Thursday, November 20, 2008

FUNK, The True History: 1970-1974



Culture is interaction and reaction. In-breeding is just a dead-end. Growth is new food, new genes, new thought, renewing knew. Some say pure musics were destroyed when others heard each other through record and radio. Nonsense, they enhanced each other. It's not infection, it's mutation, not excerpt but exchange. Diversity is truth; if any one is just like everyone, then nobody is anybody. Know yourself and find more to know. "Tear down the ghettos in your mind." Can you get to that? Well, the thing about everything is it's everywhere anyway. Reality is too big for anybody to be too small. "Everything is everything."

Woodstock was every music of the century together, sidelong and unbridled. The half-million saw themselves as one, a tribe. The Money saw them as a demographic. FM radio will divert these combined sounds into different channels, dividing and conquering the rhythm nation: Bass='black', Guitar='white'. Everyday people still sleepwalk through this chessboard Matrix today. But, for awhile in this golden period, everyone was On The One. The crosscurrents of funky musics were flood waters in the early '70's; in this swirl, all eddies met and flowed. That sonic whirlpool of thump bass and acid guitar and electric sitar and phased horns and church organs and electronic blips and jazz abstract and tablas and congas and revolution chants and trippy rants was Miles was Carlos was Shankar was Traffic was Azteca was Zeppelin was Funkadelic was Dr. John was funk music. It's a family affair.


Think of Funk as a DNA helix; one spiral side is James, and the parallel twister is Sly. Each is very different from the other, but the combo of them creates something more.

James put the strengths of southern Soul, gutbucket Blues, swinging Jazz, and Mambo attack into pop form. Better, he then re-imagined it all as tight percussion with each instrument alternating roles: guitar and bass might play the rhythms while horns and drums played free; turning melody into groove he could vamp loose. The funky Groove. He exceeded Georgia poverty to become King of the Apollo and crash the Pop charts. But he was working within the strangling constrictions of racism in his North/South tour circuit that defined life as black or white. He was beating it sonically, as people worldwide swung to the groove. But in the day to day, he was always navigating that sad gulf between mental suspicion and physical segregation.

Sly (born in Denton, Texas, raised in the Bay Area) and Jimi (Seattle) were from more radically cosmopolitan areas. Mass immigration on the Left Coast exposed them to a dizzying world of influences. Surrounded by people from every persuasion who, in the 50's, were experiencing as many assimilation pains as they were helped forge their pan-cultural outlook as well as their tastes. Sly turned mid-60's radio outside-in slipping in garage rock, comedy, and classical records as a soul DJ. Meanwhile he produced all the Beat and Garage rock bands of the Autumn label, including the classic "Laugh Laugh" and "Just a Little" by The Beau Brummels, and the original version of The Great Society's "Somebody To Love" before Grace Slick took it to Jefferson Airplane. He and his friend Billy Preston even sported Beatle haircuts and suits at the time. When he joined his sister, brother, and friends as The Family Stone, they personified the wide-open outlook he intended to live. He absorbs James' groove in context with a lot of other influences that James hasn't tried; rock guitar, jazz delirium, hedonism, The Beatles, free love, acid.

The two men are brothers in terms of rhythm, flair, and ambition. But what differentiates James from Sly and Jimi is background experience, cultural outlook, and generational philosophy. James is rooted in show biz discipline: choreography, suits, hierarchy, presentation, tour circuits, 45 singles, male bands. He creates those constraints as a survival discipline, but becomes punk rock when he sweats, flings off his jacket, and gets funky. James is a proud Black Man in the dawn of the Civil Rights movement. As such he is pushing an envelope that he is always keenly aware of. But Sly lives like that envelope doesn't exist. He has the discipline to hold a group, but every restraint after that is gone: male and female, wild clothes, experimental albums, communal festivals instead of circuit clubs. The barriers invented about race or gender are yesterday's yawn. While Lyn Collins and Marva Whitney are front women with the male JB's backing them, Sister Rose Stone and Cynthia Robinson are full-on band members who might jump up and run out into the crowd singing. Sly is coming from an entirely different place in location, age, temperament, and style.

James' funky groove and Sly's rocky soul are the intertwined pillars that copulate all Funk music. There will be soulstremental bands and vocal groups and front singers who hew to James' groove. There will be hedonists and fusionists and free radicals who explore Sly's Funk to its zenith. There will be straddlers, dilettantes, leapfrogs, and inspired splicers all in and out. But the spirit of these two men twines through everything to come. It was Sly who kickstarted the 70's with the most perfect, quintessential Funk song of them all...



1970:

(Below are five music players, one for each year. There are hundreds of songs from every angle of Funk, but here is a list of highlights to navigate the styles, the times, and the trends.)


