Safe and Warm with the Wurli - A Playlist for the Soul

For those of us able to isolate, we may feel like it’s day in and day out  of scary stats on social media and the news. Sometimes, all we need to do is take a step away, maybe even relax and get in touch with the things that resonate with us. Personally, the electric piano is the musical equivalent of butter—  adding not just extra flavor to any mix, but a rich “hush child, everything is ok” assurance to any track. 

The electric piano has a long history that goes back to the beginning of the 20th century. Though, due to heavy builds and cumbersome upkeep, it did not achieve mainstream popularity until the mid-50s when acts like Duke Ellington and Sun Ra somewhat adopted the instrument. Many point to Ray Charles’ smash hit "What’d I Say" part 1 & 2, as the true breakthrough of the electric piano. Over the years, the main ‘trademark’ producers of electric pianos are usually considered to be the Rhodes made by Fender and the various models made by Wurlitzer. In either case, a player’s touch and rhythm can unlock incredible amounts of variety in tone. Throw in a tremolo and brightness control and the possibilities are endless. 

You may already associate these tones with famous tracks by Ray Charles, Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder, but this soul-soothing playlist is meant to bring you some of the tracks that don’t always get as much attention. On this little isolation playlist, you’ll hear a wide diversity of electric piano tones. Whether it’s the deep-fried groove of Bill Payne’s performance on Little Feat’s “Got No Shadow”, the playful melody of Joe Zawinul’s bar-setting musicianship on “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy” or the ridiculous energy of the distorted rock ‘n’ roll triplets in the solo played by Alastair McKenzie on Suzi Quatro’s “Shine My Machine”, each one of these tracks shows something unique about the tone and ability of the electric piano. Some tracks deliver wide open breaths of fresh air, like Norah Jones on “What Am I to You” or Jack Conte’s bouncy accents on Scary Pockets’ “Bring It On Home to Me” cover. Plus, pay close attention to the double tracked Wurli on Vulfpeck’s “The Speedwalker” where Jack Stratton and Woody Goss bump up the funk with delicious syncopated runs. Hearing it delicately enter in the second verse of Ty Segall’s “My Lady’s On Fire” will always give me a shiver, just as local Montreal soul-stirrer Leif Vollebekk’s washy tremolo on “The Way That You Feel” elicits a sense of nostalgia and bittersweet days gone by. Same could be said of the incredible sampling of Chic Corea’s “Shadow of Lo” featured in Jinsang’s lofi masterpiece “Return”. It’s always a thrill to hear the masters like Bill Evans, Ramsey Lewis and Bob James match the Wurli with their incomparable chops. These tracks aren’t necessarily the DEFINING Wurli tracks, but they all hold the power of making me stop in my tracks, grimace by an overwhelming sense of funk and thank the universe for the electric piano.

Did I miss any massive Wurli tracks? Send a message to to let me know your thoughts.

Lou's Safe and Warm with the Wurli Playlist


Lou is the host of Soul'd Out!, every Monday at 8pm!