Funk and Its Beginnings

Funk also referred to as party music emerged in the late 1960’s but didn’t become popular until the 70’s. It is an urban form of dance music and uses elements from genres such as jazz, soul, and rhythm and blues. It’s groove was formed by a mesh of multiple instruments that created a hypnotic beat. Funk’s lyrics explain the experiences and views of blacks just like other genres. Many of funk artists came from poor and/or working backgrounds and they spoke of those experiences in their funk music. Musicians made songs that encouraged blacks to come together and dance, hang loose, and just be happy.

Can't Have Funk Without P-Funk

Parliament-Funkadelic or P-Funk is a collective of rotating musicians headed by George Clinton, primarily consisting of the individual bands Parliament and Funkadelic. Both groups had their own style with crazy fashion and humor all centered around science fiction and psychedelic culture. Clinton formed the sister groups Parliament and Funkadelic, with the former playing an eclectic and more commercial form of funk, and the latter incorporating more influence from psychedelic rock. The groups released albums like Mothership Connection  and One Nation Under a Groove which gained a lot of buzz. Both groups made hit after hit including ” Give Up The Funk” (Parliament), “Maggot Brain” (Funkadelic), “Flashlight” (Parliament) and more. The name “Parliament-Funkadelic” or “P-Funk” began to be used as a term to describe the style of music George Clinton created with these groups. Eventually this music style began to categorize later funk artists and groups which made it evident that Parliament -Funkadelic had a long and standing impact on funk music. 

Multi-Genre James Brown

James Brown is often referred to as the “Godfather of Soul” but he also influenced other music genres including Funk. As a major figure of 20th-century music and dance, he is also known as a fore bearer and pioneer of funk music. James Brown was truly innovative and started a funk revolution. He broke down longstanding racial and musical barriers during one of the most crucial times in this country, the civil rights movement. He was known for his social activism and eventually in 1968 released a civil-rights funk anthem, by the name  “Say it Loud – I’m Black and I’m Proud”, which invigorated the black community to stand in their truth and be proud to be black despite the backlash for being so. James Brown formed funk into a separate genre from rock, soul, and R&B. Brown assembled musicians into his own band and gave them direction and late some of those musicians broke off and developed their own funk careers still carrying on the elements of Funk that Brown introduced them to.

Gotta Love Sly and the Family Stone

Sly and the Family Stone was was pivotal in the development of funk as well as other genres like soul and rock. Sly and the Family Stone was the first major funk group be racially integrated as well as having male and female members all cohesively contributing. The group pioneered funk music with their psychedelic sound. Some of their hits included “Dance to the Music” and “Everyday People”. Just as many other artists and groups who intersected multiple genres, the work of Sly and the Family Stone greatly influenced the sound of American soul, R&B, funk and hip hop music. The group was ranked 43rd in Rolling Stone’s 100 Greatest Artists of All Time as well as inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

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