MusicPlaylist
Music Playlist at MixPod.com



1970 Music Player ABOVE

1) THANK YOU (FALETTINME BE MICE ELF AGIN), Sly & The Family Stone, 1970. That bass. Larry Graham made up for a lack of drummer in his early years by plucking the chords while thumping hard on the strings. The 'pluck'n'thump' method hit this wax and the dance floors like an earthquake. From now on, the Bass was the lead, slamming with the muscular ferocity of Hendrix. It made you strut, which made it perfect for the age of empowerment. The times are hard, sociopolitical, and kicking, and this new Funk music becomes the soundtrack for the emboldened power of a new generation that wants to seize the future. This song, and the later album to follow, THERE'S A RIOT GOIN' ON, are the genesis of modern Funk as we know it.
2) (GET UP, I FEEL LIKE BEING A) SEX MACHINE, James Brown & The JB's, '70. There was a martial quality to James' movement. One aspect was fining band members if their shoes were scuffed or a beat missed. When his band quit on him, JB yanked in a couple of green kids from Cincinnati he'd heard. 16-year-old bassist Bootsy Collins was thrown in the studio, James counted 4, and here it is. Perfect. Larry Graham and our man Bootsy would prove to be the most important Funk bassists of all time.
3) BALL OF CONFUSION, The Temptations, '70. Producer Norman Whitfield and The Temps describe the new cultural war; it is a collision of idealism and repression, with the youth challenging the status quo. Everyone was on the spot as to where they stood and everyone was looking for answers. The lyric "The Beatles' new record's a gas" is a nod to the pied pipers of the young. To many, they were the example of possiblility. Their songs will be continually covered by legions in every style as tribute to the merging of great melody and great possibility.
4) FREEDOM, Jimi Hendrix, '70. Jimi's hardcharging rock always had a funky sway under it. From him come disciples like Black Merda, Funkadelic, Buddy Miles Express, The Politicians, and Mandrill, and of course compatriots like Led Zeppelin, Rare Earth, The James Gang, and Santana.
5) I GOT A THING, YOU GOT A THING, EVERYBODY GOT A THING, Funkadelic, '70. Meanwhile, there was George Clinton. Trying to do the Motown-suit-thing as The Parliaments earlier, they had lost their name and their money. Then they heard Sly and Jimi and it was all over. They became both with Funkadelic. Shaved heads, bed sheets, Halloween costumes, diapers, druids, surreal lyrics, and extremely rude stage behavior erupted out of Detroit, scaring most folks away. Borrowing Vanilla Fudge's mega-gear one night just put everything over the top. Leading the charge is the searing beauty of guitarist Eddie Hazel, the criminally unsung successor to Hendrix. Running partner Billy "Bass" Nelson and he trade vocals.
6) FUNKY WOMAN, Parliament, '70. Determined to escape label control and pigeonholing, Funkadelic also recorded as the equally-bent Parliament, flinging out whole other shades of unhinged. Classical fugues, 'hokey'-tonk country, tripping Gospel, and little funk fireballs like this one. The twisted humor and warped wordplay of Clinton kicks in as hard as Billy and Eddie do.
7) THE GRUNT, The JB's, '70. When hornmeisters Maceo Parker and Fred Wesley returned from their walk-out, they joined Bootsy and brother Phelps in side albums of their own. (That peeling squeal from Maceo invented Public Enemy in ten seconds.) Variations would be Fred Wesley & The JB's, The James Brown Soul Train, Maceo & The Macks, The Last Word, and The First Family.
8) THE CHANGELING, The Doors, '70. The riders of the storm do another take on James, by way of the "Tramp" riff. Robbie Kreiger channels Jimmy Nolan's chicken scratch through Jimi's wah-wah. It personifies how 70's Funk guitar would emerge from this merging. (Where would Rufus be without it?)
9) LIGHT MY FIRE, Ananda Shankar, '70. The nephew of Ravi Shankar fuses rock with traditional Indian classical sitar music to celebrate the future. Since George Harrison helped popularize Indian music, the sitar had made its way into many pop and soul songs. Miles Davis is bringing sitar and tablas into his fusion brew.
10) A MESSAGE FROM THE SOUL SISTERS, Vicki Anderson, '70. James Brown always had great soul women he championed. Sugar Pie DeSanto, Yvonne Fair, and Tammi Terrell in the early days, and now Vicki, Lyn Collins, and Marva Whitney in the funk age. Say it loud, I'm female and I'm proud!
11) JOY, Stevie Wonder, '70. Coming of age in body and mind, Stevie kicks the doors open with his funky keys. He and Billy Preston will be the first to use clavinet, an early Classical piano noted for its mechanical sting, and the Moog synthesizer, influenced by the rising Electronic Music futurism scene.
12) JONES COMING DOWN, The Last Poets, '70. Spoken word poetry -from Langston Hughes to the Beat Generation- continued to mutate. It went intensely personal and political by 1970. The Last Poets (including Lightnin' Rod and Kain), The Watts Prophets, Gil Scott-Heron, Nikki Giovanni, Amiri Baraka, and more described the hard challenges of becoming a full person in a tumultuous time. With jazz flow over pounding beats, this is the cradle of Rap music.
13) HOPE YOU'RE FEELING BETTER, Santana, '70. With its funky lurch and blaring distortion, this monster gallops on pummeled congas. Carlos would collude with Sly's rhythm section, drummer Greg Errico and Larry Graham, soon afterward.
14) ROCK'n'ROLL STEW, Traffic, '70. Names can deceive coz this is a funk song. Led by Steve Winwood, this song is actually sung by percussionist Jim Capaldi.
15) MAGGIE, Redbone, '70. The counterculture embraced roots to regrow the future. These Native Americans likewise revibed tribal, brewing funky blues with their drums and ritual ceremonies. This song has cajun influence in the words and story. Later, they would have a massive hit with "Come And Get Your Love".
16) MAGIC MOUNTAIN, Eric Burdon & War, '70. Adrift after The Animals, Eric and his Danish harpmaster Lee Oskar stumbled across a funky band in L.A. pumping out Latin Funk. He rechristened them War and their powerhouse live shows tore up clubs around the world. War and Sly were reportedly waiting at a club for Jimi when they were told he had just died. A long time friend, it broke Eric's heart.
17) I JUST WANT TO CELEBRATE, Rare Earth, '70. Motown launched their rock label with this band and named it after them. That's Pete Rivera booming the mike while he bashes the drums. They were recommended by Dennis Coffey, who had brought the acid guitar into the Funk Brothers house band.
18) YOUR ACE FROM OUTER SPACE, U-Roy, '70. Jamaican MC's started talking over their records. This 'toasting' from stars like U-Roy and Winston Williams joins spoken word as the genesis of Rap. (DJ Kool Herc was from Jamaica, Grandmaster Flash from Barbados.)
19) FUNKY, The Chambers Brothers, '70. Spanish flamenco guitar lilts this raw, conga-driven classic that lives up to its name. It was later sampled by A Tribe Called Quest as "I Left My Wallet In El Segundo".



1971:


