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Funk vs Soul, Funk vs Soul, Funk vs Soul, Funk vs Soul, Funk vs Soul,



One of my working deffinitions for FUNK is:

FUNK = blues + rock n roll + jazz + soul (blended together in a stew that sometimes also includes a little latin, reggae & gospel for spice !!)

Incomplete though this definition may be …..I will use it for the purposes of our discussion.

This is a topic that someone could write an entire book about. The answers to your questions are not simple ones.

A "flip" answer to this question would be to simply say that both FUNK & Soul have always been around, and have always co-existed with each other. This is true….but it doesn’t.get to the point of the question, which I think is a legitimate one.

Here are a series of analogies that went something like this:

Soul = 1960s

Funk = 1970s

Soul = AM

Funk = FM

Soul = Civil Rights Movement

Funk = Black Power Movement

Soul = Process and Doo Rags

Funk = Afros and Applejacks

Soul = Begging

Funk = Demanding

Soul = Martin Luther King

Funk = Malcolm X

Soul = Sidney Portier

Funk = Richard Roundtree

Soul = Bill Cosby

Funk = Richard Pryor

Soul = Wilt Chamberlin

Funk = Kareem Abdul Jabbar

Soul = Willie Mays

Funk = Reggie Jackson

Soul = NAACP

Funk = Black Panthers

Soul = Black & White TV

Funk = Color TV

Soul = Royal Crown

Funk = Afro Sheen

(Some of these analogies dont quite hold up but you all get the point)

P.S. – by definition….ALL of hip hop is FUNK


Those analogies because they only skim the surface of a very long and complex answer (which I don’t mind getting in to if people won’t get bored).

Modern FUNK music (I’m not going back to the pyrimyds on this one !!), has it’s roots in the timeframe between 1968 -1972. Ricky Vincent makes the claim that the first FUNK record was "Outta Sight" – James Brown. I won’t quibble about dates nor get in to a discussion of which one was the "first", because I don’t feel that sort of trivia is relevant to your question.

68-72 are the key years of evoloution because that is the timeframe when the two coexisted not quite harmouniously. You see, during that 4 year timeframe, prior to FUNK becoming dominant, there was in fact a VERY big difference between fans of FUNK music & fans of Soul music.

Think about those analogies I presented for a moment…..what else was going on in this country during the same period of time that might have had an impact on Black people and the music that they were listening to ??

Civil Rights & Vietnam not only did these two events tear apart the country, but they also tore apart the Martin Luther King had been assasinated Malcolm X had been murdered just a few short years earlier the Black community was looking for leadership.& then as if out of the blue James Brown said……."Say It Loud, I’m Black & I’m Proud"…..and as far as Im concerned……thats when FUNK was born !!

The next 4 years would produce a struggle between FUNK & Soul that was parallel to the struggle between Civil Rights & Black Power

It would produce an intergenerational split in the Black community, that is still felt to this day..

You see, it wasn’t just the music that changed ….it was an entire shift in culture and values that had occured & it was the battle between two opposing sets of values and cultures that ensued between 1968 – 1972. Here is another analogy for ya:

FUNK = outward, loud, unbridled expression of freedom

Soul = inward, quiet, passive desire for freedom


. For some who I would describe as Johnny Come Latelys to the FUNK ……the story starts with James Brown…….then Bootsy leaves James……..hooks up with George….P-Funk becomes big stars……a few minor groups like EWF & Ohio Players emerge……Disco comes in…….& then its over….for some reason which is never explained. Here is where the story starts to get complex & sometimes contridictory.

Of course there was much more happening in 68-72 than just James Brown. Prior to "Say It Loud" there was the music of Sly Stone & Jimi Hendrix & it was actually thier respective images that caused much of the tension between Soul & FUNK. By the time James Brown put out Dont Wear A Process, Sly & Jimi had been wearing Afros for years..:)

Soul was basicly a southern music…….even when interpeted by the city slickers at Motown & Chess….it was still southern in nature and somewhat rooted in the church. Music that is rooted in the church could hardly be called confrontational & it wasnt. Berry Gordy called his music "The Sound Of Young America" & thats exactly what his marketing strategy was……safe secular music that would appeal to middle class whites.

