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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 music. Funk de-emphasizes melody and harmony

and brings a strong rhythmic groove of electric bass and drums to the

foreground. Funk songs are often based on an extended vamp on a single chord,

distinguishing it from R&B and soul songs centered on chord progressions.

Like much African-inspired music, funk typically consists of

a complex groove with rhythm instruments such as electric guitar, electric

bass, Hammond organ, and drums playing interlocking rhythms. Funk bands

sometimes have a horn section of several saxophones, trumpets, and in some

cases, a trombone, which plays rhythmic “hits”.

Many of the most famous bands in the genre also played disco

and soul extensively. Funk music was a major influence on the development of

disco music and afrobeat, and funk samples have been used extensively in genres

including hip hop, house music and drum and bass. It is also the main influence

of go-go, a subgenre associated with funk.

The music was slow, sexy, loose, riff-oriented and

danceable. Funky typically described these qualities rather than a distinct

genre. In early jam sessions, musicians would encourage one another to

“get down” by telling one another, “Now, put some stank on

it!”. It is possible that the word funk was derived from a blend of the

Kikongo term lu-Fuki (preserved by the African American community) and the

English term stank and stinky. At least as early as 1907, jazz songs carried

titles such as “Funky Butt”, a piece by Buddy Bolden.[5] As late as

the 1950s and early 1960s, when “funk” and “funky” were

used increasingly in the context of Soul music, the terms still were considered

indelicate and inappropriate for use in polite company. According to one

source, 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.”

James Brown was one of the first to bring funk to the

forefront. He developed his own style of using the downbeat, with heavy

emphasis on the first beat of every measure to etch his distinctive sound,

rather than the backbeat that typified African American music.

Then there was Sly and the Family Stone and the Isley Brothers

Then George Clinton had his rock- funk with his bands with

his bands Parliament and, later, Funkadelic. Together, they produced a new kind

of funk sound heavily influenced by jazz and psychedelic rock. The two groups

had members in common and often are referred to collectively as


The 1970s were the era of highest mainstream visibility for

funk music. In addition to Parliament Funkadelic, artists like Sly and the

Family Stone, Rufus & Chaka Khan, the Isley Brothers, Ohio Players,

Labelle, Confunkshun, Kool & The Gang, The Bar-Kays, Commodores, Roy Ayers,

among others, were successful in getting radio play.

Disco music owed a great deal to funk. Many early disco

songs and performers came directly from funk-oriented backgrounds. Some disco

music hits, such as all of Barry White’s hits, “Kung Fu Fighting” by

Biddu and Carl Douglas, Donna Summer’s “Love To Love You Baby”, Diana

Ross’s “Love Hangover”, KC & The Sunshine Band’s “I’m Your

Boogie Man”, “I’m Every Woman” by Chaka Khan (also known as The

Queen of Funk Soul), and Chic’s “Le Freak” conspicuously include riffs

and rhythms derived from funk. In 1976, Rose Royce scored a #1 hit with a

purely dance-funk record, “Car Wash”. Even with the arrival of Disco,

funk became increasingly popular well the early 80s.

Rick James was

the first funk musician of the 1980s to assume the funk mantle dominated by

P-Funk in the 1970s.

Then you had

Prince with his “Minneapolis sound”, hybrid mixture of funk, R&B,

rock, pop & New Wave.

Which led to the

Time and groups like Cameo, Zapp, The

Gap Band, The Bar-Kays, and The Dazz Band who all found their biggest hits in

the early 1980s.

Funk has also been incorporated into modern Urban Pop &

R&B music by many female singers such as Beyoncé Knowles with her 2003 hit

“Crazy In Love” (which samples The Chi-Lites’ “Are You My

Woman”), Jennifer Lopez in 2005 with Get Right (which samples Maceo

Parker’s “Soul Power ’74” horn sound), and also Amerie with her song

1 Thing (The Meters’ “Oh, Calcutta!”).

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