The Stylistics

People Make the World Go Round

Composed by Linda Creed / Thom Bell

Song Review by

Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff may have been the Lennon and McCartney of Philly soul, but Thom Bell was its George Harrison. Penning thoughtful, often spiritual songs (usually with his songwriting partner, Linda Creed) and setting them to mature, sometimes almost symphonic arrangements, Bell was a master who rarely gets his due. "People Make the World Go Round" was one of Bell and Creed's most popular songs, covered by everyone from Michael Jackson to ultra-annoying Bill Cosby protégée Raven-Symone, but the best version was the Stylistics' 1972 hit. Bell's arrangement is strongly reminiscent of Burt Bacharach's mature work with Dionne Warwick -- the muted trumpet and xylophone parts are downright derivative -- but there's also a characteristic funkiness to the organ and electric piano-based groove. (There's also a nagging, hollow-tuned percussion sound similar to some types of African drums that's as prominent as the cowbell in Blue Oyster Cult's "Don't Fear the Reaper," and almost as impossible to ignore once you've noticed it.) The song's focal point, however, is the falsetto lead vocal of Russell Thompkins Jr. Always the Stylistics' secret weapon, Thompkins gives possibly the finest performance of his career here. In lesser hands, Creed's lyrics about trash strikes and air pollution often sound like self-righteous finger pointing, but Thompkins' restrained vocals are tinged with sadness, not anger, which gives the song a melancholy yet hopeful air that fits the lyrics precisely. Although probably not the Stylistics' masterpiece -- "Betcha By Golly Wow" holds that title -- "People Make the World Go Round" is one of the great socially consciousness soul songs of the early '70s.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
The Stylistics 1971 Amherst Records 6:27
The Best of the Stylistics [Amherst] 1975 Amherst Records
No Image 1983 Contour
Crooklyn, Vol. 2 1995
Original Soundtrack
Geffen / Universal Music Group 6:23
The 70s Soul Jam, Vol. 2 2003
Various Artists
The Right Stuff / Capitol 3:47
The Ultimate Collection 2005 Mercury / Universal 3:32
Colezo: The Stylistics 2005 Victor Records 3:35
The Stylistics Live: R&B Soul 2005 Direct Source 2:02
The Very Best of the Stylistics...and More! 2005 Amherst Records 3:33
The Best of the Stylistics Live 2006 Pegasus / Pegasus (Pinnacle) 2:02
In Concert 2005 [DVD] 2006 The Alpha Centauri / Musicpro
Express Yourself: Soul In The 20th Century 2006
Various Artists
Um3 / Universal 3:27
Sweet Soul Music 2006 St. Clair
Live [Time] 2007 Time Music 2:02
In Concert 2007 Hallmark / Hallmark Recordings
The Very Best of the Stylistics 2007 Spectrum Music
The Greatest: Souvenir Edition 2008 Universal Music 3:34
Sweet Soul of the '70s: The Sound of Philadelphia 2009
Various Artists
Time/Life Music 3:31
No Image 2010 Ba-Ba 2:00
Sweet Soul of the '70s [Time Life] 2011
Various Artists
Time/Life Music 3:31
S.O.U.L. 2011 BMG / Sony Music 1:58
I'm Stone in Love with You 2012 Excalibur 3:12
No Image X5 Music Group 2:02
Live in Norfolk 2005 [DVD] MVD Visual / San Juan
Smash Soul & R&B Hits, Vol. 4
Various Artists
Excalibur 2:00
The Best of the Stylistics Amherst Records 3:31
blue highlight denotes editor's pick