• By Alan Richard

THE MAGICAL COUNTRY-SOUL OF WILLIAM BELL

Updated: Jun 9, 2019


Legendary soul singer-songwriter William Bell, at right, after a show at the Birchmere Music Hall in Alexandria, Virginia, with writer Alan Richard.

I fell in love head over heels with soul music after finding my way to the great singer-songwriter William Bell. His first album, The Soul of a Bell, in 1967, is mostly a collection of his singles for Stax Records in Memphis. But the record holds together beautifully. And while it should have been a massive hit, several of the songs (some of which featured Floyd Cramer-style country piano parts and of course heavy black-gospel influences) made the R&B charts and solidified his place in music history. One of Stax’s first artists, he’s best known for penning (and first recording) Otis Redding’s “You Don’t Miss Your Water” (also covered by The Byrds on their landmark 1968 country album Sweetheart of the Rodeo) and bluesman Albert Bell’s (among many others who’ve recorded it) “Born Under a Bad Sign.” In the 1970s, Bell had post-Stax hits such as “Tryin' to Love Two" in 1976. By then he’d moved to Atlanta, where he started his own record label and worked with other soul artists. I’ll write much more about Bell and the importance and influence of his music in the future, but I wanted to share these musings with you before posting my story about Rosanne Cash’s concert in Atlanta--at which Bell made a surprise appearance.


(Below: My favorite William Bell song, "Everybody Loves a Winner," typifies country soul music of the 1960s.)

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