Sly Stone & Jimi Hendrix on the other hand were funkateers on a mission. They were on a mission to do nothing less stunning than to take back rock n roll, and to do so in a big way.

They attacked rock n roll with a vengence, with Jimi doing it overtly & Sly doing it covertly. Both had massive commercial sucess, using formulas that Berry Gordy would never have thought about. In the case of Sly, he was able to do so without suffering the loss of his core audience. Sly Stone with the album Stand literally defines FUNK and you can hear the transormation of Soul in to FUNK on the song Stand itself. The last 45 seconds of that song is sorta like an announcement that FUNK is here… with it !!

Shortly after Stand is released, Jimi Hendrix puts out Band of Gypsys, with its "red, black & green" cover, an album full of FUNK jams including a cover of Sly’s "Sing A Simple Song" at the begining of "We Gotta Live Together".

Remember when I described FUNK as looking outward?? FUNK music is truly integrationist music…….it’s not "anti whie, but pro black"….it is all about UNITY…..& the music of Hendrix & Sly are the best examples of that. The premature departure from the scene of Sly & Jimi often obscures that notion.

Soul music begs for acceptance…….FUNK demands it……& on its own terms……..

Young Black people at this time (68-72) were immensely attracted to the image of Sly Stone & Jimi Hendrix. They were the best examples available of the promise & potential of an integrated society. Their parents on the other hand viewed both Sly & Jimi as sellouts & Uncle Toms, who were pandering to white audiences, associated with white women & were drug abusers.

The influence of Sly and Jimi was felt throught the Soul music industry…everybody wanted to cash in…… ….Even Berry Gordy….who took an unknown family group out of Gary Indiana and transformed them in to the image of a "self contained" band, dressed them up like hippies and gave them Afro’s just like Sly & Jimi. he then presented these "funkateers" to the American public as being "safe", unlike Sly & Jimi, who if allowed to continue could potentially change the world ……because they were threatning….and could upset the balance which had been in place since the introduction of "Elvis the Pelvis" !!

Meanwhile there was other stuff going on as well:

An out of work hairdresser & sometime music producer stranded in Detroit, trying to figure out what to do next with his mediocre soul music group….(George Clinton).

There was a latin/soul band on the west coast trying to decide if they should hook up with an English rocker…..(WAR & Eric Burdon

There was also a young man in NY trying to figure out if he should go to medical school or move forward a soul/rock band…..(Rick "Doc" Wilson/Mandrill

There was also a jazz giant who was spending a lot of time listening to Jimi Hendrix, Sly Stone & James Brown records trying to figure out what to do next with his career & how to reconnect with the people…..(Miles Davis

The drummer for the Ramsey Lewis trio was trying to put together his own band……(Maurice White/Earth Wind & Fire

One of the key songwriters at Stax was thinking about geting in to the movies…..(Isaac Hayes)

A Motown hitmaker was gettig tired of the formula he was caught up in & started thinking about Vietnam & Civil Rights…..& how to incorporate it in to his music….(Marvin Gaye

A soul music giant, decided to go solo….& he too started to think about the movies…..(Curtis Mayfield

These were some of the key people who were involved in the transformation.

Meanwhile teenagers like myself were watching the Mod Squad every week on TV & trying to grow Afros as big as Lincs !!

One of the key differences between the new emerging generation of funkateers and the generation that preceeded it was in attitude……both musically & socially they were not afraid to confront both the evils of the past or the challenges of the future.

Oddly enough this led to a rather starteling set of circumstances that in many families caused a great deal of strain….

….."all of the sudden it became ok to have white friends and to like white musicians" !!

