A Dive into the History of Funk

Where did Funk Come From?

James Brown was a Blues, R&B and Soul singer in 1950. By the mid 1960s, he was named the godfather of Blues. However, he left Soul and started sing funk. He started with his song "Cold Sweat". In the song, he turned the whole band into a drum and emphasized the first beat, by placing significance on the drum and the bass.

Funk Music and the Civil Rights Movement

James Brown along with a funk music group called Sly and the Family Stone were artists who used their music to influence the Civil Rights Movement.

  • By the late 60s, James commenced in Civil Rights Movements when he went around and motivated black people to be self-supported and not to be government supported.
  • April 1968, this movement that James Brown had been apart of was ceased when Martin Luther King was murdered.
  • Riots raged across the nation after King’s death, so the pressure was on James to respond. .So in 1968, he released “I’m Black and I’m Proud”. His message was about black pride. Funk music was carrying a lesson of black empowerment throughout the nation.
  • Sly Stone from Sly and the Family Stone wrote civil rights songs too. He wrote about bringing people of all different races together with “I am Everyday People” and “Stand”.

Sly And the Family Stone

  • Sly and the Family Stone was a group that everyone got a part in controlling the vibe, they had a mix of races, they were the band and the singers.
  • Larry Gray from the Sly and the Family Stone created the thumb slap bass style, when he started plucking and thumping his fingers on the bass guitar. He used this style on their song “Thank You”
  • This new style paved the way for funk music
  •  The outfits that Sly had his band members wear also set the tone for funk

George Clinton And P-FUnk

  • By the end of the 1970s, George Clinton turned funk into a way of life. 
  • He wanted to find a new platform for the funk music. In 1969, he took the funk of James Brown and mixed it with psychedelic rock and called it Funkadelic.
  • Clinton got a few of people from Brown’s band to sing in his group the Parliament, who were tired of James Brown (who they described to be too musically controlling). But Clinton would take anything that the musicians would suggest and run with it.
  • “We want the Funk” was from P-Funk, Parliament Funk.
  • At his concerts, the songs would just run together and would never end. There could be about 30 musicians on-stage, but they all knew what they were doing.
  • The song “Flash Light” was a song by George Clinton.
  • P-Funk told people that they could achieve the unbelievable in the 1970s,  and stop they made them stop being ashamed about themselves, and freed black imagination; while, Earth, Wind and Fire encouraged black people who had a better socio-economic status.

Other Funk Artists

The Ohio Players

They were a funk music group who released songs like "Fire" in 1974.

Jackson 5

This was Motown musical group who moved away from their usual soulful and R&B sound when the dabbled into Funk music with songs like "Dancing Machine" This was also released in 1974.

Kool and the Gang

They were also a funk music group who sang music like "Rhyme Tyme People" which was released in 1974.

Stevie Wonder

The song entitled “Superstition” (1972) by Stevie Wonder was funk music as well.

What Did Funk Music Do For The African American Culture?

As a resultant of Clinton's P-Funk, black people developed an interest in science fiction. In the 70's,the black movie were made about sci-fi black people and each movie was accompanied by funky sound track. So, musicians had a chance to sing on these movies. Black portation movies, provided black actors and actresses with the ability to star in movies. A lot of people were getting money, they no longer had to deny their African heritage and could embrace their culture and recognize their identity. This feeling was taken directly from Funk.

Author's Opinion

I truly enjoyed this deep study of the Funk Music genre. I have always been interested in this genre, and I have often enjoyed the style and some of my favorite songs are amongst the few that I listed above. However, before partaking in this research, I did not know the names of the songs or the artists that coincided with the music.

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