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Let The Funk Begin
by Shanel Morae

Let’s talk Funky y’all! Now our girl Scarlett gave us “The Many Shades of Funk” hitting on P-funk, Jazz funk and even gospel funk, but we are going to give you the background on what makes funk sound oh so funkay!

While funk graced our ears in the mid-60s, it wasn’t until the 70s that it touched our soul and matched our heartbeat. James Brown, the Godfather of Soul, was the first to bring us the funk beat. He based his music on a bold, syncopated rhythm that was sharp and booming. Different from what we knew music to be, Brown hit us with a hard bassline, drumbeat and accents from instruments that we had never heard before. All these sounds combined gave us a certain groove, FUNK.

The first proper song to formally introduce funk was “Cold Sweat” (released in 1967) by James Brown with its one-chord bass and drum-focused instrumental. Brown later teamed up with Bootsy, baby! Sick with the bass and funky with the sound, he took funk to another level. James Brown and Bootsy Collins carried this music until our man George Clinton came and taught us all about the what funk music really was.

james brown.jpg

The era of funk was surely on the rise. The sound of fingers “slapping the bass”, originated by Larry Graham, was one of the many things that made this genre of music slap, as we say today. It was the attitude that back the song as well. We had bands such as Ohio Players, Kool and the Gang, and even Stevie Wonder that gave us a little bit extra heartbeat in rhythm with their music.


Jazz artist such as Miles Davis began to adapt their music to the groove of funk. Jackson 5 came to join the party with hit singles such as “Dancing Machine” and “Shake Your Body”, songs that were sure to get us on our feet. Funk was a true beginning to the dance craze that fed into disco.

The funk beat became the primary sound in black music and reached into other genre such as disco, R&B, and soul. During this time, we couldn’t get enough of this smooth groove and we still are at a point where music wouldn’t be the same if funk hadn’t entered into the chords of black music.


As new artists are produced, we see them incorporating and sampling sounds of the past. Funk will live on today and forever more in the black community and in other communities as well.

Just in case you haven’t checked out “The Many Shades of Funk”, head over to that article and get a good read on where strings and drums of funk connect.   


Shining Star - Earth, Wind, And Fire

Thank You Falettin Me - Sly & The Family Stone

Love Rollercoaster - The Ohio Players

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