I love a good soul song because deep down, you can’t help but feel moved by it. Soul music gets you to sing-a-long; it gets you to tap your toes; and it just puts you in a good mood. And that’s why I believe soul music is a great choice for the cocktail hour of a wedding reception.
And the best part is: soul songs range from the 1960s through today. Gospel, jazz, blue-eyed, Motown, neo, funky, retro, and more, are all inspired by soul music. Even different cities have its own soulful sounds, like Memphis, Chicago, Detroit, Philly, and New Orleans. Or go international and try some British soul. It all works; especially at a wedding reception!
The point is, there’s a ton of great soul music out there. And if you want to play some at your wedding – whether it be for cocktail hour, dinner, or even dancing – there are plenty of classic and modern soul songs to choose from.
Tony’s Soulful Cocktail Hour Drink of Choice: When I think of soul music, I imagine myself relaxing in one of those swanky late-night lounges, sipping a Manhattan, and just enjoying the moment and the sweet, seductive sounds of a soul song. Enjoy my selections, and as always, the full Spotify playlist is available at the end!
The Soulful Cocktail Hour, Volume One Playlist
Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons – “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You” | Amazon MP3 · iTunes
My New Jersey friends would be upset if I didn’t include some Four Seasons on this list! For a more contemporary r&b version, check out Lauryn Hill’s rendition.
The Marvelows – “I Do” | Amazon MP3 · iTunes
Whenever I do these lists, I want to include a mix of well-known and lesser-known songs. If you are a fan of soul music, you might know this one. If you don’t, this is one of those songs you Shazam.
The Temptations – “Ain’t Too Proud To Beg” | Amazon MP3 · iTunes
Obviously, I like to save “My Girl” for the end of dinner or for dancing. This is a great song with that Motown soul. Also consider the version by The Rolling Stones if you like a little more rock with your soul.
Sam Cooke – “You Send Me” | Amazon MP3 · iTunes
Sam Cooke is one of those soul artists that has such a great voice. I also would consider “Twistin’ The Night Away” and “Having A Party” for cocktail and dinner music.
Adele – “Make You Feel My Love” | Amazon MP3 · iTunes
In the middle of any cocktail hour or dinner playlist I compile, I like to slow the tempo down just for a song or two. This soulful track accomplishes just that. DJs, a little programming tip: Peaks and valleys, peaks and valleys. And make your journey up and down them smooth.
Bill Withers – “Lovely Day” | Amazon MP3 · iTunes
This is my favorite soul song on the entire playlist. It’s one of my go-to songs for sound check and one of my three staple songs I play at every wedding I perform at.
Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell – “You’re All I Need To Get By” | Amazon MP3 · iTunes
There’s a ton of Marvin Gaye’s music that could make this list. But I chose this one because elder guests know it, and your friends will get a little history lesson on who Method Man & Mary J. Blige sampled.
Joss Stone – “L-O-V-E” | Amazon MP3 · iTunes
I feel like the vocals of Joss Stone are an acquired taste, which I’ve come to appreciate as I grow older. (Seriously, check out the impressive range she demonstrates on “I’ll Take It All” from one of the James Bond 007 video games.) Here, the contemporary English soul singer performs her cover of the Nat “King” Cole classic.
The Soulful Cocktail Hour Playlist, Volume One
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