MusicPlaylist
Music Playlist at MixPod.com



1971 Music Player ABOVE

20) RIGHT ON, Marvin Gaye, '71. In a crisis of conscience, Marvin bucked Motown's machine and wrestled with his inner conflicts on the boldly political concept album, "What's Goin' On". It is wall-to-wall brilliance, now considered one of the best albums ever made. "For the soul that takes pride in his god and himself and everyone else/ Let me say to you, Right on!" Look for more protest from Stevie Wonder, Donnie Hathaway, and Gil Scott-Heron.
21) RIGHT OFF, Miles Davis, '71. Sonny Sharrock brings noise rock into the fusion. Miles is the pioneer of a movement that includes Herbie Hancock, Mahavishnu (John McLaughlin), Return To Forever (Chick Corea), Frank Zappa & The Mothers of Invention, Billy Cobham, and The Headhunters.
22) WHAT SO NEVER THE DANCE, The Houseguests, '71. Bootsy got fired from The JB's when acid turned his bass into a serpent onstage and he lost it. He plied his luck with friends in this wild outfit, only to be compared everywhere they went to some band called Funkadelic.
23) THANK YOU FOR TALKIN' TO ME, AFRICA, Sly & The Family Stone, '71. On the RIOT album, the sunshine optimism and brassy highs suddenly slowed down. A new slunky blues strode in, rumbling on that thumping bass. The horns drag muted, and the lyrics become existential, harsh, paranoid, and very politically charged. Sly had changed midstream, and with him came rebel street music. The cover, with only its undulating flag with a black field of sunflowers and no text, summed the ambiguity.
24) "FELA IN PERFORMANCE", Fela Ransome Kuti & Africa 70. While visiting the U.S., Fela was radicalized by the Black Panthers and James Brown. He returned to Nigeria to pioneer AfroBeat, a marathon relentless Funk that fought the literal revolution for independence. (Thank you for talkin' to me, America.) He often jammed with his friend Ginger Baker of Cream. The Afro-rock band Osibisa, Manu Dibango, Brian Eno and The Talking Heads, son Femi Kuti, and Antibalas are his legacy.
25) SLIPPING INTO DARKNESS, War, '71. Eric left but Lee stayed. Everyone traded lead vocals and Papa "Dee" Allan spanked the congas good. The bass is the undersung B.B. Dickerson.
26) ROCK STEADY, Aretha Franklin, '71. Backed by the crack King Curtis band, ReRe runs some rings on James. With her belting passion, confessional vulnerability, and mercurial style, Aretha was the modern soul template from which come Chaka Khan (Rufus), Joyce Kennedy (Mother's Finest), Ruth Copeland, Betty Wright, Betty Davis, and myriad more. Having said that, their other mother was Tina Turner; the sassy brass, horny prowl, and rock swagger all come from her.
27) YOUR LOVE BEEN SO GOOD TO ME, Ruth Copeland & Funkadelic, '71. Ruth was a Welsh waif with a towering voice who wrote songs for and performed with Parliament on their first album. After a falling out, the backing band Funkadelic (with Hazel, Nelson, and Worrell) eloped with her for two albums and toured with Sly & The Family Stone. As feminism rose, there were many soul-rock sisters like Fanny, Birtha, Merry Clayton, Sweet Linda Divine (Linda Tillery), and the funk army Isis. If you haven't heard of them, blame The Man.
28) DRIVING WHEEL, Al Green, '71. When The MG's dissolved, the momentum of Stax Records shifted over to Hi Records. Memphis soul was ruled by Al Green and Ann Peebles on the grooves of the Hodges Brothers, and drummers Howard Grimes and Al Jackson, Jr. (The MGs).
29) SOMEBODY'S WATCHING YOU, Little Sister, '71. Sly produces his sis Vet on this remake of a Family Stone song. The word is that Sly plays all the instruments, getting that hard dry bass sound by plugging directly into the mixing board. Listen close and you can hear him whisper the words along with her.
30) THEME FROM SHAFT, Isaac Hayes, '71. The Stax mack earned an Oscar for his score of soul jazz and funky rock. (That's Charles Pitts of The Bo-Keys scratching the catalytic guitar.) The film "Shaft" actually pulled MGM out of bankruptcy, and made Funk music widescreen and mainstream. Screens exploded with urban reality cop dramas with funky rock soundtracks based on Isaac's template. The term "blaxploitation" is weak so I'll call it the Blaxplosion instead. But in the wide view, "Shaft", "Serpico", "Superfly", "The French Connection", and "The Godfathers" are of a piece; a society taking a hard look at morals, ethics, and justice.
31) MUSHROOM, Can, '71. The progressive German band with a Japanese singer stripped rock convention back to soundscapes of intense rhythm, becoming in essence here an alien take on James Brown. The relentless pound was upped by Neu! soon after. There are many examples of avant-garde funk included here like Annette Peacock, Captain Beefheart, Yoko Ono, and Roxy Music.
32) FORZA G, Ennio Morricone, '71. Italian soundtracks were hip as hell, and Ennio Morricone, Piero Umiliani, Nora Orlandi, and Piero Piccioni are a secret mine of funky gold. Germans Manfred Hubler and Siegfried Schwab stirred up the succulent "Vampyros Lesbos" score. More international funk by Jean-Jacques Perrey, Janco Nilovic, Ananda Shankar, Cymande, and more follows.
33) DE NOITE NA CAMA, Doris Monteiro, '71. Brazil got funk right away, and here are some examples from Monteiro, Valle, and Chaves, and Veloso, Gil, Candido, Donato, and others elsewhere.
34) FAMILY AFFAIR, Sly & The Family Stone, '71. Sly uses the Rhythm King, the first drum machine. Parliament would later credit theirs as "The Man In the Box". Brian Eno (Roxy Music) became obsessed with that hard, focused sound, along with the beats of Neu!, James, and Fela.



1972:


MusicPlaylist
Music Playlist at MixPod.com



1972 Music Player ABOVE

35) FREDDIE'S DEAD, Curtis Mayfield, '72. With his crucial SUPERFLY soundtrack, Curtis ridicules the pimp-as-hero delusion in a score that underlines the parasitic hypocrisy of that cop-out. Johnny Pate fleshed it out with wonderful string arrangements.
36) DO IT AGAIN, Steely Dan, '72. FM radio tells you it's rock but it's a funk song. As always, listen before you look. The same will go for cuts here by The Doobie Brothers, ZZ Top, Elton John, Joe Cocker, Edgar Winter Group, and more.
Also Glam Rock, which was huge in this year, was boogie blues played tight and tough. Boogie rock and Funk shook the parties and the hips of all. "Me I funk, but I don't care/ I ain't no square with my corkscrew hair," sang Marc Bolan of T-Rex.
37) SCORPIO, Dennis Coffey, '72. He brought acid guitar into Motown, discovered Rare Earth, and made blistering funk of his own. This record was one of Afrika Bambaataa's secret weapons in the early days of Rap and has become a sampling standard.
38) SUPERSTITION, Stevie Wonder, '72. While The Family Stone edges into dis-funk-tional, the new prince steps in. Stevie takes control of his career and the entire mid-70's with a spate of LPs that redefine everything. Prime in this is use of the T.O.N.T.O., ten synthesizers hooked to one keyboard which he sculpts new textures and synthfunk with. Here though it's the clavinet, which he makes the Funk keys.
39) USE ME, Bill Withers, '72. Bill had an amazing run of classic songs that everybody covers, and this is one to savor.
40) OUTA-SPACE, Billy Preston, '72. Between fortifying The Stones and former Beatles, Billy hit the charts with his own. This ushers in space funk, with Herbie Hancock and Funkadelic's genius Bernie Worrell on his rocket trail.
41) BLACK SATIN, Miles Davis, '72. Miles almost made an album with Sly and Jimi, but reportedly fears of an affair between his wife Betty and Jimi (completely unfounded) axed it and her. Still, their music fired his startling reinvention through Fusion. Here, tight bass strobes under Indian tablas and acid sitar, punctuated by hands, bells, and secretive organ. Miles distorts his trumpet with a wah-wah pedal among this Martian morse code. This edgy clang will invent the punk-funk bands that rise in the late 70's-early 80's.
42) I'LL TAKE YOU THERE, The Staple Singers, '72. Gospel first family on Stax lays out the truth for the ages. Mavis swaggers while Pops blueses up the strings. (Compare the opening to the reggae song, "The Liquidator" by Harry J All-Stars, 1969.)
43) THINK, The Soul Searchers, '72. This was originally by The "5" Royales in the 50's, but made famous by James Brown. Chuck Brown (no relation) and The Soul Searchers put the Latin Funk spin on it here. Chuck was coranated the Godfather of Go-Go funk music in the 80's.



