Stevie Wonder lapped all competition in 1972. Aided by co-producers, engineers, and synthesizer programmers Malcolm Cecil and Robert Margouleff, he released the phenomenal Music of My Mind that March. Only seven months later, it was topped by Talking Book, a five-star album that was even more advanced in sound and successful in sales. Al Green delivered a pair of relatively understated classics with Let's Stay Together and I'm Still in Love with You. Meanwhile, black films continued to affect the development of commercial R&B. In July, almost exactly a year after Isaac Hayes scored with Shaft, Curtis Mayfield answered with Super Fly, a deeper and tighter soundtrack, while December brought Marvin Gaye's Trouble Man. There was also Quincy Jones and Donny Hathaway's work on Come Back, Charleston Blue, highlighted by "Little Ghetto Boy." Plenty of the year's best singles not connected to the big screen, such as "Papa Was a Rollin' Stone" and "The World Is a Ghetto," certainly were elaborate and dramatic enough to fit on it.

Throughout the year, the shift in power continued to pull away from Detroit and Memphis, drawn more toward Philadelphia. Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff, Thom Bell and Linda Creed, and countless additional Philly-based songwriters, producers, and session musicians supported a nonstop supply of hit recordings. By the end of 1972, there was no doubt that Philly soul had overtaken that of Detroit, whose Motown label—like Don Cornelius' Chicago-born Soul Train program—moved to Los Angeles. For 12 weeks of September through December, songs by acts either rooted in or supported by Philly's network, including one by ex-Motown act the Spinners (Phillymotown back again), were at the top of Billboard's Soul Singles chart. Additionally, there was emerging talent exposed through Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes, who showcased a 21-year-old Teddy Pendergrass on "I Miss You" and "If You Don't Know Me by Now"—two of several lasting smashes released on Gamble and Huff's Philadelphia International label.

Here are 40 personal-favorite singles that reached Billboard's Soul Singles chart during 1972, followed by a Spotify playlist and month-by-month top tens:

1. Stevie Wonder - "Superstition" [Tamla, 11/25]
2. The Stylistics - "People Make the World Go Round" [Avco, 6/10]
3. The Temptations - "Papa Was a Rollin' Stone" [Gordy, 10/14]
4. Spinners - "I'll Be Around" [Atlantic, 9/16]
5. Michael Jackson - "I Wanna Be Where You Are" [Motown, 6/3]
6. The O'Jays - "Back Stabbers" [Philadelphia Int'l, 7/8]
7. Curtis Mayfield - "Superfly" [Curtom, 11/25]
8. War - "Slippin' into Darkness" [United Artists, 1/15]
9. Stevie Wonder - "Superwoman" [Tamla, 5/27]
10. The Dramatics - "In the Rain" [Volt, 2/26]

11. Sly & the Family Stone - "Runnin' Away" [Epic, 2/19]
12. Bill Withers - "Use Me" [Sussex, 9/2]
13. The Stylistics - "Betcha by Golly, Wow" [Avco, 3/4]
14. Bill Withers - "Lean on Me" [Sussex, 4/29]
15. Al Green - "I'm Still in Love with You" [Hi, 7/15]
16. The Staple Singers - "I'll Take You There" [Stax, 4/1]
17. War - "The World Is a Ghetto" [United Artists, 12/2]
18. Roberta Flack & Donny Hathaway - "Where Is the Love" [Atlantic, 6/17]
19. Lyn Collins - "Think (About It)" [People, 7/15]
20. The Isley Brothers - "Work to Do" [T-Neck, 11/4]

21. Love Unlimited - "Walkin' in the Rain with the One I Love" [Uni, 3/25]
22. Donny Hathaway - "Little Ghetto Boy" [Atco, 3/25]
23. Marvin Gaye - "Trouble Man" [Tamla, 12/23]
24. Sly & the Family Stone - "(You Caught Me) Smilin'" [Epic, 4/29]
25. Bobby Womack - "Woman's Gotta Have It" [United Artists, 4/29]
26. Marvin Gaye - "You're the Man" [Tamla, 5/20]
27. James Brown - "Get on the Good Foot" [Polydor, 8/12]
28. Curtis Mayfield - "Freddie's Dead" [Curtom, 8/12]
29. Spinners - "Could It Be I'm Falling in Love" [Atlantic, 12/30]
30. The Main Ingredient - "Everybody Plays the Fool" [RCA Victor, 7/15]

31. Billy Paul - "Me and Mrs. Jones" [Philadelphia Int'l, 10/28]
32. Ohio Players - "Pleasure" [Westbound, 7/8]
33. Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes - "I Miss You" [Philadelphia Int'l, 6/17]
34. Aretha Franklin - "Day Dreaming" [Atlantic, 3/18]
35. Al Green - "Look What You Done for Me" [Hi, 4/1]
36. James Brown - "Talking Loud and Saying Nothing" [Polydor, 2/12]
37. Isaac Hayes - "Do Your Thing" [Enterprise, 2/26]
38. James Brown - "There It Is" [Polydor, 5/13]
39. The Sylvers - "Fool's Paradise" [Pride, 9/2]*
40. Joe Tex - "I Gotcha" [Dial, 1/22]

*This song is not available on Spotify in the U.S. Favorite 41 appears in its place, at the end of the playlist.



