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
The Spencer Davis Group – “Gimme Some Lovin'” | PURCHASE: Amazon MP3
Soulful rock at its best. Listen to the bass line from the bass guitar. And that singer? That’s Stevie Winwood.
Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons – “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You” | PURCHASE: Amazon MP3
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” | PURCHASE: Amazon MP3
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” | PURCHASE: Amazon MP3
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 & Dave – “Soul Man” | PURCHASE: Amazon MP3
Obviously. 😉 Also consider “Hold On, I’m Coming”.
Eddie Floyd – “Knock On Wood” | PURCHASE: Amazon MP3
Infectious from the get-go. David Bowie and Amii Stewart would later cover it.
Smokey Robinson – “Cruisin'” | PURCHASE: Amazon MP3
Other songs include his work with The Miracles, which include numerous hits like “The Track of My Tears”.
Brenda Russell – “A Little Bit of Love” | PURCHASE: Amazon MP3
A little bit of jazzy soul, a little bit of a history lesson for those who like Big Pun’s “Still Not A Player”.
The Isley Brothers – “This Old Heart of Mine (Is Weak For You)” | PURCHASE: Amazon MP3
Yes. SO MUCH YES!
Sam Cooke – “You Send Me” | PURCHASE: Amazon MP3
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” | PURCHASE: Amazon MP3
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.
Carla Thomas – “B-A-B-Y” | PURCHASE: Amazon MP3
I just love this playful song by Carla Thomas, the Queen of Memphis Soul.
Brenton Wood – “Oogum Boogum Song” | PURCHASE: Amazon MP3
Here’s another playful soul tune that’s sure to get someone to ask me: “What is the name of this song and who is it by?”
Bill Withers – “Lovely Day” | PURCHASE: Amazon MP3
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.
Booker T & The M.G.’s – “Green Onions” | PURCHASE: Amazon MP3
This Memphis soul song reminds me of my youth, which was essentially defined by the movie, “The Sandlot”. YOU’RE KILLING ME, SMALLS!
Hall & Oates – “Sara Smile” | PURCHASE: Amazon MP3
There are so many great artists, duos, bands, and groups that represent that Philly soul sound. But when I think Philly, I think Hall & Oates.
Stevie Wonder – “For Once In My Life” | PURCHASE: Amazon MP3
I’m confident I could make a cocktail hour playlist full of Stevie Wonder songs and nobody would complain. Here’s one of Stevie’s best.
Otis Redding – “For Your Precious Love” | PURCHASE: Amazon MP3
Random Fact: I own every Otis Redding album on vinyl. One of my all-time favorite artists with an incredible discography.
Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell – “You’re All I Need To Get By” | PURCHASE: Amazon MP3
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” | PURCHASE: Amazon MP3
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.
Leon Bridges – “Coming Home” | PURCHASE: Amazon MP3
Looking for a contemporary soul song? Leon Bridges made this soulful song in 2015. It’s really, really good.
The Soulful Cocktail Hour Playlist, Volume One
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