1973:


MusicPlaylist
Music Playlist at MixPod.com



1973 Music Player ABOVE

44) ME AND BABY BROTHER, War, '73. This fists-first bruiser is built on the end vamp of Sly's "Stand". It sounds like good times lyrically until the chilling line, "they shot my baby brother/ and they called it law and order". From MLK to the counterculture, it was too often clear that the police were misused as martial law against any dissent that threatened The Man's self-interests.
45) DOO DOO DOO DOO (HEARTBREAKER), The Rolling Stones, '73. Mick decries drug and police abuse in the inner city while Billy Preston clav's it with fierce verve. The toughest funk is political and the sound embodies the people's defiance.
46) I'M THE SLIME, Frank Zappa & The Mothers of Invention, '73. The court jester mimes The Man and his tool, the stupestrobe known as TV and the media. George Duke rattles the keys.
47) IF I'M IN LUCK, I MIGHT GET PICKED UP, Betty Davis, '73. Please rise up standing for the Queen of Funk. There is no one badder, more intense, more rocking, more erotic than her majesty, Betty Mabry Davis. Here she's attended by Family Stone rhythmatists, Larry Graham and Greg Errico (who produced).
48) WATERMELON MAN, Herbie Hancock, '73. After a stint of alien tribal funk, he hit it perfect with his band The Headhunters. The precise fusion of jazz, funk, and world music made it the biggest jazz seller of the times.
49) KEEP ON TRUCKIN', Eddie Kendricks, '73. Former Temptation makes his move gritty but smooth on this stomper. "In old Temptation's rain, I'm duckin'... ".
50) GET UP STAND UP, The Wailers, '73. Taking their cue from the bass line of War's "Slipping Into Darkness", the rasta rebels launch a peoples revolution for higher consciousness. All hail Bob Marley, Peter Tosh, Bunny Wailer, and Rita Marley, Jah!
51) MY THANG, James Brown, '73. James was thrown by the musical shift since Sly. He paid so much attention to what others were doing it drove bandleader Fred Wesley to exasperation. Here, JB calls in a stopgap funk band to revamp "It's Your Thing" to really great result.
52) THE CRUNGE, Led Zeppelin, '73. Drummer John Bonham idolized James. The Zep slides a funky stride here, Jimmy Page scratching like Nolan with just enough of his own inimitable surge-and-swagger. Plant vamps the famous JB que for the song's bridge, finally punchlining it with a flustered high-tone retort.
53) I CAN'T STAND THE RAIN, Ann Peebles, '73. Memphis soul cohort of Al Green steals the show with this amazingly arranged gem. The radical use of percussion on the opening was an eye-opener. Her bluesy Mahalia didn't hurt things either.
54) HIGHER GROUND, Stevie Wonder, '73. In this swampy grind, Stevie uplifts everyone, inheriting the utopian mantle that Sly is abdicating as excesses tear him down. (Some folks still think this is a Chili Peppers song, even though they namecheck Stevie twice in their cover.)



1974:


MusicPlaylist
Music Playlist at MixPod.com



1974 Music Player ABOVE

55) APACHE, The Incredible Bongo Band, '74. If you don't recognize this song as the source of most Rap beats ever made, you must be visiting the Earth. This is the wellspring, tapped initially by Bambaataa for all the first hiphop parties in the Bronx.
56) EASIN' IN, Edwin Starr, '74. Early 70's black cinema became a showcase for many artists. From the afro-funk of Osibisa to the deft jazz stylings of Marvin Gaye's "Trouble Man", it elevated profiles while enlarging palettes. Edwin slid this lesser-known classic into "Hell Up In Harlem".
57) FOR THE LOVE OF MONEY, The O'Jays, '74. The Philly International label supplanted Motown in the mid-70's, elongating their string pop into lush dance grooves that warmed the floor for impending disco. Still tight and topical here, The O'Jays benefit from the stellar production of its opening, a harbinger of the Producer and Remix culture of the 80's.
58) ONLY SO MUCH OIL IN THE GROUND, Tower of Power, '74. The 60's as we know it is essentially 1967 to 1974. An idealistic youth saw their chosen leader (RFK) pushed aside by a bad one (Nixon); all the social money went instead to a crooked War-for-profit, which divided the nation left and right; a groundswell of ecology concerns rose; the Prez used 'law-and-order' as a mandate for suppression of public dissent; oil prices exploded and resentment of the Middle East grew; poverty, race, and gender issues were the deep topic; and the White House was tarnished by endless corruption scandals. Tell me if this sounds familiar to any of you...
59) BREAKIN' BREAD, Fred & The New JB's, '74. Fred Wesley in essence was The JB's. He decoded James' unique signals of grunts, hums, and organ stabs to arrange the songs that James is most known for. (That's no knock on the Godfather of Soul, but let's give the player some.) Here he steps to the mike with this hilarious homage to country cooking and comely cousins. Soon he and Maceo will defect to the upstart Parliament as the Horny Horns.
60) DO THE FOOTBALL, Isis, '74. An all-female funkrock band led by guitarist/singer Carol MacDonald, with lead vocals on this slammer by bassist Stella Bass. If you haven't heard of them, you should punch your radio in its robot mouth.
61) PICK UP THE PIECES, Average White Band, '74. Their cheeky name was a slap at radio from a Scottish band raised on soul records and James. While they had the vocal chops to carry many classic hits, strangely enough their first and greatest was this instrumental insurgent. Nolan guitar and Fred & Maceo horns all the way.
62) SANFORD AND SON, Quincy Jones, '74. Jazz in the 60's and Funk in the 70's hipped film scores to the modern urban reality. In the wake of "Shaft", film and TV were funked to the brim. Here's one legendary example at its full length. But -beyond crime films and the Blaxplosion- let's not forget "The Streets of San Francisco", "Fat Albert", "Sesame Street" cartoons, and more.
63) AFRICA, The Meters, '74. After years of brilliant 45's only musicians bought, the Meters started to get some props. They backed Dr. John's "Right Time Wrong Place", Labelle's "Lady Marmalade", and opened for Paul McCartney's Wings tour. Meanwhile, writer/producer Allan Toussaint got in the act with his own ace wax.
64) MACHINE GUN, The Commodores, '74. Like many a funk combo they were right on and righteous before later radio hits ruined them. (I'm talking about you, Kool & The Gang. Ok, I'm opinionated, but you know that.) This clav and arp synthesizer masterpiece achieved later infamy in both The Beastie Boys' "Hey Ladies" and the film "Boogie Nights".
65) AUTOBAHN, Kraftwerk, '74. The German prog band upgraded into a robot quartet making "electronic body music" and "robot rap". Their use of drum machines and all synths will have incalculable effect on the decade to come. Hear also Delia Derbyshire, Piero Umiliani, Curved Air, and Herbie Hancock.
66) HARD TIMES, Piero Umiliani, '74. From the essential and fantastically funky "Il Corpo (The Body)" soundtrack. Act like you know, get up and go get it.
67) COSMIC SLOP, Funkadelic, '74. Bootsy and George finally met. B did one song with them in '72 but only joined the fold this year. Immediately everything started to change. Funkadelic had spent four years detonating albums of corrosive acid rock and bizarro funk, anchored on Eddie Hazel, Billy "Bass" Nelson, and the expanding synth textures of Julliard-trained maestro Bernie Worrell. Their fearless sprawling majesty was gradually getting tighter but Bootsy focused them like never before. With him he brought James' taut groove and his horns, Fred, Maceo, and Rick Gardner.
To distinguish the two groups, they retooled Parliament as a space funk band with monster grooves and hyper horns, while Bernie typed interstellar euphonies. George, who loved "Sgt. Pepper" and The Who's "Tommy", wrote concept albums where he played twisted alter-egos. The high-profile hit-machine Parliament was meant to underwrite the indie freedom of Funkadelic but would later undermine it as success and excess kicked in and blurred the difference.
This song is a poignant tale of a young mother forced to ply her body to raise her kids in the ghetto and asking the heavens' forgiveness. It's built on a Bootsy riff.



