Top 20 Classic Northern Soul Songs

Northern Soul
DJ Kojak poses behind his record decks with many boxes of rare 7-inch singles while DJing at a Northern Soul ‘all-nighter’, in October 1975 in the United Kingdom. Redferns / Getty Images

Great Northern Soul refers to obscure American soul music of the late 1960s that enjoyed a renaissance beginning in the north of England that lasted into the '80s. Here are the top 20 most popular Northern Soul songs, as compiled by Wigan Casino DJ Kev Roberts from fan surveys.

This is the only single Wilson recorded, and just 250 copies were made, most of which were destroyed. A decade later a copy surfaced and the enthusiastic reaction encouraged Motown to rerelease the song.

This wasn't Gray's biggest U.S. hit—that was 1973's "Drift Away"—but in Britain it became a Northern Soul standard. The versatile Texan performed soul, pop, and even musical theater in a production of "Hair" before tilting toward country.

Baker's tune became known as "the James Bond song" because its  melody resembles the 007 theme. Earlier she had performed with the Sensations, a group that attracted attention because it was one of the first to include a female lead vocalist and male background singers. 

Wilson got his break when early pop icon Johnny Rivers signed him to his new label, Soul City Records. Wilson’s first single was a hit in 1968, and five years later his “Show and Tell” reached No. 1 on Billboard.

05
of 20

'Long After Tonight Is All Over' by Jimmy Radcliffe

This song was written by multiple Grammy and Academy award winner Burt Bacharach and Hal David. Although it became a Northern Soul classic, Radcliffe later had a more rewarding career as a songwriter and producer. 

Fountain's song reached classic status despite being on the single's B side in some editions. It's said to have been responsible for shifting Northern Soul from the Motown sound and for helping to found the modern soul movement. 

The group began as the Megatons, a Motown-style group from New Jersey. They caught fire when Robert Paladino, with a background in doo-wop and jazz vocals, joined the group and wrote "You Don't Love Me."

Despite this song's cult status, Mimms is better known for writing "Cry Baby," famously covered by Janis Joplin. Mimms started with gospel and doo-wop groups and then helped lead the growing sophistication of soul music, later opening shows for Jimi Hendrix.

09
of 20

'If That's What You Wanted' by Frankie Beverly & the Butlers

Like most Northern Soul classics, this wasn't a hit when it was released. Butler finally found success with the band Raw Soul, later named Maze, which opened for Marvin Gaye and began selling records.

10
of 20

'Seven Days Too Long' by Chuck Wood

Despite his song's beloved melody and chorus, Wood remained a one-hit wonder, and only in Britain. On the B side is "Soul Shing-A-Ling," described as "gritty, down home funky" rhythm and blues.

Though he recorded some well-regarded Chicago soul music, he was mostly known as the younger brother of soul great Jerry Butler. Billy Butler produced several pop-soul records said to be reminiscent of the Impressions, a Chicago-area band.

12
of 20

'Stick by Me Baby' by Salvadors

The band is largely forgotten except for this Northern Soul gem. The record was arranged by Chuck Handy, one of The Pharaohs and a session player at Chess Records, and written and produced by Joshie Jo Armstead.

13
of 20

'I Really Love You' by Tomangoes

The group isn't known for much other than this song and their catchy name. The song is described as "anguished, hurting and rough around the edges," but the emotion, bass, drums, and horn section are said to make up for the lack of polish.

 

Legend's real name is Bessie Grace Upton, daughter of a gospel singer and backup singer to some of the biggest names in music. This song, once thought to be lost by its writer, John Rhys, has been compared to Shakespeare's Sonnet 60.

Clark was also known as a songwriter, having written major hits for Etta James. Born in New York and raised in Detroit, he was trained as a chef and had a bit part the Sidney Poitier film "They Call Me Mister Tibbs!"

16
of 20

'Too Late' by Larry Williams & Johnny "Guitar" Watson

This was their Northern Soul hit, but both performers are often identified with '50s-style music. Their soul music from the late '60s is described in terms ranging from "upbeat" to "frenetic" and said to be similar to the Chicago and Detroit sounds.

17
of 20

'You Don't Know Where Your Interest Lies' by Dana Valery

This song is an odd choice for a Northern Soul classic, having been written by Paul Simon and performed by a white Italian former actress. It's been said that Simon sings backup on Valery's version.

18
of 20

'Walking Up a One Way Street' by Willie Tee

Tee, whose real name was Wilson Turbinton, was an architect of New Orleans funk and soul who helped shape the New Orleans sound for four decades. Through his involvement with the Wild Magnolias, he introduced the Mardi Gras Indians' "street-beat funk" to the world. 

19
of 20

'If You Ever Walk Out of My Life' by Dena Barnes

Barnes, whose real first name was Gardenia, reportedly recorded four songs for Impact studios in the '60s, including this one and its B side, "Who Am I?" The other two have never been found.

Though the song's a cult classic, Taylor was better known as one of the most successful white songwriters for historically black Motown Records. It flopped in the United States but leapt up the British charts when it caught on as Northern Soul.