Funk is a form of African American rhythmic music that became widespread during the late 60s and 70s. It broke away from the melodic, choral, polished, accessible lyrical styles of 60s Rhythm and Blues and Soul. Rather than emphasize the 2 and 4 beat like the latter, it emphasize the one or first beat of a composition. James Brown was the original pioneer of Funk, to be followed by major innovators like Sly and the Family Stones, Parliament Funkadelic, Earth, Wind, and Fire, and Cool and the Gang. The latter group each brought different elements to the music. Funk laid the foundation for Disco, which Disco would later eclipse. Rap would not exist without Funk. James Brown is considered the most sampled artist in Rap/Hip-Hop followed by Parliament Funkadelic. Funk also influenced other forms of music in the diaspora like Soukous from the DRC, Mbalax from Senegal, Zouk from the French Antilles, and Afro-Cuban Timba.
Funk emphasizes the rhythm. It is rhythmically complex. The term ¨lets get funky¨ or ¨make it funky¨, encourages the musician to play a ¨groove¨ that is irresistable to dance, rhythmic exuberance. It is rhythmic from the beginning with the syncopated first beat(¨on the one¨) to end. All instruments--horns, rhythm guitar, bass, keyboards-- are played percussively based on one or two chords to achieve rhythmic unision. Though based on typically one chord, chords are altered in terms of timber and tone, providing degrees of variation. Lyrically Funk is simple.
The bass remains the cornerstone of funk. Strings are plucked and pulled with the hand, strucked with the thumb(slapping) creating the percussive rhythmic feel. Rhythm guitars are played with tight strings.
Funk had its beginning in the latter 60s with musical innovation by James Brown and his band which included prominent musicians like Maceo Parker and Bootsy Collins. James honned in the sound by directing musicians to play, and sounds approved by him would become permanent staples of the repertoire. The music generated made the first beat prominent rather than second and fourth of the Soul and R&B of the 60s. Lyrically, James Brown dealt with issues concerning the black community-- empowerment, black pride.
Sly and the Family Stones also played an influential role. The slap bass technique was introduced. The band introduced flamboyant, glamorous clothing ware to their stage prescence. Lyrically, Sly and the Family Stone was about bringing people together. They were one of the few multiracial group in American popular music.
In addition to Sly and the Family Stone, Parliament Funkadelic expanded the Funk repertoire. It began to add elements of psychedelic rock--Led Zepellin and Jimi Hendrix. George Clinton who headed the band took James Brown´s musicians and gave them complete freedom to do what they wanted. P-Funk music was rhythmically more sophisticated , esoteric, and introduced a carnivalesque circus feel to its stage prescence.
Cool and the Gang began to experiment with African music, particularly from Manu Dibango. During the 70s, we see the rise of the Black middle class, which demanded sophistication and culture. Earth, Wind, and Fire introduced a more sophisticated melodious polish style that appealed to the Black middle class.
Funk would have a major influence on Disco. The first beat would be replace by an equal four beat in Disco. Disco would put an end to the Funk dominance. By mid 70s, the Disco fever took over pop music.