What is funk?
Funk is a genre that originated in African American communities in the mid 1960s. It de-emphasizes melody and chord progressions and focuses on a strong rhythmic groove of a bassline played by an electric bassist and a drum part played by a percussionist, often at slower tempos than other popular music. Funk typically consists of a complex percussive groove with rhythm instruments playing interlocking grooves that create a “hypnotic” and “danceable” feel. Some major artists who were influential in funk music were, James Brown, Parliament Funkadelic and Earth Wind and Fire. In this Blog Post, I would like to focus on Parliament Funkadelic. They have heavily influenced funk music with their costumes, their music and their legacy.
Who is Parliament Funkadelic?
Parliament Funkadelic is an American music collective of rotating musicians headed by George Clunton. The group primarily consisted of the funk bands Parliament and Funkadelic, both active since the 1960s. Their funk style drew from psychedelic culture, outlandish fashion, science fiction and surreal humor. This would go on to have an effect in funk and disco artists in the 1980s and 1990s.
Parliament Funkadelic is known for their colorful, shiny, and sequined costumes. Many funk bands had adopted what is considered the African American fashion and style. Funk costumes included Bell Bottom pants, platform shoes, hoop earrings, afros, braids, leather belts, beeded necklaces, jumpsuits and boots. Funk bands were often supposed to have a sense of freedom surrounding them, which is why the members would usually never wear the same things. George Clinton and Parliament Funk were known for their imaginative costumes and freedom of dress which included bedsheets acting as robes and capes.
Like soul, funk is based on dance music, so it has a strong “rhythmic role”. The sound of funk is as much based on the “spaces between the notes” as the notes that are played; as such, rests between notes are important. Funk uses the same richly colored extended chords found in bebop jazz, such as minor chords with added sevenths and elevenths, or dominant seventh chords with altered ninths. Unlike bebop jazz, with its complex, rapid-fire chord changes, funk virtually abandoned chord changes, creating static single chord vamps with melodo-harmonic movement and a complex, driving rhythmic feel.
Parliament Funk took from the psychedelic culture and their collective mythology would help pioneer Afrofuturism. The group released albums such as Maggot Brain (1971), Mothership Connection (1975), and One Nation Under a Groove (1978). Examples of Parliament Funkadelic’s music are listed below.
In May 1997, George Clinton and 15 other members of Parliament Funkadelic were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the largest band yet inducted. In 2004, Rolling Stone ranked Parliament Funkadelic #56 on their list of the “100 Greatest Artists of All Time”. In February 2002, Spin ranked Parliament Funkadelic #6 on their list of the “50 Greatest Bands of All Time”. Besides their innovation in the entire genre of funk music, George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic are still heard often today, especially in hip-hop sampling. It is clear that Parliament Funkadelic left a great legacy in the world of funk.
Funk music is so distinctive. For that, we can thank artists like Parliament Funk. This genre is so widely known today and it is something that will always be remembered in the music world.