Music Genres

The History of Funk

Funk is a music genre that is well-known for its groove and stimulating vibe – which is common in dance music. Originated in African-American communities in the mid-1960s, this music genre is usually accompanied by a drummer and an electric bassist. One way to determine funk music is you would have that danceable feeling whenever you hear it.

Image of James Brown performing in February 1973

Funk used as a musical expression

In the early 20th century, musical expressions are common to African-American communities. This community used songs and chants from traditional African rhythms to express gospels. The combination of African rhythm and American gospel produced great quality music – which was initially referred to like Jazz. This kind of music continued to rise, and some musicians created songs that related to the unpleasant realities of life.  

Funk music was invented

The development of funk music started in the United States when a singer-musician, James Brown, recorded a song in 1965 – called Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag. This song was considered as the first funk song ever created. This new style by Brown influenced many musical groups – and adopted it in their music. Since then, the number of funk enthusiasts began to grow. 

In 1967 – Dyke and the Blazers released Funky Broadway; it was considered as the first record to have Funky in the title. 

Different bands came to the spotlight, and contributed in giving recognition to the music genre – one of them was Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Agin) by Sly & the Family Stones, which reached number one on the charts in 1970 – and Family Affair in 1971. 

Another group that became famous for funk music is The Meters – this band defined funk in New Orleans with their hit songs, Sophisticated Cissy and Cissy Strut, in 1969.  

The rise of funk music

As the number of funk bands grew, so as the innovations made to further explore the possibilities of this genre. A group called Parliament-Funkadelic developed their version of funk – which is commonly called funk-rock. The changes were made by George Clinton, the leader of the band Parliament-Funkadelic. Clinton’s style was influenced by jazz and rock, which produced the funk-rock approach – this new kind of funk was then often called P-Funk, a new subgenre coined from Clinton’s band name.

The 70s could be considered as the golden age for funk music – this is the era where a lot of funk artists came to the mainstream. Different funk bands were recognized all over the globe, including Stevie Wonder – one of the most successful musicians in the history of music. Funk become a trend in the 70s, as well as the early 80s – especially in the disco, where most songs and performances are heavily influenced by funk. 

Funk became electronic

In the 1980s, funk began to change dramatically. The traditional funk music that once rocked the world was changed by electronic instruments. Several adjustments were made in funk music. One of the changes made was the saxophones and trumpets were replaced by synth keyboards, classic electrical funk keyboards were replaced by digital synthesizers, funky drummers were replaced by electronic drum machines, the traditional style of bass playing was replaced by synth keyboard basslines. 

In 1982, the American musician Afrika Bambaataa developed electro-funk – with his single Planet Rock. The subgenre was widely popular in the 80s – which only used machine-driven electronic instruments, such as synthesizers and drum machines, that produced a unique kind of quality music.  

Due to further upgrades, funk music started to deteriorate in the mainstream. Although some punk-funk bands still appear in indie labels today – it is inarguable that the reputation of classic funk music is incomparable.

Iconic Funk Bands

Red Hot Chili Peppers

Until today, Red Hot Chili Peppers is still a well-known group all over the globe. Also known as RHCP, this band is best known for its alternative rock music. However, one underrated fact about RHCP is their early years as a funk band. The band released funk albums such as Freaky Styley, Uplift M*fo Party, and Blood Sugar Sex Magik. 

Sly and the Family Stone

One of the pioneers of funk – this band originated from San Francisco in 1966. The group is well known for producing some of the greatest funk hits.

The Meters

this group was an American funk band formed in 1966. The Meters became an excellent example of a funk band all around the globe – and different artists adapted their style. In January 2018, The Meters were honored with a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.

The Isley Brothers

Once defined funk in the mainstream in 1969, this band is one of the most successful funk bands in the history of music. In 1992, The Isley Brothers were inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Then, they were inducted into Hollywood’s Rockwalk in 1997. Lastly, they were inducted in the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 2003. 

Parliament-Funkadelic

This American funk band is one of the most iconic funk bands of all time. Headed by George Clinton, the group innovated the classical funk music – and created their version of funk, which is called p-funk. In 1997, the Parliament-Funkadelic were inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

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