Johnnie Taylor was an American R&B and Soul music singer who first rose to fame during the 1960s as a member of The Singing Demons and The Fairfield Four. He first made a name for himself as a songwriter, writing such hits as “Who’s Making Love” and “I Believe in You (You Believe in Me),” which were both hits for Lou Rawls. Johnny Taylor released his first solo album on Stax Records in 1968, but his first big hit didn’t come until 1972 when “I Got What It Takes,” which famously interpolates Marvin Gaye’s “I Heard It Through the Grapevine .”His biggest hit came in 1975 when he scored a chart-topper on both Billboard’s Hot Black Singles and Hot 100 charts with “Disco Lady,” a song which he wrote with the help of top soul composer Curtis Mayfield. Taylor continued to release albums on various labels until he died in 2000. He was inducted into the North Carolina Music Hall of Fame in 2009. Here are the top ten Johnnie Taylor songs of all time.
10. I Am Somebody (Part 2) 1970
One of Johnnie Taylor’s signature songs, “I Am Somebody,” was a blazing funk tune that became his biggest hits. The song was written and initially recorded by Fred Willis, but Johnnie Taylor did a particularly inspired cover. The lyrics are simple, but the delivery is full of energy and the instrumental section, which features one of Booker T. & The MGs’ best solos to date, is downright infectious. It’s one of the best and most important protest songs in the history of soul music, and it even earned Johnnie Taylor a Grammy nomination for Best R&B Vocal Performance, Male. The song is essentially a self-esteem anthem, and it became a motto for black people in the 1970s.
9. Testify (I Wanna) 1969
“Testify (I Wanna)” is a soulful workout from Johnnie Taylor’s debut album on Stax. It became a modest hit for Taylor, peaking at number 23 on the R&B charts. The lyrics are relatively simplistic, but they work well within the song’s context, and the main message is clear: “If you don’t love me, nobody will .”With its many musical changes and funky instrumentation, this song is an absolute delight, and it’s one of the best songs on Taylor’s debut album.
8. Steal Away 1970
Written by Johnnie Taylor and Allen Jones, “Steal Away” is a rather unusual song for Johnnie Taylor. It’s a gospel number based around a haunting organ riff, and Taylor delivers the lyrics in his smooth, silky voice. The song was mostly ignored when it came out, but it became a staple in Johnnie Taylor’s live shows and became one of his signature songs.
7. I Believe in You (You Believe in Me) 1973
“I Believe in You (You Believe in Me)” is a profoundly moving song about Love and commitment. Johnnie Taylor wrote it with the help of his friend and legendary soul composer Curtis Mayfield. Taylor had written the song with another singer named Freddie Scott in mind, but he was killed in a plane crash before recording it. Taylor went to a lot of trouble to get the song recorded, and he eventually persuaded Lou Rawls, who was one of his best friends, to sing it. Lou Rawls did a fantastic job on the song, but it wasn’t an easy task. Taylor’s song was a tough nut to crack, and it took him several takes to get the vocal just right, but he eventually succeeded in doing so, and the song became a big hit for him in 1973.
6. Jody’s Got Your Girl and Gone 1971
Johnnie Taylor’s “Jody’s Got Your Girl and Gone” is a wonderfully funky song from his 1971 album, Who’s Making Love. The song was written by the great soul musician Don Covay, and it finds Taylor at his best. His highly energetic vocal performance makes this song an absolute treat, and it’s easily one of his most enjoyable recordings.
5. Cheaper to Keep Her 1973
“Cheaper to Keep Her” is one of Johnnie Taylor’s finest moments. It was written by the legendary soul songwriter Joe Simon, and it became his second number-one hit on the R&B chart. The lyrics are somewhat unusual, especially for a top pop act like Taylor, but the highly catchy tune helps to make this song one of his all-time greatest hits. Joe Simon’s smooth production also played a significant role in the success of this song, and it helped to make “Cheaper to Keep Her” one of 1973’s defining singles.
4. Take Care of Your Homework 1969
Johnnie Taylor’s “Take Care of Your Homework” is a fantastic song written by the great soul singer Bill Withers. The song is all about learning from your past mistakes and making an effort to do better in the future. Withers’ warm vocals add a lot of emotional weight to the lyrics, and Taylor’s performance is simply sublime. His singing brings so much warmth to the song, and he does an excellent job of capturing the song’s many little nuances. It’s one of his very best songs, and it proved to be a significant hit when it was released in 1969.
3. Love Is Better In The A.M. (Part 1) 1977
“Love Is Better In The A.M.” is a wonderfully funky song written by Johnnie Taylor with the help of his friends, Bobby Emmons and Chips Moman. The song became Taylor’s fifth number one hit on the R&B chart, and it also went to number eighteen pop. It’s a wonderfully vibrant song that captures the essence of Love in its various forms. Taylor delivers some exceptional vocals on this track, and his singing is easily one of the highlights of this song.
2. Disco Lady 1976
Johnnie Taylor’s “Disco Lady” is one of his best songs. It was written by the great soul singer Tony Joe White, and it became his third number one hit on the R&B chart. The lyrics are somewhat unusual, but they work well, and Taylor’s smooth vocals are sensual and inviting. Tony Joe White’s funk-infused production also makes this song noteworthy, adding to its commercial success.
1. Who’s Making Love – 1968
“Who’s Making Love” is one of the finest songs in Johnnie Taylor’s vast catalog. It was written by the legendary soul songwriter Don Covay, and it was Taylor’s breakthrough hit on the pop chart. The song became Covay’s second number one hit, but it was credited to Taylor because Covay’s recording contract had expired by the time the song was released. Don Covay still receives royalties for his composition, though. The song’s beautiful melody makes it an absolute joy to listen to, and Taylor’s vocal performance is simply sublime. He had a lot of fun with this song, and his vocals are filled with vigor.
Perhaps Johnnie Taylor’s incredible attribute was his ability to embrace various styles of music. He could sing everything from country, blues, and funk, and he could also do it quite well. “Who’s Making Love” is one of his greatest songs because it showcases several aspects of his talent. He was a great singer and had beautiful tones, but he also had a ton of charisma. Taylor was able to come across as a smooth and seductive ladies’ man, but he could also sound like a rough and tough bluesman, as seen on songs such as “Cheaper to Keep Her.” He had a lot of range, and he did a magnificent job covering all the bases. His career was also quite impressive because he maintained his presence on the charts throughout the years.