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Top 12 All-Time Ohio R&B Artists (Old School & New School)

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Top Ohio R&B Artists of All-Time

Top 20 Ohio R&B/Soul Singers and Groups of All-Time

From the large cities of Columbus, Cleveland, and Cinicinnati, to the small towns of Akron, Toledo, Canton, and Youngstown, for generations, ranging from the 1970s to the 2020s, Ohio R&B artists and groups have been impacting music through the legacies and legendary careers of some of the biggest names of R&B and Soul music.

Top 12 Ohio R&B Artists of All-Time

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1. The Isley Brothers

Coming out of the Cincinnati area, Ronald Isley and his brothers debuted years ago, but the true remembrance of their greatness came about during the 1970s and 1980s, and continued well into the 2000s. Their first big break was in 1959 with the single “Shout” and later in 1962 with “”Twist and Shout,” while continuing their rise during the 1960s with their time with Motown. Following their short stint with Motown, which was not as successful as expected, The Isley Brothers began their ascend into becoming all-time musical greats and prominent figures of black culture.

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2. Bootsy Collins

The king of Funk, originally hailing from Cincinnati, Bootsy Collins became an icon during the 1970s and 1980s. With the longevity of numerous classics, Bootsy Collins has stayed an icon through multiple generations, while becoming a staple in pop culture. Debuting during the late 1970s with Stretchin’ Out in Bootsy’s Rubber Band, Bootsy Collins continued to release and be active in music well into the 2010s, even featuring with this generations top artists.

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3. Bobby Womack

A soul legend from Cleveland, known for songs like “Across 110th Street,” “If You Think You’re Lonely Now,” “Woman’s Gotta Have It”, and “That’s the Way I Feel About Cha,” made his breakthrough during the late 1960s with the song “Fly Me to the Moon”. A storied career, Bobby Womack has always remained in the same conversations as greats like Al Green and Marvin Gaye.

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4. O’Jays

Growing up in the small town of Canton, in which their legacy led to the renaming of a long stretch of a East Side street now referred as The O’Jays Pkwy, The O’Jays solidified their careers with hits like “Back Stabbers,” “For the Love of Money,” “I Love Music,” and “Use ta Be My Girl.” Reigning throughout the 1970s, the OJay’s have since became one of the most notable groups of the legendary soul era.

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5. John Legend

With one of the most significant songs of the 2000s, “Ordinary People,” John Legend became highly known as one of the top male R&B artists of the 2000s and 2010s. Despite making his start as just a featured artist singing background for Kanye West, John Legend went from being an unaccredited hook and chorus singer, to becoming of the greatest Ohio R&B artists of all-time.

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6. Gerald Levert

With musical talents running deep through his blood, as his father was a former member of the legendary soul group the O’Jays, Gerald Levert would create his own separate career out from the shadows of his family’s name.  From Grammy awards and nominations, to platinum and gold selling albums, Gerald Levert has been a household name since the early 1990s, after debuting in 1991 with Private Line.

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7. Avant

The Cleveland native who held down R&B during the 2000s with five classic albums, led by songs like “Read Your Mind,” “Makin’ Good Love,” and “Separated,” was arguably one of the top male R&B singers of his generation. Still actively releasing music, Avant’s run during the 2000s helped carried the legacy of R&B music into a new period of time, following the golden era of the 1990s.

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8. Ohio Players

From “Love Rollercoaster,” to “Funky Worm,” “I Want to Be Free,” to “Fire,” this Dayton, Ohio group were one of the pioneers of the Funk movement during the 1970s. Despite the deaths of key and original members, the legacy of the Ohio Players has truly remained with current members touring and performing nationwide.

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9. Macy Gray

Another Ohio R&B artist raised in the small town of Canton, Ohio, this neo soul singer became a face in music following her release of the classic album of On How Life Is. Not necessarily a one hit wonder, but her song “I Try” is not only the biggest song of her career, but also was one of the most celebrated songs of the neo soul era.

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10. Lyfe Jennings

Singing with a street edge, the Toledo, Ohio native has a true turn your life around story, following a ten year bid in prison. Lyfe Jennings went from performing on the intensifying stage of Showtime at the Apollo, to making his official debut in 2004 with Lyfe 268-192. 

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11. Alina Baraz

One of the few newcomers on the list, her rise in music has been on display since releasing to the world the hit single “Electric,” following her debut with “Fantasy” and “Make You Feel”. While originally being born and raised in the city of Cleveland, Alina Baraz made her way into music following her arrival to Los Angeles. Since arriving to L.A., Alina Baraz has become one of the top up and coming R&B artists.

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12. Arin Ray

A notable singer and songwriter, Arin Ray is another rising star of today’s R&B music. Born and raised in Cincinnati with strong musical roots, despite being a newcomer to the R&B scene, Arin Ray has accomplished much since making his first public appearance on NBC’s X-Factor.

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