FUNK IT UP!

An Overview of the Funk Area & Its Influence on Blackness

What is Funk?

Funk is unapologetically black music. It is how u talk, how u dress, rhythm, the way you move, it was our own black music. Funk music was a celebration of blackness. Funk music is a form of dance music that emerged in the late 1960s and was widely popular throughout most of the 1970s. Funk is inspired from rhythm and blues. It is a hybrid of multiple different genres with a wide range of different elements, such as rhythm and blues, jazz solos, horns playing, rock-oriented horns, and vocal singing styles that are associated with soul music. Funk music lyrics with a large variety of different themes, such as feelings of black pride, optimism, disillusionment, ambivalence, and despair. 

Cold Sweat James Brown was one of the records that defined the beginning of Funk Music. James Brown distressed the first beat, and uses accents on the first one it became the bedrock of Funk music. James Brown is considered to be funk’s original pioneer, Godfather of Funk Music. 

Elements of Funk

Each of these are examples of the different elements involved in funk music. 

Emphasis on the First Beat

Social Advocacy 

Slap Bass

As I mentioned previously, Cold Sweat by James Brown was one of the first records to define the whole era of funk music. His emphasis on the first beat was what defined funk music. 

James Brown used his platform to talk to low-income communities about succeeding and education, financial literacy. He felt that the secret of the black community relied on money and being self-supportive and not having to rely on the government (white man). In 1968 the assassination of Dr. King stopped the movement. James Brown responded with one of Pop’s greatest messages “Say It Loud, I’m Back and I’m Proud” in 1968

Slap bass created by Larry Caldwell: technique he developed playing with his mom as a kid. His mom decided they were not going to have drums anymore, so he started to thump with his thumb and plucking the strings with his finger to make up for not using a snare drum.

Key Players in Funk Music

Sly and the Family Stone

Sly and the Family Stone from San Francisco were of the psychedelic rock era.  They were a multiracial mixed group and togetherness shone through in their music. Everyone had mikes and singing voices and the band was also in the foreground. Even though Sly was the writer, he allowed them to express themselves.

One of the original elements of the slap bass was created by Larry Caldwell, a member of Sly and the Family Stone. Artists began to use this style of playing the bass when they wanted to play Funk Music. Sly and the Family Stone defined the look of the funk period (bell bottoms, cow skin, afros, outrageous jewelry). They gave the message that integrated society could work, for the band it was about bringing together talented musicians. Sly’s message was about bringing people together,  and James Brown was about Black Pride. For example, one of the songs would be “Stand; Everyday People”. Their style appealed to black and white record buyers. “I Want To Take You Higher” a song performed at Woodstock being written, spoke, and seen by that many people changed the lives of artists, themselves included.

George Clinton & Parliament

P-Funk (Parliament) took funk to another dimension, Intergalactic Funk was George Clinton’s thing. It began with the barbershop group called The Parliaments. In 1969- George Clinton set out to change the number of black artists in rock music (before that was Jimmi Hendrix) funk married with psychedelic rock- Called Psychedelic.  The LSD infused music was a little challenging to accept from white and black audiences. They revived Parliament and he set out for their records to be involved in Pop. “Swing Down Sweet Chariot” from the Mothership Connection and George Clinton came out from the bottom of the Mothership as it came down from the sky during one of their performances. This was very integral to the experience people got when listening to funk and especially when going to their concerts. P-Funk had humongous black artists and did not just exclude themselves to certain amount of people. Every song and person on the song was different. They let different people lead each time.  Some of their hits include “One Nation Under a Group ” and  “Flashlight”. 

What they did was build an empire by growing the number of artists around them that were serious about black empowerment. At one point they had over 100 artists and just kept putting different people in front. They inspired black people to believe in themselves, be proud of themselves and do anything they can put your mind too. They fought to liberate the black imagination. 

Social Implications of Funk

The Ohio Players, The Commodores, Kool and the Gang. Rhyme Tyme People and funk bands sprung up everywhere.  It became the music of people young people everywhere, it was the new thing. Black culture was brought into their homes.  White bands like Scottish bands began to do covers on James Brown music

Also, in the 1970s black movies had a funky soundtrack but were somewhat controversial because of the archetypes of black characters. However, they also empowered black communities because we were able to see ourselves on screen and didn’t have the money to buy themselves a role. “Coffy”, “Foxy Brown”,  ‘Blacula” are several examples. It was imperative for blacks to embrace where we came from.

 Many musicians began to go back to the African image like Kool and The Gang. Earth, Wind, & Fire eclipsed them all and made funk more popular than ever. They used the same elements as gospel, jazz, r & b,  just like George Clinton but it was more polished and reached into mainstream Black America and more appealing to black middle-class America and white people. Earth Wind & Fire was a psychological parallel to blacks moving up into nicer homes with nicer lawns, and nicer skills with a new level of sophistication. They still  used extravagant costumes, choreographed dance moves, and magic because it was apart of their show. They would also levitate and disappear. Some people began to believe that they were actually magical. 




Conclusion

In conclusion, Funk is one of my favorite genres ever. It is in my top 3. It always gives me such a good feeling of togetherness, family, and fun. Also, I feel very connected with my relatives especially my grandmother because this is her top favorite genre of music. She only listens to this in class, so I grew up listening to it as well. I love what it stands for and the history behind it. 

Thank You For Reading!

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