Hit Parade

Killing Me Softly Edition

How four R&B queens—Dionne, Patti, Roberta, and Chaka—evolved into chart-toppers through the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s.


Episode Notes

The early ’70s was a great time for R&B queens on the charts: Roberta Flack. Dionne Warwick. Patti LaBelle. Chaka Khan. They had come through the ’60s—Dionne as a smooth pop-and-B star, Patti as a girl-group frontwoman, Roberta as a cabaret pianist—and found themselves in a new decade with limitless possibilities. Flack turned folk songs into chart-topping, Grammy-winning R&B. Warwick shifted from Brill Building pop to Philly soul. LaBelle threw her insane voice at rock, funk, and glam. And a relative newcomer, Rufus frontwoman Chaka Khan, followed in their footsteps, commanding the band and converting to disco, then electro. By the ’80s, all four women were ready for a major chart victory lap.

Join host Chris Molanphy as he traces four parallel careers that expanded the definition of soul from the ’60s through the ’80s and beyond. These soul sisters, flow sisters, bold sisters … killed us softly, walked on by, and were, finally, every woman.

Podcast production by Kevin Bendis.


About the Show

Chris Molanphy, a pop-chart analyst and author of Slate’s “Why Is This Song No. 1?” series, tells tales from a half-century of chart history. Through storytelling, trivia, and song snippets, Chris dissects how that song you love—or hate—dominated the airwaves, made its way to the top of the charts, and shaped your memories forever.

All episodes


  • Chris Molanphy is a feature writer and critic who writes widely about music and the pop charts.