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African American Music History pt -5 James Brown is the undisputed “Godfather of Funk.”

The “Hardest Working Man in Show Business”.  Often cueing his band with the command, “On the one!”  Brown changed the rhythmic emphasis from the two-four beat of traditional soul music to a one-three emphasis previously associated with white musical forms – but with a hard-driving, brassy swing.  This pumping, one-three beat became a signature of classic funk.  Only with the innovations of James Brown in the late 1960’s was funk regarded as a distinct genre.  Funk music was exported to Africa in the late 1960’s, and melded with African singing and rhythms to form Afrobeat.  Fela Kuti was a Nigerian musician who is credited with creating the music and terming it “Afrobeat”.

In the 1970’s, a new group of musicians further developed the “funk rock” approach innovated by Jimi Hendrix.  George Clinton, with his bands Parliament and, later, Funkadelic, produced by jazz and psychedelic music. The two groups had members in common and often are referred to singly as “Parliament-Funkadelic”.  The breakout popularity of Parliament-Funkadelic gave rise to the term “P-Funk”, which both referred to the music by George Clinton’s bands and defined a new subgenre.

Bootsy’s Rubber Band released many albums as a side proje4ct of the P-Funk mob, and went on to help produce Zapp, which was a Dayton , Ohio band featuring Roger and Zapp Troutman.  The Zapp sound was the pioneering sound of electrofunk, donning synthesized drum beats and loops, a vocoder (talk box) on many songs, and even envisioned the internet becoming a place where people could meet in the song “Computer Love”.  Zapp had many other electrofunk songs, including the classic 1980 release “More Bounce To The Ounce” that was/is an inspiration to many hip-hop and R&B artists today.

But by far, the most influential artist to all people in regards to fund and dance music, Prince.  Prince released his first full-length record in 1978, titled “For You”, and from there would go on to blend many styles of music together into a danceable and soulful presentation of art.  His self-titled release “Prince” was funky and sexy, but without talk of drug use or “sexploitation”.  The album artwork featured him riding nude on a white horse, which as very controversial to the media.  This controversy continued, and Prince released “Dirty Mind” in 1980, “Controversy” in 1981, and “1999” in 1982, and many, many more since then that have charted  #1 hits.

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