Funk Music Origins
Funk is a music genre that originated in the mid-late 1960s when African American
musicians blended soul music, jazz and R&B into a rhythmic, danceable new form of
It's characterized by syncopated rhythms (unexpected sounds/beats), distinctive
grooves, melodic basslines and thoughtful lyrics often expressing political views or
Funk creates an intense groove by using strong bass guitar riffs and bass lines.
Like Motown recordings, funk songs used bass lines as the centerpiece of songs.
Funk de-emphasizes melody and harmony and brings a strong rhythmic groove of
electric bass and drums to the foreground.
Along with R&B/Soul and Rap/Hip-Hop, Funk is one of the most enduring popular
music forms to emerge out of the American black community.
Where does the word
Funk come from?
The word funk basically refers to a strong, generally offensive odor.
The anthropologist/art historian Robert Farris Thompson, in his work Flash Of The Spirit: African
& Afro-American Art & Philosophy, postulates that funky has its semantic roots in the African
word "lu-fuki", which means "bad body odor”.
Both jazzmen and Africans use funky and lu-fuki to praise persons for the integrity of their art, for
having 'worked out' to achieve their aims ... This sign of exertion is identified with the irradiation of
positive energy of a person.
Hence 'funk' in American jazz can mean earthiness, a return to fundamentals.”
In early jam sessions, musicians would encourage one another to "get down" by telling one
another, "Now, put some stank on it!”
New Orleans born drummer Earl Palmer was the first to use the word 'funky' to explain to other
musicians that their music should be made more syncopated and danceable.”
Funk and Black Power
“Funk is probably the most positive expression that we have had in a long time, not only about our music…but
ourselves as a people. Funk epitomizes the successful end to the civil rights struggles of the 1960’s and signaled
the dawning of a new beginning for Black folks in the 1970’s.”
The upbeat and rich sounds of funk produced a feeling of positive strength, power and humanity in the black
The sounds of funk began emerging in the 1960’s. It was a sign of the times. The 60’s were a revolutionary era with
a very unsettled feel. It was then that the Vietnam War was being fought, and black leaders were pushing the idea
of civil rights.
The first funk record to be released was called “Outta Sight” by James Brown in 1956. He moved music in the funky
direction and soon became known as the “Godfather of Funk and Soul.” His music moved people to dance and to
listen to his message.
He recorded a song that supported the Black Power movement called “Say It Loud (I’m Black And I’m Proud)”. The
song became very popular in the Black Power movement. It was an anthem that showed black pride and defiance
“I’m Black and I’m Proud” by James Brown: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2VRSAVDlpDI
Funk Music Instruments
Like much African-inspired music, funk typically consists
of a complex groove with rhythm instruments such as:
Horn section of several saxophones, trumpets and in
some cases, a trombone.
The Bass Slap
Slap bass's mixture of thumb-slapped low notes and
finger "popped" (or plucked) high notes allowed the bass
to have a drum-like rhythmic role, which became a
distinctive element of funk.
Seinfeld TV Opening is an example of slap bass:
Larry Graham: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s-vPM-
Funk Sub Genres
Funk rock: Funk rock (also written as funk-rock or funk/rock) fuses funk and rock elements. Its earliest incarnation was heard in the late
'60s through the mid-'70s by musicians such as Jimi Hendrix, Frank Zappa, Herbie Hancock.
Boogie: Boogie (or electro-funk) is an electronic music mainly influenced by funk and post-disco. The minimalism approach of boogie
consisted of synthesizers and keyboards helped to establish electro and house music. Boogie, unlike electro, emphasises the slapping
techniques of bass guitar but also bass synthesizers.
Electro music: Electro music is a hybrid of electronic music and funk. It essentially follows the same form as funk, and retains funk's
characteristics, but is made entirely (or partially) with a use of electronic instruments such as the TR-808. Vocoders to transform the
vocals, were often used. Early artists include Herbie Hancock, Afrika Bambaataa, Vaughan Mason & Crew/
Go-go: Go-go originated in the Washington, D.C.area. Inspired by singers such as Chuck Brown, the "Godfather of Go-go", it is a blend
of funk, rhythm and blues and early hip hop, with a focus on lo-fi percussion instruments and in-person jamming in place of dance
Funk metal: Funk metal (sometimes typeset differently such as funk-metal) is a fusion genre of music which emerged in the 1980s. It
typically incorporates elements of funk and heavy metal. It features hard-driving heavy metal guitar riffs, the pounding bass rhythms
characteristic of funk, and sometimes hip hop-style rhymes into an alternative rock approach to songwriting.
