Listening to my Stax/Volt box sets – plural, nine CDs each – I came across two extraordinary hit singles AND their answer songs, a track “made in answer to a previous song, normally by another artist.”
Soul Man, by Sam (Moore) and Dave (Prater) from 1967 has been on lots of “best of” lists, including the RIAA, Rolling Stone and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. It was heavily covered, most notably by the Blues Brothers in 1979.
Then there was Soul Girl by Jeanne and the Darlings from 1968, featuring sisters Jean and Deloros “Dee” Dolphus plus Phefe Harris and sometimes another unidentified singer. While Soul Man starts “Coming to you on a dusty road”, the answer song begins, “Come on to me, on a concrete street.” He was educated at Woodstock, she on “my green tree (that’s money).”
Perhaps the songwriters could make a case for copyright infringement. But not really, since both records were written and produced by Isaac Hayes and David Porter.
Speaking of Hayes, that bad mother produced the Theme from Shaft in 1971. The song received similar accolades as Soul Man, plus one other. It “won the Academy Award for Best Original Song, with Hayes becoming the first African American to win that honor (or any Academy Award in a non-acting category), as well as the first recipient of the award to both write and perform the winning song.”
The answer song to that hit was Son of Shaft by the Bar-Kays, Hayes’ backing band on Shaft. The group had to re-form after four of the six members, along with Otis Redding, died in a plane crash on 10 December 1967. The songwriters Homer Banks, William Brown and Allen Jones were from outside the group. While it borrows from its predecessor, Son of Shaft was heavily sampled in its own right.
All chart references to Billboard magazine (US). Listen to:
Soul Man – Sam and Dave; #2 for three weeks on the pop charts, and #1 for an astonishing seven weeks on the soul charts in 1967
Soul Girl – Jeanne and the Darlings; did not chart in 1968
Son of Shaft – Bar-Kays, #10 soul, #53 pop in 1972