I spent the afternoon at my friend Frank Kern’s house a few days ago, and we got on the topic of FUNK. I’m talking about funk MUSIC, of course.
As it turns out, Frank has never listened to much funk. I had to drop some knowledge on him.
After dropping said Funk Knowledge (with enthusiasm, I might add), I’ve decided that it’s in the best interest of all humans… and cultural evolution in general… for there to be a solid introduction to Funk in an easily-accessible form that anyone can understand and enjoy!
If YOU are not (yet) a fan of funk and funky, then I recommend that you:
- Get a life
- Get some funk
- Dig it
Here’s a “Funk Starter Kit” – to introduce you to quality funk music. This is relatively “easy” funk – good, classic, mainstream-ish stuff that anyone can groove to…
Start with these 12 tracks, and build your Funk House on a strong foundation! (At the end of this post is a link directly to the iTunes store where I’ve created an “iMix” of these tunes for easy downloading.)
If You Want Me To Stay by Sly & The Family Stone. Mellow, tight, groovy funk. Sly is INVENTING funk at this point in his career. Note the subtle drum machine and the tight bass line. This song is best listened to with eyes closed… adding a slight nodding movement of the head.
What Is Hip? by Tower Of Power. Rhythm section of Dave Garibaldi (drums) and Rocco Prestia (bass) is impossibly tight. TOP is the only band that can play music this COMPLEX and still make you wrinkle your brow because it’s just so damn funky. Dig the very end of the song. Tight funk! (If you dig this music, and you will, also check out their tunes “Soul Vaccination” and “Squibcakes.” BAD.)
You Got The Love by Rufus (with Chaka Khan). Quacky funky guitar riff in this song lays it down. If you ever see a band perform a cover of this song, you’ll be a happy funk-lover! Rufus and Chaka are great.
Fire by the Ohio Players. You’ll notice that this song starts out with a fire alarm. The funk is so hot that they need to call the fire department! Great bass and horn section in this one.
I Want You by Marvin Gaye. Marvin is one of my all-time favs, and this song is a great example of “blaxploitation movie” style funk. The build-up at the beginning of this tune can only be described as a masterpiece of “anticipatory funk” music! Also, not the background vocals. 147 layered tracks of the Marvin harmonizing with himself. I assume, after listening to the song many times, that Marvin didn’t have his eyes open at any point while recordig this track.
Flashlight by Parliament. George Clinton, literally translated, MEANS “funk.” (George is the funk guru behind Parliament, and thus, this tune.) Possibly the funkiest bass line ever recorded. It took me years of listening to this song before I realized that the flashlight was to HELP THEM FIND THE FUNK. No, really. And if you’re into funk, then this makes a special kind of sense. Listen to this song and try to not move your head. You’ll hurt yourself. NOTE: George Clinton’s songs have been sampled by literally THOUSANDS of modern hip-hop artists, and his grooves are behind more hits than probably any other funk-masters’ work.
Early In The Morning by the Gap Band. A more modern tune (early 80s)… but as funky as they get. Solid funk. Polished funk. I personally think this song goes to the next level around the 6:17 mark, when that bad new funk guitar riff starts. But that’s just me!
Fantastic Voyage by Lakeside. This is also polished, solid funk. Very smooth production. The emphasis on the downbeat during the verses is tight. The long “funk intervention” during the middle of the song is sweeeeet. “What you should do is take a listen to… so you can understand…”
Joyous by Pleasure. This verse of this song probably has the baddest groove of all time. Note, again, the “anticipitory funk” buildup theme for the first minute and forty seconds of this tune. You just KNOW that something funky is going to arrive during the first minute and a half. At 1:40 the main groove starts. When this part of the song begins, I typically have to stop any conversation I’m in, because I must REVERE THE GROOVE. Note the higher consciousness lyrics… back 30 years ago. A shout-out to Nate Phillips on the bass! Unreal bass-man-ship on the Pleasure stuff.
Too Tight by Con Funk Shun. This is slick funk. Polished funk. Happy funk. Tight rhythm, great horns, multi-layered vocals and clean, funky guitars. I dig Con Funk Shun. Awesome band that you need to check out!
Stomp by The Brothers Johnson. Stomp is the goods. And the Brother’s Johnson are well-versed in the art of funk. Their style was under the umbrella called “Sophisticated Funk” back in the ’70s. And with good reason! Quincy Jones produced this album, so you’ve got bad funk plus a world-class production. Once you hear this song, you’ll never forget it! A funk classic!
Getaway by Earth Wind and Fire. The pinnacle of funk, in my own humble opinion. I think that this song represents the pinnacle of musicianship, the funk style, and production. I honestly think that this song represents the best that music has to offer, period. When you listen to this song, you’re hearing a world-class funk band in their prime… playing a song that’s beyond funky. Can you tell that I dig this tune?
BONUS FUNK: Funkin’ For Jamaica by Tom Brown. Not available in the iTunes store, but one of the funkiest and best songs ever produced. Get it!
NOTE: All of these tunes except for Funkin’ For Jamaica can be found in the iTunes store HERE: The Funk Starter Kit (Open this link with iTunes, by the way.)
Leave me a comment below and let me know your thoughts about my “Funk Starter Kit.” Also, leave YOUR funk recommendations in your comment. If I get a lot of good feedback, I might just post and “Advanced Funk Connoisseur” list. Trust me, there’s a lot more funk where this came from!
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