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Funk
MUSIC
WRITTEN BY: Rickey Vincent
See Article History
Funk, rhythm-driven musical genre popular in the 1970s and early 1980s that linked
soul to later African-American musical styles. Like many words emanating from the
African-American oral tradition, funk defies literal definition, for its usage
varies with circumstance. As a slang term, funky is used to describe one�s odour,
unpredictable style, or attitude. Musically, funk refers to a style of aggressive
urban dance music driven by hard syncopated bass lines and drumbeats and accented
by any number of instruments involved in rhythmic counterplay, all working toward a
�groove.�

The development of the terms funk and funky evolved through the vernacular of jazz
improvisation in the 1950s as a reference to a performance style that was a
passionate reflection of the black experience. The words signified an association
with harsh realities�unpleasant odours, tales of tragedy and violence, erratic
relationships, crushed aspirations, racial strife�and flights of imagination that
expressed unsettling yet undeniable truths about life.

James Brown�s band established the �funk beat� and modern street funk in the late
1960s. The funk beat was a heavily syncopated, aggressive rhythm that put a strong
pulse on the first note of the musical measure (�on the one�), whereas traditional
rhythm and blues emphasized the backbeat (the second and fourth beats of the
measure). Brown and others, such as Sly and the Family Stone, began to use funk
rhythms as their musical foundation while their lyrics took on themes of urgent
social commentary.

In the early 1970s funk became the musical standard for bands such as the Ohio
Players and Kool and the Gang and soul singers such as the Temptations and Stevie
Wonder, its driving beat accompanied by lush, melodic arrangements and potent,
thoughtful lyrics. Parliament-Funkadelic and other bands sang the praises of funk
as a means of self-development and personal liberation, while established jazz
artists such as Miles Davis and Herbie Hancock adapted and explored the funk
groove. The disco music of the late 1970s evolved from the rhythmic and social
foundation of funk.

In the 1980s the sexually expressive aspects of funk were popularized through the
works of Rick James and Prince, while the funk beat became the primary rhythm in
black popular music. The influence of funk spread to other styles in the
1980s�mixing with the gritty realism of hard rock and punk and the experimentation
of much of the electronic music of the time. With the rise of rap music in the
1980s and its �sampling� of 1970s funk songs, funk grew in stature and significance
in hip-hop culture. It became associated with ancient mysteries in the black
tradition, providing hip-hop with a historical link to artists and cultural
movements of the past. As part of hip-hop�s influence on popular culture, funk
provided the rhythmic basis for most American dance music of the 1990s.

Rickey Vincent
LEARN MORE in these related Britannica articles:
Brown, James
James Brown
�core vocabulary and grammar of funk music.�
Sly and the Family Stone.
Sly and the Family Stone
�Family Stone, American rock and funk band that became widely popular in the late
1960s with a string of anthemlike pop singles, stirring socially relevant albums,
and memorable live performances. The members were Sly Stone (original name
Sylvester Stewart; b. March 15, 1943, Denton, Texas, U.S.), Freddie Stone (original
name�
Parliament-Funkadelic
Parliament-Funkadelic
� to fashion an outrageous tribal funk experience. P-Funk emphasized the aesthetics
of funk as a means of self-fulfillment; to �give up the funk� meant to achieve
transcendence.�
Curtis Mayfield.
Curtis Mayfield
�force in the development of funk, with such songs as �(Don�t Worry) If There�s a
Hell Below We�re All Going to Go, � �Beautiful Brother of Mine,� and �We People Who
Are Darker Than Blue.� Although he achieved considerable recognition for such
albums as Curtis (1970) and Curtis/Live! (1971), it�
Toussaint, Allen
Allen Toussaint
�that came to be called funk. One of the major figures of his era, Toussaint
continued to be in demand into the early 1970s, producing Dr. John�s only Top Ten
hit, �Right Place, Wrong Time� (1973), and Labelle�s �Lady Marmalade� (1974) at
Sea-Saint Studios. Art and Aaron Neville joined forces�
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ADDITIONAL MEDIA
Curtis Mayfield.
Sly and the Family Stone.
MORE ABOUT Funk
5 REFERENCES FOUND IN BRITANNICA ARTICLES
Assorted References
Brown
In James Brown
Mayfield
In Curtis Mayfield
Parliament-Funkadelic
In Parliament-Funkadelic
Sly and the Family Stone
In Sly and the Family Stone
Toussaint
In Allen Toussaint
FEEDBACK
Corrections? Updates? Help us improve this article!
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100 women

Funk
QUICK FACTS
KEY PEOPLE
Prince
Lionel Richie
Curtis Mayfield
Harry Connick, Jr.
Anita Baker
George Duke
Milan B. Williams
Rick James
Roger Troutman
RELATED TOPICS
Soul music
Popular music
Rap
Go-go

RELATED TOPICS
Prince
The Temptations
Soul music
Kool & the Gang
Lionel Richie
Rap
Popular music
Popular art
Jazz
Rock

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