Our Top 10 Johnnie Taylor Songs List presents the best Johnnie Taylor songs like “Disco Lady,” “Who’s Making Love” ” Steal Away,” and many more.First born in Crawfordsville, Arkansas on May 5, 1934, Johnnie Taylor was mostly raised in West Memphis. While there, he performed gospel music since he was a young boy, whether in a group or on his own. As an adult, he first performed with the gospel group, The Highway Q.C.’s when a young Sam Cooke was part of the band’s roster. In 1957, Taylor replaced Cooke with another gospel group, Soul Stirrers. His singing voice was close to Cooke’s, making him an easy choice as a replacement.
When Sam Cooke began his independent label, SAR Records, Taylor was among the first singers to sign up in 1962. Unfortunately, after Sam Cooke died in 1964, the label went defunct. It wouldn’t be until 1966 that Taylor would sign up with Stax Records. It would be the start of his career as the “Philosopher of Soul.” He was also known as “the Blues Wailer.” While there, he recorded music with the label’s house band, including Booker T. & the M.G.’s.
While there, Taylor recorded and released a string of hits that established him as a certified R&B star. Johnnie Taylor, Otis Redding, The Staple Singers, and Isaac Hayes, were among the flagship artists belonging to Stax until it folded in 1975. After Stax, Taylor signed up with Columbia Records. It was while at this label Taylor’s star reached its highest peak. After Brad Shapiro replaced Don Davis as the label’s production manager, Taylor’s star began to fall.
Malaco Records signed Johnnie Taylor as the label’s founder was impressed by his blues performance at Z.Z. Hill’s funeral was held in 1984. The label featured former Stax session musicians, Bernard Jenkens and Carson Whitsett, as well as Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section. Together, Malaco and the recording artists exercised the same business practice Stax Records was known for. This meant Taylor could record whatever he saw fit instead, a freedom he hadn’t quite experienced while he was with Columbia. In 1996, Taylor’s eighth studio album while with Malaco’s label was Good Love! and it became a number one US Billboard Top Blues Album seller. Good Love! was the most successful album Taylor had as a recording artist.
Johnnie Taylor Legacy
In 1970, Johnnie Taylor wed Gerlean Rocket and the two remained as a married couple until the day of he died of a heart attack in Dallas, Texas, on May 31, 2000. After his death, Taylor’s personal life as a father of nine children from three different mothers made the reading of his will somewhat complicated. Just before his death, he was given a Pioneer Award by the Rhythm and Blues Foundation in 1999.
To his credit, he recorded and released twenty-seven albums. 2003’s album, There’s No Good in Goodbye, was released posthumously. There were also two live albums, Live at the Summit Club, and FunkSoulBrother. The first of these two featured Taylor in concert in 1972 but wasn’t released as an album until 2007. Eight years later, Johnnie Taylor was inducted into the National Rhythm & Blues Hall of Fame. Then, in 2022, he was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame.
Top 10 Johnnie Taylor Songs
# 10 – Testify (I Wanna)
1969’s “Testify (I Wanna)” was a highly soulful number performed by Johnnie Taylor. This came from his debut album after signing up with Stax Records and it peaked as high as number four on what is now referred to as the US Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart. On the US Billboard Hot 100, “Testify” peaked as high as number thirty-six. This funky number was originally recorded and made famous in 1967 by the soul group, The Parliaments. For them, however, it was released as “(I Wanna) Testify.” Taylor’s version of “Testify” was heavy with funk and a powerhouse vocal performance that served as its own testimony as a Johnnie Taylor trademark.
# 9 – Take Care of Your Homework
On the US Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart, “Take Care of Your Homework” peaked as high as number two in 1969. It was a number twenty hit on the US Billboard Hot 100. This song was about learning from the mistakes of one’s past while making one’s personal future better at the same time. Johnnie Taylor’s performance of this song was filled with subtle nuances making it a funky number as a man lyrically unloading his personal burdens, perhaps hoping the listeners will take heed and take care of their own homework.
# 8 – Soul Heaven
Imagine a song performed by some of the greatest artists of blues, jazz, R&B, and soul music of all time. For Johnnie Taylor, that’s what “Soul Heaven” was about. The song mentions several legendary artists, including Louis Armstrong and Otis Redding. “Soul Heaven” was released in 1999 from the final album he produced before his death, Gotta Get the Groove Back. Not only was this an amazing song that paid homage to the icons that had such an impact on the music industry but it served as a prelude to what was to come as far as Taylor’s own fate was concerned.
