Whether you first encountered it on a dancefloor, on the radio, in Carlito's Way or Pitch Perfect 2, or even through one of many cover versions, LaBelle's "Lady Marmalade" likely made a permanent impression. The eternal hit single from Patti LaBelle, Nona Hendryx, and Sarah Dash debuted on the December 14, 1974 edition of Billboard's Soul Singles chart. It reached the top two months later, and is therefore considered more of a 1975 record, at least in the mainstream sense. The same can be said of Gloria Gaynor's storming version of "Never Can Say Goodbye," which entered the chart the following week. As with "Lady Marmalade," the underground dwellers were up on it weeks before casual music listeners caught on. When Billboard published Tom Moulton's Disco Action chart for the first time that October, the song was at the top, its mainstream infiltration accurately predicted. (Today, that chart is known as Hot Dance Club Songs—one form of proof that disco never died.)

Going by our five-star standard, 1974 offered little in the way of classic R&B albums. Gil Scott-Heron & Brian Jackson's Winter in America and Terry Callier's I Just Can't Help Myself are the only '74 studio releases awarded the status. Neither one featured a charting A-side. Ohio Players, Funkadelic, and Bill Withers were among those who issued excellent albums during the year, and each one is represented below. Just as noteworthy are Body Heat, Perfect Angel, Stevie Wonder Presents Syreeta, Fulfillingness' First Finale, Live It Up, and Dancing Machine, all of which are deeply connected through collaborations.

Here are 40 personal-favorite singles that reached Billboard's Soul Singles chart during 1974, followed by a Spotify playlist and month-by-month top tens:

1. LaBelle - "Lady Marmalade" [Epic, 12/14]
2. Ohio Players - "Skin Tight" [Mercury, 8/10]
3. James Brown - "The Payback" [Polydor, 3/9]
4. Stevie Wonder - "You Haven't Done Nothin'" [Tamla, 8/10]
5. Stevie Wonder - "Don't You Worry 'Bout a Thing" [Tamla, 4/6]
6. Herbie Hancock - "Chameleon" [Columbia, 2/23]
7. The O'Jays - "For the Love of Money" [Philadelphia Int'l, 4/13]
8. Rufus Featuring Chaka Khan - "You Got the Love" [ABC, 10/19]
9. Earth, Wind & Fire - "Devotion" [Columbia, 9/21]
10. William DeVaughn - "Be Thankful for What You Got" [Roxbury, 3/30]

11. The Isley Brothers - "Summer Breeze" [T-Neck, 3/23]
12. The New Birth - "Wildflower" [RCA Victor, 5/11]
13. Gladys Knight & the Pips - "On and On" [Buddah, 5/18]
14. The New Birth - "It's Been a Long Time" [RCA Victor, 1/26]
15. Kool & the Gang - "Hollywood Swinging" [De-Lite, 4/13]
16. Earth, Wind & Fire - "Mighty Mighty" [Columbia, 3/2]
17. Jackson 5ive - "Dancing Machine" [Motown, 3/9]
18. Bill Withers - "The Same Love That Made Me Laugh" [Sussex, 3/23]
19. Bobby Womack - "You're Welcome, Stop on By" [United Artists, 6/8]

20. Chairmen of the Board - "Life and Death" [Invictus, 3/30]*
21. Funkadelic - "Standing on the Verge of Getting It On" [Westbound, 6/29]
22. The Main Ingredient - "Happiness Is Just Around the Bend" [RCA Victor, 6/15]
23. Roberta Flack - "Feel Like Makin' Love" [Atlantic, 6/22]
24. Rufus Featuring Chaka Khan - "Tell Me Something Good" [ABC, 6/1]
25. The Main Ingredient - "California My Way" [RCA Victor, 11/2]*
26. B.T. Express - "Do It ('Til You're Satisfied)" [Scepter, 8/3]
27. George McCrae - "I Get Lifted" [T.K., 12/28]
28. Barry White - "Honey Please, Can't Ya See" [20th Century, 2/23]
29. Ohio Players - "Fire" [Mercury, 12/14]
30. Gloria Gaynor - "Never Can Say Goodbye" [MGM, 12/21]

31. Marvin Gaye - "Distant Lover" [Tamla, 9/28]
32. Lou Courtney - "I Don't Need Nobody Else" [Epic, 3/9]*
33. Marvin Gaye - "You Sure Love to Ball" [Tamla, 1/19]
34. Blue Magic - "Sideshow" [Atco, 4/20]
35. Commodores - "Machine Gun" [Motown, 5/25]
36. Parliament - "Up for the Down Stroke" [Casablanca, 7/6]
37. James Brown - "Funky President (People It's Bad)" [Polydor, 11/2]
38. The Hues Corporation - "Rock the Boat" [RCA Victor, 5/4]
39. George McCrae - "Rock Your Baby" [T.K., 5/11]
40. Lamont Dozier - "Fish Ain't Bitin'" [ABC, 5/11]

*These songs are not available on Spotify in the U.S. Favorites 41-43 appear in their places, at the end of the playlist.



