Music has the power to transcend race, culture, and language barriers. It’s not uncommon for musicians to draw inspiration from other genres, and some artists have even been known to adopt the sounds and styles of other cultures. For instance, there are many songs sung by white guys that sound black – that is, they have a soulful, R&B or gospel-inspired sound that is typically associated with black musicians. In this article, we’ll explore some of the most popular songs sung by white guys that sound black.
The Blues Brothers – “Soul Man”
“Soul Man” was originally performed by Sam & Dave, an African American soul and R&B duo. However, The Blues Brothers – a white blues and soul revivalist band – covered the song in 1978 for the movie of the same name. Their version became a hit in its own right, thanks to John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd’s energetic performance and the song’s infectious groove.
Michael McDonald – “I Keep Forgettin’”
Michael McDonald’s smooth tenor voice is instantly recognizable, but some might be surprised to learn that he’s a white guy from Missouri. He’s best known for his work with the Doobie Brothers, but his solo hit “I Keep Forgettin’” is a perfect example of his soulful sound. The song features a sample from the Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell hit “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” which only adds to its R&B cred.
Robin Thicke – “Blurred Lines”
Robin Thicke may be the son of Canadian actor Alan Thicke, but he’s made a name for himself as a blue-eyed soul singer. “Blurred Lines,” his controversial 2013 hit featuring Pharrell Williams, has a distinct Motown-inspired sound that has drawn comparisons to Marvin Gaye and the Temptations. Despite the controversy surrounding its lyrics and video, the song was a massive commercial success.
Justin Timberlake – “Cry Me a River”
Justin Timberlake’s solo career has been heavily influenced by R&B and hip-hop, and “Cry Me a River” is a prime example. The song’s moody production and Timberlake’s falsetto vocals have drawn comparisons to Prince and Michael Jackson. It’s not surprising that Timberlake has collaborated with many black musicians throughout his career, including Timbaland and Pharrell Williams.
George Michael – “Careless Whisper”
“Careless Whisper” may be one of the most iconic saxophone solos in pop music history, but it’s also a showcase for George Michael’s soulful voice. The song’s arrangement is reminiscent of classic Motown ballads, and Michael’s vocals ooze with emotion. It’s no wonder that the song has endured as a romantic classic for decades.
Jon B. – “They Don’t Know”
Jon B. may not be a household name, but his 1997 hit “They Don’t Know” was a defining track of the late 90s R&B scene. The song’s catchy hook and slick production are reminiscent of Boyz II Men and Babyface, and Jon B.’s falsetto vocals are undeniably soulful. The fact that he’s a white guy from Rhode Island only makes the song’s success more surprising.
Phil Collins – “In the Air Tonight”
Phil Collins may be best known for his work with Genesis, but his solo hit “In the Air Tonight” is a classic in its own right. The song’s iconic drum fill and Collins’ haunting vocals give it a sense of drama and intensity that wouldn’t be out of place in a James Brown performance. It’s a testament to Collins’ versatility as a musician.
Hall & Oates – “I Can’t Go for That (No Can Do)”
Hall & Oates may be best known for their pop hits of the 80s, but “I Can’t Go for That (No Can Do)” has a distinctly soulful sound. The song’s funky bassline and smooth vocals are reminiscent of Stevie Wonder, and the chorus is catchy enough to get stuck in your head for days. It’s no wonder that the song was a hit on both the pop and R&B charts.
These are just a few examples of songs sung by white guys that sound black. It’s clear that music has the power to bring people together and break down barriers, and these artists have all proven that they can create soulful, R&B-inspired music regardless of their race or background. Whether you’re a fan of classic Motown or modern R&B, there’s something on this list for everyone.