In celebration of Black History Month 2006, this year we will pay tribute to 28 masters of funk. How do you know when a song is funky, if you didn't live through the 1970s? One way to tell is to ask yourself, would Undercover Brother listen to this in his Cadillac convertible? If the answer is "yes", you are on the right track. We're not going to attempt to strictly define funk for you (look it up on Wikipedia if are inclined), but we are restricting our 28 songs to black groups, late 1960s into the 1970s. And in our opinion, the Funk experience is maximized if the singer has big hair.
There is a fine line in some cases between Disco and Funk. For example, there are a great number of songs out there from both genres that have "Boogie" in the title, and some strictly disco songs even have "Funky" in the title. But before we get to the list, how about a little history lesson?
On Thursday April 4, 1968, Martin Luther King was killed in Memphis, sparking a long weekend of violence in many US cities. Washington DC and many other places still bear scars from this bleak episode in US history.
Many people credit James Brown with inventing Funk. We'll also credit him with preventing Boston from being torched on April 5, 1968. James Brown was scheduled to give a concert in Boston, and the Boston politicians were worried about riots, particularly in Roxbury, the small black section in the largely white city. Although they considered cancelling the concert, Mayor White (you can't make up a name like that) ended up requesting that it not only go on, but also be televised. Brown's influence on the youth of Boston is the only thing that kept the city relatively quiet. You'd think they'd put up a statue somewhere downtown, but don't count on that happening any time soon! WGBH in Boston did a terrific documentary on this whole event called "The Politics of Soul" - if you have QuickTime player, you can see clips of it on their site. Read about Brown's concert here (scroll down to "Spin Cycle". By the way, if you search the web, you eventually find Brown's 1968 Boston concert on DVD. Buy it!
Here's the list!
James Brown, Say it Loud
Brothers and Sister Rose, Treat her like a Lady
Kool and the Gang, Ladies Night
Ohio Players, Fire
5. Heatwave, Boogie Nights
Wonder, Master Blaster - Funky Calypso Beat!
Kendricks, Keep on Trucking
8. Temptations, Papa was a Rolling
Stone. Say, that's unfair Kendrick makes the list twice!
Hayes, Theme from Shaft (extra award for coolest use of a fuzz-box
The O'Jays, Backstabbers. Theme song at a lot of companies out
Brothers, Who's that Lady?
12. & 13. War,
Low Rider, Cisco Kid. OK, we cheated and gave them two places, but
we couldn't choose which song to eliminate!
Royce, Car Wash. If you have Netflix, why not rent the movie?
Rubberband Man. Prepare yourself, he's about to jam!
Commodores, Brick House
and the Family Stone, Thank You. Sly Stone was as innovative
as it gets.
Carl Douglas, Kung Fu Fighting
Bristol, Hang on in There
Gaye, Gotta Give it Up
Chocolate, You Sexy Thing
Funkadelic, One Nation Under a Groove
28. Bootsie Collins
Check out the Unknown
Editor's amazing archives when you are looking for a way to
screw off for a couple of hours or more!