Radio had a lot to do with it…… soul musicians began to change their images and combine both the influence of white rock, with the emerging Black pride movement (see I told you there were contridictions), the fans also began to change. The fans of this emerging FUNK music looked quite a bit more like Sly Stone than they looked like the Temptations……heck even the Temptations changged their look & their style…..instead of wearing processes and singing songs like "Aint too Proud To Beg"….the Temps started wearing "red, black & green liberation jumpsuits" on stage & singing songs like "Cloud Nine" & "Message to a Blackman".

Just as Sam Cooke had predicted …."a change came"

For the fans of the music big changes were happening at the same time.with the key difference between them & their parents being a willingness to interact with white people .. ….in a way that was unprceedented in the past. This meant going to integrated schools, having white friends and demanding (not beging) for equal treatment. These were all things that their parents had been afraid to do out of fear.

For people who grew up during this time period (like me) there can be no separation between the social, cultural & musical context of the times. FUNK is both "DEEP & WIDE"……because both the musicians and the fans are "DEEP & WIDE".

Soul on the other hand is "gut wrenching & often painful"

The circumstances dictate the music & at that time American society was headed down a very confused yet positive path… … someone who was around at that time I can state without a doubt that the 4 year timeframe that I am talking about here were some of the most confusing, paradoxical and fulfilling years in the history of this country. The music was a reflection of that. The potential & hope for a positive change was all there & the people changed with it. Did the people change the music or were the people changed by the the music ? I dunno, but I do know that BOTH changed each other.

Some people (uninformed) think that when FUNK became "commercialized" in the form of Disco that it was the end… ….actually it was the beggining of something that could have been great, but it got destroyed by racism & fear of both Blacks & Whites.

Integration is a scary thing for many people. It is a concept that this country has struggled with since it’s inception and will always struggle with.

You see "Disco" was actually the LAST time that this country attempted to integrate itself on a VOLUNTARY basis !!

It was in fact the achivement of the ideals of what the "funkateers" and their parents had fought & died for. Some of you might be saying to yourselves…: "What does this have to do with music" ?

Well my friends….."the FUNK" is all about UNITY…..that is it’s underlying concept & it manifests itself in everything from the idea of having "self contained bands" where all group members are "equals"… integrated bands like Tower of Power, Sly & the Family Stone, P-Funk, Talking Heads, etc

& even to the previously unheard of concept of people from different races being able to dance & socialize in a nightclub. These are just examples of the kind of UNITY…. ….that the FUNK promotes. It’s no accident that that this progress stoped around 1980, when this country decided to elect a bitter and hateful man as president.

People are hypocritical, on one hand they say they want an "ideal society", but anytime we move in that direction, that movement is stoped.

Today, society is more seggregated than at any time in it’s history since slavery, the prevailing musical styles are a reflection of that seggregation.

The key figure missing from this equation in my opinion is Sam Cooke. Remember that he had also participated in this "cross-fertilization" process and been one of the few Black artists to have done so.

He had been a HUGE pop star in a crossover kind of way. At the time of his death, Sam Cooke may well have been the most sucessful Black entertainer on the scene. But Sam also was tired of the formula he was stuck in, he was in the process of trying to change what he had been doing at the time of his death and move his music in to more of a Black direction. The evidence we have of this upcoming change can be found on the CD "Sam Cooke Live at The Harlem Square Nightclub" and also on the song "A Change Is Gonna Come". Obviously his vision was never fully realized because of his untimely death, but its clear to me that it involved some type of "fusion" between rock & soul. (Sound like a familiar story Hendrix fans ???)

Another thing to remember is that Sam Cooke, Malcolm X & Muhammed Ali were all good friends and appeared to have something in the works (just what….we may never know). Now what does this have to do with Stax ??? Sam had also just started his own record company, from which Stax would later borrow many concepts.

In my opinion……if Sam had lived…..I think it would have been him & not Otis who appeared on that stage in Monterey in 1967.

Sam Cooke is clearly the "role model" for Otis. …In my opinion the evolution of Soul to FUNK would have occured several years earlier had Sam Cooke lived.

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