EPILOGUE 1970-1974 / PRELUDE 1975-1979

Culture is innovation and reinvention. Fair exchange is no robbery. The most bitchin' brew ever happened in the late 60's-early 70's in a gumbo so insanely rich in exchanged ingredients, we're still writing cookbooks out of it. It's a case of too many cooks spilling the stew all over the planet. There were thriving funk scenes in Brazil, Africa, Sweden, Italy, Jamaica, Russia, Germany and more. The new youth questioned the laws of the old; the public struggle for moral 'law-and-order' was codified in social realist movies and shows that throbbed to funky music. The ideas, the styles, the sounds were all a strutting resistence attempting to rewrite a future for every One, where anything was possible. (You can make it if you try.)

Sly symbolized the arc but also its decline. His upbeat utopianism and familial ties came apart from within. Too many pleasures, too much pressure and anxiety, too much in-fighting. They had represented humanity but they were only human after all. (I am no better, and neither are you/ We are the same, whatever we do.)

It could be said that you can only raise your fist or your spirits so long before you get tired, or that society got issue-fatigue and wanted to lighten up, or that the relay got dropped as the race wore on. Or. Maybe a flash flood sinks into the earth and seems to vanish; in fact, it is settling and growing the seeds to come. Every innovation wrought in this heady period had to register and take root somewhere. In years to come, there would always be another James, another Sly, from another angle, to grab the baton and exceed barriers and lift everything higher.

"Dance to the music, all night long..."





Imagery and text, copyright Tym Stevens.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

FUNK, The True History: The 1960's



There is no sound barrier, at least in music. Everyone hears it inside them so everyone makes it. Every culture has had the drum...the heartbeat remembered from the womb. Everyone has always danced...the inner feelings made physical. Everyone feels sensual, feels amped or elated...catharsis turned into a body language. Every one can uplift everyone...a person's moves can spark mass movement.

Funk is universal. Like life, when everyone contributes to it then everyone advances. It is a wheel, with varied spokes that strengthen it and propel it forward. It is also cyclical, where what went around comes around again. Culture isn't constant or owned by a pure group, it is constantly renewing itself through everyone's additions. It is an intersection of ideas. There is no Either/Or in reality...only "and". Funk is all about "and". It is hybrid, synthesis, fluidity, diversity. Funk is inclusive and thus ever expansive. Funk is sliced in familial tones.

Every time you pick up a Funk CD collection it's usually the same 12 songs over and over. It reinforces the closed idea that Funk is party grooves from the late 70's, by 14 guys with great afros. Partially, but hardly. Funk has been a mutating form -which includes every sound and everyone- for the last five decades. As an outgrowth of Rock and Soul it has trysted with every genre and subculture. Funk is a family affair.

Let me extend a point about Funk's inclusion by first debunking exclusion thinking. A painter will tell you straight up that 'Black' and 'White' aren't even colors...they're neutrals and are not in the color spectrum. Real life is in actual color, which is a recombination of all the seven colors in constant rotations. Meaning, when you paint or photograph anyone, they're composed of the same colors in varying degrees. What makes you is the same that makes another: you breathe, you feel, you dream, you act. Using extremities like Black and White as a reverse prism to divide Life from its vivid variation back down to Either/Or is as small-minded as it is sad. Since actual life is one human race with the creativity to have myriad cultural ideas to share, let's exercise some more of that "and" here.

This is an inclusion party so excluders are out. (Ba-dump-bump.) The straight up deal is that everybody was responding to each other to create this culture, as per usual. So the tired programming that limits the usual narrative on music is absent here; no Us vs. Them, no Colonialist Absolutism, no Purity Group, no faith-based supremicism, no radio segregation, no more No's. "Cynthia and Jerry got a message they're saying/ 'All the Squares, go 'round!" This is music by the people for the people. Funk is everyday people.

Radio has segregated people's mindsets for decades. But a DJ's record crate tells the real story: Funk is any kicking dance groove made by anyone. The stocatto drums of Latin percussionists, the fuzzed out R'n'B of Garage rockers, the bopping cascades of hip Jazzsters, the Country Soul of swamp rockers, the hardcharging whomp of the Psychedelics, the Soul Pop of Detroit and Memphis and London, the gutbucket gumbo of New Orleans, the slunkyness of Blues, the saunter of Reggae, the cool grooves of Italian and French and German soundtracks, the sunshine kick of Tropicalismo, the sitar sythesis of India. The reason is that everyone saw each other truly by listening to each other and responding to their cues. True Funk is an intersection of ideas.

Take that weak 12-song CD and throw it in the recycle. I'm spinning this party and you're about to dance your way out of any constrictions!



PRE-FUNK: The Roots


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What paths led to this crux point? Here are some ingredients of the Pre-Funk that are essential to the gumbo:

1) SWING JAZZ honed Jazz into a tight, horn-driven dance music that took the 40's by storm. Those syncopated horns were a sensation that sinned up the nation. It ignited the first taste of teen ecstasy, with jitterbuggery rampant. World War II shortages at home slimmed the big bands down into quintets that ricocheted the new highways, spreading the Boogie fever in a tighter sound.

Louis Jordan and Louis Prima hammed a hilarious burlesque that would thread from The Coasters to P-Funk to Fishbone to Outkast. The horn sections drove Rhythm'n'Blues, Soul, and then Funk and Disco; from Little Richard's band the Upsetters, James Brown with The JB's, and The Mar-Keys, to Tower of Power, Earth Wind & Fire, Parliament, Al Green, KC & the Sunshine Band, and Defunkt. The electric guitar brought in by Charlie Christian would lead to Tiny Grimes, Mel Travis, Les Paul, Johnny "Guitar" Watson, BB King, and Rock'n'Roll, as well as Jazz maestros like Wes Montgomery, Grant Green, and John McLaughlin. Horn players expanded the palette into the abstract, complex moodscapes of Bebop and FreeJazz thanks to Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis, and John Coltrane.

2) ROCK'n'ROLL is crucial to Funk. Just as rural roots Country and Blues are intertwined (and often interchangeable) by sound, space, and shared experience, so Country Swing is twined with Jump Jive. Bob Wills loved Count Basie, and there are as many country boogie songs as blues or jazz boogie in the late 40's. The barbed sting of blues guitar morphed with the sliquid licks of Honky Tonk and Bluegrass to mutate into Rockabilly. Why? Because kids listen to everything and refract it new. There is no future without "and". Rock will give Funk its intense kick, its rebellious swagger, and its mercurial temper.

The gallop of rockabilly, the tight pop and tough sass of Girl Groups, the jet-engine guitar blast of Surf and the British Invasion, the fuzz and sneer of Garage, the tribal pyrotechnics of Psychedelia, the flamboyancy of late 60's fashion and politics and philosophy... all of these are reflected in the great funk acts.

3) MAMBO and Afro-Cuban Jazz are undervalued and overlooked. Mambo music was king in the early 50's, on the heels of Swing Jazz and Jump Jive. Those drums, "Good Gahd!" It turned Swing into an even tighter propulsive rhythm with the sharp horn blasts, a sudden pause, and the band leader exclaiming, "Ungh!" This is the prototype for James Brown a decade ahead. Actually, Perez-Prado would get so excited he was grunting, "Dilo!" ("Say it!"), and kicking the air to drive the band on. Yes!

