I am white. Very, very, very, very white. I admit this, freely and easily. I have no particular ethic or racial interest to me, and I sound and look like Helga the Oxen Mistress crossed with Swiss Miss and an elf. I dance and sing with no grit or swagger, and I am sexy like a moose in pink panties.

I have no soul. But that is OK. There is a place for everyone, even the soulless white moose.

I got to thinking in this very roundabout way about soul by listening to Underground Garage on Sirius this morning. They often play one of my favorite songs in the world, “Fool For You” by the Impressions, featuring the wonderful Curtis Mayfield, of course. I sing along to this song, and although I can hit all the notes, how I do fail. There is so very nothing I can do to give the feel that Curtis does to the song, something indefinable to me other than to call it soul.

I then think of two other singers I admire, Al Green and Marvin Gaye. They, plus Curtis, make up my Holy Trinity Of Soul for me. They are the cream of the crop, effortlessly talented, endlessly enjoyable to listen to. They take me somewhere else, a deep delicious place that I can almost feel in my chest, not quite, but close enough. I listen, from my distanced moosey glade, and I feel a kind of love for each of them, for what they give, what they can do.

They are distinctly different as singers, my Trinity. Al Green is the most funky of the three, bending and reaching, swooping into notes, unafraid, grounded in rich fertile soil of his religious roots, confident, beaming. Curtis Mayfield’s impossibly-smooth signature falsetto has something of a sadness to it, as well as an intelligence and a fire, smoking and smoldering underneath. Marvin Gaye sits somewhere between those two, able to reach to the sky, then come down again to earth, clean, dirty, smooth, rough, commercial, street, sexual, pure.

All three men, lives either damaged or lost through unimaginable tragedies. Green suffered third-degree burns when a girlfriend scalded him, and she then killed herself. Mayfield had a stage scaffolding collapse on him while playing a concert, paralyzing him from the neck down, and died nine years later. And Gaye, shot to death a day before his 45th birthday, by his own father. What loss. Senseless, stupid loss.

Well, I take it back. Maybe I have just enough soul to recognize what soul is, and to appreciate what Al Green, Curtis Mayfield, and Marvin Gaye left to us, richness beyond and unrelated to million-seller records and critical appreciation. They sang with their hearts wide open, souls shown, lives exposed. Marvelous.

My favorites, by my favorites.