Funk music was an African-American style of music that emerged after the civil rights movements of the 1960’s. This style of music became a hybrid of musical sounds including: rhythm, blues, and jazz. Funk music incorporated both feelings of optimism and despair of the social and economic conditions that the post-civil rights era had to offer. The word funk or funky was coined by Earl Palmer, a New Orleans drummer who described danceable music as such.
Funk music became a spinoff of hard-bop jazz, which was comprised of harmonies and rhythms of blues music. Funk however developed into a musical style of rhythm, blues, and soul.
James Brown has been noted as the originator of Funk Music. Specifically, he is credited for his development of the heavy emphasis of the downbeat (the first beat of every measure). Brown named this phenomenon “The One.” His style of music also included polyrhythmic sounds. Along with James Brown, was also the interracial group; Sly & the Family Stone who were noted for developing a funky style that incorporated elements of rock music. Brown and stone both symbolized unity and changed for the African American community by including ideologies found in the Black Power Movement.
The themes associated with the Black Power Movement were found in much of funk music throughout the late 1960’s and ’70’s. These included: James Brown’s song, “Say it Loud, I’m Black and I’m Proud”, as well as Sly’s song, “Don’t Call Me a Nigger, Whitey.”
P-Funk and Groove became two categories of style within funk music. Pure funk promoted black self-determination and was pioneered by lead-singer of the group Parliament, George Clinton. Parliament’s song,”Flash Light,” became a representation of technology-based pure funk.
By 1975, groove became a new form of Funk that established the importance of bass and drum through repetition.
Funk music began to die down in the mid 1980’s with the rise of hip-hop music. However, hip-hip DJ’s continued to revitalize the aesthetic of funk music. Hip-hop groups like Public Enemy sampled many songs from funk groups in much of their music.
Funk music embodied the core realities of urban black life. Its development after the Civil rights movement was essential to its defiance of racism and other social & economic inequalities. The legacy of funk music can still be found energizing a crowd full of revolutionists.