The propulsive beat of Latin musics will be a presence in Rock, Soul, and Jazz from then on, leading natutally into funky bands like Santana, War, El Chicano, Azteca, Malo, Los Lobos, Sheila E, Los Mocosos, and Ozomatli.

4) GOSPEL is the soaring voice of Funk. Church was where everyone learned to sing "a joyful noise". Mahalia Jackson was the Queen, singing with a depth of feeling beyond any recorded before. Listen to her take raw intimacy to an operatic level, turning spiritual struggle into transcendence. Along with her will come amen sisters and brothers, uplifting anthems, and sometimes even choirs.

From Gospel we got Sam Cooke, Aretha Franklin, Johnny Taylor, the Womacks, The Chambers Brothers, Al Green, The Staples Singers, Rance Allen, and many more.

5) SOUL is the savvy stepchild. Mahalia wouldn't sing direct Blues because it was profane to her. But she listened to it and reflected it. Ray Charles melded Gospel and Blues (with touches of Jazz boppery and Country confessionals) to create Soul music. His true genius is radiating those select adult musics through Pop music that made kids jump around the globe. His voice carried the exalted grin of the sacred merged with the satisfied smirk of the profane. Thesis+ Antithesis=Synthesis.

Listen to that church organ boogie and sway, sneer and laugh, on "What'd I Say". Keyboards will become intrensinc to the future of Funk -from piano and Hammond to Clavinet, Moog, Arp, and Fairlight: Shirley Scott, Jimmy Smith, Billy Preston, Sly Stone, Steve Winwood, Herbie Hancock, Stevie Wonder, Bernie Worrell, Isaac Hayes, Chris Jasper, Kraftwerk, Prince, Galactic, Medeski Martin & Wood, Soulive.

Soul music is personified by the funky Memphis Group, Booker T & The MG's. It's already there in 1961's "Green Onions": a lockstep rhythm section that struts, an eerie but earthy organ, and that chopping clank of guitar. Who needs words when you got the feeling? Like their studio counterparts in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, they were varied complexions with unified hearts playing together On The One, between them both backing up nearly every great Soul record of the decade unfolding.

6) BLUES is the heavy vibe, the moan, the moody conduit. Muddy Waters was the first acoustic bluesman to go electric in Chicago and revel in the new sting. He was a big man who got bigger with amplification. 'Rock'n'Roll' had long been slang for "doing it", and 'funk' is the earthy, unapologetic, delirious scent that it produces. Before anything else, dance music is sensual. It conveys in sways, tangos in tangles, gets down to get with.

Blues undergirds the funk of Jimi Hendrix, Sly Stone's "I Want To Take You Higher", Santana, The James Gang, Led Zeppelin, The Rolling Stones, early Funkadelic, The Doobie Brothers, The Vaughan brothers, Galactic, Tom Waits, Los Lobos, and Robert Randolph & The Family Band.

7) NEW ORLEANS, ah, and then there's New Orleans. A polyopolis city pumping out polyglot musics: Blues and Jazz, with Cajun Zydeco, Tex Mex, Native American chants, and Carribean rhythms, spiced by every culture that's graced its welcoming harbor. Listen to Professor Longhair's "Big Chief" with those contrapunctual Jelly Roll Morton piano rolls, underlined by those perfect skittershot drums. When they say Rock'n'Roll, this is the roll. Like Latin rhythms, New Orleans swaggers and kicks through Funk music forever.

Like Professor Longhair, Fats Domino, The Meters, Lee Dorsey, Alan Toussaint, Betty Harris, Doctor John, The Gaturs, The Neville Brothers, and Dirty Dozen Brass Band, to name some.



FUNKY SOUL, 1965-1967:
Northern Soul, Southern Soul, Motown, Country Soul, Euro Soul, Soul Jazz, Rock'n'Soul, Latin Soul, Garage R'n'B, Funky Soul.


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"And?" Well, by the mid-60's these ingredients start coming together in funky soul music like this. There are tons of songs on the music players, all arranged in basic chronological order. Often artists are responding directly to each other. You can enjoy the smorgasbord on your own, but I'll list a few tasty highlights from the menu here:

1) SHOTGUN, Jr. Walker & The All-Stars, 1965. Motown saxman puts it all in the pocket with a gutbucket vocal, kicking drums, pulsing bass, rhythmic clank, jazzy sax solos, and sharp horns. It's shining and dirty at the same time. Let's get funky!
2) I GOT YOU (I FEEL GOOD), James Brown, '65. Mr. Dynamite scribes the blueprint, turning every instrument into percussion, and bending rhythm into dynamics of tight sound and silences. Startling, a revolution in pop music, via mambo.
3) TREAT HER RIGHT, Roy Head, '65. This English soulster is the tip of a huge wave of them. James' example gives working class folks chafing at class limits the permission to bust out and declare their inner soul; Dusty Springfield, Eric Burdon, Georgie Fame, Evie Sands, Chris Farlowe, Steve Marriott, Julie Driscoll, Rod Stewart, Sharon Tandy, Joe Cocker, Ruth Copeland, Robert Plant...
4) BUTTERMILK, Sylvester Stewart, '65. Syl is a San Fran DJ by day, record producer by night. He is a hardcore Beatles and Stones fan who even sports a mop haircut. He produces Bay Area garage bands and demos of his own on the side. (That's his fuzz and backup vox on The Mojo Men's "She's My Baby.") He has this idea of a band that integrates everything, and the first name he tries is Sly & The Stoners...
5) 99-AND-A HALF WON'T DO, Wilson Pickett, '65. James Brown's rival headlong with him, fueled by the MG's. Guitarist Steve Cropper chanks that zen essence, Isaac Hayes weighs in on keys, and Patti Labelle swells the back-ups. (Her hair was cut at the time by a New Jersey barber and fledgling bandleader, George Clinton.)
6) TRAMP, Lowell Fulsom, '66. In this classic Lowell mocks the class war, proudly wearing his hick status like a strut. The raw and the real, the earthy and the edgy are the mantras of Funk. Even its name is rude. And that riff spawned legions, from The Doors' "The Changeling" to Salt'n'Pepa's "Tramp".
7) MUSTANG SALLY, Wilson Pickett, '66. "Wicked" Pickett had an amazing knack for the letter-perfect cover version. He got this from The Rascals, who got it from Sir Mack Rice. The osmosis of creativity in action. That riff is Wilson's proud strut personified, hard and bulletproof.
8) GET READY, The Temptations, '66. Motown's house band was (quietly) called The Funk Brothers. Pounding those wonderful supple basslines is James Jamerson, whose melodic and rounded tones start to crystallize the bass as the lead in funky Soul, and then Funk.
9) UNDERDOG, Sly & The Family Stone, '67. Oh my. Funky Soul had been defined by sharpsuited lotharios and damsel divas from the South and Midwest. But here comes a tribe of hippies from San Francisco, the first maplepeachguygal funky-soul-psychedelic-rock-band to upend everyyyyything. Here, they fly right off the turntable and into higher consciousness.
10) BABY, YOU'RE A RICH MAN, The Beatles, '67. Listen to that drum stride and that muscular bass. The band's On The One. But with it they bring an experimental palette of distorted rhythm guitar and alien recorder. Two prime fans of the Fab's, Jimi and Sly, will take these cues to open the colors of Rock'n'Soul wide open.
11) A DAY IN THE LIFE, Wes Montgomery, '67. He was master of the fluid Jazz guitar but also fluent in all the Pop idioms of the moment. He was an intersection for exchanges between, just like Jimmy Smith, Ramsey Lewis, Hugh Masekela, Charles Stepney, and later Miles Davis and Alice Coltrane.
12) I'M A MAN, The Spencer Davis Group, '67. From the first seconds on the vinyl version, you know you're in it. This English group was graced by Ray-fanatic Steve Winwood on both vocals and organ. He would soon make funky psychedelia with Traffic.
13) SOME KIND OF WONDERFUL, Soul Brothers Six, '67. Gutbucket gospel with humming like cellos and an excellent sparse guitar.
14) I GOT THE FEELIN', James Brown, '67. And James was blessed that he got Jimmy Nolan, whose crackling chicken-scratch guitar will become crucial to Funk. He also had Maceo Parker and Fred Wesley on horns, who were gold in polished shoes.
15) HIP HUG-HER, Booker T & The MG's, '67. As in grind your hips together. From that jarring lead guitar prancing down into the icicle stabs of Booker T's organ, it's on. This must have put James Brown on the good foot and in a bad mood.
16) HIP HUG, Slim Smith, '67. Jamaica has a love affair with American Soul and Pop music, doing endless remakes and responses with the added accent of their fantastic rhythm sections. This will blowup in the early 70's with Reggae, and the late 70's with Dub and Ragamuffin toasting.
17) CHAIN OF FOOLS, Aretha Franklin, '67. "Re-Re" channels Mahalia in a rebuke that seethes both rebellion and submission. The Muscle Shoals mafia backs her up.
18) LITTLE MISS LOVER, Jimi Hendrix Experience, '67. The other shoe now dropkicks everyone in the ass. Tighter and tougher than anything before it. Run. Between them, Jimi and Sly and The Beatles are rewriting the future of music. Sound, clothes, philosophies, and mores will expand "far as the eye can see".



