Funk originated in the mid 1960s and brought with it a fierceness that did not exist in R&B, Soul and Jazz music prior. Instead of focusing on melodies and harmonies that were the signature of Motown and other labels, Funk focused on complex grooves with rhythm instruments such as electric guitar, electric bass, organ and drums playing rhythms that were tight and connected like a interlocking brick driveway.
One could say that Rock n Roll had a fierceness, which it did, but within a couple of years its fire dimmed and was taken over by crooners, “pretty boys” and safe and predictable harmonies.
Interestingly James Brown, one of the founding fathers of Funk was inspired by artists like Little Richard who to me was the fiercest of the Rock n’ Roll artists. Being gay and black in a time where being either could get you killed did not phase him. Where most would hide and play it small, he embraced his potency and shone. In fact, he shone so bright that his light blinded people not only did he come out with fierce blazing light, he got most of America to sing along as he screamed Tutti Frutti.
This fierceness inspired James Brown. James Brown had the same manager and the same backing band as Little Richard. When Little Richard had a hit with Tutti Frutti, he went to LA, leaving weeks of southern tour dates open. James saw an opportunity in this and went as Little Richard. Rumour has it that one crowd in Alabama called him out as an imposter, whereupon Brown apparently rose to the challenge, doing backflips around the stage until they no longer cared.
There is a lot of buzz about James Brown this month with a new biopic and accompanying soundtrack. I haven’t seen the film yet, but I do love the record. It’s called Get On Up. If you are not familiar with James Brown this soundtrack is a great compilation covering the big hits and some great live tracks like “Please, Please, Please”. The album also has a single called Caledonia, which if I am not mistaken has not appeared on any other record other than a 7” 45 RPM.
James Brown led the path for some other fierce Funksters such as George Clinton and Prince. What I love about funk is that while the rest of Rock n’ Roll focused on the backbeat, Funk focuses on the downbeat. When you bring something in that root it is almost as fierce and gentle as Mother Earth herself.
Since 1994, Rishi Deva, founder and CEO of RishiVision and entrepreneurial coach, has empowered thousands of businesses. Rishi has an MBA in marketing and entrepreneurial studies and a BBA in accounting. He has spent nearly twenty years coaching, consulting, managing and supporting thousands of businesses from new startups to active global leaders.