G-funk: G-funk is a fusion genre of music which combines gangsta rap and funk. It is generally considered to have been invented by
west coast rappers, made famous by Warren G.
Artist Spotlight: Prince
One of the most influential artist to all people in regards to funk and dance music.
Prince released his first full-length record in 1978, titled "For You", and from there would go on to
blend many styles of music together into a danceable and soulful presentation of art.
His self-titled release "Prince" was funky and sexy, but without talk of drug use or "sexploitation".
The album artwork featured him riding nude on a white horse, which was very controversial to the
Prince was the only artist to blend all of the previous genres (that contributed to funk) together
with many other genres of music, like disco/dance, European/new romantic, new wave, folk,
techno/electronic, Latin and world music, and hip-hop.
This new genre of music that emerged from Prince' unique blend was called New Funk.
Artist Spotlight: George
In the 1970's, George Clinton emerged as the leaders of the
Parliament-Funkadelic conglomeration of bands. They brought
Funk forward as a powerful force in popular music. Tear the Roof
Off the Sucker (Give Up the Funk) and Flashlight brought Funk to
the attention of mainstream audiences. Through most of the
1970's, Funk was rarely heard in discos.
George Clinton had created two new funk bands, one called
Parliament (formerly The Parliaments) and the other called
Funkadelic. Parliament had emphasis on horns and Funkadelic
had emphasis on guitars, but both had a deep, rhythm filled
“Do Fries Go With Shakes”
Artist Spotlight: Rick
In the mid to late 70's, Rick James began to funk the
world with his party music. James was known for the
major hit "Superfreak" in the early 80's. Rick James'
fun and sexy style of music, blended with the dance
grooves of the times, was a major influence to many
different races of people.
Artist Spotlight: James
James Brown is the undisputed "Godfather of Funk." The "Hardest
Working Man in Show Business" demonstrated the use of
scratching rhythm guitar on the influential hit “Papa's Got a Brand
Over the years James continued to produce more rhythmically
sophisticated Funk recordings, and he spread the gospel of Funk
in his wild stage shows.
James Brown was the man with the groove. James had the most
outspoken voice in soul music and had a groove that would be
proven to be the future of funk music.
“Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag”:
William Earl "Bootsy" Collins (born October 26, 1951)
is an American funk bassist, singer, and songwriter.
Rising to prominence with James Brown in the late
1960s, and with Parliament-Funkadelic in the '70s,
Collins's driving bass guitar and humorous vocals
established him as one of the leading names in funk.
Collins is a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame,
inducted in 1997 with fifteen other members of
Stevie Wonder, is an American singer-songwriter,
multi-instrumentalist, record producer and activist.
Blind since shortly after birth, Wonder signed with
Motown's Tamla label at the age of eleven and
continues to perform and record for Motown to this
Artist Spotlight: Sly and
The Family Stone
Sly and the Family Stone were an American rock, funk, and
soul band from San Francisco, California.
Active from 1966 to 1983, the band was pivotal in the
development of soul, funk, and psychedelic music.
Headed by singer, songwriter, record producer, and multi-
instrumentalist Sly Stone, and containing several of his family
members and friends, the band was the first major American
rock band to have an "integrated, multi-gender" lineup.
Artist Spotlight: Kool and
Kool & the Gang are an American jazz, R&B soul, and
funk group, originally formed as the Jazziacs in Jersey
City, New Jersey in 1964.
They went through several musical phases during the
course of their recording career, starting out with a purist
jazz sound, then becoming practitioners of R&B and funk,
progressing to a smooth pop-funk ensemble, and in the
post-millennium creating music with a modern, electro-
“Get Down On It”:
Artist Spotlight: Warren G
Warren G (born Warren Griffin III, November 10,
1970) is an American West Coast rapper and hip
His biggest hit is the song "Regulate" with Nate
Dogg released in 1994.
Artist Spotlight: Red Hot
Red Hot Chili Peppers are an American alternative
rock band, formed in Los Angeles in 1983.
The group's musical style primarily consists of rock
with an emphasis on funk, as well as elements from
other genres such as punk rock, hip hop, and
Funk Music History:
Funk Music Used in
"Papa's Got a Brand New Bag" by James Brown
”Get Down On It” by Kool and the Gang
”Controversy" by Prince
”Superstition" (album) by Stevie Wonder
“Superfreak” by Rick James
“Do Fries Go With Shakes” by Parliment
“Controversy” by Prince
“Family” by Sly & The Famly Stone