FUNK – The Sound of Change

"Funk is a Black thing. There is a need to express yourself as an Afican American. You need to be your own person." - Danny Webber


 Funk is an urban form of dance music that emerged in the late 1960s and started booming in the 1970s. It’s creators come from a series of R&B and Jazz musicians, who played and produced their own music. Funk was originally labeled early funk bands as “soul groups,” “dance bands,” “black rock,” and “jazz-funk.” The term funk captured both the complex, and contradictory, feelings of optimism as well as the despair that accompanied the transition from a segregated to a post-civil rights society. This range of emotions is reflected in the diverse lyrics; themes such as social and political commentary, and romance defined the complex character of funk.


The 70s was a time a great change and revolution. There was assassination of revolutionary figures such as Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, and John F. Kennedy as well as the entrance of the Vietnam War. There were calls for peace in some communities, but in the 70s the black community needed healing after loosing two prominent civil rights leaders. Thus, forgoing the sound of the blues and bringing in the sound of Funk; that was more about love and coming together.

The Black Power Movement

The black power movement was a movement in the late 1960s and early 1970s that emphasized black unity, black pride, and self-determination. There was a rise in black owned and created things such as; businesses, media, and music. The black power movement celebrated black people and black success throughout the 70s, as well as, promote the protection of African-Americans; with groups such as the Black Panther Party and Black Liberation Party.


JAMES BROWN - THE BLACK POWER MOVEMENT (Say It Loud, I'm Black and I'm Proud) 1968

“Some people say we got a lot of malice

Some say it’s alot of nerve

But I say we won’t quit moving

Until we get what we deserve

We’ve been buked and we’ve been scorned

We’ve been treated bad, talked about

As sure  as you’re born,

Butj ust as sure as it takes two eyes to make a pair, huh

Brother, we can’t quit till we get our share

Say It Loud (I’m Black and I’m Proud)”

James Brown wrote “I’m Black and I’m Proud” as a message for Black empowerment and Self-reliance, telling African-Americans to proclaim that they are proud of being unapolegetically black. Brown took the traditional call and response we often hear within gospel music and used it as an element within this song, with the call being “Say it Loud” and the response is “I’m Black and I’m Proud.” The song came out in 1968, and at the time Brown had become very politically invested within the black community and had him viewed as a leader and voice within the black community.

Sly and The Family Stone - Feel Good (I Want to Take you Higher) 1969

“Beat is gettin’ stronger

Music gettin’ longer, too

Music is a-flashin’ me

I want to, I want to take you higher

I wanna take you higher

baby, baby, baby

I wanna take you higher”

Sly and the Family Stone had a different message in their song than James Browns’ “I’m Black and I’m Proud.” Their 1969 song realse “I want to take you higher” perfectly exemplfies part of the climate in the 70s.. The 1970s was also a feel good time, their song may have the metaphor of cannabis use or sexual undertone, with their chorus. The entire song is just for the listener to feel good and enjoy the present, almost as a distraction from the reckoning happening around the country.

Earth, Wind, and Fire - Empowerment (You're A Shining Star) 1975

“When you wish upon a star

Your dreams will take you very far, yeah

But when you wish upon a dream

Life ain’t always what it seems, oh yeah

What you see on nights so clear, yeah

In the sky so very dear, yeah?

You’re a Shining Star

No matter who you are”

Earth, Wind, and Fire is a classic Funk Band that is timeless. In Shining Star, the group is activelt telling the listener to chase after their dreams, no matter what barriers might be stopping them from doing so. This also embodies the sound of the 70s, where there was a need to actively go out and find your own identity and your own beliefs.


  • The Emotions
  • The Fifth Dimension
  • Parliament
  • David Ruffin (Former Temptation)


The music genre of Funk had led an entire generation for activist and advocates of change. At that time, we had artist that reflected the social climate at the time and reminded others that even though they are of star status, they are citizens of the same country and are affected by the same things as the average citizens. In the end, the “Funk era” gave us timeless groups and artist that are still applicable to the events of the present.

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