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Great soul radio:
The Top 5 R&B Albums From The Year 1981

Nov 4 2021

Number one will surprise you, and who’s not on here will SHOCK YOU!


The year is 1981. Yours truly, along with my buddies, are in grade school just being us. R&B music has shifted post-disco. Disco, for the most part in the U. S., was given a bad name, better yet, a black eye. The disco demolition of 1979 in Comiskey Park was, from many sources, the nail in the coffin for disco. That said, the music of the day, R&B to be exact, saw a new focus. Coming out of the 70s, the R&B of the 80s still had a great deal of funk, yet it was becoming more dance-friendly. A great deal of the artists of the day (Midnight Star, Starpoint, Lakeside, The Gap Band, Kashif, Stephanie Mills, Shalamar, and many more) had plenty of dance floor fillers to keep the party going.


Now, why the year 1981? I’m glad you asked. There were some great, and important, r&b albums that came out during the year. We’re in the year 2021, and the 1980s are now 40 years behind us. The music of that era cannot spoken on enough. With that said, I’m going to list for you, the top 5 r&b albums for the year from 1981. The number one album is going to surprise a lot of you. Who’s not on the list is going to shock you. Are we ready?


Winelight- Grover Washington, Jr

Grover Washington, Jr. was always on his game, and this LP showcased it. From the title track, to the classic “Just The Two Of Us”, with Bill Withers, to the smooth classic “Let It Flow (For Dr. J)”, Winelight is still a must have.

Here we go:




Being With You- Smokey Robinson

Released in the fall of 1980, “Hotter Than July” caught heat as it headed into 1981. The lead single, “Master Blaster”, a moving tribute to Bob Marley, brought every track from this masterpiece into the forefront. We’d be remised if we didn’t mention “Happy Birthday”, a tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the classic “Lately”, redone by Jodeci and many others. Put “Hotter Than July” in your collection.

Hotter Than July- Stevie Wonder

Perhaps one of his best works, “Being With You” was, and still is, Smokey’s highest charting LP to date, having missed out from the #1 spot on the Billboard pop charts. This album, did indeed, spend 5 weeks at #1 on the R&B charts. Awesome for sure, “Being With You” is a must have for every music listeners’ crates.



What Cha Gonna Do For Me- Chaka Khan

Chaka Khan was destined to make things happen once she became a solo artist. She hadn’t quite left Rufus, yet she’d already had two great solo LP’s to her credit (1978’s epimonius Chaka and 1980’s Naughty). This LP didn’t disappoint, with the title cut, her take on a song originally done by the Average White Band a year earlier. Other great cuts on this LP are “We Can Work It Out” and “Fate.” Yes, you must have this one for the collection

Shaka Khan.jpg


Street Songs- Rick James

What can we say about “Street Songs.” Rick had some solid LP’s in his pocket (1979’s Bustin’ Out On L-Seven & Fire It Up, 1980’s Garden Of Love), yet those albums didn’t pack the punch that 1978’s out-of-nowhere Motown debut “Come And Get It” possessed. Well, enter “Street Songs.” Where do we start? We had “Ghetto Life”, Give It To Me, Baby”, the doggone classic “Super Freak”, and the never released as a single, yet the quiet storm classic “Fire And Desire” with Teena Marie, Street Songs smacked everybody upside the

head. Rick James’ place in music history was truly cemented with this legendary album. Salute to you, and Rest In Power, Rick James.


Now, you may be wondering, who is not on this list? Well, to make it quite a shock, the elements Earth, Wind and Fire is not on this list. They’re not on here for one simple reason: EWF’s “Raise” LP didn’t come out until the fall of 1981, November 14th to be exact. All of the aforementioned LP’s were released in the latter parts of 1980, going into 1981, which would not have given the “Raise” LP time to gather it’s much needed steam, even though it did do its thing going into the following year.


All said and done, we glide in on the one. These albums have all played a great deal in many of our musical developments. My generation, we were youngsters in the midst of classic hip hop, and at the behest of the golden age of hip hop in the late 80s and throughout the 90s. In all of that, we still clamored for r&b music, and not just for the samples. We clamored for it, simply because the music was/still is good. As we’re adults now, we definitely clamor for it even more because our tastes have expanded, our ears have grown up. These albums have a special place in all of our hearts. Let’s keep them in rotation and the spirits high. 1 Love and God Bless.

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