As with most other years in R&B, 1975 wasn't dominated by one particular artist, but it's impossible to ignore the significance of Earth, Wind & Fire. The band released two albums -- That's the Way of the World and the mostly live Gratitude -- that went triple platinum. Additionally, several band members and genius producer/arranger Charles Stepney backed keyboardist Ramsey Lewis and cut "Sun Goddess," one of the year's many instances of seamless stylistic synthesis. Along with Kool & the Gang, Lonnie Liston Smith, and Ronnie Laws, EWF and Lewis combined contemporary rhythm and blues and jazz, and drew from a broad range of cultures, to maximum effect.

Nobody, however, fused the genres with depth and finesse on the level of Donald Byrd. Supported by Sky High Productions -- multi-instrumentalists and producers Larry and Fonce Mizell -- Byrd had already minted dancefloor classics on Black Byrd and Street Lady. The Blue Note label doubled down in promoting Places and Spaces, the trumpeter's crisper third session with the team: "DISCOver DONALD BYRD!," implored one full-page print ad. Jazz purists recoiled again, and resisted having their feet stimulated as much as their minds, but the musicians' work was no mere capitulation to commercial trends. Byrd and his associates recorded some of the decade's slickest, funkiest, and most uplifting jams, as heard at number 15 below. Additionally, Byrd produced number 29, played by a group that featured some of his Howard University students.

From the more explicitly disco end, there was, of course, "Love to Love You Baby," Donna Summer's side-length and orgasmic summit with Pete Bellotte and Giorgio Moroder. Meanwhile, LaBelle, Parliament, and the Pointer Sisters offset the polished hits with a whole lot of grit. The latter don't get nearly enough attention for their pre-crossover output; the opening and closing songs off their stellar Steppin' are at numbers four and 25.

Forty personal-favorite singles that reached Billboard's Soul Singles chart during 1975, followed by a Spotify playlist and month-by-month top tens:

1. The Isley Brothers - "Fight the Power" [T-Neck, 5/31]
2. Earth, Wind & Fire - "That's the Way of the World" [Columbia, 7/5]
3. Earth, Wind & Fire - "Shining Star" [Columbia, 2/8]
4. The Pointer Sisters - "How Long (Betcha' Got a Chick on the Side)" [Blue Thumb, 7/26]
5. Minnie Riperton - "Inside My Love" [Epic, 8/16]
6. Donna Summer - "Love to Love You Baby" [Oasis, 12/6]
7. The Isley Brothers - "For the Love of You" [T-Neck, 11/8]
8. Rufus Featuring Chaka Khan - "Sweet Thing" [ABC, 12/20]
9. LaBelle - "Messin' with My Mind" [Epic, 9/6]
10. Kool & the Gang - "Summer Madness" [De-Lite, 6/21]

11. Earth, Wind & Fire - "Sing a Song" [Columbia, 11/22]
12. Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes - "Bad Luck" [Philadelphia Int'l, 3/15]
13. South Shore Commission - "We're on the Right Track" [Wand, 10/25]*
14. Lonnie Liston Smith & the Cosmic Echoes - "Expansions" [Flying Dutchman, 7/19]
15. Donald Byrd - "Change (Makes You Want to Hustle)" [Blue Note, 11/15]
16. Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes - "Wake Up Everybody" [Philadelphia Int'l, 11/15]
17. Ohio Players - "I Want to Be Free" [Mercury, 4/12]
18. LaBelle - "What Can I Do for You?" [Epic, 5/10]
19. People's Choice - "Do It Any Way You Wanna" [TSOP, 7/19]
20. Jackson 5ive - "I Am Love" [Motown, 1/25]

21. The Staple Singers - "Let's Do It Again" [Curtom, 10/11]
22. David Ruffin - "Walk Away from Love" [Motown, 11/15]
23. Funkadelic - "Red Hot Momma" [Westbound, 3/15]
24. The New Birth - "Dream Merchant" [Buddah, 6/21]
25. The Pointer Sisters - "Going Down Slowly" [Blue Thumb, 11/22]
26. Rufus Featuring Chaka Khan - "Once You Get Started" [ABC, 2/8]
27. The Spinners - "Games People Play" [Atlantic, 8/2]
28. Ramsey Lewis - "Sun Goddess" [Columbia, 3/15]
29. The Blackbyrds - "Walking in Rhythm" [Fantasy, 2/1]
30. Al Green - "Full of Fire" [Hi, 11/1]

31. Lonnie Liston Smith & the Cosmic Echoes - "A Chance for Peace" [Flying Dutchman, 12/6]
32. Crown Heights - "Dreaming a Dream" [De-Lite, 6/14]*
33. Leroy Hutson - "All Because of You" [Curtom, 3/1]*
34. Ronnie Laws & Pressure - "Always There" [Blue Note, 12/6]
35. The Sylvers - "Boogie Fever" [Capitol, 11/29]
36. Ohio Players - "Love Rollercoaster" [Mercury, 11/15]
37. Gil Scott-Heron - "Johannesburg" [Arista, 10/4]*
38. Parliament - "Ride On" [Casablanca, 9/20]
39. Ohio Players - "Sweet Sticky Thing" [Mercury, 9/20]
40. Leon Haywood - "I Want'a Do Something Freaky to You" [20th Century, 9/13]

*These songs are not available on Spotify in the U.S. Favorites 41-44 appear in their places, at the end of the playlist.



