History of Funk
Funk, rhythm-driven musical genre popular in the 1970s and early 1980s that linked soul to later African-American musical styles. Like many words emanating from the African-American oral tradition, funk defies literal definition, for its usage varies with circumstance. As a slang term, funky is used to describe one’s odor, unpredictable style, or attitude. Musically, funk refers to a style of aggressive urban dance music driven by hard syncopated bass lines and drumbeats and accented by any number of instruments involved in rhythmic counter play, all working toward a “groove.”
The development of the terms funk and funky evolved through the vernacular of jazz improvisation in the 1950s as a reference to a performance style that was a passionate reflection of the black experience. The words signified an association with harsh realities—unpleasant odors, tales of tragedy and violence, erratic relationships, crushed aspirations, racial strife—and flights of imagination that expressed unsettling yet undeniable truths about life.
James Brown’s band established the “funk beat” and modern street funk in the late 1960s. The funk beat was a heavily syncopated, aggressive rhythm that put a strong pulse on the first note of the musical measure (“on the one”), whereas traditional rhythm and blues emphasized the backbeat (the second and fourth beats of the measure). Brown and others, such as Sly and the Family Stone, began to use funk rhythms as their musical foundation while their lyrics took on themes of urgent social commentary.
About Marva Whitney
Marva Ann Whitney, first known as Marva Ann Manning, began her career performing gospel music in Kansas City but found fame when she reluctantly joined the James Brown Revue in 1967 after turning down singing jobs with Bobby Bland and Little Richard.
“There was nothing here in Kansas City, so I had to make a decision at that age,” she said in a 2006 interview on We Funk Radio. “I knew this wasn’t what I wanted, because I was still playing for the church. But I made the decision and went to Cincinnati and signed with King Records.”
On tour with the Revue, Whitney performed in Vietnam, Europe and North Africa over the next couple of years. Along the way, Whitney cut several “raw funk” songs under Brown’s direction, including “Unwind Yourself” and “I’m Tired, I’m Tired, I’m Tired,” though none broke through with audiences until “It’s My Thing,” her take on the Isley Brothers’ “It’s Your Thing.” The song was a hit on the R&B charts.
During her tenure in the Revue, Whitney was dubbed “Soul Sister #1” to Brown’s “Soul Brother #1” title. Other “Original Funky Divas” in Brown’s group over the years included Vicki Anderson, who Whitney replaced, and Lyn Collins, who died in 2005.
Whitney is best known for her version of “It’s My Thing,” which cracked the Hot 100 in 1969, and for the widely sampled track “Unwind Yourself,” which can be heard on songs by The 45 Kings, DJ Kool and Mac Miller, among others.
In Conclusion, I learned that Marva Whitney started her career as a gospel singer and evolved to become of the best funk singers. Marva had the privilege to work with “God Father of Soul,” James Brown. James brown was one of the funkiest artist and it truly rubbed off onto Marva as she was called Soul Sister because of her work with Mr. James Brown.