Funk music is a style of dance music that driven by hard syncopated bass lines and drumbeats accented by varying instrument working in rhythmic counterplay. Funk music as a musical style draws from the innovations of James Brown and styles from the rhythms and blues-rock oriented group Sly and of the Family Stone. The term “funky” was used in musical context during the 1950’s to describe the jazz style “hard bop”. The new term was coined to describe a movement on the dance floor by Black musicians and the Black working class as “earthy,” “low-down,” “dirty,” “or “nitty-gritty”. By the early 1970’s “funky” became synonymous with a distinctive musical style of rhythm and blues to later become known as funk. Parliament-Funkadelic has contributed the most to the funk music’s popularity and evolution because of their innate sense in grooves that encourages people from all walks of life to dance the night away.
As funk music gained popularity during the 1960’s, early funk artists James Brown and Sly and the Family Stone primarily were recognized as the main funk artist of the decade. The Parliament was formed in 1955 but struggled to have any hits during most of the 1960’s. They switched labels a few times and recorded a few singles with various labels that did not achieve successful ratings. George Clinton joined the group as the group leader and manager and eventually found employment at Motown Records as a songwriter and producer. The Parliaments released “(I Wanna) Testify” which became a hit single reaching No.3 on the Billboard Charts.
However, “The Parliaments” became entrapped in a contractual dispute surrounding the bankruptcy of Revilot Records and lost the rights to their name “The Parliaments”. Clinton took this as the opportunity to re-brand the group calling it Funkadelic, transitioning into a funk-rock band and signing them to Westbound Records. Funkadelic featured the five Parliament singers as ‘guests’ while the five musicians were the main group members. Eventually, “The Parliaments” rebranded themselves as “Parliament” with the same five singers and five musicians but with a smoother R&B-based funk ensemble that Clinton positioned as a counterpoint to the Funkadelics.
From 1975-1979 both Parliament and Funkadelic achieved high charting albums and singles on the R&B and Pop charts. The two bands began to tour together under the collective name Parliament-Funkadelic with many of the members branching out into side bands and solo projects under the direction of George Clinton. Working in separate entities allowed for the group to explore the Rock and R&B sides of funk music where their creativity flourished. The albums produced by the group during this time became cultural concerts with themes from afro-futurism, elaborate political and sociological themes, and an evolving storyline with recurring fictional characters. Parliament-Funkadelic kept up with the theatrical sides to their performances by dressing in leather space suits, paired with over-sized glasses, and over-sized afro’s also connected the themes from their storylines to their music. Parliament-Funkadelic reached highs of success during the 1970’s that defined funk music and its position in American culture. The revolutionary style manufactured under the direction of George Clinton paved the way for funk inspired bands like the Red Hot Chili Peppers to flourish.
Parliament Funkadelic's Legacy
Parliament-Funkadelic continues to perform their old hits around the world and periodically create new music. Currently the band will be starting their world tour beginning May 22nd. touring in the United Kingdom and their website can be found here.