FUNKY ROCK, 1968-1969:
Funky Soul, Psychedelic Funk, Acid Jazz, Rock'n'Soul, N'awlins, Soulstrementals, Swamp Pop, Country Soul, Blues Rock, Funky Latin, Horn Rock, Jamaica Soul, Tropicalismo, Jazz Fusion.


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1968 Playlist ABOVE

So far everyone in pop and soul is competing with James' grooves, but meanwhile those two psychedelic upstarts are just getting their feet...

20) DANCE TO THE MUSIC, Sly & The Family Stone, '68. In round-robin they recite the new recipe. This song is the nexus of past and future: doo wop chorals, gospel organ, and swing clarinet from before; fuzz bass, electric blues, and proud snarl from now.
21) GIVE IT UP (AND TURN IT LOOSE), James Brown, '68. James drops melody for the Groove, the band a vamping backdrop for his spontaneous improvs. This 'raw and live' style will define funky soul for years. Jimmy Nolan nails it all down on strings.
22) I THANK YOU, Sam & Dave, '68. Stax stallions, in the pocket. Two gutbucket Rays for the price of one 45, they were the frontmen for co-writer Isaac Hayes, who tickles the keys. They were often backed by the MG's or the rising Bar-Kays from Memphis' legendary Stax Records studios.
23) GREEN ONIONS, Mongo Santamaria, '68. Mongo was savvy enough to cover the pop hits and good for him. More and more in the next two years, pop music will become underscored by Latin and African congas and Indian tablas.
24) MEMPHIS SOUL STEW, King Curtis, '68. When saxman Curtis breaks down the ingredients of Memphis soul, he's pretty much serving you the basics of Funk itself. "And now we need a pound of fatback drums" is one of the best lines ever! Featuring Bernard Purdie and Cornell Dupree.
25) HOUSE BURNING DOWN, Jimi Hendrix Experience, '68. Labeled 'Black', this AfricanIrishCherokee called himself human. Called a freak, he thought he was infinite. And he was. Hair from Dylan, clothes from "PEPPER", blues from chitlin, noise rain from Coltrane, outlook from Bradbury. Changed Rock'n'Roll into ROCK Music, inventing the future. As for Funk? The wah-wah pedal, tough rhythm, wild solos, the Sci Fi cosmology, the Afro, and the tribal clothes come from this guy. Here he laments the myopia of brothers hurting each other while aliens watch. Rock is no sidedish; it is actually the prime catalyst for eveything that will congeal as Funk.
26) LOVE CITY, Sly & The Family Stone, '68. Sly roars up, telling the tonic to hate: "Love city/ I want it now now now now!!" Sly wants unity, which will only come from inclusiveness, and his band lives it. Their existence forecasts a future for all. Soul was borne of the Civil Rights movement; the counterculture expands it to its fruition as the human movement. Sly and Jimi are ambassadors of the new view.
27) I DON'T KNOW WHY I LOVE YOU, Stevie Wonder, '68. The rising prince is listening to James, Sly, and psychedelia and absorbing it all. He's already kicking out chestnuts like this one, with its revolutionary use of the Classical clavinet foreshadowing what's to come.
28) THE HORSE, Cliff Nobles, '68. Besides becoming the official high school band anthem, this song is the tip of a huge iceberg: Soul instrumentals. Booker T & The MG's, The Meters, King Curtis, Brother Jack McDuff, The Bar-Kays, The T.S.U. Tornados and myriad more will wax the funky beats and breaks that give decades of DJs and rappers their careers, and pump up every party you've ever danced at.
29) IT'S YOUR THING, The Isley Brothers, '68. Ron and the family Isley combine the tight groove of James with the loose philosophy of Sly. Synthesis, fluidity. Listen to everyone respond to it with their own.


