I had to have been in elementary school when I went with my big sisters to see Erykah Badu. I remember there was a part in her performance where her background singers got to do a little solo singing without her mic being turned up over theirs. One thing I’ll never forget is how breathtaking and outstanding their voices were. I remember thinking, ‘Why are they singing behind anyone?!’
Obviously a carry-over from most original soul outfits, she was doing what other musicians and artists had already done: attempted to build the sound in vocal layers. One of my favorite things about the entire genre of soul besides its exuberance and use of brass instruments are the harmonies its background singers employ. It’s not that it’s a complicated or sophisticated process. It’s that it just sounds so good.
Here are a couple of my favorite songs that also have some of my favorite background vocals. They aren’t overpowering and don’t steal the show from the featured vocalist, they just contribute a lot to the texture of the track. Enjoy.
Walk On By – Isaac Hayes
Day Dreaming – Aretha Franklin