Funk music of the early 1970s turned the whole funk genre on its head - so much so that many people actually believe the very origins of funk music was during this time period. In reality, funk music has a much longer history, but it was indeed in the early 1970s that this previously relatively obscure genre started gaining mainstream attention. The funk music of the early 1970s not only changed funk music, but it also changed popular music as a whole. You can hear the influence of early 1970s funk music in many different genres of modern music, including hip hop, R&B and jazz.
A Brief History of Early Funk Music
The first musical reference to "funk" in music dates back to 1907, with the song "Funky Butt" by Buddy Bolden. "Funk" was originally a rallying cry in music - it was a word shouted by audiences encouraging the musicians to keep jamming, rock harder, or add a little bit of groove to things. Little Richard is the artist credited with taking "funk" out of the African American clubs and venues and melding it with mainstream rock music.
With Little Richard, funk began to be recognized as a distinct musical style, one with an emphasis on repetitive beats and driving bass lines that incorporated elements of gospel and soul music.
In the 1960s, one artist came along who changed the face of music, and the face of funk - James Brown. James Brown, the godfather of soul, made funk music a distinct genre and made it as wildly popular as the rock music and folk music that was in vogue during those days. James Brown was the leader of funk music and was an influence on every funk artist that followed.
Funk Music of the Early 1970s
In the early 1970s, many artists came together to completely revolutionize the sound of funk music in ways that have had long lasting implications. The new branch of funk music that emerged in the 1970s was called funk-rock. This movement in funk music mirrored a similar movement in reggae music at this same time, which gave the public what is now known as "roots reggae" or "reggae rock" (think of songs like "I Shot the Sheriff" by Bob Marley as examples of reggae inspired rock music).
The leader of this new funk rock music was one of music's most enduring and memorable characters, George Clinton. Clinton had two bands in the early 1970s, Parliament and Funkadelic; the names of these two bands gave rise to the name often associated with funk music from this period, P-Funk (P-Funk was a lyric often used by Clinton). Although P-Funk initially was a slang term for Clinton's bands, the term came to be used to describe the new genre of funk music pioneered by Clinton, who in addition to P-Funk also gave music some of its most recognized references, such as the Mothership.
George Clinton made funk music into one of the most popular music styles of the 1970s, and many artists followed Clinton and Parliament and Funkadelic who furthered the popularity of funk music. Some of the top selling artists of the 1970s fall into this category, including:
- Earth Wind, and Fire
- Ohio Players
- The Commodores
- Kool and The Gang
- Bootsy Collins
The funk sound also seeped into disco, another ruling genre of the early to mid 1970s, with songs by bands like Chic and La Belle.
Funk Fades From View - Sort Of
The early 1970s is considered to be the heyday of funk music, and eventually it was replaced by other forms of music as the new, exciting thing for music fans to get into (in the late 1970s, punk music shook the music world to its foundation), but funk has lived on in other music styles. One of the biggest selling artists of the 1980s, Prince, was and is heavily influenced by funk music, especially the funk rock of P-Funk, and current artists like OutKast wear their funk influence on their sleeves.