Nothing gets my blood boilin’ (in a good way) than really good FUNK music. That strong, complex rhythmic groove of the drums and bass, the scratchy guitar, the horny horn section and the soulful and usually playful vocals all add to the overall effect of the music.
I’m not talkin’ ‘bout rap, I’m talkin’ ‘bout the FUNK of the late 60’s through the late 70’s. Although some rap music can be pretty funky (Public Enemy, Ice-T, NWA, Eminem) I think it lacks the soul and ‘fun factor’ the funk of the 70’s had. Plus, most of the rap bands used (stole?) many of the beats and rhythms of the funk songs of the 1970’s as a rythmic base for their own brand of (usually) politically charged music. Early rap hasn't aged very well while the best funk of that period has aged like a fine wine.
Of course it all starts with the Godfather, the Prime Minister Of Funk, Mr. James Brown.
A taskmaster to the n’th degree, James insisted on hiring the tightest and most talented musicians around at the time, some of which went on to successful solo careers after graduating James Brown’s Funky Booty Camp.
Bootsy Collins, possibly the funkiest bassist ever, is probably the most famous of his early crew. Flamboyant and precise, his style of playing has gone on to influence a slew of players ranging from Flea (The Red Hot Chili Peppers) to Les Claypool (Primus) to name but a few.
Maceo Parker (saxophonist), Jimmy Nolan (guitar) and the Funky Drummer himself Clyde Stubblefield round out his impressive crew. This lineup created some of the best funk music ever pressed, including “Give It Up Or Turnit A Loose”, “Get Up, Get Into It, Get Involved”, “Hot Pants” and “Funky Drummer”. Listen closely and you can hear James barking orders at his crew; when he yells ‘Bootsy!’ and Collins starts his snakey bass solo during Give It Up, you’ll get shivers.
I was having a conversation with Philbert the other day where he stated that any band who needed to use a spaceship during their concerts (E.L.O., Boston, etc) was not worth listening to. I reminded his that one of the funkiest (and greatest) group/ collectives of all time, Funkadelic/ Parliament, used one as part of their stage shows. Not quite sure if Phil acquiesced on this point or not, but there is absolutely no denying that these guys were a formidable funky force to be reckoned with during the 70’s. Albums such as Maggot Brain, One Nation Under A Groove and Mothership Connection have become funk standards and have influenced countless rock, R & B and rap bands over the years.
There were so many seminal funk albums released during this time that it’s hard to keep track. Here’s some favorites of mine that I believe are worth tracking down and should be in every music aficionado’s collection: “Ah, The Name Is Bootsy… Baby” by Bootsy Collins; “In The Jungle Groove“, by James Brown; “Innervisions”, by Stevie Wonder; “Superfly”, by Curtis Mayfield; “Fire”, by the Ohio Players; “Rejuvenation”, by The Meters; “The World Is A Ghetto”, by WAR; “Street Songs”, by Rick James; “Machine Gun”, by The Commodores; “Car Wash“, by Rose Royce. And, really, anything by Parliament, Funkadelic or James Brown.
In the immortal words of George Clinton, “Free your mind and your ass will follow!"
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