January
The New Birth - "It's Been a Long Time"
Marvin Gaye - "You Sure Love to Ball"
The Main Ingredient - "Just Don't Want to Be Lonely"
Bobby Womack - "Lookin' for a Love"
Spinners - "Mighty Love"
Sly & the Family Stone - "If It Were Left Up to Me"
The Delfonics - "I Told You So"
The Independents - "The First Time We Met"
The Sylvers - "Through the Love in My Heart"
Betty Everett - "Sweet Dan"

February
Herbie Hancock - "Chameleon"
Barry White - "Honey Please, Can't Ya See"'
Junie - "Tightrope"
Staple Singers - "Touch a Hand (Make a Friend)"
Diana & Marvin - "My Mistake (Was to Love You)"
Bloodstone - "Outside Woman"
Gladys Knight & the Pips - "Best Thing That Ever Happened to Me"
Millie Jackson - "I Got to Try It One Time"
Jerry Butler - "That's How Heartaches Are Made"
First Choice - "Newsy Neighbors"

March
James Brown - "The Payback"
William DeVaughn - "Be Thankful for What You Got"
The Isley Brothers - "Summer Breeze"
Earth, Wind & Fire - "Mighty Mighty"
Jackson 5ive - "Dancing Machine"
Bill Withers - "The Same Love That Made Me Laugh"
Chairmen of the Board - "Life and Death"
Lou Courtney - "I Don't Need Nobody Else"
The Stylistics - "You Make Me Feel Brand New"
Graham Central Station - "Can You Handle It?"

April
Stevie Wonder - "Don't You Worry 'Bout a Thing"
The O'Jays - "For the Love of Money"
Kool & the Gang - "Hollywood Swinging"
Blue Magic - "Sideshow"
The Impressions - "Finally Got Myself Together"
Four Tops - "One Chain Don't Make No Prison"
Aretha Franklin - "I'm in Love"
Gloria Scott - "What Am I Gonna Do"
Bobbi Humphrey - "Chicago, Damn"
Ashford & Simpson - "Have You Ever Tried It"

May
The New Birth - "Wildflower"
Gladys Knight & the Pips - "On and On"
Commodores - "Machine Gun"
The Hues Corporation - "Rock the Boat"
George McCrae - "Rock Your Baby"
Lamont Dozier - "Fish Ain't Bitin'"
Tavares - "Too Late"
Ohio Players - "Jive Turkey"
Eddie Kendricks - "Son of Sagittarius"
The Dells - "I Wish It Was Me You Loved"

June
Bobby Womack - "You're Welcome, Stop on By"
Funkadelic - "Standing on the Verge of Getting It On"
The Main Ingredient - "Happiness Is Just Around the Bend"
Roberta Flack - "Feel Like Makin' Love"
Rufus Featuring Chaka Khan - "Tell Me Something Good"
The Soul Searchers - "Blow Your Whistle"
Sly & the Family Stone - "Time for Livin'"
Curtis Mayfield - "Kung Fu"
War - "Ballero"
Solomon Burke - "Midnight and You"

July
Parliament - "Up for the Down Stroke"
Johnny Bristol - "Hang On in There Baby"
Earth, Wind & Fire - "Kalimba Story"
Dionne Warwicke & Spinners - "Then Came You"
Bill Withers - "You"
Barry White - "Can't Get Enough of Your Love, Babe"
The Isley Brothers - "Live It Up"
Brother to Brother - "In the Bottle"
The Miracles - "Do It Baby"
MFSB - "Love Is the Message"

August
Ohio Players - "Skin Tight"
Stevie Wonder - "You Haven't Done Nothin'"
B.T. Express - "Do It ('Til You're Satisfied)"
First Choice - "The Player"
Bobbi Humphrey - "Harlem River Drive"
Bobby "Blue" Bland - "Ain't No Love in the Heart of the City"
James Brown - "Papa Don't Take No Mess"
Kool & the Gang - "Higher Plane"
The New Birth - "I Wash My Hands of the Whole Damn Deal"
Aretha Franklin - "Ain't Nothing Like the Real Thing"

September
Earth, Wind & Fire - "Devotion"
Marvin Gaye - "Distant Lover"
Tavares - "She's Gone"
Quincy Jones - "If I Ever Lose This Heaven"
Shirley Brown - "Woman to Woman"
Latimore - "Let's Straighten It Out"
The Dynamic Superiors - "Shoe Shoe Shine"
The Moments - "What's Your Name"
The Three Degrees - "When Will I See You Again"
Ecstasy, Passion & Pain - "Ask Me"

October
Rufus Featuring Chaka Khan - "You Got the Love"
Sly & the Family Stone - "Loose Booty"
Blue Magic - "Three Ring Circus"
Gladys Knight & the Pips - "I Feel a Song (In My Heart)"
Al Green - "Sha-La-La (Make Me Happy)"
Curtis Mayfield - "Sweet Exorcist"
Betty Wright - "Shoorah! Shoorah!"
The Stylistics - "Heavy Fallin' Out"
The Whispers - "What More Can a Girl Ask For?"
Jackson 5ive - "Whatever You Got, I Want"

November
James Brown - "Funky President (People It's Bad)"
The Main Ingredient - "California My Way"
Bunny Sigler - "Keep Smilin'"
Commodores - "I Feel Sanctified"
Bill Withers - "Heartbreak Road"
Average White Band - "Pick Up the Pieces"
Barry White - "You're the First, the Last, My Everything"
Candi Staton - "As Long as He Takes Care of Home"
Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes - "Where Are All My Friends"
Smokey Robinson - "I Am I Am"

December
LaBelle - "Lady Marmalade"
George McCrae - "I Get Lifted"
Ohio Players - "Fire"
Gloria Gaynor - "Never Can Say Goodbye"
The Isley Brothers - "Midnight Sky"
Nancy Wilson - "You're as Right as Rain"
The Miracles - "Don't Cha Love It"
Eddie Kendricks - "One Tear"
Parliament - "Testify"
The Temptations - "Happy People"