January
War - "Slippin into Darkness"
Joe Tex - "I Gotcha"
The J.B.'s - "Gimme Some More"
Aretha Franklin - "Oh Me Oh My (I'm a Fool for You Baby)"
The Chakachas - "Jungle Fever"
Bobby "Blue" Bland - "Do What You Set Out to Do"
Roberta Flack - "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow"
The Supremes - "Floy Joy"
Martha Reeves & the Vandellas - "In and Out of My Life"
The Naturals - "I Can't Share You"

February
The Dramatics - "In the Rain"
Sly & the Family Stone - "Runnin' Away"
James Brown - "Talking Loud and Saying Nothing"
Isaac Hayes - "Do Your Thing"
Denise LaSalle - "Now Run and Tell That"
Kool & the Gang - "Love the Life You Live"
The Nite-Liters - "Afro-Strut"
Jackie Wilson - "You Got Me Walking"
Ann Peebles - "Breaking Up Somebody's Home"
The Honey Cone - "The Day I Found Myself"

March
The Stylistics - "Betcha by Golly, Wow"
Love Unlimited - "Walkin' in the Rain with the One I Love"
Donny Hathaway - "Little Ghetto Boy"
Aretha Franklin - "Day Dreaming"
James Brown - "King Heroin"
The Temptations - "Take a Look Around"
The Undisputed Truth - "What It Is"
Gladys Knight & the Pips - "Help Me Make It Through the Night"
Grover Washington Jr. - "Inner City Blues"
The Emotions - "My Honey and Me"

April
Bill Withers - "Lean on Me"
The Staple Singers - "I'll Take You There"
Sly & the Family Stone - "(You Caught Me) Smilin'"
Bobby Womack - "Woman's Gotta Have It"
Al Green - "Look What You Done for Me"
Black Ivory - "You and I"
Esther Phillips - "Home Is Where the Hatred Is"
Impressions - "This Love's for Real"
Roberta Flack - "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face"
The Chi-Lites - "Oh Girl"

May
Stevie Wonder - "Superwoman"
Marvin Gaye - "You're the Man"
James Brown - "There It Is"
Donny Hathaway - "Giving Up"
Billy Preston - "Outa-Space"
Curtis Mayfield - "Beautiful Brother of Mine"
Wilson Pickett - "Funk Factory"
The J.B.'s - "Pass the Peas"
The Crusaders - "Put It Where You Want It"
Bettye Swann - "Victim of a Foolish Heart"

June
The Stylistics - "People Make the World Go Round"
Michael Jackson - "I Wanna Be Where You Are"
Roberta Flack & Donny Hathaway - "Where Is the Love"
Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes - "I Miss You"
Luther Ingram - "(If Loving You Is Wrong) I Don't Want to Be Right"
The Delfonics - "Tell Me This Is a Dream"
Aretha Franklin - "All the King's Horses"
Detroit Emeralds - "Baby Let Me Take You (In My Arms)"
Laura Lee - "Rip Off"
Cornelius Brothers & Sister Rose - "Too Late to Turn Back Now"

July
The O'Jays - "Back Stabbers"
Al Green - "I'm Still in Love with You"
Lyn Collins - "Think (About It)"
The Main Ingredient - "Everybody Plays the Fool"
Ohio Players - "Pleasure"
The Chi-Lites - "The Coldest Days of My Life"
Jackson Five - "Lookin' Through the Windows"
The Isley Brothers - "Pop That Thang"
The Emotions - "I Could Never Be Happy"
Mel & Tim - "Starting All Over Again"

August
James Brown - "Get on the Good Foot"
Curtis Mayfield - "Freddie's Dead"
The Staple Singers - "This World"
The Dramatics - "Toast to the Fool"
Millie Jackson - "My Man, a Sweet Man"
Ann Peebles - "Somebody's on Your Case"
Love, Peace & Happiness - "I Don't Want to Do Wrong"
King Floyd - "Woman Don't Go Astray"
Jr. Walker & the All Stars - "Groove Thang"
Geraldine Hunt - "Baby I Need Your Loving"

September
Spinners - "I'll Be Around"
Bill Withers - "Use Me"
The Sylvers - "Fool's Paradise"
Four Tops - "(It's the Way) Nature Planned It"
Billy Preston - "Slaughter"
Ramsey Lewis - "Slipping into Darkness"
Lamont Dozier - "Why Can't We Be Lovers"
Betty Wright - "Baby Sitter"
Eddie Kendricks - "If You Let Me"
Stevie Wonder - "Keep on Running"

October
The Temptations - "Papa Was a Rollin' Stone"
Billy Paul - "Me and Mrs. Jones"
Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes - "If You Don't Know Me by Now"
Donny Hathaway - "I Love You More Than You'll Ever Know"
The Stylistics - "I'm Stone in Love with You"
Isaac Hayes - "Theme from The Men"
Brighter Side of Darkness - "Love Jones"
The Montclairs - "Beggin' Is Hard to Do"
Denise LaSalle - "Man Sized Job"
Tyrone Davis - "If You Had a Change in Mind"

November
Stevie Wonder - "Superstition"
Curtis Mayfield - "Superfly"
The Isley Brothers - "Work to Do"
Al Green - "You Ought to Be with Me"
Timmy Thomas - "Why Can't We Live Together"
The Dells - "Just as Long as We're in Love"
The O'Jays - "992 Arguments"
James Brown - "I Got a Bag of My Own"
Joe Quarterman & Free Soul - "(I Got) So Much Trouble in My Mind"
Otis Clay - "Trying to Live My Life Without You"

December
War - "The World Is a Ghetto"
Marvin Gaye - "Trouble Man"
Spinners - "Could It Be I'm Falling in Love"
Barbara Mason - "Give Me Your Love"
The Sylvers - "Wish That I Could Talk to You"
The Moments - "My Thing"
Valerie Simpson - "Silly Wasn't I"
Smokey Robinson & the Miracles - "I Can't Stand to See You Cry"
Bill Withers - "Let Us Love"
Laura Lee - "Crumbs Off the Table"