#7 – Steal Away
When “Steal Away” was released as a single in 1970, it became a number three hit on the US Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart, as well as a number thirty-seven hit on the US Billboard Hot 100. The smooth vocal style of Johnnie Taylor was nothing less than stellar as he sang about meeting with a love interest for a romantic interlude. “Steal Away” ultimately became one of Taylor’s signature songs.
The origin of “Steal Away” began in 1964 as a crossover hit for Jimmy Hughes. Johnnie Taylor turned “Steal Away” into a massively appealing number among fans of soul music, especially when he performed it live in concert. Taylor was among the rare artists who seemed to perform better before a live audience than in the seclusion of a recording studio.
#6 – Cheaper to Keep Her
On the US Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart, “Cheaper to Keep Her” peaked at number two. On the US Billboard Hot 100, it peaked as high as number fifteen. Although the lyrics were a bit unusual, especially coming from Johnnie Taylor, it was catchy enough to make this single one of his greatest hits of all time. This lyrical marriage counseling lesson was a smooth production that easily made it a soft and jazzy favorite after it was released as a single in 1973.
#5 – Love is Better in the A.M. (Part 1)
“Love is Better in the A.M. (Part 1)” was a funk song that became Johnnie Taylor’s number three hit on the US Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart, as well as a number seventy-seven hit on the US Billboard Hot 100. Full of vibrance as a sensually funky number, Taylor’s vocal delivery was as on par as ever with this 1977 hit.
#4 – Jody’s Got Your Girl and Gone
On the US Billboard Hot 100 the energetic, “Jody’s Got Your Girl and Gone” became a number twenty-eight hit after it was released as a single in 1971. On the US Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart, it became a number one hit. This soulful, funky ballad featured Taylor’s incredible voice at its best while the musical arrangement laid out a smooth, yet funky performance that made “Jody’s Got Your Girl and Gone” an easy fan favorite.
#3 – I Believe in You (You Believe in Me)
“I Believe in You (You Believe in Me)” became an emotionally moving number eleven hit on the US Billboard Hot 100 after it was released as a single in 1973. In 1965, songwriter Dan Davis began writing “I Believe in You” when he discovered he was two songs short while working on one of Johnnie Taylor’s albums. It became one of the songs that would find its way on Taylored in Silk in 1973.
This song became one of Taylor’s biggest hits as a recording artist as he seemed to pour his heart out. Between 1965 and 1973, Johnnie Taylor and his soul composer friend, Curtis Mayfield, finished writing this song with Freddie Scott in mind. Scott died in a plane crash before he was able to record it. For Taylor, “I Believe in You” was a song that took several attempts before he could get the desired vocal performance just right. This became one of Taylor’s biggest hits.
#2 – Who’s Making Love
In 1968, “Who’s Making Love” became a number one hit for Johnnie Taylor on the US Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart, as well as a number five hit on the US Billboard Hot 100. This became Taylor’s big breakthrough as a recording artist, as well as one of the few that became a mainstream favorite.
The performance of Isaac Hayes on keyboards, along with Stax’s house band, Booker T. & the M.G.’s, was featured in this best-selling single that catapulted Taylor’s career. “Who’s Making Love” was inspired by the 1920s novelty hit, “Who Takes Care of the Caretaker’s Daughter (While the Caretaker’s Busy Taking Car).” Since its recording, The Blues Brothers also made “Who’s Making a Love” a hit single in 1980 as their performance became a number thirty-nine hit on the US Billboard Hot 100.
#1 – Disco Lady
The funk style of 1976’s “Disco Lady” dethroned “Who’s Making Love” as Johnnie Taylor’s greatest hit as a solo artist after topping the US Billboard Hot 100 for four weeks, as well as for six weeks on the US Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart. It even charted as high as number twenty-five on the UK Singles Chart. “Disco Lady” was also popular enough to become a number six hit in New Zealand, a number fourteen hit in Canada, and a number forty-two hit in Australia.
With well over two million copies sold, “Disco Lady” became the first single to become certified platinum by the RIAA. This song was recorded while he was with Columbia Records. As for the record books, “Disco Lady” was the first US Billboard Hot 100 hit single that would feature the word “disco” in the title, despite the fact it wasn’t a disco song at all.
Top 10 Johnnie Taylor Songs article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2022
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