One of the most difficult genres of music to define is funk. Funk has elements of jazz, rock, pop and funk itself. Funk focuses on the beat and there is plenty of changes in arrangement, timing and structure. Like jazz there are other music styles and lots of improvisation. While it does take a lot of its influence from jazz it is still far different. Funk is constantly growing and changing and it doesn’t always adhere to the rules of jazz. Funk goes back to the early 60’s but modern funk rock bands sound nothing like George Clinton.
What Makes Music Funky
Back in the 60’s funk start with James Brown and his signature sound, from then until now the most distinctive part of funk music is the bass guitar. Prior to soul and funk music you rarely heard a bass guitar whereas funk embraced it. The bass lines used in Funk are what differentiate it from jazz or even soul music. Jazz and soul music use simple rhythms but funk is far more complicated. Here is more on what makes music funky.
Modern Funk Rock
Funk became initially popular in the 60’s but it was rarely heard in the 70’s but it was back on the radio in the 80’s because of artist like Prince, Chaka Khan and Michael Jackson. Throughout the 90’s it was sampled heavily by the hip hop community. In today’s music you can hear a strong funk element in bands like Red Hot Chili Peppers, Jane’s Addiction and Rage Against the Machine.
It is not just rock bands that have been sampling funk, you can hear it in Beyonce’s music with the song “Crazy in Love” being the best example. Beyonce isn’t the only diva to use funk either, Mariah Carey and Jennifer Lopez have both incorporated that distinctive funk sound.
If you want bands that do more than just sample that funky sound then start with the genre’s most notable artist, George Clinton who has been making funky music for more than 30’s years. Here are some other great modern funk rock bands you need to check out, Galactic, Late Night Radio, The Pimps of Joytime, The Floozies, Marvel Years and KC Roberts & The Live Revolution.
You can also listen to WeFunkRadio.com for some great funk music and a chance to catch up and coming funk artist.
While funk may combine many genres of music, the birth of funk started with James Brown. James Brown has been around since the 50’s and built a successful career as the “Godfather of Soul” but it was his electrifying stage performances that began to define funk. Brown was a musical perfectionist that made his band rehearse constantly until their performances were flawless. It would be the song “Cold Sweat” that would become the first bona fide funk song.
James Brown and the Birth of Funk
Once “Cold Sweat” became a hit for James Brown other artist started to follow that style of music. Sly the Family Stone and their song “Family Affair” reached the coveted number one spot on the Billboard charts bringing funk to the mainstream. Motown began to sign artists with that funky sound this included Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder.
In the late 60’s and early 70’s funk began to get political alongside the Civil Rights Movement. African American artists began to stand up for their rights and they started singing about Black pride and that included James Brown. The wide audiences that artists like Brown attracted showed the world how it was possible to for a musician to celebrate their identity. Funk became identified with “unapologetic Blackness”.
George Clinton Carries the Torch
The most well-known funk artist after James Brown has to be George Clinton. Funkadelic and Parliament created the first completely funk albums. George Clinton is a funk genius and they brought crazy guitar chords and developed this complex sound. George Clinton never earned the mainstream approval as did other bands of the time. Earth, Wind and Fire had several chart topping hits and reached a broader audience. While funk purists credit George Clinton as the master of funk.
By the 80’s funk was well and truly established as a musical genre and there were plenty of established artists. Chaka Khan paved the way for women to get into funk. Throughout the era bands like the Fatback Band and KC and the Sunshine Band filled arenas and stadiums all over the world. Like any other genre of music as new artists came funk began to grow and evolve. Modern day funk music doesn’t sound anything like James Brown did back in the day, but it is still very much funk. That distinct sound though…that has never changed.