reaching number twenty-eight on the Billboard Hot 100.
“Turn On Your Love Light” is credited as one of the songs that shaped Rock and Roll. Following this, the song received a Grammy Hall of Fame Award in 1999. It would also earn induction to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame list of the top five hundred songs that shaped rock and roll. Other artists to cover the song include Grateful Dead, Bill Black’s Combo, Jerry Lee Lewis, The Human Beinz, and Oscar Toney Jr.
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