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 form of music. The roots of funk lay in James Brown’s post-1965 soul hits, particularly “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag” (1965) and “Cold Sweat” (1967). Sly & the Family Stone, who started out as a soul band influenced by rock and psychedelia, became a full-fledged (albeit pop-savvy) funk band with their album “Stand!” (1969). However, the record that officially ushered in the funk era was James Brown’s epochal “Get Up (I Feel Like Being A) Sex Machine.” The arrangement was spare, the groove hard-hitting, and Brown’s lyrics were either stream-of-consciousness slogans or wordless noises. Brown followed it with more records over the course of 1970 that revolutionized R&B, and paved the way for the third artist of funk’s holy trinity, George Clinton. Thanks to Sly, Brown, and Clinton, many R&B acts adopted funk as a central style during the 70s. It also had a major impact on jazz and became the musical foundation of hip-hop.
Named after a slang word for “stink,” funk was indeed the rawest, most primal form of R&B. It was also the least structured, often stretching out into extended jams, and the most Africanized, built on dynamic, highly syncopated polyrhythms. The groove was the most important musical element of funk – all the instruments of the ensemble played off of one another to create it, and worked it over and over. Deep electric bass lines often served as main riffs, with an interlocking web of short, scratchy guitar chords and blaring horns over the top. Funk bands were just as likely to repeat a catchy chant or hook out of the blue to give different song sections equal weight and to avoid disrupting the groove by building to a chorus-type climax. In essence, funk allowed more freedom and improvisation.
Sly & the Family Stone “ Everyday People”