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1969 Playlist ABOVE

30) SING A SIMPLE SONG, Sly & The Family Stone, '69. Sister Rose counts us in with the widely-imitated "yeahs", Larry Graham intones the fundamentals, and Sly bumps out the basics. The shift has occurred. Now everyone is listening to him and James is on defense.
31) FUNK #49, The James Gang, '70. This was Detroit's answer to Cream, England's psyche power trio. Motor City assembled Motown soul and blistering rock bands. Many folks out of there were both (Detroit w/ Mitch Ryder, The 8th Day, and the rising Funkadelic). Here guitarist Joe Walsh gets skunky as he wants to be, vamping off of "Sing a Simple Song".
32) GET ME BACK ON TIME, ENGINE #9, Wilson Pickett, '69. The effect of Jimi's guitar and Sly's beat. With the psyche/hippie band back-up come the bongos ("Dilo!"). Also, length. Jazz gave permission for long exploratory solos and changes through Bebop and Free Jazz. Psychedelia expanded this, and funky soul would get longer on LPs instead of being divided on a 45. Can you say Acid Jazz (and 12" Single)?
33) KEEP ON MARCHING, The Meters, '69. And here's New Orleans again. The best damn drummer in Funk history is probably Joseph "Zigaboo" Modeliste. Complex as Jazz's Krupa and Rich, fluid as Puente, as On The One as James' Clyde Stubblefield. The Meters were the Crescent City's mighty response to Booker T & The MG's and Muscle Shoals, ubiquitous and greasy. Here they are speaking to marching protesters and soldiers of all stripes.
34) GET BACK, The Beatles w/ Billy Preston, '69. When a rightwing backlash rose in England telling immigrants to "get back where they came from", the boys taunted that xenophobia with this boogie ode to cross-dressers and day trippers. Billy, Ray Charles' handpicked successor and Sly's cohort, was a friend of The Beatles from before they got famous, and churches up Paul's soul crusade. He was basically the Fifth Beatle and the Sixth Stone, a friend to the end.
35) POLK SALAD ANNIE, Tony Joe White, '69. Stax Records and Muscle shoals were exemplars of the country soul tradition. Songwriter White broke through with what got termed Swamp Pop, a deeply countrified soul with some tough swagger. Loose compatriots in that bluesy bog were the MG's, Creedence Clearwater Revival, The Band, Dylan's "Nashville Skyline", the "Dusty In Memphis" album, the "Let It Be" album, Delaney & Bonnie Bramlett, Derek & The Dominoes, The Allman Brothers, the native american Redbone, the early Doobie Brothers, and cult fave Jim Ford ("Niki Hoeky").
36) I CAN'T GET NEXT TO YOU, The Temptations, '69. Whitfield rewraps "Some Kind of Wonderful" into this superheroic vamp. The Temp's early period was all Smokey Robinson-led perfect pop. Norman now creates their startling second arc as pioneer psyche-funkers from '69 to '72, under the spell of Sly, The Beatles, HAIR, and a Detroit upstart band no one's heard of called Funkadelic.
37) HANDA WANDA, Bo Dollis & The Wild Magnolia Mardi Gras Indian Band, '70. One-third of all African Americans have Native American heritage. The various tribes welcomed in Africans who had escaped the tyranny of slavery. This extends from Crispus Attucks, the first person to die in the Revolutionary War, to the unbeatable Seminole tribe who eventually became the first Texas Rangers, to luminaries in the Harlem Renaissance like Duke Ellington, to Jimi Hendrix, and New Orleans. The true history of America, beyond its simplistic Black/White myopia, is hybrid. Bo keeps the bloodline and the drumline alive wearing massive ancestral plumage each Mardi Gras. Here The Meters help him shake those tail feathers.
38) WHO'S GONNA HELP BROTHER GET FURTHER, Lee Dorsey, '70. Here they are again behind our man Lee Dorsey; Leo Nocentelli's guitar tone on this is astounding. Jimmy Nolan but mean. Hear more of them with Betty Harris, Willie West, and as The Rhine Oak.
39) I WANT TO TAKE YOU HIGHER, Sly & The Family Stone, '69. Psyche blues trysts with funky soul. Before this, hippies danced errantly, weaving in the wind. This epic monster jolted half-a-million people up to boogie at Woodstock in syncopated communion. The concept of all modern dance music happens in this seismic moment.
40) LOVE, PEACE, AND HAPPINESS, The Chambers Brothers, '69. The truth is the counterculture was everyone. Its very point was tribal inclusion across the board and the globe. It reached such a cataclismic peak because everyone was contributing. Separatists can stay in their box, but the rest of us will still grow. And it's also possible to make massive playlists of the songs that quote Sly's "Higher", because of this shared uplift outlook.
41) CLOUD NINE, The Temptations, '69. Here's another one. Producer Norman Whitfield took the doo wop cues of "Dance To the Music" and recast The Temps in Sly's image: harmony group, fuzz, flange, fringes, trippy. He single-handedly kept Motown relevent because of his experiments. He expanded the Funk Brothers by bringing in conga percussion and psyche-rocker Dennis Coffey ("Scorpio").
42) SOUL SACRIFICE, Santana, '69. Mambo had led to Afro-Cuban Jazz, with such brilliant players as Tito Puente, Machito, Cachao, Eddy Palmieri, Jack Costanzo, and Eddie Bobo. Carlos Santana raged out of San Fran with an electric band that amped this music into blistering rock. Just as the Civil Rights movement now counted the Chicano uprise, so Santana opened the door for Latin funkrockers for years to come.
43) COMPARED TO WHAT?, Les McCann & Eddie Harris, '69. Jazz raises the black glove of mental revolution, bucking the status quo: "The President, he's got his war/ Folks don't know just what it's for/ Nobody gives us rhyme or reason/ Have one doubt, they call it treason/ Trying to make it real...compared to what?!" Timeless.
44) PEACE FROG, The Doors, '70. Here they are in full James Brown mode. There's the chicken-scratch strum, the melodic bass pound, the step-and-glide drums, and the other James channeling Native Americans he believed possessed him.
45) SOOKIE SOOKIE, Don Covay & The Jefferson Lemon Band, '70. Soul man Don kicks out the jams with a psyche band as they revamp "Tramp". This was soon covered by many others, including Steppenwolf ("Born To Be Wild").
46) POWER OF SOUL, Jimi Hendrix & The Band of Gypsies, '70. Jimi briefly pulled in two Soul cohorts to get funkier: Buddy Miles (The Electric Flag, "Them Changes") on drums and Billy Cox on bass. Meanwhile, Betty Davis stirs her husband Miles up with Jimi and Sly, who then boils Jazz inside out with "Bitches Brew", the fusion of Jazz, Psychedelic Rock, Funk, Electronic Music, and sounds from world cultures.
47) SEX MACHINE, Sly & The Family Stone, '69. This 13-minute Funk Rock masterpiece is a prophecy. The distorted voice predicts the vocoder (Zapp); the title will inspire James Brown's a year later; it is the gateway for rockers Funkadelic, The Isley Brothers, Living Colour, Lenny Kravitz, and Robert Randolph. And the ending is a playful wink at The Chambers Brothers.
48) CAT WOMAN, Abaco Dream, '69. Playing games with record execs, Sly slips out secret singles under aliases. Check out how the use of keys sounds a dozen years ahead of when it was recorded. He's already invented Prince, down to the synths and British inflections: "1999" in 1969!



EPILOGUE 60's / PRELUDE 70's:

Rosa Parks was tired and wanted to sit down. She took a stand, and that simple move became a movement. In the 50's Bebop opened Jazz's vistas, Beat poetics opened the word, and Rock'n'Roll opened sound for the youth to combine anything. The nervy pulse in each struggler became the exhilerated throb of the crowd set free by their example. Every one was liberating everyone, just by embracing the unknown and exploring it.

The 60's is hothouse flowers pushing out of the greenhouse. Exponentially, barriers were dissolving and new terreign unfolding. It was as much as anyone could do to throw their effort in and just hold on. Always "and" and "and". This ever fluid present electrified the open-minded and shocked the stolid. There was so much going so fast that it was hard to grasp what was divine and what was disaster. The next decades would wrestle with the repercussions of both.

This was the gestation generation, birthing possibilities. A continual recombination of elements in constant rotation. As the wheel revolved, music re-evolved. Funky Soul found its path with every move of its makers. Soon, in one perfect song, it would find itself as The Funk. And then? Well, the future is always "and"...




Next: FUNK: 1970-1974


Imagery and text, copyright Tym Stevens.