We have, my dears, reached the end of the road. In this final stretch, let me remind you that this list is completely subjective, and I don't care for your opinions. Great! Let's do this.
6. Phyllis Hyman - Loved, LOVED, Phyllis's voice. It's a hackneyed expression, but the woman was/is seriously underrated. She could sing anything, was absolutely gorgeous, and hilarious as hell--what more could you ever want in a woman? Unfortunately, as is the case with some of our best voices, her material was often inconsistent. Fortunately, that voice could carry some of the most marginal material.
"Loving You - Losing You"
"Betcha By Golly Wow"
5. Anita Baker - Old mush mouth herself. I'm telling you, the Midwest breeds some serious talent. Please, don't be in the car with me if/when "Been So Long" comes on. I will sing this song from beginning to end, scats and all, LOUDLY, and will not give a tinkler's damn. She was it in the 80s/early-90s, one of those artists whose material will automatically grant or deny "black points." I mean it, think back to the post-Saturday morning cartoon house clean, what was your mother playing? Yep, Old Nita here.
"Been So Long"
4. Bobby Blue Bland - The voice of the blues, my dears. That is all. The man's voice in its prime was a magical amalgamation of bitter tears, alcoholic evenings, and pre-Keith Sweat pleading. Unlike most of my musical heroes, I actually saw him in concert. Granted he was at least 70, and I seriously feared for his health when he did his trademark chortle-snort, but I was in the presence of greatness. Nevermind that I was the youngest person there. (Really great Salon.com article linked; read it.)
"Little Boy Blue"
"If You're Gonna Walk on My Love"
"Jelly Jelly Jelly"
3. Patti LaBelle - If I were capable of idolizing people, I'd be all over the Patti thing. No one puts on a show like her. Sure, she'll be dipped to the high heavens, but she has a job to do and those stilettos will come flying off when things get truly serious. Patti will sing anybody under a table, and she doesn't even mean to. She's just doing her. Patti ain't no punk, y'all, for real.
"Over the Rainbow (Live)" -YouTube link because you have to see it.
"Walk Around Heaven All Day"
"You Are My Friend"
2. Sam Cooke - I'm pretty sure I don't have to explain this, and again, Chicago runs this. (Just in case you didn't know.)
"Nothing Can Change This Love"
"Lord, Remember Me" w/ Soul Stirrers
1. Donny Hathaway - You do not know how interested (obsessed) I was with this man's music some years back. I'm not creepy. I just wanted everyone to understand how great he was, that's all. Plus, he was a fellow Libra. Plus, he was a Chicagoan. Plus, his voice could conjure up sadnesses you didn't even know you had. Plus, you can't go a Christmas without hearing at least one of his songs. (Note: New singers, stop remaking "This Christmas"; you sound terrible.) Reader, if you're out there, I need you to know that Donny is more than "Giving Up" and "A Song For You" and "This Christmas"; there's a whole world of Donny that you're missing out on. For that reason, I'm gonna include more than my standard three audio files cuz I expect somebody somewhere needs some schooling.
"Come Back Charleston Blue" w/ Margie Joseph
"He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother"
"I (Who Have Nothing)" w/ Roberta Flack
"I Love You More Than You'll Ever Know (Live)"
"Sack Full of Dreams (Live)"
And that's it. I'm done.