January
Jackson 5ive - "I Am Love"
Minnie Riperton - "Lovin' You"
Ben E. King - "Supernatural Thing"
Rance Allen Group - "Ain't No Need of Crying"
Curtis Mayfield - "Mother's Son"
B.T. Express - "Express"
Tower of Power - "Only So Much Oil in the Ground"
Millie Jackson - "The Rap"
Shirley & Company - "Shame, Shame, Shame"
The Jimmy Castor Bunch - "The Bertha Butt Boogie"

February
Earth, Wind & Fire - "Shining Star"
Rufus Featuring Chaka Khan - "Once You Get Started"
The Blackbyrds - "Walking in Rhythm"
Joe Bataan - "The Bottle (La Botella)"
Loleatta Holloway - "Cry to Me"
Black Ivory - "Will We Ever Come Together"
Eddie Kendricks - "Shoeshine Boy"
Al Downing - "I'll Be Holding On"
Aretha Franklin - "With Everything I Feel in Me"
Shuggie Otis - "Inspiration Information"

March
Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes - "Bad Luck"
Funkadelic - "Red Hot Momma"
Ramsey Lewis - "Sun Goddess"
Leroy Hutson - "All Because of You"
Smokey Robinson - "Baby That's Backatcha"
The Main Ingredient - "Rolling Down a Mountainside"
Gwen McCrae - "Rockin' Chair"
Barry White - "What Am I Gonna Do with You"
The Temptations - "Shakey Ground"
Michael Jackson - "We're Almost There"

April
Ohio Players - "I Want to Be Free"
Quincy Jones - "Body Heat"
The Moments - "Look at Me (I'm in Love)"
Grover Washington Jr. - "Mister Magic"
Impressions - "Sooner or Later"
Commodores - "Slippery When Wet"
Syl Johnson - "Take Me to the River"
Kool & the Gang - "Spirit of the Boogie"
Average White Band - "Cut the Cake"
The O'Jays - "Give the People What They Want"

May
The Isley Brothers - "Fight the Power"
LaBelle - "What Can I Do for You?"
Parliament - "Chocolate City"
Crystal Grass - "Crystal World"
The Manhattans - "Hurt"
Rufus Featuring Chaka Khan - "Please Pardon Me"
South Shore Commission - "Free Man"
Spinners - "Sadie"
Michael Jackson - "Just a Little Bit of You"
Gary Toms Empire - "7-6-5-4-3-2-1 (Blow Your Whistle)"

June
Kool & the Gang - "Summer Madness"
The New Birth - "Dream Merchant"
Crown Heights - "Dreaming a Dream"
Jackson 5 - "Forever Came Today"
Bobby "Blue" Bland - "Yolanda"
Fred & the New J.B.'s - "(It's Not the Express) It's the J.B.'s Monaurail"
Jeannie Reynolds - "The Phones Been Jumping All Day"
Jackie Moore - "Make Me Feel Like a Woman"
Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes - "Hope That We Can Be Together Soon"
The Reflections - "Three Steps from True Love"

July
Earth, Wind & Fire - "That's the Way of the World"
The Pointer Sisters - "How Long (Betcha' Got a Chick on the Side)"
Lonnie Liston Smith & the Cosmic Echoes - "Expansions"
People's Choice - "Do It Any Way You Wanna"
Natalie Cole - "This Will Be"
The Blackbyrds - "Flying High"
Tavares - "It Only Takes a Minute"
Esther Phillips - "What a Diff'rence a Day Makes"
Blue Magic - "Chasing Rainbows"
The Temptations - "Glasshouse"

August
Minnie Riperton - "Inside My Love"
The Spinners - "Games People Play"
Merry Clayton - "Keep Your Eye on the Sparrow"
Faith, Hope & Charity - "To Each His Own"
Sly Stone - "I Get High on You"
Willie Hutch - "Love Power"
Isaac Hayes - "Chocolate Chip"
Ron Banks & the Dramatics - "(I'm Going By) The Stars in Your Eyes"
Ray Charles - "Living for the City"
Hubert Laws - "The Chicago Theme (Love Loop)"

September
LaBelle - "Messin' with My Mind"
Parliament - "Ride On"
Ohio Players - "Sweet Sticky Thing"
Leon Haywood - "I Want'a Do Something Freaky to You"
Harlem River Drive - "Need You"
Commodores - "This Is Your Life"
Millie Jackson - "Leftovers"
David Bowie - "Fame" [RCA Victor, 9/6]
Gwen McCrae - "Love Insurance"
War - "Low Rider"

October
South Shore Commission - "We're on the Right Track"
The Staple Singers - "Let's Do It Again"
Gil Scott-Heron - "Johannesburg"
Quincy Jones - "Is It Love That We're Missin'"
Soul Train Gang - "Soul Train '75'"
Lenny Williams - "Since I Met You"
Kool & the Gang - "Caribbean Festival"
Bloodstone - "Give Me Your Heart"
Van McCoy - "Change with the Times"
KC & the Sunshine Band - "That's the Way (I Like It)"

November
The Isley Brothers - "For the Love of You"
Earth, Wind & Fire - "Sing a Song"
Donald Byrd - "Change (Makes You Want to Hustle)"
Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes - "Wake Up Everybody"
David Ruffin - "Walk Away from Love"
The Pointer Sisters - "Going Down Slowly"
Al Green - "Full of Fire"
The Sylvers - "Boogie Fever"
Ohio Players - "Love Rollercoaster"
Graham Central Station - "It's Alright"

December
Donna Summer - "Love to Love You Baby"
Rufus Featuring Chaka Khan - "Sweet Thing"
Ronnie Laws & Pressure - "Always There"
Lonnie Liston Smith & the Cosmic Echoes - "A Chance for Peace"
Smokey Robinson - "Quiet Storm"
Commodores - "Sweet Love"
Barry White - "Let the Music Play"
The Spinners - "Love or Leave"
The Dramatics - "You're Fooling You"
Tyrone Davis - "Turning Point"