Stacks of Wax: Soul First Dance Songs

This is Part I of the three-part installment Stacks of Wax.

Wedding planning is far more involved than many people let on, especially if it’s the kind of thing you’re trying to do (A) on your own, and (B) in the spare time you have outside of work, school, and other responsibilities. Trust me, I’ve been there.

It can also be deceptive because once you tackle the really hard details (the dress, the venue, the food, the photographers), then come the pesky little ones that take way more time and energy (read = sanity) than you could have ever imagined. If you’re going for the “traditional” reception, with toasts and dances and the whole shebang, then you’re probably going to come up against the issue of the first dance.

For some this might not even be an issue because you have “your song” and it’s perfect for this, but for the rest of you, I’m dusting off my wedding deejay skills from years past with some of my favorite songs that are off the beaten path and would make for a killer first dance.

Wedding First Dance Songs

If you like Motown and soul, you’ll probably like:

1. Sam Cooke – You Send Me

At first I thought it was infatuation,

But ooh, it’s lasted so long,

Now I find myself wanting

To marry you and take you home

Sam Cooke might be better known for his other hits which include “Twisting the Night Away” and “Bring it on Home to Me,” but this particular track is one of my absolute favorites. It’s a little dreamier than others, just slightly below mid-tempo, and has an almost doo-wop feel to it. It’s sweet, tender, just as love is supposed to be.

2. The Temptations – My Girl

I don’t need no money, fortune or fame,

I’ve got all the riches, baby, one man can claim

To say that “My Girl” is off the beaten path is kind of a stretch, but I include it in this list only because fewer and fewer people seem to be using it as their first dance song. As a general rule, you really can’t go wrong with Motown (total crowd-pleasers) and with as many people who know the words, your first dance may even be a serenade from your loved ones.

3. The Ronettes – Be My Baby

Oh, since the day I saw you,

I have been waiting for you,

You know I will adore you ’til eternity

Back in my deejaying days, “Be My Baby” was my fail-safe. On a slow night on the back patio of the Replay Lounge with a dead dance floor, I knew that cueing up this girl group hit would get the party started and it did, every time. Let’s face it, anyone who has seen Dirty Dancing (the original obviously) can’t help themselves. You hear the initial bass drum/snare intro and it’s go time. As a couple’s first song to dance together, you really can’t go wrong with this one.

4. Al Green – Let’s Stay Together

I’m so in love with you,

Whatever you want to do is all right with me,

‘Cause you make me feel so brand-new,

And I want to spend my life with you.

I feel like this particular track is usually equated with Pulp Fiction, but if you listen closely to the lyrics you’ll realize that it’s an amazingly heartfelt song about being head-over-heels in love with someone, and the perfect tempo for dancing.

5. Mary Wells – My Guy

Nothing you could say could tear me away from my guy,

Nothing you could do, ‘cause I’m stuck like glue to my guy,

… I’m tellin’ you from the start, I can’t be torn apart from my guy

I will forever think of this song in the context of “Sister Act” with the choir of nuns singing “My God,” but that doesn’t take away from the fact that this soulful, mid-tempo hit is a classic that perfectly portrays unending love toward the man of your dreams.

6. Freddie Scott – (You) Got What I Need

You’re the sunshine to my life,

Things were wrong, you made them right,

How did you do it, dear?

I’m thankful every day that you came my way

And I hope and pray that you’ll never ever go away

This was one of my favorite songs to play back in my deejaying days, mostly because people would hear the opening hook and immediately think it was the Biz Markie classic “Just a Friend.” After all, this song is where that memorable ditty came from. With a slightly more upbeat feel than some other soul first dance songs, this track is perfect for the couple who lead lighthearted lives and want their wedding to reflect that.

These are, of course, merely suggestions of soul first dance songs that I think would be amazing for a couple’s first dance, but remember that ultimately it’s up to the two of you to find something that you love. This is one of the sweetest moments you’ll have during your wedding, so enjoy it!

Stay tuned for Part II: Golden Oldies