Robin Thicke's sexy hit "Lost Without U" topped the R&B charts for weeks (a spot almost exclusively held by African-American artists). But the tracks on The Evolution of Robin Thicke (Star Trak/Interscope), his sophomore album, were written when the son of Growing Pains dad Alan Thicke had scant hopes of a flourishing singing career. 'As soon as I came to terms with not having success, I found it,' Thicke says. He took a moment from the bustle of touring (he's performing this month at the Essence Music Festival in New Orleans) to share the music that inspires him.
Ray Charles,Ultimate Hits Collection (Rhino): "It seems as if he's toying with you, that he can really do whatever he wants vocally. There's a manliness that resonates with me, a 'man's gotta survive' feeling."
Bob Marley & The Wailers,Legend (Island): "His lyrics, like, 'Every little thing's gonna be all right,' are so simple, but the emotions are so pure. They resonate with you no matter what your race, gender, or age."
Marvin Gaye, What's Going On (Motown): "I'm a 'Mercy Mercy Me' kind of guy—the tracks he wrote himself are always the most honest. Plus, we played Marvin's music throughout my wedding ceremony."